With the passing of Solstice Season our Planet enters into the waxing dark Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere and the waxing light Seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. These first of the transition Moments after Solstice are frequently named in Old European tradition as Lammas and Imbolc respectively. We as Earth cross the midpoint (the “cross-quarter”) between Solstice and Equinox on February 3rd 2:27 UTC and Feb 4th at 12:27pm Australian EST where I am. For all global times see archaeoastronomy.com
Many around the globe will celebrate Lammas/Imbolc on the traditional date of 1st/2nd of February, and some on the actual astronomical Moment, and some at a time when the season feels right, and some when it can be fitted into tick-tock time. There are other cultural variations of celebrating this transition of our Planet’s orbit around Mother Sun, and the Poetry we humans create with it; as we humans have conversed and aligned ourselves with Her Creativity.
In the oldest Earth-based traditions of Europe, Lammas (which may be felt as Late Summer depending on your region) has been a time of harvest, when the Summer party is over. Sun’s light has peaked in this region of our Planet, and it is time for the reaping. In these times, beyond the personal and regional/local experience, one may understand this as expressing the situation of the industrialised world: that is, there has been a peaking of human use of ancient resources, and the reaping is apparent – the decline sets in. In the oldest traditions it is the Old One as Crone who is welcomed as the dark part of the annual cycle begins, with Her gift of returning to larger deeper self within all. Her face changes now from the tending of fullness of being to dismantling and consuming, as all things must pass. She becomes the reaper.
In more recent times as Goddess became displaced, this Season became known as “Lughnasad”, the “wake”/funeral of the grain God Lugh: and traditionally straw figures of the god are burnt in ceremonies. Lammas, meaning “feast of the bread”, may be an earlier name for this Seasonal Moment, though some are of the opinion that it is a Christian name. I disagree.[i] Surely such a feast pre-dates Christianity, since the primordial Mother Goddess of many global indigenous cultures IS the grain (corn, wheat, rice); She feeds the world with Her own body. It is She who is the Bread of Life. When Christianity appropriated Old European traditions, it was no doubt preferable to use the name “Lammas” rather than naming a Pagan god as “Lughnasad” does.
At Lammas we may celebrate our actual food harvests, displaying them with joy and gratitude; and also Lammas may be celebrated with the understanding that we are each and all the grain, the food, consumed – certainly after the peaking of being, if not before: everything passes, all fades away. The Dark is an awesome aspect of Cosmic Creativity, in which all participate. The Dark is at the base of all existence and is the matrix and origin of being. The Dark then is a native place – Home … named and understood perhaps as Larger Self. The seasonal Moment of Lammas lends itself to ceremonial expression of dedication to this larger self, who is always present in the depth of every moment. Lammas may be a Moment for ceremonial expression of love for this deeper self, the organic desire for small self-transcendance, for dedication to living a life founded in deeper passions and purpose, and trusting that as the way to true abundance and joy. This may be understood as an expansion, a re-joining with the Cauldron of Creativity in which we are immersed.[ii]
Whereas Imbolc/Early Spring (which may be felt as Late Winter depending on your region), polar opposite across the globe at the same time, may be a time of dedication to the new life emerging, including in the self: to watch for it, and attend to it. Often in a culture of self-abnegation or suppression of difference, this can be a challenge; so it is significant to step up and celebrate the unique small self, the particular gift that each self is, as well as celebrating new life in flora and fauna. This Season of Imbolc/Early Spring lends itself to ceremonial commitment to bringing forth and nurturing what may be new and tender, or untried, and a time for celebrating diversity. It is traditionally celebrated as a special feast of Goddess Brigid/Brigit of the Celtic peoples, who tends the flame of being: She may be understood as the Flame of Being itself, beyond anthropomorphic representations of Her.
