Celebrate Harvest

The Corn Harvest by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Now is the time of first harvest in the Northern Hemisphere. Traditionally, our ancestors held festivals at this time of year to celebrate the bounty that Mother Earth and Father Sun create.

Take a few moments to pause and take stock of everything you have accomplished and “harvested” in your life this year. Offer thanks to our Earth and Sun for the life they offer us all.

Celt Mara Freeman shares insights about harvest time below:

It’s high summer – time to celebrate the old Celtic festival known as Lughnasadh in Ireland and Lammas in Britain – the traditional time of pilgrimage in the northern Celtic lands where for centuries people have rejoiced in the endless light-filled days by climbing sacred hills, drinking at holy wells, or voyaging to green islands set like jewels in a sunlit sea.

As we pause in our labours, celebrate the warm weather and enjoy the fruits of our daily work, we have an opportunity to take stock of what the seasons so far have yielded: to reflect upon our hopes and dreams that were sown in the dawn of the year, came to life in the springtime, and are now maybe ready to bear fruit. On the spiritual level, we can ask ourselves what wisdom we have garnered so far this year: What will be the harvest of our souls?

For as the wheel turns, the life-giving triumph of the harvest must give way to death, reminding us that nothing stands still, and that on the human level, for whatever is gained in our lives, there must be an equal giving-away, a sacrifice, so that cosmic balance and order can be maintained. 

~Mara Freeman, Chalice Centre

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And The Shamanic Astrology Mystery School shares details about the astronomical and astrological significance of early August:

Lughnassadh  (pronounced Loo-nuh-suh) refers to harvest and victory and is usually celebrated on August 1 or 2 but the actual zodiacal cross-quarter is August 7 when the Sun reaches 15 Leo.

In 2018 on August 7 the Sun is within a couple of degrees of Retrograde Mercury at 17 Leo adding to this unusual Cross-Quarter Time.

The August Cross-Quarter marks the half-way point between the June Solstice and the September Equinox – an in-between time for gaining insight and/or inspiration. Said another way this is excellent time for divination, meditation, journeying and connecting with other forms of guidance.

~Cayelin Castell, Shamanic AstrologyMystery School

Harvest Cross-Quarter

Temple of Goddess Arinna    Image: Bernard Gagnon

In a few days, Earth’s northern hemisphere will reach the halfway point between summer solstice and autumn equinox.  This is one of four “cross-quarter” days that occur in our solar year.

Many of our ancestors celebrated the start of harvest on this particular cross-quarter day. The Celtic people of the British Isles paid homage to the Sun God Lugh at this time. But long before Lugh was known, Arinna was worshiped by the ancient tribes  living in the region that is now Turkey (1400 BCE).  The Solar Goddess Arinna was their main deity. Her consort was the weather god, Teshub. 

I love what Cayelin Castell has to say about worship of the Solar Goddess:

“Before the patriarchy this Cross-Quarter celebrated the Sun Goddess thanking her for the abundance of the ripened grain. As the Solar Feminine was diminished during patriarchal times this festival celebrated the Sun God. The Irish called him Lugh (Light). Lugh’s festival focused on celebrating the skills of the warrior and the craftsmen with less emphasis on the ripened grain or bounty of the mother as a gift from the Solar Feminine.

It is true that the Solar Feminine is returning to our awareness in many ways now. So it seems appropriate that the cross-quarter points are a time for remembering the original Solar Feminine festivals and their intent.

  • The February Cross-Quarter celebrated the Mother’s (Solar Feminine) power to give life including the life giving light of the lengthening days.
  • The May Cross-Quarter celebrated the Solar Feminine in her passion for intimate pleasure and the beauty of life in great abundance.

The August Cross-Quarter celebrated the Solar Feminine for her abundant life giving gifts of Food and sustenance for the coming winter season .

  • The November Cross-Quarter celebrated the Solar Feminine power to live through death and be reborn to a new life.

The returning strength and power of the Solar Feminine is a reminder to honor and celebrate the gifts of life-giving nourishment that we all enjoy. If you feel inspired by this you might use the first week of August as a time to give daily gratitude for the Earth and all that she gives us everyday.

