Celebrating The First Harvest 2019

20190725 CELEBRATING THE FIRST HARVEST

Harvest? Here are a few words about the first harvest of the year, its background and history, and its importance to you and I, and there are  few suggestions about how we can celebrate it.

I can vividly remember as a wee lad, so this is going back a few years, the time when, each year, there would a ‘buzz’, a hubbub, a huge excitement at primary school like no other. Apart from Easter and Christmas, Harvest was such an important time. At school, many of our lessons, especially art, focussed on a harvest theme. And within a day of two the school hall and classes were festooned with drawings, painting and items all made by pupils  with harvest time in mind. Then, bread, corn dollies and garlands decorated the hall, along with parcels of food for the elderly. Wonderful memories.

We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand… (Hymn by Matthias Claudius, Translated by Jane Montgomery Campbell, and one of my favourite, seasonal, hymns at primary school.)

And guess what? Yes, it’s nearly that time, again.

I can’t wait for the ancient Celtic and Druid festival of Lammas, also called Lammas-Day or the season, Lammastide, or Lughnasadh. In Wales it is known as Gŵyl Awst. It traditionally starts on August 1st, and it is the first harvest in the calendar. It is such an important occasion. So important that many, latter-day and Druids, ancient cultures and others celebrate two (and sometimes three) harvests each year. This harvest is the grain harvest.

Although many churches celebrate (one) harvest, now, one Sunday in September, that type of harvest celebration service is fairly recent: it began in 1843, when Revd. Hawker, then the Vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, revived the ‘forgotten’ and ancient service of Lammas, as a once-a-year (new) service. We owe a debt of gratitude to him for that.

However, if we view that September harvest as the second harvest, a harvest of berries, applies, and wine, then… there’s more. It will soon be the first harvest, the grain harvest.

The Celts originally called this time, ‘lughnasadh’ (pronounced ‘loo-nas-sah’) after the ancient Gaelic deity, Lugh. But, it seems that believe ‘travelled’, and many believe the area in London now called Ludgate, is a derivation of Lugh.

‘In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.’ William Blake

But many call this harvest Lammas , after the Anglo-Saxon festival of hlaefmass – loaf mass. And it’s from that word that we get the word Lammas! It was the grain harvest, hence the reference to bread, and the baking of bread to celebrate the season.

So, my late grandmother, a great one for making home-made food would, especially at this time, would bake bara brith – Welsh for ‘speckled bread’. It’s similar to the Irish loaf, barmbrack. Bara brith , is pronounced ‘barrah-bri(d)th.’ And, it’s now available in many of the larger supermarkets in the UK.

Lammas, then, is a time of giving thanks to mother nature for all her grain produce, gratitude to the Source of All, the Lord of the Harvest, and a reaping of what has been sown. In previous years it was a time of fairs, trade and much merriment.

With the reaping ended, the last sheaf of corn would be made into a Corn Dolly, which was meant to embody the ‘spirit of the season’ (in much the same way as we might display holly around the house at Christmas), or to represent the ancient corn goddess. The Corn Dolly could, though not always, be made in the form of a miniature human, but it could also be an intricate spiral pyramid, or a miniature sheaf etc. Other designs could include animals, agriculture tools like scythes and shepherds’ crooks, or objects with a Christian significance such as bells or a cross.

How will you celebrate Llughnasadh or Lammas this year? To celebrate this first harvest you might like to choose a time during the first weekend in August, perhaps a few hours one evening?

Perhaps, you might try you hand at baking a special loaf of bread that you can share with family and friends. Or, if not, buy a granary loaf of some kind to share with them. Coupled with a nice wine or non-alcoholic fruit juice it can be a timely reminder, lasting just a few minutes, of giving gratitude to the Great Giver. A communion?

But, you might like to go for a walk in the country or city park, and pause, and as you sit there gazing, meditate and give thanks, silently for a few minutes.

You might like to recite a formal liturgy that can be said by you and meal guests, or by yourself, in which case the following may be of use (to use as it is, or adapt):

Blessed are you, Fruitful One
giver of abundance and plenty,
giver of resources when stocks are low.
Grow my faith in your providence…

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

And/or,

(Facing north)
Remembering the element of earth,
the land on which I/we tread,
from which all things grow.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to pause and imagine earth energy from which all things grow within yourself and your connection to it, flowing to you and others)

(Facing west)
Remembering to the element of air,
the energy of the mind and wind,
from which the seed is spread and planted.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to imagine the energy of the air surrounding you and sustaining all life, breathing deeply and slowly as you so. Air! Breath! Life!)

(Facing south)
Remembering the element of fire,
the spirit of creation, and destruction and new life,
the sun’s life-giving warmth.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to imagine the fire of the setting sun that fuels all creation and which reflects your spirit)

(Facing west)
Remembering to the element of water,
the energy of emotions,
that grew the crops that nourish me/us.
May your bounty be ever present on the earth for all.
So shall I/we honour the Great Provider.

(You might like to think of swimming in the ocean or a pool, remembering that wonderful cleansing and rejuvenating feeling, and give thanks)

[You can vary any of this, and indeed as you work through the compass points, to start, you might like to start at another cardinal point other than north.]

(Tadhg Jonathan)

And/or,

Generous One of the Harvest,
walk alongside those who have sown in tears,
who have scattered seed without hope,
on land not of their choosing.
Come close to those who weep this day.

(Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year)

And/or,

Thou thyself my reaping,
each ridge, and plain, and field,
each sickle curved, shapely hard,
each ear and handful in the sheaf,
each ear and handful in the sheaf.

