Lammas, also known as Lughnasadh, is a significant modern pagan celebration that takes place around August 1st in the Northern Hemisphere (or February 1st in the Southern Hemisphere). It marks the first harvest festival of the year and is a time to honor the bountiful gifts of nature and the agricultural cycles. (For this article I will be discussing Lammas as experienced by those in the Northern Hemisphere - during Leo season)
When the sun is near 15° Leo, we celebrate the Mid-Summer Harvest - sometimes called Lammas (or Lughnasadh to the Irish.) This is generally celebrated around August 1st, and festivities focus on celebrating the abundance of crops, the harvest of fruits and grains, gratitude for the sun, and knowledge that the summer is now waning.
This year (2023) August 1st has the Sun in Leo and the Full Moon in Aquarius! The Moon will reach 100% Fullness at 11:30 am PDT on August 1st.
The sun will reach 15° Leo on August 7, 2023 - officially the half-way point of Leo Season, and the half-way point of Summer.
During Lammas, modern day pagans gather to give thanks to the Earth and the Sun for their role in nurturing and providing sustenance for life. The name "Lammas" originates from the Old English term "hlaf-mas," meaning "loaf mass," referring to the tradition of baking bread using the newly harvested grains. This freshly baked bread is often used as an offering during rituals and shared among the community in a feast of gratitude. It is usually celebrated by baking bread, having a feast, and a bonfire.
The astrological season of Leo is ruled by The Sun - and in Tarot the Sun Card is a card of youthful joy and celebration. This card holds clues to a great potential of creativity, abundance, and joy that we can freely tap into during this season if we allow ourselves the freedom.
Lammas is also a time to reflect on the cycle of life and death, as it marks the turning point where we can see that summer is waning, days grow shorter, we are edging closer towards the darker half of the year. Pagans see this as a reminder of the continuous cycle of birth, growth, and decay, and it prompts contemplation on the impermanence of life and the importance of appreciating each season for its unique gifts. It is still summer - but we acknowledge that the wheel is turning towards fall. The Fall Equinox (Mabon - the first day of Fall) will occur 6 weeks after Lammas.
At Lammas, it has been six months since Imbolc, and it is six months until the next Imbolc. During Aquarius season when we celebrated Imbolc around February 1, there would have been a Full Moon in Leo. Now, with the sun in Leo, the Full Moon will be in Aquarius! At Imbolc we "planted seeds" by making wishes and setting intentions for the new year. Now, at Lammas we begin to harvest these wishes. But this is just the "First Harvest" - or the beginning of Harvest Season. Energetically, some things are still growing or are not yet ready to harvest, and we apply more energy to growing those crops (or goals) at this time.
If you wrote down goals and intentions at Imbolc for this year, now is a time to review those goals. Reflect on the past 6 months of this year. What have you learned? What have you gained or how have you grown? Celebrate the growth you have seen in your life!
The second Decan of Leo (or the middle of Leo season) is represented in Tarot by the Six of Wands - this is a card of celebrating your accomplishments or receiving honors for a job well done. Allow yourself to celebrate your accomplishments!
What have you overcome?
What is now feeling abundant in your life?
What have you learned and in what ways have you grown and flourished in the past six months?
Even if this past six months have been a time of hardship for you, see if you can find the positives. With challenges we learn resilience and strength. What have you overcome?
Some of the lessons of this season are about hard work and a time to re-dedicate to our path. The season of harvest isn't as simple as picking fruits from a vine and enjoying those fruits instantly. Fruits need to be preserved so they do not spoil. Grains need to be processed into flour so they can be baked into bread. Beans need to be cleaned and cooked before they can nourish our bodies.
Yes, with gratitude we celebrate - but we also think about the next stages of our work. It is likely that some of your bigger goals in life are broken down into steps - you can't just skip to the reward. If you planted fruits and grains at Imbolc, you might start harvesting them now, but there are still more steps to take before you can enjoy the cakes and wine that you make from the fruits and grain.
I hope it is obvious that this seasonal celebration is metaphor for the cycles and harvests in your life. You do not have to be literally harvesting grains from a garden to understand that the celebration of Lammas is about reflecting on your growth over this past year - checking on your personal progress with gratitude, and then continuing along your journey. You have come so far, but you don't just STOP when you reach the first harvest. Taste the fruits and then keep going!
The Tarot card of Leo Season is Strength - and what an amazing message this card is for Lammas. Strength represents our willpower over instinct. Sure, our base animal instinct might be to just eat up all the rewards of our growth this far - reveling in the taste of the sweet fruits and honey. We need to apply willpower over our instincts to make our rewards more sustainable. We want these rewards to last longer than just a few weeks. We want to preserve what we have grown so that it feeds us later, when the weather has turned darker and colder. We want to save the seeds so we can plant more crops in the future. And so it is that at Lammas we exert willpower over our basic animal nature, in the midst of celebrating life and abundance we think of responsibility, maturity, and think once again of our long term goals.
What are your strengths?
How are you preparing to apply your personal strengths to your goals over the next six months?
As you reflect on your growth and accomplishments over the past year, sometimes you will find that you have changed so much that the things you wanted last Imbolc are not the things you want any more. That's totally valid - and part of the joy of Lammas is that you get to re-commit to living your most authentic life. You can redirect your energy to new goals that align with your passions.
Sometimes we may find that a certain goal we set has not come very far. There's no place here for guilt or worrying about what you should have done differently. Here in the purifying fires of Lammas, we can let that shit go. For many reasons, a crop might not flourish and reach harvest. Sometimes it is because we didn't spend enough time watering our goal - but this is usually a sign that we just weren't that excited for the thing we said we wanted. Or maybe we just weren't ready to put in the work, and now we have a chance to decide if we want to recommit. Or, we can just be honest and realize we didn't really want something enough to put in the energy and effort at this time, and that's okay! You still have other growth that you can celebrate!
Sometimes, things didn't work out even though we DID put in the work, and we did have all the right energy and attitudes. Sometimes things don't work out and it is no fault of our own - there were perhaps other outside factors that made it impossible to achieve this goal or make the progress we had hoped for. Or sometimes there's no reason at all, it just didn't happen.
Lammas is a FIRE Festival - a time to burn away the old. We can throw our regrets and losses into the fire (metaphorically) and cleanse away the energy we don't need in order to make room for the new. Alongside our celebrations of gratitude we should remember to release any feelings of regret or guilt. We could spend a lot of time thinking about the things that didn't grow in our garden - but our times is probably better spent clearing away the debris of the dead plants to make room for new things to grow. There are still six weeks of summer, and two more harvest celebrations to be had in the future, let's celebrate the growth we have had, clear away the old and keep going!