There are many old names for the first harvest.
Lammas (Anglo-Saxon), Lughnasadh (Gaelic), Gwyl Awst (Welsh) and Lùnasda (Scots Gaelic) are just a few found in the UK. Traditions vary by country and region, but they all have a common theme: the beginning of the harvest.
A movement from the height of summer towards the beginnings of autumn, the slow losing of the sun. A shifting of energy towards one of ‘gathering in’, as summer’s heat and light begins to wane. It’s a time for some to be engaged in the hard work of harvest, whilst others take time out in August and make the most of the last long summer days.
The metaphor of the harvest is a powerful one, even for those of us who don’t garden, farm, or tend wild things.
To ‘harvest’ is to reap the fruit of one’s labour, to gather in and enjoy the end-result of a process. Seeds – literal or metaphorical – were planted. They may or may not have been nurtured, nourished, encouraged, tended. Gradually, slowly, something grows. Lammas – and later, autumn equinox, and even later, Samhain – is a time when we might focus on that harvest, mirroring this same event in the agricultural calendar.
Here we begin to assimilate and gather in our own harvest, the first fruits of our active phase now manifest in the outer world – the harvest of our hearts’ desires, and the fruits of our labours. This is a period of assessment as we begin to gather ourselves after a scattering of energy. This is often a holiday period, and gives us time to take a reflective look at ourselves. In the spring we planted the seeds of our hopes, our dreams, and ourselves. Some things may have manifested and some not. The Lammas assessment helps us to have a deeper understanding of our actions and ourselves at this point in time.
Glennie Kindred, Sacred Earth Celebrations
I don’t have a garden – at this point in time I have two sorry-looking houseplants to my name – but I appreciate the encouragement to pause and reflect on my year. It’s true, back in spring, I did plant seeds, and it’s true that I have nurtured these seeds and they are now bearing fruit. This year, those seeds were big ones – househunting, an offer, a lengthy and difficult mortgage process, and now, finally, completion. This is not only the fruit of three seasons, but of three years of learning what ‘roots’ might mean to me, what ‘home’ might mean, what ‘security’ might look like.
Other seeds I have planted have not grown as I had hoped. I wanted this to be a year of connection, of getting out of my own head and ‘back into the real world’ (as I brusquely put it to myself, losing patience with my inner wandering.) I wanted to reconnect to the real-life activism I value so dearly. I wanted to form partnerships and work on projects with others.
Some fell on stony ground, as they say. Did I even sow these seeds at all, or did I leave them in their paper bags? But I have these seeds for next year. It’s okay that I didn’t do everything. It’s okay that you didn’t do everything, too. Today, I reflect on what I am lucky enough to be harvesting just now, and, rather than feel sad about what hasn’t grown in my life this year, I think about all that potential for next year.
Another Lammas metaphor is that of collecting seeds.
As we gather in what we have grown or created, carried within that ‘harvest’ is the seed for planting next year. This feels really hopeful to me, reminding me that things don’t have clear cut beginnings and ends, but are more like an ever-overlapping wheel of all kinds of shapes and colours, arcing around each other, sparking and fading away.
As I gathered apothecary rose petals last month creating a wild medicine for my weary heart, I saw how both the flower and the fruit existed together. The roses had been blooming for many weeks, but now, as they continue to bloom and gradually fade, succulent hips are ripening too. Next month, I might gather rosehips and turn them into cordial or jam. They’re full of vitamin C that will help keep me well during winter months. Now, I harvest these beautiful flowers, but I also acknowledge the fruit that will feed the birds who will scatter the seeds for new rose bushes in new years.
I hope so very much that this home, this fruit I am aching to taste, will contain within it the seeds I want to sow next year. I’ve spent a long time ‘in my feelings’, meanwhile living out of boxes. It’s a long time since I had space to spread out, be creative, let bolder ideas take flight. I’ve been an organisational mess, just about holding my basic commitments together, just about managing to run a business, pay bills, deliver on promises.
There are so many other ideas tucked away in my heart, so many things I’d love to create and do. Activism, art, community-building. I want to share the abundance I’ve so lucky to have in my life. I want this home to be not just four walls to keep me warm, but a space into which these ideas can grow, a place that will hold me and be my foundation so that I can expand in other ways. At tonight’s Lammas fire, I will write these ideas to myself, and scatter them in the flames. I will promise them space to grow (or fade away). I will promise to focus on other things, now my search for home is done. I’m so ready for that shift in energy. So ready to lift my head. But for now – the reflections. The thanks-giving. And the fire.
Our moods and experiences don’t always ‘match’ the season.
In the past, I’ve used ‘not feeling the same energy as the wheel of the year’ as a stick to beat myself (the way some of us might do around menstruating at the ‘right’ point in the lunar cycle – or bleeding at all). But of course, this is nonsense. Nature isn’t checking on me to make sure I’m properly in tune, or my ‘energy’ is right for the season. As my personal relationship with the earth’s cycle has developed over the years, I’ve realised that nature (like the moon) simply offers suggestions, prompts, metaphors for personal reflection. It shows us its own cycle, providing symbols we can take or leave as we move through our own. I don’t have to feel ‘awakened’ or ‘forward thinking’ in spring, or ‘more connected to my ancestors’ in autumn. But I might use these suggestions from nature to examine those aspects of my life.
Or, I might not. Last year, as I wrote in my newsletter, I wasn’t feeling ‘harvest-y’ at all. I was feeling sad, and lost. That’s okay too.
If you’re not ‘feeling’ that harvest energy that everyone is banging on about this week – let it go. Maybe look for the seeds you might plant next year, the little signs of hope, the beginnings of ideas you can incubate over autumn and winter. Maybe use this time to reflect on what didn’t come to pass for you this year – not because you ‘failed’, but because some things just don’t manifest the way we want. Or maybe, do nothing at all. That’s okay too.
A Lammas tarot spread
This spread works with the metaphor of ‘harvest’ to bring you a moment of pause. Here, you can reflect on what you are (or aren’t) gathering in at this moment, looking back over the summer and forwards towards quiet hopes for next year. This spread also encourages gratitude, and helps you to see your themes for the coming autumn.
- You, right now. How are you doing? This card is a simple check-in with your feelings
- Looking back. Did you ‘plant seeds’ last spring? This card is for the planting, the nurturing, the journey from there to here. Maybe you nourished those seeds like a doting parent. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe you didn’t plant seeds – but plenty has changed nonetheless. This card is for reflecting on the half-year gone.
- Harvest. This card is for celebration, and gratitude. Wherever you are, whatever has happened – there is something to celebrate right now. How might you give thanks, and for what?
- Seed-saving. Of the fruits and flowers you have gathered, some seeds will be saved for next year. What are you tucking away?
- Turning inwards. The light is fading and autumn is beginning. This card is for the themes of the coming months, the inner wisdom that is emerging now.
More Lammas/Lughnasadh reading:
+ Beth Owl’s Daughter explores the meanings of Lughnasadh alongside the King of Pentacles.
+ Deeper into Lughnasadh, via the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.
+ Lammas: Lugh and the Miracle of the Harvest, from Path of She.