Imbolc/Early Spring is a particular time to celebrate of the new Young One, the Promise of Life. It is often understood as a very maternal kind of celebration … and indeed that is the nature of re-generative mind, no matter what sex or variety of gender you may identify with. To take on Maternal mind, a re-generative/Maternally connected mind is what the Planet seriously needs more of from all beings: that is, a mind that is attentive to the quality of care. Any being may learn how to do this, to pay that kind of nurturant attention: and it is useful practice to call upon the deeper ancient powers to guide and strengthen. The nurturance of life is for the brave and courageous.
Goddess Brigid/Brigit who is traditionally invoked for such a task, embodies three primary capacities that may need spelling out in our times: She is imagined as Blacksmith, Physician and Poet … all three. Blacksmith is one who takes the unshapely lump of raw metal, melts it, then takes the fiery hot form and shapes it: She is spiritual warrior, shaman. Physician is one who understands the “physics” of being, of matter … how a body relates within itself and within its context, functions harmoniously and thus may heal/whole. Her physics is biologically connected – an understanding of dwelling within a whole and seamless Universe. Poet of Old is one who speaks the metaphors, the stories of cultural knowledge, the sacred language of Creativity – one who “spells” what may be so. It is a power of spirit: the voice enabled by air, resonant with the winged ones – the birds – whose perspective transcends boundaries. The ancients knew Poetry as a sacred and powerful task – that with our words, we do create what is so. Brigid’s “motherhood statements” are statements of the Mother/Creator, Who is never separate from Her whole self – the Young One and the Old One.
For some Lammas Ceremonial Poetry: PaGaian Lammas 2010 on YouTube
At my place in Australia, my partner Taffy and I will celebrate Lammas ceremony close to the actual Moment with a small group. I invite others in this way:
This is the season of the waxing Dark …
You are invited to celebrate
the feast of the Old One –
who Creates the Space to Be.
The Darkness born at Summer Solstice now grows.
This is the time of celebrating the Larger Self,
the dedication of small self to the Dark Sentience – She to Whom we belong.
We meet to make sacred our lives
– in the Wisdom of the Compassionate One,
Who receives us in every moment: to be midwifed,
by She who is the Transformation-of-the-Ages.
PaGaian Cosmology blogs for Lammas. And from Brian Swimme: The Sacred Cosmological Dynamic of Loss – I have learnt much about this Seasonal Moment by understanding more of the Universe story, which is the story of Who we are, and embraces transformation.
PaGaian Cosmology blogs for Imbolc. And an essay Winter-Spring EarthGaian Wisdom: Invoking the Power of Brigid, the Mother Creator (written in Southern Hemisphere Spring).
Lammas and Imbolc meditations are available individually in digital form (scroll down at the link); and also on the PaGaian Cosmology Meditations CDs. They may nurture your meditations and participation in this Seasonal transition. Many use them for family/group ceremony.
Some Lammas and Imbolc story may be found in Appendix F of PaGaian Cosmology, and if you have a paper version of the book there is an Index for references throughout. These Seasonal Moments in relationship to the whole Wheel of the Year may be found in Chapter 5. Ritual scripts are offered in Chapter 7; the on-line versions are usually a bit different from the paper versions, as they have evolved and vary.
There is a PaGaian Cosmology Facebook group where all members may initiate discussion and/or respond, and also a Pagaian Cosmology Facebook Page. To be on the PaGaian Cosmology Seasonal list (for both hemsipheres) please contact me.
Blissed Lammas/Imbolc transition to you.
[i] As Lawrence Durdin-Robertson records in “The Year of the Goddess” (Aquarian Press 1990, p.143 quoting Adam McLean “The Four Fire Festivals” 1979, p. 21), originally the Deity of the harvest was the Goddess named Tailtu (reportedly Lugh’s “foster-mother”) so the name Tailtunasad has been suggested by Cheryl Straffon editor of Goddess Alive!
[ii] For more on this understanding of Lammas see PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion, wherein Lammas may be celebrated with appropriate dedications made to this awesome aspect of Cosmic Creativity, in which all participate.