Well, Andy is off to Moscow of all places so rather than mope around I decided to write something here…
Of the eight Sabbats in the Pagan ‘Wheel of the year’, the only two I always celebrate fully are Samhain and Beltane. With the other six Sabbats it tends to depend on where I am and who I am with. However, I do try to keep them in my mind as the wheel of the year turns; they keep me grounded and help me to focus on the attributes of each season and the different themes that each one engenders.
Lammas marks the gathering of the harvest in early August and is a festival focused very much on the sacrifice of the male aspect of deity; a concept which has many precedents in antiquity and parrallels in other religions. In Pagan traditions it is often associated with the death and resurrection of the Celtic Sun God Lugh or with the tradition of John Barleycorn, Lord Of The Harvest.
In fact, in my understanding, Lammas and Lughnasadh have two seperate origins but have come to be mixed and celecbrated at the same time. Lammas is where the emphasis on the harvest comes from. It was integrated into the Christianity as Loaf Mass Day where it became tradional to bring a loaf of bread made from the new wheat crop to church. I believe some churches still continue that tradition. The idea of the death and ressurrection of the sun God Lugh stems from Celtic origins and is still celebrated in modern Ireland, although again in a christianised form. Then there is John Barleycorn, an old English folksong in which the charector is a personification of the crop barley, and of the things made from it such as beer and whisky. Thus, as with many things in modern Paganism, Lammas is based on a mixture of beliefs and traditions.
Wicca emphesises the death and rebirth of the God in order to ensure a good harvest so the main theme of the Sabbat is counting your blessings and making some form of personal sacrifice to repay for what we have been given. In antiquity there was sometimes blood sacrifice but in modern days covens and pagan communities mark this Sabbat symbolically. In some Wiccan covens the High Priest playing the part of the God may have his finger cut as a symbolic gesture, but the festival can be marked in less gory ways!
For me, and I would guess for most Pagans, Lammas is about sacrificing time and energy for good causes, particualarly focused on the local community and agriculture. I usually hide a candle under a cloth for a few days to represent the death of the God and then remove the cloth, light the candle and decorate it with flowers to celebrate the rebirth of the God and symbolise the fruits of the harvest.
What I have to think about now is what kind of sacrifice can I make? I have been think about this question for a while and I am keen this year to do something for the environment. One of my ideas is to make a point of taking a reuseable bag with me whenever I go to the supermarket. I hate taking shopping bags around with me and I have a habbit of popping into the supermarket when I am on my way home from somewhere and ending up with loads of those awful plastic bags which can’t be recycled. Well, that is not such a big sacrifice but it will at least make me stop and think. On a similar theme I might try getting a bit evangelical on the subject of recycling with some of my friends who don’t take the subject very seriously.
If anyone has any ideas for realistic sacrifices I could make with my time and energy during August, suggestions are very welcome.