Lammas 1996 image source

In the earth-centered neopagan tradition, Lammas or Lughnassadh is the first of three harvest sabbats, which occurs on the first full moon in Leo. It celebrates Goddess in her matron aspect, in her aspect of the Goddess of Sovereignty. In Ireland, it is said that Lugh instituted the festival of Lughnassadh in honor of his foster mother, the Fir Bolg Queen Tailltiu (pronounced Telsha). It is said that Tailltiu's heart broke under the strain of clearing the plain that carries her name. Lugh ordained that in her memory a fair with feasting and games and the racing of horses should be held in Tailltenn (now Teltown) annually for all time. While we celebrate Lughnassadh this year, the Summer Olympic games are taking place in Atlanta. To the medievals, Lammas was the beginning of the season harvest, which ends at Michaelmas (September 29). In the Christian church, the feast of St. Peter ad Vincula was celebrated, the feast of St. Peter's Chains, and loaves of bread baked from the first grain harvested were placed on the altar. Lammas probably means "Loaf Mass" from the Anglo-Saxon "hlaf mass".


Form a seated circle

Lighting altar candles
(credit - CUUPS Lammas Ritual 1995)

Oh Great Spirit we ask for your blessing on our celebration of Lammas. The Harvest is a time when we collect the sun's converted energy in the form of food and flesh. I kindle this flame to commemorate the place and importance of transformation in our web of existence. There is no end which does not ultimately lead to a beginning, nor any beginning which does not ultimately lead to an end.

Greet the Quarters
(credit - Druid ceremony)

Let the four quarters be honored that their power and radiance might enter our circle for the good of all our relations. We do this to ask their wisdom and to balance ourselves in the here and now.

With the blessing of the great bear of the starry heavens and the deep and fruitful earth, we call upon the powers of the North.

With the blessing of the great stag in the heat of the chase and the inner fire of the sun, we call upon the powers of the South.

With the blessing of the salmon of wisdom who dwells within the sacred waters of the pool, we call upon the powers of the West.

With the blessing of the hawk of dawn soaring in the clear pure air, we call upon the powers of the East.

May the harmony of our circle be complete.

Presentation of the loaves (and members' gifts of harvest)
(credit - CUUPS Lammas Ritual 1995)

Our First Harvest is a celebration of all that we have grown this year. Each of us brings our own particular harvest to the world. Each has made hard choices to achieve that harvest. This is the time for you to take credit for your achievements inside yourself and to honor the other roads never taken. Let's share our first fruits now.

At this time we go around the circle and each person presents something to lay on the altar (some representation of their personal harvest) and then says a few words about their harvest this year.

Guided Meditation

Note: This meditation was developed with the aid of borrowings from D.J Conway - By Oak, Ash, & Thorn - ISBN 1-56718-166-X, Michele Jamal - Deerdancer - ISBN 0-14-01.9491-6, and Michael J. Roads - Into a Timeless Realm - ISBN 0-915811-66-9

Close your eyes and take several deep breaths.

Mentally tell yourself to relax. Begin with your toes and feet, telling them silently to relax. Work up the legs, through the body, and down the arms from the shoulders to the fingers. Spend extra time on the shoulder and neck muscles because these are usually pretty tense. Work your awareness up the back of the head, then over the top and around the eyes. Bring your awareness down to the muscles of the tongue, jaw and neck. Be sure to include the muscles of the jaw that extend on either side of the ar. By the time you finish, you should begin experiencing a slight floating feeling, comfortable yet not sleepy.

Now that you have the body relaxed but the mind aware, visualize a brilliant white light over your head. As you breathe, draw the white light down through your body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Then draw the light around you as you would a blanket. The white light may make you feel warm and cozy or tingly and full of energy. The light is healing as well as protective, like a shield or cocoon.

Now picture yourself standing beside a small pond. Take all the problems that are bothering you and throw them into the water. Watch them sink into the water and disappear..

