Little Summer Poem
Touching the Subject of Faith
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear
anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,
nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet —
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.
In Celtic traditions, the cross-quarter holidays are the doorways to the changing seasons, not the Solstices and Equinoxes that our secular calendars run by. So my Scots-Irish forebears, for instance, would have marked Beltane as the threshold between Spring and Summer, and today’s holiday, Lughnasadh, is the turning between Summer and the first stirrings of Autumn. This observance is also known by the Anglo-Saxon, Christianized name of “Lammas.”
Yes, August’s heat, especially here in North Carolina, will be ferocious. Similarly, Winter’s final punch often comes after Imbolc. But “final” is the key idea here – for it is the last hurrah of the season; the changeover is already evident to those who are attuned to the Old Ways.
This gives me a bone-deep pleasure. Perhaps it is not only my own feeling, but an echo from the ancestors whose perceptions I carry. I like the fact that these seasonal hinge times are not numeric calculations on a calendar, but are felt and known by an intimate and ancient kind of reckoning – watching the comings, goings, and frisky carryings-on of wild and domestic animals, the cycles of the green world, and the rising and setting locations of the Sun and stars.
The past week has been the hottest all Summer here at Laurel Hill Cottage. But the shadows at dusk are encroaching deeper on the day, a few precocious buckeye leaves are starting to change to their crimson finery, and the plunk of falling acorns has begun (heaven help our cars).
For those of us who are reaching back across the centuries and attempting to unravel the repressive interventions of the desert God religions, Lughnasadh is a juicy, resplendent celebration, the first of three harvest festivals.
Think of it! Three whole celebratory holidays set aside just for the purpose of bringing in the year’s yield and giving honor to the Divine Ones who enabled such bounty. Not only one or two, but three different rites of gratitude and thanksgiving.
At this time of year when Nature’s generosity begins to fill our shelves and pantries, we also begin to see country fairs popping up. Since very ancient times, across the swaths of the Northern Hemisphere that are still deeply agrarian, Lughnasadh has been an especially merry celebration featuring harvest dances, fêtes, and feasting. People who live close to the land assemble with bonfires, music, matchmaking, games, and food contests.
And be sure to look up! The annual light show of the Perseid meteor shower is another marker of this time, and a joy to observe. If you see a “falling star,” remember to make a wish. Or better yet, count your blessings.
Magical Practices for Lughnasadh
Corn, wheat, barley, and grain products such as bread are usually featured during this celebration. And the tables at my local farmers’ market are groaning with Nature’s generosity: berries, melons, herbs, potatoes, beans, squash, and dozens of varieties of tomatoes, just to name a few.
Making offerings to the land is a time-honored tradition. Just please make sure that your offering is easily biodegradable, and is not toxic to wildlife (ex: chocolate is very poisonous to many animals). Remember from the rede: Harm none.
Also at this time, many Pagans and Witches celebrate the Harvest Gods and Goddesses, as well as honor the stories of sacrificial Dying and Resurrection — stories that are far older and more universal than just the currently famous Christian one.
Lastly, this is a splendid holiday to raise your awareness about the food you eat. Take action to support your local farmers and sustainable agriculture. Whether you live in an urban location or out in the suburbs, or even in rural areas, get to know the food on your table — where it comes from and those whose labor put it there.
We live in troubled times when much of our food is controlled by faceless corporate agribusiness. And we have all discovered how precarious the supply chain can be, whether because of the pandemic, the climate crisis, or geopolitical/economic pressures, like the war in Ukraine.
This is what happens when the bottom line takes priority over wholesomeness, and marketing trumps wisdom. Merciless exploitation of the land, the animals, and even the workers — who are all treated like parts in a factory, turning out maximum quotas — is rampant and deeply harmful to all involved, including those of us feeding these products to our families.
Instead, let us give more than mere lip service to Nature as Beloved and Nurturer. On this day, we can honor the Goddess, as the Queen of Abundance. What we buy and feed ourselves and our loved ones is holy. The food on our tables ultimately comes, not from the business scheme of a multinational corporation, but by the grace of She, who is the Mother of the bountiful harvest, and the God, who is the Father of our prosperity.
Therefore, honor Them today by choosing only what is in harmony with the Earth Herself. Because where we shop and what food we buy, how we prepare it, and how we bless it with our gratitude – in all these choices we are working profound magic indeed.
The Wheel of the Year Turns
Also at the sabbat of Lughnasadh, we now send blessings to our friends in the lands of the Southern Hemisphere, who are celebrating Imbolc. After today, Winter’s grip will begin to noticeably slip. May you each be blessed by dearest Brighid this day!
For all of us, the Equinox is now only six weeks away. After that, here in the north, the night’s hours overtake the daylight for six months, while Spring begins to blossom below the Equator.
Bless the earth that grows the grain,
Bless the water that gives us rain,
Bless the wind that helps seed spread,
Bless the fire that bakes our bread.
Bread blessing, by Diane Baker, music by Anne Hill, Serpentine Music