As a Wiccan, I observe what is known as the Wheel of the Year; a cycle of eight seasonal festivals or "sabbats" made up of four solstices and equinoxes, and four cross quarter days also known as fire festivals. This week, I'll be celebrating Lughnasadh, or Lammas, and giving thanks to the Earth for what it has brought us this year.
Lughnasadh marks the start of the harvest season and takes place on August 1st just before the Summer bids farewell for another year. It is named after the Celtic sun deity Lugh. In spiritual terms, the Sun God - sometimes known as John Barleycorn at this time - lays down to rest having released the last of His energy into the crops.
He sacrifices himself for the sustenance of the community which is why we often bake bread in the shape of a god figure and break it amongst a glorious feast. It's certainly another Pagan tradition that got incorporated into Christianiaty with the Holy Mass that we see today; worshippers imbibe bread and wine in Church to represent the body and blood of Christ as in the Last Supper before his sacrifice on the Cross.
The English name for this festival is Lammas (a contraction of "loaf mass") in honour of the first grains and indeed first loaf of the harvest cycle. It's the first of three harvest festivals, followed by the Autumn Equinox, or Mabon, which is towards the end of September and Samhain, or Hallowe'en, on October 31st.
To celebrate Lughnasadh, many Wiccans will perform special rituals to honour the gods, as well as cooking large feasts for family, friends and fellow coven members. Foods popularly consumed are bread, corn, oats, nuts and plenty of fresh fruit.
Traditionally, Lughnasadh was celebrated with many a country fair which included selling livestock, playing games and dancing. Visiting holy wells and handfasting, which is a kind of Pagan wedding though does not necessarily mean long-term commitment, were also common as was picking berries (in particular blueberries) and crafting corn dollies to represent the Grain Mother.
It's a time of fulfillment and abundance, as well as looking towards the future as the Goddess - in her aspect of Grain Mother - releases seeds into the Earth to germinate ahead of next year's regrowth. So too can we plant the seeds of our future and allow them to blossom over the coming months.
Holly Mosley is a Wiccan witch who has been practising consistently for three years, enjoys monthly meet-ups in the Pagan community and spends her time studying Tarot which she first discovered at the age of 10. She publishes weekly Tarot readings on Female First, alongside her informative Witching Hour series about all things esoteric, and recently set up her own Tarot reading service under the moniker Mistress Wyrd.