Lammas, or Lughnasad, has always been one of my favorite Sabbats. It is celebrated from July 31 to August 2, generally, and we are fortunate this year that all the dates are on the weekend. Lammas is the first and biggest of the harvest Sabbats, for it is at this time that in the temperate places in the northern hemisphere the earth’s bounty most fully opens.
Here in Sonoma County, farmers’ markets’ tables groan with wonderful produce, the products of farmers who treat the earth as more than a corporate cash register. I have just ordered chickens from a local provider who raises them decently, using heirloom breeds who do not grow so fast that their weight breaks their legs. The harvest of my own work in academia and related areas is flowing more smoothly than it has in a long time.
Lammas celebrates the abundance that can come from our hard work and creativity.
But to receive requires reciprocity if the gift is to be truly honored. We can give to the giver, or keep the circle flowing outwards by giving to another. Lammas is in this respect an echo of the old gift economy that once sustained so many of the world’s people and has to some extent been reinvigorated with the rise of the net.
In old days legend has it that with the abundance of harvest, a sacrifice was offered in return. In her book Lammas Night, Katherine Kurtz wrote a moving novel about this legend, applied in an alternative history of England during World War Two.
Blood sacrifice is not necessary, but as culture after culture has learned to its sorrow, when nothing is given in return, when the order of the day is just to take, the harvest eventually withers. The person who takes from friends ultimately is left alone, friendless. It is the same with the world, only she moves more slowly.
As we enjoy nature’s abundance what can we give in return? How might we provide a kind of harvest to our world, as our world provides its harvest to us?