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.

☼ ☼ ☼

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

Abundant Summer Solstice

Earth Laughs in Flowers (1)

Earth laughs in flowers… especially at Summer Solstice!

Summer Solstice normally falls around June 21-22 each year in the northern hemisphere. It denotes the longest day and shortest night of the year. Summer Solstice is the sacred time of the Sun.

Young children understand the potency of Summer Solstice. They roll in the green grass and smell the blooms of summer. They run and jump and scream with the joy of long summer days. They beg to stay up just a little longer – trying to squeeze every last drop of living out of the long sunlit day. Children intuitively understand the power of sacred Sun time.

Go outside and smell the roses at Summer Solstice. Go outside and revel in Nature. Go outside and witness a multitude of life dancing with exuberant joy! Go outside and the sacred abundance of summer will reward you and bless you.

This excerpt from a poem by Rumi catches a hint of what you may feel when you stop to witness the sacred in Nature:

Don’t grieve.

Anything you lose comes round in another form.

The child weaned from mother’s milk

now drinks wine and honey mixed.

God’s joy moves from unmarked box

to unmarked box, from cell to cell.

As rainwater down into flowerbed.

As roses, up from the ground.

Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,

now a cliff covered with vines,

now a horse being saddled.

It hides within these, till one day

it cracks them open…

~Rumi,
13th century Sufi mystic

Fertile Spring Beltane

Beltane-1999

Spring and fertility go together. To honor the fertility of the spring growing season, many of our ancestors held huge celebrations in early May. The festival of Beltane was used to acknowledge and honor the beginning of Earth’s fertile growing season.

In May, the days lengthen in the northern hemisphere and we slide quietly into the light half of the year. The light half of each year is filled with sun and warmth, new growth and abundance. Then in 6 months, around November 1, we will dive into the dark half of the year, marked by the festival of Samhain and short, dark days, fallow ground and long cold nights.  And so the cycle of the seasons progresses, year after year after year.

My Celtic ancestors were avid observers of the seasonal shifts, both on Mama Earth and in Papa Sky above. So it doesn’t surprise me that my Welsh and Scottish ancestors held large outdoor festivals in honor of Beltane (also known as May Day). The tradition of teen aged boys and girls dancing around the May pole is believed to have started with the Celts.  The dance was a way to have fun AND symbolize the intertwining and merging of the male and female energies that ultimately create new life on the land and in the waters all around us.

Beltane is the perfect time to get outside and commune with Mother Nature by hiking, dreaming in a hammock, picnicking, or just sitting with a tree listening to the wind rustle a thousand tiny new leaves. Every moment spent connecting with Nature is guaranteed to nourish your heart and Soul.

Beltane is the perfect time to connect with Mama Earth in a deep intimate way. 

If you can, spend a few hours outside around Beltane. Turn off your computer and go walk barefoot in the grass. Breathe in the scents of spring. Pause and notice the abundance of new life sprouting up all around you; green shoots of grass, tiny new tree leaves and a plethora of flowers all show us how fertile and abundant Mama Earth is at this time of year. Meditate on the beauty and bounty of Mama Earth.  Give thanks for every gift that this beautiful planet joyfully shares with us. Give thanks and revel in spring.

Happy Beltane!

The Promise of Spring – Imbolc

Spring Crocus

Last night it rained. In the morning, there was a scent in the air that took a moment or two for me to place… Then suddenly I remembered; it is the smell of soil waking up, coming alive after its long sleep.  It is the smell of spring.

Go outside and sniff the air in early February. Grab a handful of soil and hold it up to your nose. Do you smell it? Or just stop and listen. Perhaps you can hear the gentle whispers? Mama Earth is beginning to stir.

All winter, Earth has quietly held the seeds of spring in her soil body; she has coddled them and kept them safe, waiting for the time to sprout. And now spring is almost here and the seeds are stirring, preparing to crack open and grow new life.

The chickadees know spring is on its way; they whistle to each other from every treetop in my neighborhood. My dog knows; she sniffs at the soil with new interest. And the sheep know; they birth their lambs in February, knowing spring will soon arrive.

My Celtic ancestors celebrated Imbolc at the time of lamb birthing. It was their way of honoring the end of winter and the promise of life returning to the land. The early Catholics changed the name of Imbolc to Candlemas. And modern man morphed Imbolc into Groundhog Day. By any name, this time is about honoring the promise of spring.

It has been snowing and snowing here, even more than usual for northern Colorado. And I had begun to worry that winter might decide to never end. But then, on a cold, wet day in February, I suddenly hear the whispers of Mama Earth, and I get a whiff of her soil coming alive. And it feels like I just received a message from a long lost lover. The spring I crave is on its way back to me.

Seeding Winter Solstice

Mount Sanitas in Winter

On Winter Solstice, we officially enter into Seed Time in the northern hemisphere.

Winter is the time in Mama Earth’s cycle when she becomes still and appears to be lifeless. But beneath the surface, our earthy mother is very much alive; she is quietly gestating  seeds for the new year, loving and holding them safe in the dark. This time of holding in the dark ensures that when spring arrives, the new seeds will be ready to sprout and grow.

What is yearning to come into your life now?

How does the Universe want each of us to sprout and grow in the coming year?

Let’s get still and listen in the darkness…

☾ ☽

“Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.”
~Julia Cameron

Autumn Samhain

Samhain

As the shadows lengthen and the days grow short in early November, many of our European ancestors actually celebrated the start of their year.  Depending on which source you believe, this celebration happened on November 1st… OR was celebrated at the time of the new moon in late October or early November. The Celts named their celebration Samhain. In other cultures it is known as the Day of the Dead.

This special time marks the entrance into the dark half of the solar year, when night lasts longer than day in the northern hemisphere. Many still view the Day of the Dead or Samhain as a time to connect with and honor loved ones who have died and crossed over into the place beyond. And with harvest ending at this time of year, it is also the perfect time to acknowledge all the blessings and bounty received in the past year.

Celebrating Samhain does not have to be complicated. Just take a few moments to pause and light a candle in the dark. Send love to those who have passed. Offer thanks for all the good in your life.

In the spirit of Samhain and honoring our Earth, Irish bard John O’Donohue offers you the blessings of elemental earth, air, fire, water and spirit:

“May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.”

~John O’Donohue, Anam Cara