Harvest Celebration: Lughnasadh / Lammas (Outline) & Your ‘Live-Streaming’ Invitation

30072020 HARVEST OUTLINE AND INVITATION X

It’s nearly time for our celebration of Lughnasadh, or first harvest – Lughnasadh is the Irish Gaelic for ‘the commemoration of Lugh’ which was prevalent event in England in former years. If you live in England think of the area in London called Ludgate formerly called Luds Gate. This time, for some, is also called “Lammas”, from the old anglo-saxon  –  their word for loaf mass, a mass where the first loaf of bread of the harvest is consecrated.

Here is:

  • a very brief outline of Ludhnasah, and
  • a hymn for it penned by Tadhg, and
  • a few verses about John Barleycorn from an ancient, mythical folk tune, and there’s more.
  • at the base of this article is your invitation to view/participate in our ‘live streaming’ Lughnasadh ceremony online, on Tadhg’s Facebook page, on Friday, 31 July 2020 at 8pm (UK time) though the event takes place in the northern hemisphere on 1 August (or the evening before). Do feel free to print this ‘article’ at home, for your personal use, as some of it will be used in the ceremony

In an agricultural society the begin of the harvest was a natural occasion to celebrate and to give thanks to the Divine for Its gifts. And, there is no reason in our technological society why we, too, should give thanks to the Lord of the Harvest, the Great provider.

This time of the year would, for our ancestors, have been a time of great joy, as the times grow darker. They would have started storing food for the winter.

But, the idea of celebrating harvest, giving thanks, storing for the winter goes back, goes back way before the times of the Church, way before even the Celts and Druids of the UK, and many thousands of years before that – and so it truly is an ancient and cosmic-celebratory time which no one religion, faith or tribe can lay exclusive ownership, which is entwined in our ancient and later day tribes’ survival and the honouring of That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves, the Great Provider.

Some time ago, with Lughnasadh or Lammas in mind, and with the idea of giving gratitude to the One Behind It All, I wrote the following Hymn For The Harvest:

 

HYMN FOR THE HARVEST

Lord of the harvest we come to you,
we thank you for the ripened grain
(for) the circle turning year by year.

Great provider of all humankind,
we thank you for the sun and wind,
the earth and all life-giving rain.

Surely, surely, you are good,
The God of Green Hope, good to all.
The Sacred Three, The Three in One.

Nature once in vernal green enrobed,
gives up its bounty, gifts for all
(and) prepares to sleep as autumn comes.

On our table you supply our bread,
We share with all, for all to be fed,
And joy in our heart at what shall be.

Surely, surely, you are good,
The God of Green Hope, good to all.
The Sacred Three, The Three in One.

Inspired by: Lord of the Harvest, Hymn by Joseph Anstice, 1836
To the tune of Siuil a Ruin. Link for that tune is here.
‘Green hope’ a reference to Romans 15:13, ‘The Message’, The Book.

 

THE STORY OF JOHN BARLEYCORN

It’s about this time of the year that many will recite, or sing the mythical song about John Barleycorn. Now, there were many variations of the song, and some have come down to us today. It’s mythical in that it’s a foundational story and was the very centre of peoples lives if we go way back.

How far back?

The first known written copy of the song appears in a manuscript penned by George Bannatyne in AD1568 (parts of the song are indented below). He was a wealthy merchant from  Edinburgh and included the song of John Barleycorn in a collection of several poems, songs and other writings which he seems to have committed to paper as a simple amusement.

However there is some speculation that it was known and sung hundred of years earlier, and others think it  goes way back to our civilizations’ tribal beginnings.

Why is it so profound and important?

John Barleycorn, could be seen as a symbolic figure; a poetic personification of the barley; the corn itself. Taken at this level the song  describes the process of preparing the ground, sowing the seeds, watering and waiting for the crop to grow, followed by harvesting, threshing and milling. Finally, the products of brandy and bread made from barley are extolled for their virtues as staples of the diet of early agrarian peoples and upon which laborers, craftsmen and lords alike depended for their sustenance.

There were three men come out of the west,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn should die.

These are the first indications that the story in the song has its origins in a religious or magical ritual actually enacted in the pagan, agrarian past. If such is the case, then it would be reasonable to assume that the role of John Barleycorn would have been played out by a real person for the ritual – what we would call an enacted parable, today. And, that role-play is, indeed, acted out, today.

Did you notice that there are three men and that they come out of the west?

Why three? Why from the west?

The number three has been clearly demonstrated to have religious or magical significance in most human cultures around the planet since ancient times.  The image of the Triad was adopted in later centuries by the Christian Church as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. In agrarian England – think of the triskelion or triquetra – it was originally ascribed to the worship of the Earth Goddess, who was represented in three aspects as a young maiden, a life-bearing mother, and a wise old crone.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that in the earliest Celtic writings and myths, the male heroes frequently set out in groups of three to undertake their sacred quests. It’s more than just a song – its about the cycle of life and humankind’s progress in it.

And, ‘The West’ was a euphemism for the ‘otherworld’ or ‘faerieland’ – the mystic isle across the western sea where myth and magic were commonplace, immortality could be found in the dwelling place of the gods.

Why they would come to kill him?

They let him stand till midsummer
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John he growed a long beard
And so became a man.

They let him stand until midsummer day. He grew a beard and became a man. In the ancient pagan cultures, midsummer was the most important festival of the year, celebrated as the longest day, the victory of light before the long descent into Winter darkness.

This song is about the cycle of death and rebirth was of tremendous and practical importance to our agrarian ancestors.

John Barleycorn grows a long beard. In part, this is a simple reference to the ‘bearded barley’ which has long hair-like strands coming off the ear of corn when it is ripe for harvest.

They hired men with the scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee,
They rolled him and tied him by the waist,
And served him most barbarously.
They hired men with the sharp pitchforks
Who pricked him to the heart.
They wheeled him round and round the field.

When his time had come, John Barleycorn was sacrificed, his broken body was dragged through the fields to ensure  future fertility.

John Barleycorn is the personification of barley, and because our ancestors life depended on it, he was the personification of life itself – life that grew from a seed, was cutdown and harvested and we benefited, died, only to return to life the following year.

 

YOUR INVITATION TO OUR LUGHNASADH CEREMONY
FRIDAY, 31 JULY 2020 AT 8PM (UK TIME)
INVITE & DETAILS OF HOW TO VIEW

If you haven’t already ‘friended’ Tadhg on his Facebook page, please see below.

Live-Streaming Video instructions: To view this  inlcusive, participative, live-streaming video, you need to be a FaceBook friend of Tadhg’s as that it where the ‘broadcast’ can/will be seen. So: If you’re already a friend, or you’re been able to see many of the morning ‘Thought For The Day’ broadcasts via my Facebook site then you’re good to go.

If you’re new, not on Tadhg’s  FaceBook friend’s list, or are not sure, do check here. If don’t see many previous videos there, or if you can’t gain full access to read that  Facebook webpage then you’ll need to become a Facebook friend.

To become a Facebook friend: press the ‘friends’ link on Tadhg’s Facebook site – that link in the paragraph above. He will accept as soon as he can, and, when he does, please try the link again  to see if you can gain full access, in readiness for the ‘broadcast’ on his FaceBook page. If you still can’t get access, or if there’s any ‘challenges’, please email him, at: tadhgtemp@googlemail.com.

 

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