July 31st - August 1st marks the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. In many cultures, it is the time of year that signifies the first harvest, mostly of grains. Bread is traditionally baked in various shapes to celebrate the holiday. The word Lammas derives from the Old English phrase hlaf-maesse, which translates to loaf mass. In early Christian times, the first harvested grains and baked loaves of the season were blessed by the Church.
Lammas, Lughnasadh, Freyfest (Freysblot) are just a few of the names given to this time of year. The first harvest represents the first moment during which we can finally begin gathering the fruits of our labor from our hard work during the preceding months. We are more aware of the bright reds and yellows of the autumn season that are just around the corner.
In some Wiccan and Neo-Pagan communities, the Celtic Craftsman God, Lugh, is honored and celebrated during Lammas. This is where you get one of the other popular names of the holiday, Lughnasadh.
Freyfest, or Freysblot, is the Heathen, or Asatru, holiday honoring the Norse God of Fertility, Frey. Some celebrate by baking bread in the shape of a phallus to represent Frey, then symbolically sacrificing and eating it. This holiday marks the time of the end of summer vacation, entering into a period of hard work while we prepare for the winter.
For the Modern Pagan:
In modern times, the First Harvest is celebrated to honor our ancestors and to give thanks for the rich abundance in our lives. It resonates with abundance, feasting and family.
You can celebrate the turning of the wheel on August 1st by setting up a simple altar with items representative of the time of year. It is the end of the summer, the sun is still hot, but the leaves are starting (or will very soon start) to turn to their autumn reds and yellows.
Use these autumn colors as well as greens and browns to represent the fertility of the earth. Choose candles in deep, rich colors and adorn your altar with items pertaining to the first harvest. These can include:
- sickle or scythe
- woven baskets
- grains from the field
- fresh picked late summer fruits and veggies
- grapes and wine
- corn dollies
- ears of corn
- late blooming flowers
- and, of course, fresh baked bread!
Use your intuition to set up your altar or consider using guidelines of your tradition.
Next, choose a brightly colored unscented candle, such as red, orange or yellow to represent the Harvest. Anoint the candle with Lughnasadh Oil that is infused with essential oils of lime, cinnamon, sandalwood, clove and frankincense.
Light the candle and meditate on the turning of the season and the upcoming cooler months. Focus on the good things in your life, filling your heart with gratitude for the abundance that you enjoy. The scent of the oil will aid you in focusing your mind, and lends well to honoring the First Harvest. Be sure to write in your journal any thoughts and impressions that come to mind.
Enjoy your First Harvest celebration!