A Road Less Traveled: Living Pagan in a Christian World

Explores the challenges of living and practicing Paganism in a Christian-dominated culture.

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Lughnasadh in the South

The time of Lughnasadh, or Lammas, is nigh. The basic Wiccan definition tells us that this is the celebration of the first harvest, so that the Solar God (Lugh, in this instance), Who has been waning since Litha, is now sacrificed as embodiment of the grain we humans depend upon. The theme is, as all harvest festivals, gratitude for the bounty of Mother Earth and Father Sun.

Because my path is Earth-centered, I believe it is less important to hold to the "traditional" meaning of the sabbats than it is to attune to the energy of the place where you actually live, where (hopefully) your own food is grown. The seasons of Ireland are a far cry from the seasons of the Ozark Mountains. Here, gardens and farms are in the fullness of activity and production (Goddess willing). We have been harvesting many crops for weeks now - including the native Three Sisters: corn, beans and summer squash. August, while indeed a time to harvest, is also a time for planting the fall short-season crops. Therefore, my "locavore" version of Lughnasadh recognizes that this is also a time for renewal: strengthened by the warm soil and full bounty, we can plant new seeds in our lives and communities.

But one thing remains constant for those of us in the northern hemisphere: despite its burning heat, the sun is waning. We must not forget that a harvest festival is also a recognition that sacrifice and death are essential parts of the wheel of life. Wicca, as distinct from most mainstream religions, acknowledges the full cycle of life as sacred. Death and darkness are as important as life and light. There cannot be one without the other.

Sometimes people may go to one extreme or the other, such as the Gothic Witch who dresses all in black and only does ritual at night, versus the White Light Goddess Woman who never acknowledges, let alone honors, anything dark or destructive. Both approaches are unbalanced. Now is the time to celebrate life, indeed, but also to acknowledge that all life must come to an end so that new life can flourish. Without death, there is cancer, stagnation and overpopulation. Conversely, the most fertile soil is that which contains a great deal of decaying plant material.

This Lughnasadh, let us meditate on the healing power of balance and sacrifice in our own lives. For the sake of the Earth and all life upon Her, send energy out to all those in power to be blessed with this understanding as well.

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D.R. Bartlette, an ordained priestess, has been practicing what she calls "Zen Wicca" in her native Ozark Mountains for 27 years. She tries to serve her community (both spiritual and geographical) by participating in outreach and education in behalf of Wiccans and Pagans. She is also a freelance writer who teaches at a small community college.

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