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August Harvest Traditions
Myths and Customs that Celebrate the Gathering of Grain
© Missy Worrells
Aug 2, 2007
The first harvest signifies the death of the crops as grain is gathered, and the thanksgiving of the people to the deities who provided them with life sustaining grains.
Late July and Early August mark the middle of summer and the beginning of the harvest season. Famine was common during July as the previous years harvest supplies were almost totally depleted. Harvesting grains in August ensured the continuance of life and was recognized by many cultures as a time of thanksgiving.
In ancient Rome the grain goddess Ceres was honored on the first harvest called Ceresalia in her honor. Our modern word cereal comes from her name. Other goddesses celebrated at first harvest are Demeter, Persephone, Kore, Ethne, Venus, and the Corn Mother. Many Native American tribes honor the Corn Grandmother during the Festival of Green Corn. It was held during the full moon when the corn was ready to be harvested. The celebration lasted for several days and was a time to be thankful and a time of forgiveness.
Lughnasadh was a joyous time greatly anticipated as the first of three harvest festivals. Lughnasadh honors the god Lugh, and his foster-mother Taillte who died clearing the fields of Ireland for agriculture. In Old Irish Lunasa means “August.” The Celts celebrate this day from sunset of August 1 to sunset on August 2 as the wake of Lugh, the Sun-King whose light began to dwindle after the summer solstice. At this time oaths were taken and contracts were signed. Taillte marriages, lasting a year and a day, were common also.
This day was know to the Saxons as Lammas, or loaf-mass, a time when grains were harvested and baked into bread. The grain was harvested, giving its life so that people might live. The grain was made into bread, and the bread was symbolic of the gods. This closely echoes the Christian concept of communion. Christians later adopted this holiday as a day when bread, made from the first fruits of the harvest, was brought to the church to be blessed.
Today many neo-pagans still celebrate Lammas or Lughnasadh as one of the eight sabbats. It is the first of three sabbats that celebrate the passing of light and the gathering of grains. Lammas is a time used to consider what has metaphorically been harvested over the past year. Wheat is woven into decorative pieces as resting places for harvest spirits then burned after the winter has passed. Bread is made and symbolically sacrificed in honor of the god. Corn dollies are made from cornhusk or wheat to represent the goddess who is still pregnant with the fruits of harvest.
August is a time to reflect on the past year, on things that have come to fruition and things that failed. A time to let go of regrets and say farewell to things that have passed and preserve all the fruits that have been gathered to hold onto for future memories.
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