Walk past the pond... you are deep in the breadbasket of North America. You are walking across a field of wheat. Your eyes are on the fresh golden blades, each leaf telling you its story of the growing plant. A clear house sized bubble is floating over the field, while a stream of grain flows from the heads of the plants directly into the bubble. It fills quite rapidly.

You can hear a Song moving through the stillness of your heart. The song! Rising and falling as though the very breath of Earth, you hear the Spirit of the Land. In the Song is heard the movement of clouds, the whisper of the moisture they contain, the soft susuration of displaced air. You hear the sifting of every particle of soil, the breath of a planet, the deep gurgle of its bowels. The trees dotting the landscape knowingly add to the Song, as a breeze strokes across the harp of their leaves, while each bird adds its own expression of joy to the concert of Nature.

As you look deeply at one of the wheat plants, you abruptly find that you are no longer looking at it, but you are it. You've shifted consciousness into the plant itself. You can sense the very flow of life in the cells. You are not perceiving the plant but living it. You are aware of the life of the plant as a slow flow of circulation of a vital current of liquid light of the utmost purity.

Roots pushed up in a pumping flow. Your hollow stem holds a stillness known a long time to the earth. When the wind passes over you, your stem doesn't break; it simply bends, gracefully. As you slip down to your roots, your leaves flutter in the wind. Consciousness sinks to the ground, and you breathe deep, the earth holding you erect, supporting your mind shimmering in the breeze. Breathe into the soil where toes flex, tendrils reach to the core. Inhaling prana, let chlorophyll run through your veins with cool clarity. As you release your fruit to the gentle suction of the bubble floating overhead you are able to feel a powerful sense of release and fulfillment - a "mission accomplished" feeling - as the grain flows into the bubble.

Enjoy this for a while.

Slowly, your consciousness slips back from the plant to your astral form. You find yourself walking back through the wheat field to the pond where you started.

Slowly move your awareness back into human form, then become aware of the background music, and the room you are sitting in. You feel very relaxed and alert as you return from trance.

Leader's Note: Give everyone time to come back to present. Depending on how your circle signals the end of trance, you might ring a bell, howl like a wolf, or something else.

Sacred Stories and Readings

Note: Bible readings from the New Revised Standard Version

Old Testament Reading
(Exodus Chapter 16)

2-3:The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
13-15: In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat."
31: The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

Psalm 142

With my voice I cry to the Lord;
 with my voice I make supplication to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him;
 I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit is faint, you know my way.

In the path where I walk 
 they have hidden a trap for me.
Look on my right hand and see --
 there is no one who takes notice of me;
No refuge remains to me;
 no one cares for me.

I cry to you, O Lord;
 I say, "You are my refuge,
 My portion in the land of the living."
Give heed to my cry,
 for I am brought very low.

Save me from my persecutors,
 for they are too strong for me.
Bring my out of prison,
 so that I may give thanks to your name.
The righteous will surround me,
 for you will deal bountifully with me.

New Testament

Acts 12:1-17

About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.
The very night before Herod was going to ring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, "Fasten your belt and put on your sandals." He did so. Then he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me." Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel's help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, "No I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."
As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came out to answer. On recognizing Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her "You are out of your mind!" But she insisted that it was so. They said, "It is his angel." Meanwhile Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. He motioned to them with his hand to be silent and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prizon. And he added, "Tell this to James and to the believers." Then he left and went to another place.

Bear Story (from Wyrd of the Black Wolf by Michael Halton)

The Wolf comes upon a Skeleton
  In the Forest
  It is a Bear's Skeleton
  On the Bear's Leg is a Ring
  Attached to the Ring is a Chain
  Chaining the Bear to a Tree
The Bear could not Break the Chain
  And could not Uproot the Tree
  The Wolf Removed the Chain from
  Tree and Ring
  And wrapped it around his waist
"Farewell Bear" said the Wolf
  "I will keep your chain to Remind
  Me of the Folly of Unthinking Force
  And to ward against such Force"

An Experiment
Credit: This passage comes from Sue Monk Kidd - The Dance of the Dissident Daughter - ISBN 0-06-064588-1.

