PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
If you haven’t yet swum in the mighty Atlantic Ocean, gulped in a little salt water, floated in billowy delicious waves, hiked through deep cream-colored beach sand, picked up shells, jumped to save your bare feet from becoming burnt as you walk over 20 foot, hot dunes, wandered aimlessly in a small New England fishing village, or laughed to an outdoor-theatre Shakespeare Troupe, I highly recommend it. This August saw me doing all of this, and while it was an incredible week, what made it extra special—and a summer’s vacation I will treasure—is that I did it all with my sister....
Summertime is a strange, liminal time.
I've never really had a “regular” summer schedule (whatever “regular” means.) As a child and adolescent my life, like the life of most others, was determined by the start and stop of the school year. I took summer classes in college, and after graduation and marriage I moved to a college town. Those of you who live in similar cities know that the university schedule often determines whether or not the Locals dare to venture downtown, go to parks, drink at bars, or eat at the popular cafes. (Because of crowds of annoying freshman or big-headed seniors, certain parts of my town are pretty much off-limits during certain times of the year.) For a long time I worked on a college campus, and I'd spend the time from May to August sitting back, reading dozens of novels, and drinking delicious, blended beverages. Then I went to graduate school, and after I graduated my first summer of unemployment extended into an autumn of unemployment, a winter, a spring, and now another summer of the same.
Welcome brethren, to the annual celebration of the growing season’s end and the harvest season’s beginning! Although perhaps not as widely known or celebrated as Samhain or Beltaine, Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas), remains an important component of the wheel of the year and an integral part of the annual sabbats, commemorating the point at which summer begins to transition to autumn.
As always, we’ve brought out a collection of content we thought would be of interest to all of you who follow us, some from Witches&Pagans, some from elsewhere. We hope you’ll enjoy!
I have been writing like a maniac and have much writing ahead of me tonight and tomorrow. But tonight I have kissed the final sunset of July good-bye, I have facilitated a Full Moon ritual at Mother Grove Goddess Temple and I am now listening to Steeleye Span.
Lured thither by a search for John Barleycorn, I have settled onto "Now We are Six" and am drinking hard cider from last season's harvest. I have considered my options for the evening--finishing two pieces that are due tomorrow, washing the dishes, tidying up and printing tomorrow's ceremony for our public ritual or drinking cider and singing Steeleye Span....
This may be ambitious for your next Sabbat party, however I must decree it – get out to the country, already! Get rural with it for Lammas. Know someone who lives on a farm, or of one that is open for visits? That is where we should all be this Lughnasadh. Anywhere that offers dining on fresh produce and home-cooking is ideal. Remember, bread and corn are key, in whatever form you enjoy them.
Round-up a group of pals and make a pilgrimage. Bring a big red and white plaid vintage tablecloth to spread out on a picnic bench or the grass. Enjoy barley wine, hard cider, mead, or a local craft ale together. Stroll the grounds and eat outside. For the meat-eaters, it could not get more ritualistic than a sacrificial pig roast. If someone has access to a small tractor (and knows how to drive it), take turns giving each other rides perched atop some hay bales. It is near impossible not to get into the spirit of this day when partaking in these activities. Pick a picturesque spot to watch the sunset together. Listen for the resounding alien hum of the cicadas, and don't forget to take a pause and be thankful for what you have.
If you are not fortunate enough to be friendly with someone who has their own barn and facilities, here are some midwestern farm-themed options for getting away from it all. Take a gander at their websites and/or call first to plan your day trip:
(Halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee)
A homestyle country restaurant, live entertainment, hay rides and family-friendly fare abound at this Sturtevant staple. A word to the wise: If you don't mind crowds, by all means, go. If not...
Bridge-Between Retreat Center
Up toward Green Bay in the little town of Denmark, lies this peaceful retreat. They tend a small organic farm with meals available. Llamas, cats, hens, and geese roam the grounds. This is definitely for those looking for little quiet.
Brown Deer Farm
West of Beloit is where you can escape here. A retreat facility, organic farming, and a nature-rich surrounding await.
President Obama paid a visit here, and this place is hopping all-year round. Look ahead to Halloween-themed fun with their Zombie Quest event. Rentals are available for groups.
Red Barn Farm of Northfield
How much more romantic can you get? Make your own brick oven pizza from their farm fresh, pesticide-free produce. Hand-made vegan-friendly dough and and a fun environment are offered.
In Ireland we have already had a chilly intimation of autumn. Last weekend was spent at a Bards By the Hearth event, since the weather was too abysmal for going out, even to walk John's lovely Tree Labyrinth. But being so close to Lammas, and since it was a Bring and Share event, I made my standard soda bread. It is technically a Northern Irish 'wheaten' loaf, except I make it with spelt. Like so many in Ireland, if I can't get organic wheat flour or buy an artisan loaf in a Farmer's Market, my gut pleads with me to stick with spelt. Even one of the owner's of Ireland's big bread companies has just announced that he is gluten intolerant.
But I digress from Lunasa. You need to celebrate the harvest and baking bread is the best way I know. It seems cheating if you resort to the bread machine, which I often do during busy weeks to make sure that I have a decent loaf in the house. Baking yeast bread can be tricky and takes time and patience to get the knack. But Irish soda bread is a sinch. Our ancestors made it on an open fire. Indeed, a Belcoo woman still goes up to her ancestral cottage to make her 'fadge' (as thy call it in Fermanagh) on the open hearth, just as women down the centuries have done. It tastes better according to Margaret.