It can become difficult if we live in the cities, with no way to tell the Earth cycles other than by a turn of the page of a calendar. Or even in the country, where we see the fields of oats or barley ripening in the sun, we do not make time for our bodies to adjust to the cycle of the changing seasons. We get two weeks or three weeks vacation a year (some of us maybe a bit longer). Taking time to appreciate the lengthening or shortening of the days, or the cycles of harvest is not something we can necessarily make time for.
So we come to the first harvest of Lughnasadh, August 1st. As a solitary, this is probably a day we spend working, or doing our chores, and we probably don’t take much time to contemplate this specific celebration.
So, with this in mind, this ritual is meant to just give us some time to consider the cycles of the Earth, to consider our connection to the Earth, the God and Goddess and to give ourselves some prime celebration time… a kind of physical and spiritual ‘time out’ to replenish ourselves, contemplate our lives and honor the Earth.
The needs for this celebration are few. A loaf of good bread, the kind you would get at a bakery, not off the store shelf in a plastic bag. A fresh loaf of whatever kind of bread you prefer… sweet or crusty, soft or filled with fresh herbs or spices. Choose something that you will enjoy. And don’t worry about the size, it will be all used when this ritual is done.
What would be ideal would be a loaf of home made bread, but I would not be so silly as to suggest that you have the time or the talent or the patience to do this. However, if you want to attempt this, by all means go for it. I have a great bread maker…. so you know how I would approach this. No, I am not a kitchen Diva so off I would go to the bakery.
Berries would also be appropriate for this celebration. Blackberries are traditional, but we do not always have access to fresh blackberries or sometimes they are way too expensive. Choose what you like, be it fresh berries, or even some fresh berry jam. Or even a fresh berry pie
Location can be indoors or outdoors, but if you can find space outside on a lovely day, then by all means take the bread and berries with you to some place quiet with some grass and some sunshine.
If not, set your table for yourself and make this a private celebration. Light candles, incense, whatever it is that will make your home your sacred space for this celebration. Create a meal, and treat yourself to something special.
Once you have settled yourself into the place you are going to celebrate, take out the bread and the berries.
Creating a circle is not really necessary. You are celebrating the Earth, and if you are sitting on a park bench with your feet in the grass, or lying on a blanket under the shade of a tree, this is all you need. This will be your sacred space, and all that is needed here is a word of intent. Look around you, and think… this is the place where I will honor the Earth as Mother and provider…
Break the bread. Feel the texture of the loaf. This is the final product in a long line of events. From the breaking of the ground in the spring, to the planting of the seeds, from the gentle rains to the full warmth of the sun, the seeds germinate and grow, producing plants and ripening to seed heads that will be ground into grain for the bread. Smell the mix of grains and yeast in the bread and smell the earth these grains grew in. Feel the warmth of the bread if it is still warm, or remember the warmth of the oven and the warmth of the sun that helped produce the grains and the rising of the bread, the baking of the bread and how it toasted that crust to a golden brown.
Feel the bread on your lips… the texture, the smell, the crumbs on your fingers. Finally, place the bread on your tongue, and allow the flavor to fill your mouth. What kind of grains made this bread, what additives made it sweet or aromatic? Take the time to savor and appreciate the bread. And as a final thought, before you finally swallow the bread, remember this is a gift from the God and Goddess especially for you. This bread has come a long way and passed through a lot of people to get to you. The farmers, the trucker, the baker… all are responsible for getting this nourishment from the earth to your table. Give thanks to the God and Goddess for bringing this bread to you and ask for blessings for those who helped along the way. And if you made it yourself, give yourself a pat on the back and thank Them for allowing it to turn out as good as it is.
After you have savored the bread a bit…. break out the berries. Did you bring berries that were fresh from the vine? Did you dress them in sugar and cream? Again, as you look at the berries, remember where they came from. These are a gift from the God and Goddess. Most berries are planted as a bush and picked each year, or they are picked from their bushes in the wild. They do not really require much maintenance. I’ve picked my own berries from wild bushes, and you really appreciate their sweet taste when you have been scratched up trying to acquire them.
Again, examine the berries, contemplating where they came from. Smell the earth and sweet aroma from the berries before you allow them to enter your mouth and burst into flavor. And again, remember where they came from, how they got to your table and give thanks to the God and Goddess for giving them to you, and ask blessings upon all those who helped bring these wondrous fruits to your table.
By now, if you are outside, you may have curious visitors… small birds or animals who are curious about what you have. Share the bread with these small charges of the Goddess. Crumble the bread up real small for the birds, and let the squirrels or chipmunks have little chunks to grab and run away with. While some may think this is not proper, I’ve been feeding birds leftover bread for years, and they do appreciate it. Same with the small, delightful rodents. The mice in my house always seem to help themselves, so it seems they like it and it sustains them rather than doing them harm.
If you are in
your home, save a small piece of bread to be left at a park or in the woods
later when you do go out. A small animal
will always appreciate it. I had a cat
that I found on the streets of
The berries you should finish, especially if you dressed them with sugars and cream. Way too rich for the small animals, but a delightful treat for ourselves.
One more thing to reflect on is your own Harvest. What is it that you have done this year that has reaped some kind of benefit for yourself. A new job? A new project that has been successful and given you a sense of pride in what you have done? A new relationship that has turned into a wonderful partnering of you and someone else, be it romantic or business or a good warm friendship? This is the time to reflect upon your own First Harvest. Or, if the project was not successful, if the relationship went astray, what was it that caused it to go wrong. Like the farmer who has planted seeds, we look to understand why the crop failed. Or the season that was too wet, or too dry, and the berries were not sweet or they turned into dried up useless fruit. This is the time to contemplate our lives as well as the cycle of the seasons and see how our lives have seasoned this year. There is still time to change a project that is not working, or try to mend a broken relationship, or to end a partnership that is obviously not right for either of you. Part of this harvest celebration is to contemplate what you have sown and what you are going to reap from your actions.
Once you have finished with the berries and you have given away all the bread you want, its time to give thanks for all that you have been given. Tell the God and Goddess you are thankful for the foods that you have and for all the things that make your life possible. Send blessings and abundance to all those who have helped you succeed in whatever you do. And if you are in need, ask the God and Goddess to smile upon you and send blessings and abundance to you and your family.
Enjoy the sun for a bit more, and enjoy the calm and celebration you have just had. Then clean up whatever mess you may have made at the park, and remember: if you pack it in, then pack it out.
If you are home, enjoy the serenity and peace that will settle over your sacred space. And again give thanks for those things that you have, and send blessings to those who have helped you along your way. And if in need, then ask for the blessings of the God and Goddess upon you and your family.
The idea of all our Holidays is celebration. We celebrate the Earth and all its bounty. We celebrate the Mother Goddess. We celebrate the Father God. And most of all, we celebrate ourselves. Have a blessed and happy Lughnasadh and a bountiful First Harvest.