Lammas Tide Traditions - 1st August
Lammas Traditions on the 1st August
The Lammas festival on the 1st of August marks the beginning of the harvest. What's interesting about Lammas tide and the 7 other special Celtic days, is the way they give the year structure, and also how they help to shape the pattern of the year.
The key to understanding these traditions is realising Lammas, means 'Loaf Mass'.
The Lamas festival on the 1st of August is significant because it falls nearly midway between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. The other cross-quarter days correspond to the festivals of Candlemas (Imbolc), Beltane (May Day), and Halloween.
Our ancestor weren't as precise as modern astronomers in calculating these cross-quarter dates. Furthermore, the exact date of Lammas was often fine-tuned to harvesting conditions prevalent at a particular latitude.
Actual Cross-quarter Dates
Lammas, or Lughnasadh, was one of the four main festivals of the medieval Celtic calendar. Imbolc (Candlemas), Beltane and Samhain being the other three. Whereas Candlemas is derived from 'Candle mass', the meaning of Lammas is not obvious until you see the two words: loaf mass. Given that this festival marks the start of the wheat harvest, then the beauty and logic of the Saxon word Lammas (Hlaf maesse or Leff messe) falls into place.
At the heart of the Lammas celebration was a religious service using bread made from the harvest's first flour. What obscures many of these ancient carnivals is the way the earliest Christian evangelists incorporated pagan festivals into Christian celebrations; 'All Saints' an Halloween is another good example of Christianisation of ancient festivals.
In Celtic mythology the Lammas ritual was based on a funeral feast where the Sun God Lugh (hence Lughnasadh), commemorated his foster-mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after preparing tirelessly for the harvest. Thus the festival revolves around bread made from the first wheat grains of this year's harvest. Incidentally, the fruits of August would have been conceived by the gods at Beltane in May.
If you study other ancient European religions, especially those of the Celts, then you will find parallel names, traditions and folk tales around 1st of August, for example, Lughnasadh (Irish), L�nasdal (Scottish) and Calan Awst (Welsh). There also is a modern take on the festival of Lammas with the play, 'Dancing at Lughnasa'.
Other Traditions Peripheral to Lammas
It has to be said that in modern times the 'Corn Dolly' is mainly associated with the END of the harvest, rather than the beginning. However, our ancestors felt less restricted by such conventions and they probably made Harvest Queens, Corn Dollies, or Kern Babies throughout the harvest season.
How to Make a Corn Dolly
I still feel guilty picking 20 wheat stems out of the 20 zillion stalks in the field. Even though he is not there, I can sense the farmer's hackles rising, 'Damn Townies - they'll leave the gate open'. Of course I don't even open the gate preferring to climb over the nearby style.
Corn Rigs By Robert Burns
Corn rigs and barley rigs,
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