There was an experiment in which flies were sealed in an aerated jar and left for an extended period of time. Finally the lid of the jar was removed, but - strange thing - the flies did not try to leave. Well conditioned by now, they no longer looked for the exit. They just kept circling the tight perimeters of the glass, going in their familiar patterns. Their reality had shrunk to that jar. It had become their entire world. It had become safe. Life beyond it had ceased to exist.

The Curse of Macha
Credit: This passage has been rewritten into more modern language from a story appearing in T.W. Rolleston - Myths and Legends Series: Celtic - ISBN 0 946495 84 X.

Add story here

Group Chant

Leader's Note: Get everyone to join in reading this in unison. Tell people to get as dramatic as they like reading it, to really get into it. If you have space, you could also do a circle dance based on the last two lines.
Credit: This poem has been rewritten very slightly from one called "Blessing the Bread" by Carter Heyward, which appears in Ward, Wild, and Morley - Celebrating Women - ISBN 0-8192-1652-6.

In the beginning was God
In the beginning, the source of all that is
In the beginning, God, yearning
God, moaning
God, labouring
God, giving birth
God, rejoicing
And God loved what she had made
And God said, "It is good."

Then God, knowing that all that is good is shared
Held the earth tenderly in her arms
God yearned for relationship
God longed to share the good earth
And humanity was born in the yearning of God
We were born to share the earth

In the earth was the seed
In the seed was the grain
In the grain was the harvest
In the harvest was the bread
In the bread was the power

And God said, All shall eat of the earth
All shall eat of the seed
All shall eat of the grain
All shall eat of the harvest
All shall eat of the bread
All shall eat of the power

God said, You are my people
My friends
My lovers
My sisters
And brothers
All of you shall eat
Of the bread
And the power
All shall eat

Then God, gathering up her courage in love, said,
Let there be bread!
And God's sisters and brothers, her friends and her lovers,
knelt on the earth
planted the seeds
prayed for the rain
sang for the grain
made the harvest
cracked the wheat
pounded the corn
kneaded the dough
kindled the fire
filled the air with the smell of fresh bread
And there was bread!
And it was good!

We, the sisters and brothers of God, say today
All shall eat of the bread,
And the power,
We say today,
All shall have power
And bread.
Today we say
Let there be bread.
And let there be power!
Let us eat of the bread and the power!
And all will be filled
For the bread is rising!

By the power of God
We all are blessed
By the people of God
The bread is blessed
By the bread of God
The power is blessed
By the power of bread
The power of us all
The power of God
The people are blessed

The earth is blessed
And the bread is rising.

Closing: Bless/Release the Quarters and Communal Meal

(credit - Druid ceremony and May Sarton)

Great Spirit, Help us to be the always hopeful
Gardeners of the Spirit
Who know that without darkness
Nothing comes to birth
As without light
Nothing flowers.

Grant, O God/dess, thy Protection
And in Protection, Strength
And in Strength, Understanding
And in Understanding, Knowledge
And in Knowledge, The Knowledge of Justice
And in the Knowledge of Justice, the Love of it
And in the Love of it, The Love of all Existences
And in the Love of all Existences, the Love of the God/dess and all Goodness.

Let the spirits of the Four Directions be thanked for their blessings.

In the name of the hawk of dawn and of the element air, we thank the powers of the East.
In the name of the salmon of wisdom and the element of water we thank the powers of the West.
In the name of the great stag and of the element of fire, we thank the powers of the South.
In the name of the great bear of the starry heavens and of the element of earth, we thank the powers of the North.

May the blessing of the Uncreated One, of hir Child The Created Word and of the Spirit that is the Inspirer be always with us. May the world be filled with Harmony and Light.

Eat Bread

Credits: I have tried to relocate the sources for the images and text that were drawn upon for the written presentation of this ritual. There are still a few which I couldn't find when I went back to look for them. Send email if you see something that is yours so I can properly credit it. There are links throughout this that take you back to the material from which I "borrowed" elements. There are also a few which simply take you to some background material that I found useful in deciding which elements to include in the ritual.