All Our Relations: Pagans and the more-than-human world.

For aware Pagans the Sacred encompasses us all, rivers and mountains, oceans and deserts, grasses and trees, fish and fungi, birds and animals. Understanding the implications of what this means, and how to experience it first hand, involves our growing individually and as a community well beyond the limits of this world-pathic civilization. All Our Relations exists to help fertilize this transition.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

The Meaning of Lammas


The Wheel of the Year is widely honored by we Wiccans, along with Druids, and many other NeoPagans. The eight Sabbats arranged along the Wheel are divided into universal solar cycles celebrating the solstices and equinoxes and four place-specific ones representing the agricultural cycles of planting, growth, harvest, and death.  The Wheel’s symbolism is beautifully adapted to illustrate profound insights in regions with four seasons because both cycles are coordinated, but its basic insights are true everywhere.

Lammas, the sixth of our Sabbats, is the first celebrating the harvest. Also called Lughnasadh, Lammas celebrates the wonderful abundance of life at its most abundant. At the height of summer life is triumphant in all its richness.  Amid this plenty we can lose sight of the larger context within which we celebrate.

All peoples recognize life involves the continual birthing of what is new, its growing to maturity, followed in time by its decline, and ultimate passing. However, in our society we tend to see this pattern in purely individual terms. Birth is good, growing to maturity is good, the achievements of maturity are good (and this is what Lammas most celebrates), but then there is the increasing decline of old age, which is sad, followed by the misfortune of death. We often experience the death of another as a personal loss: we will not see them again.  And our own death will separate us from all we love.  Our Christian heritage, as well as our more secular present, easily align with this linear perspective. 

To a point, this linear view is justified.  Each of us lives our lives in a linear fashion. We remember our past as a road we have trod, but are unsure what opens before us.  We know with another’s death we will not see them again. Even on those rare occasions when we experience their presence afterwards, it is no longer the connection we once had.  Mourning is certainly appropriate, for it recognizes and honors the value to us of those who have left us.

But each of us also lives our lives in a larger context.  We do not just come into being and then, in time, wink out of existence as if we had never been. There are two major dimensions to this larger context that take us beyond a purely linear perspective, the linkage of life and death, and the mystery of death itself. Lammas focuses on the first, Samhain the second.

Here I will explore Lammas.

The cycle of life and death is an ancient one, and we exist here only because of it. Everything we treasure and love is rooted in it. For example, these cycles bring forth beauty. Much of this beauty is tied to sexuality.  The beauty of flowers, birds, fish, and animals is usually tied to sexuality, and so ultimately to death.  The same is true for the physical beauty we see in one another.  Imagine a world where all life reproduced and never died.  It is not a desirable picture. Reproduction requires death for it to be something to celebrate.

The more complex beauty of a mountain lake, a coral reef, the north woods, and so much else, are additional expressions of this truth. The abundance of life is central to the beauty they exhibit. And these more complex kinds of beauty also are dependent on the cycle of life and death. I am a Westerner, so the examples closest to my heart are Western ones. The massive fires that devastated Yellowstone years ago also rejuvenated it.  The same is true for the fires that annually burn through northern California’s oak woodlands and chaparral. Without fire even the giant sequoia that lives for thousands of years would not exist. It only germinates successfully on bare soil.

Even examples where life seems unnecessary, requires endings for their beauty to be most appreciated. We would pay little attention to an unchanging sunset or a static thunderhead.

Love, which I consider a recognition and honoring of inner beauty, is similarly linked. Only complex and self-aware beings can love in our sense. Such beings can only exist within complex and interconnected networks of other living beings extending far back in time. Beings that can love are also beings that experience loss.  To mourn is to be capable of love. Alone among the world’s creatures, some of us care about beings of no utility to us, and whom we will never encounter.  At our best we seek to preserve the endangered, and mourn their passing when we fail.  As Aldo Leopold observed, “For one species to mourn the death of another is a new thing under the sun.” To mourn those we have never met is to take the capacity to love into an entirely new dimension. 

The interlinkage  between life at its most abundant and wonderful, and death, goes all the way down, goes all the way down.

So Lammas can be celebrated at two levels. At the first, and quite sufficient in and of itself, we celebrate abundance. Lammas celebrates the beauty of the harvest, of luscious tomatoes and melons, of succulent summer squash and corn, juicy peaches and sweet cherries, of delicious grains, and savory meats. This abundance symbolizes the fruits of our work in all else that we do and so we celebrate all abundance that enriches life, ours and others.

But at a deeper level, we can also honor the contexts that make this abundance possible. We should honor that universal potlatch of receiving and, in time, giving back, which Lammas is the most joyful and abundant expression.

A beautiful harvest brings an abundance of death, but of deaths in service to life, and to the beauty and love life makes possible. And so, in celebrating Lammas it is appropriate to honor and give gratitude to that which we harvest. Take some time to say “thank you” to all we have harvested




Last modified on
Gus diZerega DiZerega combines a formal academic training in Political Science with decades of work in Wicca and shamanic healing. He is a Third Degree Elder in Gardnerian Wicca, studied closely with Timothy White who later founded Shaman’s Drum magazine, and also studied Brazilian Umbanda  for six years under Antonio Costa e Silva.

DiZerega holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Berkeley, has taught and lectured in the US and internationally, and has organized international academic meetings.

His newest book is "Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture Wars, and the Return of the Divine Feminine (Quest, 2013) received a 'silver' award by the Association of Independent Publishers for 2014. It puts both modern Pagan religion and the current cultural and political crisis in the US into historical context, and shows how they are connected.

His first book on Pagan subjects, "Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience," won the Best Nonfiction of 2001 award from  The Coalition of Visionary Resources. 

His second,"Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and a Christian in Dialogue" is what it sounds like. He coauthored it with Philip Johnson. DiZerega particularly like his discussion of polytheism in Burning Times, which in his view is an advance over the discussion in Pagans and Christians.

His third volume, "Faultlines: The Sixties, the Culture War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine," was published in 2013 and won a Silver award from the Association of Independent Publishers in 2014. The subject is obvious, and places it, and the rise of goddess oriented spiritual movements and our "cold civil war" in historical context.

His pen and ink artwork supported his academic research in graduate school and frequently appeared in Shaman’s Drum, and the ecological journals Wild Earth, and The Trumpeter. It now occasionally appears in this blog.


Additional information