(Book: Carmina Gadelica)

And so, this Lammastide, as it has been since I was a child, I’ll be baking several bara brith, and sharing one – yes, the breaking of bread with family and friends – in a simple, ‘after meal’ remembrance ‘feast’, remembering all the good things that have happened this year, and giving thanks, in silence and humility, to the Source of All for the harvest, for life itself.

Maybe, next time you’ll join me?

 

Gŵyl Awst (Harvest): Meaning, Celebration Ideas, Hymn And More!

20180723 GWYL AWST HARVEST MEANING IDEAS HYMN AND FULL MOON ECLIPSE

Harvest is almost upon us. Others, ancients, Celtics, Druids and early Christians, and latter-day ones know this event by a number of names, such as Lammas Lughnasadh, or Gŵyl Awst (as it is known in Wales). The latter being my preferred choice.

It’s a wonderful time to take stock at what has happened this year, to reflect and to give thanks, to learn, even through the tough times. It’s a time to give gratitude to the Source of All.

Lammas, or whatever name your prefer, is observed on 1st August, usually.

The word Lammas comes from the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, meaning “loaf-mass”, and is the festival of the wheat harvest. If you think it’s far too early to think about harvest in the northern hemisphere, don’t worry. This is the first harvest harvest of the year. There’s another harvest celebration later on, at the time of the Autumn Equinox.

You might want to celebrate this festival on Wednesday 1st August, then; or you might like to delay it until the following Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

My grandmother, a great one for making home-made food would, especially at this time, make bara brith – Welsh for ‘speckled bread’. It’s similar to the Irish loaf, barmbrack, which is also delicious.

Oh, bara brith was my favourite type of bread as a child. It’s a cross between bread and cake! The smell of baking bread over the hearth in her north Wales county cottage was heavenly, so inviting, and so scrumptious. I can still remember the smell of that baked bread wafting up my nostrils, and my stomach rumbling in anticipation.

Alternatively you could celebrate Lammas a little early, say, on Friday, 27th July or that weekend – bearing in mind there’s also a full moon on Friday, 27th July, and more

But, there’s more. Yes, there’s a full moon coming up and it’s a total eclipse of the moon. All happening on 27 July 2018. It’s also known as a blood moon as total lunar eclipses – the Earth coming between the Sun and the Moon, makes the moon ‘glow’ with a dull red colour. It will be visible from the UK from moonrise at around 9pm. At different times it will be viewable from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and most of south America, but not the USA or Canada, so I’m told. From a UK persepctive lunar totality will start at 9.21pm and finish at 10.13pm.

So, a great reason to celebrate Lammas, Harvest, Lughnasadh, or Gŵyl Awst, at the same time as the full moon eclipse, unless you really like ritual and want to keep them separate.

As a child, I knew I was in for a treat. There was, and is, nothing quite like freshly-baked bread, baked in the hearth, and served, still piping-hot, and covered in lashings and lashings of real butter. I can remember butter running down my chin as I ate a huge chunk of fresh bread.

Wonderful.

Abundance.

Blessed.

And so, this Lammastide, as it has been since I was a child, I’ll be baking several bara brith, and sharing one – yes, the breaking of bread with family and friends – in a simple, ‘after meal’ remembrance ‘feast’, remembering all the good things that have happened this year. Giving thanks, in silence and humility, to the Source of All for the harvest, for life itself.

We are blessed, my grandmother used to say, when we share bread.

Ofcourse, you might like to just gaze at the moon this harvest time, walk in its light, or wait until 1st August to do that. Whatever you do, I would encourage you to celebrate Lammas, Harvest, Lughnasadh, or Gŵyl Awst.

Part of your celebration could be baking, or buying a nice loaf of bread from your local supermarket – from the bakery section – and inviting a friend or family member over, or by giving them a loaf, or by donating a small amount of money to a food agency for those with insufficient food, as an act of gratitude for a good year and as action to assist others.

We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest. Orison Swett Marden

Or, you might like to leave some food out (appropriate food for wildlife, ensuring that food left wont cause harm to wildlife) or pour out a small libation as a ‘thanks offering’ to That Which Is Bigger Than Us. Some friends pour out a small ‘tot’ of whisky or vodka or water at such times – a ‘giving back to the Earth’ which is full of meaning.

And, don’t forget to include in your gratitude those whose work brought food to your table: farmers, fisherman, factory processing people, drivers, store staff etc. A positive thought, prayer, light directed to them, I’m sure, would be appreciated.

You might like to recite a poem to celebrate this harvest time or recite some form of liturgy to make the time special of thankfulness. Or, perhaps reflect and meditate and give thanks at home, or during a night (or moon-lit) walk, or liturgically.

‘Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. ‘Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.” Exodus 23:16, The Book

I love singing and yet find a paucity of songs that reflect my Celtic upbringing and nature-loving viewpoint. And, so you might consider using the following song or hymn written by me last year:

HYMN FOR 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 ancient Celtic folk tune of Siuil a Ruin (see below)

‘Green hope’ a Romans 15:13, ‘The Message’, The Book, reference.

To get an idea of how the words above fit the Gaelic, traditional folk tune Siuil a Ruin, please click the link here. That recording plays a little preamble introduction and then after about 16 seconds two verses are played of that folk song, followed by a chorus, and the tune exactly fits the first two verses and chorus of the words above. Simple! I hope. Any queries, please contact me (and yes, I might even sing it for you).

‘The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest;. William Blake

Whatever you do, I wish you and yours light and love as Gŵyl Awst approaches. Many blessings, Tadhg.