What is Lammas?
Lammas is one of the four major pagan celebrations. In the pagan wheel of the year there are eight Sabbats, or seasonal festivals. There are four major Sabbats and four minor ones, each about three months apart. Here are the sabbats with timings for the Northern Hemisphere:
August 1st – First Harvest (Grain)
Oct 31st/Nov 1st – All Hallow’s Eve/Day of the Dead
Feb 1st – Turning livestock out to pasture
May 1st – May Day
Feeling into Lammas
Take a moment to breathe. Feel your connection to the present moment in the natural world.
What are the days like? The days remain long, yet there is a sense of their shortening that is just now being felt. The time of solstice (still sun) is behind us and the light is waning. In lunar correspondence we would be in a waning gibbous phase.
Take some time outside to look around you at the natural world. All is green, full and at its luciousness. Here in California for example, the poison oak leaves are starting to turn, heralding the coming change.
This is the time for the first of three harvests. Grain is the theme here. Corn in the Americas, wheat and barley in Europe, though in our global horticulture these geographic distinctions are blurred.
The grasses have dried. Perhaps you can hear their papery rustling in the summer breeze. With the first harvest at Lammas (which means loaf mass, literally bread) we have the death of the grain. Death is transformative not annihilative. Mas as used in festivals (e.g. Michaelmas, Candlemas, Christmas, Lammas) means to knead, fashion or fit. It is the alchemy of grain to bread, of Life to Life. When we think of bread, we can imagine our ancestors using the scythe to swipe the grain. What happens when you imagine the feel of the labor of separating chaff from wheat, husk from kernel? When you think about the grinding—and the smell the raw grain, to be mixed with water and possibly leavened. Salt of the Earth added. Fired in the oven.
With just this imagining you have already created the sacred altar of Lammas in your being.
Celebrating Lammas, 2020
We offer this guide to creating your Lammas altar, festival, ceremony for you to make your own.
These are ideas to get you started. Make this meaningful for you and, ideally, fun! Given everything that’s happening in the world right now, you may not be in a very fun mood. That’s totally ok.
To some of us at Crystal Wizardry, Lammas has never been primarily a celebration so much as a powerful time to do healing ceremony and ritual. Sometimes people new to our spiritual community would want to stay home from ritual when things weren’t feeling good in their life. But it is precisely when things aren’t feeling good that one needs the help of ritual the most.
We encourage you to invoke healing on all levels this Lammas—healing for the Earth, humanity, countries, your communities, your loved ones, your family, and yourself. It’s all one, it’s all included. Your healing is not separate from the world’s healing.
Things are in turmoil and chaos at every level of society right now, from the global down to the individual for many people. To the extent that you can clear yourself of that and find groundedness and peace you are helping shift the whole. Your peace is a literal light in the world shining in the darkness. More and more of us are adding to this light every day.
Historically, this is a big festival! If you’re feeling it, be festive, and if you’re not, be intentional. Remember that you are magick. Happy Lammas to you and yours. Blessed Be!
The 4 Elements
Deity/Being (Grain god/goddess) – Obtain some grain, such as wheat berries, corn, etc to have on your sacred space.
Air – Here, the baking of your grain—the transformation of material is spirit to the physical world. Let the aroma of baking or even the abundance of the raw grain be with you. If you are baking challenged, you could let honoring the smell of toasted bread or a warmed tortilla be a sacred inspiration to you.
Water – A key element of bread. If you choose to make your own bread, take a moment to thank the water before adding it to the grain. If you have premade bread, thank the water that went into making it. You can find your own right way to making your connection with the water in the bread.
Earth – Salt to flavor your bread and the grain itself sprung from the earth.
Fire – Nourished by the Sun, the grain becomes bread in the fire of the hearth.
Each element is vital to the growing of the Grain that is kneaded to feed you. Each is vital to the transformation of Grain to food. When you eat your feast and bounty, be present with these elements. Let them nourish you. As the grain dies to become the bread, the bread dies to become you in one unbroken stream of life. Be mindful that one day, you will go to ground, to nourish the grain. This must be. We must give in order to receive just as surely as we must receive in order to give.
A simple ritual for prosperity and abundance
Pull your your besom or any broom out from its place of honor. The besom/broom is a powerful cleansing tool familiar to many magickal people, but for Lammas we use it to gather and sweep into the home. You can do whatever cleansing ritual is typical for you prior.
To sweep abundance into your home:
Imagine that there is grain strewn about the outside of your home and in a circular motion sweep this energy into your home with joy and gratitude for the bountiful gifts of the Earth. Turn slowly three times clockwise while sweeping toward your door saying, “By one, two, three and four, sweep Lammas gifts to my door. May abundance be a constant friend, by my hearth till Winter’s end.”
Ribbons are a way of expressing light, celebration and adornment — making things festive. Tie one around your Besom, wrap your Lammas gift of bread, flowers, or dolls with them. Be creative. Traditional colors are gold for the prosperous harvest, green for abundance and any other harvest colors. As we are all over the world, choose a color that matches what is being harvested locally near you.
Though we are in a time of great transformation, one of the gifts of this time we give ourselves is our presence – showing up for what is. Our ancestors would not lament the rise and fall of this crop or that game. They would adapt and be in gratitude. Though circumstances are strained as we shake ourselves awake, we can commit to the Earth to be willing to change with her and thank her for sustaining and nurturing us in our growth, harvesting, winnowing, grinding, baking, and feasting.
An easy crusty bread recipe
- 3 cups warm water (about 100 degrees)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt (coarse, kosher salt recommended)
- 6 1/2 cups (30 to 32 1/2 ounces) unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting dough (see note)
- In a large bowl mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel but don’t seal the bowl airtight. Let the dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
- Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered in an airtight container, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife (I have only ever made two loaves out of the batch of dough so I just divide the dough in half to form my first loaf). Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put the dough on a piece of parchment paper set on a pizza peel or a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down.
- Slashing: you can dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and slash with a sharp knife. I like to make either 8 cuts for the Sabbats or 5 to make a pentacle.
- Let the dough rest for 40 minutes for room temperature dough; if you have used the dough out of the refrigerator, let it rest for 1 1/2 hours. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
- Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack of the oven (if you don’t have a broiler pan – no worries! Tossing 5-6 ice cubes in the bottom of the oven when you put in the bread works really well, too). Place a baking stone on the middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the stone at that temperature for 20 minutes before baking.
- After the dough has rested and is ready to bake, if you haven’t already (see step #3), dust the dough lightly with flour, slash the top with serrated or very sharp knife three times.
- Slide the dough (with the parchment paper) onto the baking stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler pan (or toss 5-6 ice cubes in the bottom of the oven) and shut the oven quickly but gently to trap the steam. Bake the bread until well browned, about 24-28 minutes. Cool completely.
When it is cool, tie it with Lammas ribbon.
Take time to concentrate on the bread you have created and turn the loaf three times saying “From the fields and through the stones, into fire, Lammas Bread, as the Wheel turns may all be fed. Goddess Bless.”
Now take your bread and share it with your family and friends and pass on the generous blessings of this bright and bountiful festival. Eat it fresh, as soon as it is made if you can.