After the peaking of Summer Solstice, there is the turn into the dark. Traditionally in Pagan circles, where this Seasonal transition is celebrated as “Lughnasad”, a straw man is burned, representing the passing of the fulfillment of Summer: all is given over, the harvest of the light part of the cycle is set, as the darkness now grows.
In this country of Australia where I live, we have witnessed the burning of the country in a catastrophic manner this Summer, and it is not done yet. Millions of creatures, including domesticated animals, and many homes, have been incinerated. A sacrifice has been made: it is the time of a funeral.
In PaGaian Cosmology, I have storied the Seasonal transition from Summer Solstice to Lammas in this way[i]:
Summer Solstice is a celebration of the Fullness of the Mother – in ourselves, in Earth, in the Cosmos. It is the ripening of Her manifestation, which fulfills itself in the awesome act of dissolution. It is a celebration of Communion, the Feast of Life – which is for the enjoying, not for the holding onto. I represent this Sabbat on my Wheel of the Year with a horseshoe, because its yonic shape is symbolic of Goddess’ “Great Gate”: and similar to the yonic shape to the last letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega, “literally, ‘Great Om’, the Word of Creation, beginning the next cycle of becoming[ii]”. Summer Solstice is such a Gateway. At this interchange, the Young One/Virgin’s face has passed through the Mother into the Old One/Crone. The process of the three Sabbats of Beltaine, Summer Solstice and Lammas, as a group, may be felt as the three faces of Cosmogenesis in the movement towards entropy.
A relevant moment of the Universe’s story as perceived by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry:
Eventually, in a million years or in several billion years, a star’s resources against the collapse are all used up. If the mass of a star at this point is large enough, its gravitational pressures will destroy the star. The remaining materials will rush toward each other. Nothing in the universe can now stop them. … This stellar being that burned brightly for billions of years, that may have showered sentient creatures with radiant energy that they transformed into their living bodies and into cathedrals that rose in wheat fields, has gone, only a black cinder left[iii]
Lammas then is dedicated to the Old One/Crone. Lammas is the Seasonal Moment for recognizing that we dissolve into the ‘night’ of the Larger Organism that we are part of – Gaia. It is She who is immortal, from whom we arise, and into whom we dissolve. This Seasonal celebration is a development of what was born in the transition of Summer Solstice; the Dark Sentient Source of Creativity is honoured. The autopoietic space in us recognizes Her, may be comforted by Her, and essentially desires Her self-transcendence and self-dissolution; Lammas is an opportunity to be with our organism’s love of Larger Self – this Native Place. We have been taught to fear Her, and She is certainly awe-some, but at this Sabbat, we may remember that She is also the Compassionate One, deeply committed to transformation, which is actually innate to us.
Whereas at Imbolc[iv], we shone forth as individual, multiforms of Her; at Lammas, we small individual selves remember that we are She and dissolve back into Her. We are the Promise of Life as we affirmed at Imbolc, but we are the Promise of Her– it is not ours to hold. We become the Harvest at Lammas; our individual harvest is Her Harvest. We are the process itself – we are Gaia’s Process. We do not breathe (though of course we do), we borrow the breath, for a while. It is like a relay: we pick the breath up, create what we do during our time with it, and pass it on. The harvest we reap in our individual lives is important, and it is for us only short term; it belongs to the Cosmos in the long term. Lammas is a time for “making sacred” – as “sacrifice” may be understood; we may “make sacred” ourselves. As Imbolc was a time for dedication, so is Lammas. This is the wisdom of the phase of the Old One. She is the aspect that finds the “yes” to letting go, to loving the Larger Self, beyond all knowledge, and steps into the Power of the Abyss. This does not mean inaction: it is trusting that appropriate action will arise from Her fertile dark space.
(c) Glenys Livingstone, 2020.
Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. NE: iUniverse, 2005.
Swimme, Brian and Berry, Thomas. The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Walker, Barbara. The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983.
[i]Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p. 146-147.
[ii]Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths andSecrets, p.414.
[iii]Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story,p.48.