Lammas is a harvest holiday which is celebrated on August 1st in the Northern Hemisphere and on February 1st in the Southern Hemisphere. It is a holiday which is celebrated by some people in a number of different English-speaking countries which include England, Ireland, Scotland and the United States. Depending on whether the day is celebrated as a Christian holiday or as a pagan holiday, it can either be used to celebrate the coming harvest or in celebration of the god Lugh – the master of skills.
History of Lammas
Since the dawn of civilization, grain has been very important to mankind. So much so, that it became a symbol that was often associated with birth and death. A great example of this can be found in the Greek legend of Adonis. According to legend, Adonis was the god of grain and of rebirth and was also quite handsome. Handsome enough for two goddesses, Aphrodite and Persephone, to battle for his affections.
However, the endless feuding between the two goddesses enraged Zeus so much he decided to end the fight by ordering Adonis to spend six months of the year with Persephone in the Underworld and the rest of the time with Aphrodite. Which was the Greek’s explanation for the spring and summer – when things grew, and fall and winter – when things died.
However, the legend of Adonis isn’t the first grain centered legend ever created. No, for that honor you would have to go to Sumeria. That is where a legend about the god Tammuz arose many years before the Greek legend of Adonis. In this legend, the god Tammuz was killed and this so grieved his widow Ishtar that she made nature stop producing. Nature wouldn’t begin to produce again until she went to the underworld and brought him back. As you can see, the story of Adonis closely mirrors this story and probably served as an inspiration for it.
In Old English, Lammas comes from the phrase “hlaf-maesse,” which roughly translates to loaf mass. That’s because during this period in time, when bread was made from the first harvest’s grains, then the first loaves were often blessed by the Church. Which is why still celebrated today as a Christian holiday. However, Lammas also has its roots in the pagan traditions of its time and was used to honor Lugh, the Celtic god of skilled workers and craftsmen.
Lammas Customs & Traditions
While some Christian communities may still practice a “blessing of the loaves” on Lammas, it is a tradition that is beginning to diminish. Nowadays, most Christians who want to celebrate Lammas do so by attending mass or by adorning their house in fall symbols such as corn husks, wheat strands, apples and other traditional harvest symbols.
For neo-pagans and Wiccans, Lammas is the first of three different harvest festivals. On this day, some Wiccans celebrate the day by baking a Lammas bread man. They also celebrate it by feasting on a variety of foods which may include Lunastain Fry Bread, Colcannon, barley soup and chicken. It is also celebrated using symbols of the harvest season which may include corn dolls, cornhusk chains, pentacles made out of wheat or grapevines and apple candle holders.