Thoughts and musings of the wheel of the Pagan Year.
In the Heart of Summer, Harvest's Eve
Summer is an amazing time of year. There is within it a sense of freedom, almost illicit at times. What other time of year are you free, encouraged, even, to lay back and let time pass you by as you bathe in the sun's light, glut yourself on shamefully sweet and juicy watermelon, and luxuriate in the feeling of warm grass beneath your bare feet?
And yet amid all the sensuous joys summer brings us to, there is the underlying knowledge that this joy, this richness is only temporary. How do we know this? Is it the ever-growing piles of jewel-toned fruits and vegetables that appear on farmers' tables at outdoor markets? Is it the fresh breath of cool air you breathe when you first wake that only later becomes the delicious heat that beckons you to lake and seaside? Or could it be the scent of grass and grain slowly toasting in the summer's heat, making you think of autumn fires and warm bread? Even in the midst of summer's reign we know autumn looms. It seems so unlikely, and yet July 31, come sundown, begins the first of the harvest festivals.
Lughnasad (or Lammas, Luanys, Gwl Awst, or Goel Est) is traditionally known as the grain harvest, yet within we can also celebrate the first fruits: sparkling berries, luscious tomatoes, sweet squash, daylily buds, baby potatoes, and even early corn in some places. As the fruits of our Earth are harvested so too do I look back on what I have sown earlier in the year.
What plans, sown at Ostara, are coming to fruition this season? Will your needs and wants be fed with this harvest, or will you need to work for another season, and find your dreams fulfilled at Mabon? Or will your gestation be longer, coming at the year’s turning at Samhain? Regardless how long your growing season takes, don’t give up on your dreams. The ones we are truly meant to realize often take the longest (as I remind myself every time I work on the novel that has now taken upwards of seven years to complete), but when they come to completion, we are that much more appreciative of what we have been given, of what we have accomplished. Tend to your dreams: water them with care, and pull up the weeds of self-doubt that sprout. This is the time of plenty. Allow yourself to be satiated. Give thanks to the Corn Mother, Tailtiu and Demeter, for through Their grace we have been given plenty. Nisaba, Habdonia, Astarte and Sif, all goddesses of grain and plenty, smile on us this season. Llugh, the Sun God who gives the Mother light to grow crops, continues to shine His light, warming fields of crops and of inspiration.
Lughnasad hovers on the horizon. This is the time of year my kitchen is given a thorough cleaning: the refrigerator is emptied and scrubbed, the (very tiny!) pantry emptied, organized and consecrated to the Sumerian Nisaba, the goddess of grain, storage and writing; the shelves over the stove and counter are cleared and dusted. The oven is cleaned, the stovetop polished, and a fresh candle placed behind the burners in honor of Hestia. For, as much as Lughnasad is a celebration of the Grain Goddesses, we would do well to remember the quiet Goddess of the Hearth. She asks nothing of Her children, She sets no challenges for us, only gives freely: warmth, light, the means to feed and be fed. The further I follow the Kitchen Witch path, the more central to my life Hestia becomes. It’s not enough to prepare loves of bread to honor the Grain Goddesses and Llugh; without Hestiaʼs flame, there would be no bread, no potato and leek pizza on whole wheat crust, no zucchini and tomato tart. No brownies.
I leave you with the knowledge that as inevitable as the season's turning is, we still have time to live the joy that is summer. Summer does not end at Lughnasad; it mellows, sweetens, ripens into Mabon, where the days are sweet with honey and apple sighs, sips of pear nectar and smoky marshmallows, charred over crackling bonfires. No, summer doesn't leave us at Lughnasad, it promises us Mabon.
Brightest blessings to you and all your dear ones this festival season.
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