At the Turning of the Ages we might ask: What are the new emerging ceremonies and celebrations that are relevant now?” ~Cayelin Castell

The Dark Half of the Year

Samhain - Wheel of the Year

As the days grow short and the nights lengthen in the northern hemisphere, the ancient Celtic tribes of Europe used to hold a celebration they called Samhain (sow-in).  The Celts celebrated Samhain to mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year. At Samhain, the entire northern hemisphere officially enters into the dark half of the solar year. This is the time of year when the sun seems to turn away, and night lasts longer and longer. The dark half of our solar year officially begins on November 6th this year.

Samhain actually marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year in times past. At Samhain, the Celts paused and took time to reflect on the past and plan for the new year. They also believed Samhain was a time to connect with and honor loved ones who have crossed over into the land of the dead. And halfway across the world, the people of Mexico and Central America still celebrate Dia de los Metros (Day of the Dead) at this time of year.

Celtic Samhain is not just about celebrating death and those who have passed beyond. It is about celebrating life. The last of the year’s harvest is being gathered up in the fields and orchards now. Samhain is the perfect time to express gratitude to sacred Mother Earth for  all the blessings and bounty she has provided for you and your loved ones.

Celebrating Samhain does not have to be complicated. Just take a few moments to pause and offer up a prayer of love and gratitude to those who have died. Go outside and offer gratitude to Mother Earth. Express thanks for everything you have harvested in your life. Simply pause and take a few moments to appreciate all the good that has come your way in the past year.

May the Spirit of peace
bring peace to your house
this Samhain night
and all nights to come.

Late Summer Harvest

The Golden Lions of Lugh

It is early August. Here in the northern hemisphere, we are in the midst of the hot, lazy “dog days” of summer. The expression “dog days” is believed to pre-date the Roman Empire. Our ancestors named this late summer season the dog days because at this time of year Sirius, the dog star, is closely aligned with the Sun in our sky.

The ancient Celtic people held the festival of Lughnasadh during the dog days of summer. It was their way of celebrating the start of the harvest season. Lughnasadh was typically held halfway between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. It was a time of gratitude for the bounty of the harvest season. In many villages the first sheaf of wheat was harvested and ceremoniously ground and baked into bread for the festival of Lughnasadh. Bonfires were lit to honor the fiery energies of the Sun. The first fruits of the Earth were harvested and shared.

Later in Britain, the festival of Lughnasadh became Lammas Day. The festival of Lammas was held on August 1st in honor of the wheat harvest. The word Lammas comes from the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas  or  “loaf-mass.”  On the day of Lammas it was customary to bring a loaf of bread made from the new crop to church in celebration and gratitude for the harvest.

Lughnasadh and Lammas are both ritualized ways for the community to acknowledge and honor the food that grows when Father Sun unites with Mother Earth. Our ancestors lived closer to the Earth and the cycles of the seasons. They understood that all life on Earth depends on the magical union of sun, seed and earth. In these modern times, it is easy to forget that all of our food comes from the bounty of Mama Earth. Every morsel is a gift from the Sun and Earth, even if purchased wrapped in cellophane at the local grocery store!

All of our clothing and shelter are also gifts from this sunny planet, as well as the oxygen we breathe. We have come a long way from the times of subsistence farming, yet we are still the children of Mama Earth and Father Sun, completely dependent on their gifts for life. And pausing to acknowledge and honor the start of the harvest season can be a wonderful way to reconnect with the beauty and bounty of Mama Earth.

Take a few moments in early August to connect with Mama Earth and Papa Sun. Offer up a simple prayer of thanks to Earth and Sun for all that you have in your life. You can also create a simple harvest ritual of your own. Just focus on giving thanks for this year’s bounty.

Your personal “harvest” may include more than just the food you eat – what else has come to fruition for you this year?  Perhaps you have a new job or a new family member. Maybe you made progress on a project near and dear to your heart. Or perhaps you’ve found peace in a troubled part of your life.  Take a few moments to honor all the gifts that you have received this year.

Simple ways to honor this year’s harvest:

  • Prepare a dinner feast for family or friends and give thanks.
  • Bake a loaf of bread in honor of the harvest season. Not a baker? Make corn bread or gingerbread.
  • Light a candle and offer a heartfelt prayer of gratitude. 
  • Build a bonfire and dance a prayer of gratitude around it.
  • Go outside and sit for awhile with Earth and Sun. Offer them a heartfelt thanks.

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“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest”
~William Blake