Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lammas


August 1st marks the beginning of first harvest and is traditionally marked by two ancient festivals that have similar focus.  Lammas is one of the four major pagan festivals. Celebrations include baking bread from the first grains of the harvest and blessing them in a church ceremony known as the “loaf-mass.” There is a theory that "Lammas" is a shortened form of "loaf mass."  


As hard as it may be to believe when it’s 104, Lammas and Lugnasadh also mark the end of summer and the beginning of fall and the last quarter of the Celtic year. Both festivals celebrate the fruits of the harvest with games and contests and a magnificent feast. In this sense, the celebrations are similar to the American Thanksgiving holiday and the Jewish Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot.

It’s the time of the year to think about our personal harvest as well.  What are we harvesting in our own lives?  Journaling is one of the best ways to keep track of our goals so we can make sure we stay focused on the goodness we want to manifest in our lives. It is also a season to throw away useless thoughts and habits and to form new ones to give ourselves renewed strength. Reflecting on these topics alone in the privacy of your journal allows you stay in touch with yourself more easily, and often helps work through those questions we have about what and how to manifest the energy we want in our lives.

Lammas Bread

Bread is the ultimate symbol of the Lammas season. After all, once the grain is harvested, it is milled and baked into bread, which is then consumed. It is the cycle of the harvest come full circle. The spirit of the grain god lives on through us in the eating of the bread. In many traditions, a loaf of special bread is baked in the shape of a man, to symbolize the god of the harvest. You can easily make a loaf of Lammas bread by using a pre-made loaf of bread dough, found in the frozen food section in your grocery store. Certainly, you can make your own dough, but if you're not much of a baker, this is an easy alternative.

First, place the frozen dough on a greased cookie sheet. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil, and place it on top of the dough. Place the tray in a warm place, and allow the dough to rise for several hours until it has at least doubled in size. Once the dough has risen, cut five slits in it, as shown in Figure 1.


Shape the two lower sections into legs, the side sections into arms, and the top section into a head, as shown in the photo (Figure 2). Bake the bread for 40 minutes, at about 350 degrees, or until golden brown. After baking, remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Brush the bread man with melted butter, sprinkle with herbs if you like, and use in your Lammas ritual.