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.

 

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.