“It was upon a Lammas night, When corn rigs are bonnie, Beneath the moon’s unclouded light.”
– Robert Burns
Lammas Day marks the annual wheat festival. Also called hlaf-mas (Loaf Mass) among the Anglo-Saxons, the new crop had many magical qualities. One would take a loaf of bread made from the wheat to church for blessings, followed by charms. For example, you could break the bread into four sections, placing one in each corner of your property or barn for protection.
Lammas occurs halfway between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. In some areas, the feast of “First Fruits’ meant giving a gift of wheat to one’s landlord. Sometimes this commemoration happened 6 days after Lammas so that it coincided with the Transfiguration of Christ on the church calendar. Saint Alphonsus Liguori also shares this feast date.
Early literature connects Lammas to Pagan traditions. Historians wrote of all manner of rituals, contests, trading, visiting holy wells, dancing and of course a fine repast. The focus of all this energy was defeating any coming blight, overcoming it by the literal and figurative harvest among the townsfolk.
Other Names for Lammas & August Eve Feast of First Fruits, Lúnasa (Irish), Lùnastal (Scottish), Lammas Night, Lammas Eve, Lughnasadh, Calends of August (English), Feast of August.
When is Lammas & August Eve August 1 in the Northern Hemisphere; February 1 in the Southern Hemisphere.
What is Lammas & August Eve
Celtic custom declares this a festival of Lugh, the Sun God whose sacred month was August. Lugh designed various revels honoring his mother (Tailtiu). Market fairs and games were common. There was also circle dancing that was actually sympathetic magic, reflecting the suns’ movement. Anyone who wed or was handfasted this month would be blessed with happiness.
The story of John Barleycorn probably began with Lugh, who embodies the very spirit of the corn itself. At the corn’s harvest, John Barleycorn’s life ends. He gives of his life freely in order to sustain the community. When the seed is sown again, he returns to life.
The way in which grains were harvested held import on Lammas. At the dawn, one should harvest the first sheath. That became a loaf for sharing with the community. The stalks, in the meanwhile, became part of seasonal beer brewing.
As with the first sheaf, the last sheaf had its own ritual. People made this into a corn dolly (akin to a Poppet) that attended all the village’s Lammas celebration especially dinner. She returned to the home having a warm seat above the hearth. Alternatively, people placed t with their seed for the coming year so it could return to earth with them. While humans were busy with their holiday, the sheep were loosed on the meadows to help with final mowing.
The Scottish had a unique type of capture the flag game for Lammas Day. It began with making tall peat towers. On this, people would leave flags. The builder of a tower could defend it or endeavor to take someone else’s tower to the ground. Sometimes the battle grew into a brawl, but at the end of the day, people received prizes. Folklorists think that this may be a reenactment of the battle between Crom Dugh and Lugh for grain. Lugh’s job was to snatch that grain for humankind.
This game may also have ties to the annual mountain or hillside climbing at this time of year adorned with flowers. This was mostly done by youths. Once they reached their mark the flowers were buried representing summer’s end. Afterward, they would gather bilberries, enjoy folk music, have sporting competitions like hurling.
More Ancient Lammas Magical Traditions
One Lammas tradition was a trial marriage between a couple. This was called a Handfasting, and it lasted for one year and a day. At the end of that time, the couple would decide either to remain married or separate without any ill-will.
Moving into the modern day, Ireland hosts the Puck Fair at the beginning of August. This fair has ties to Lughnasadh. It begins with the crowning of a goat as king and a local maiden as queen. Parades, workshops, cattle shows, and an open market continues through the day. August is also a customary time for family reunions and parties.
Among Neo-Pagan Celtic Reconstructionists Lammas becomes a religious observance. The practitioners try reconstructing the early Pagan traditions into a cohesive whole. Generally, the first full moon after August 1 is the feast day. Some go out harvesting berries. Others leave offerings for Land Spirits, Gods and Goddesses. If it rains during this event, it is a sign that Lugh has enjoyed the festivities and brings his blessings.
Lammas & August Eve Symbolism and Lore
As the Wheel of the Year continues its round, summer slowly comes to an end. All around leaves change color from orange and red to brownish green. The Earth’s abundance is ingathered. You can represent this on your altar with colored altar cloths, candles or some seasonal crops (especially grains). Other traditional symbols for Lammas include ears of corn, iron tools, cornflowers, straw braids, and onion/garlic garlands
Lugh was a God of artisans. If you have a craft or hobby, you can seek out his blessings on your tools. Also, ask for inspired creativity. When you hold this event consider a cornucopia and a breadbasket for the altar.
Lughnasadh and Autumn Eve Superstitions
Holidays bring out wonderful tidbits of folklore and superstition. Here are a few about Lammas:
- Women made cheese curds today and give them to children for goodwill. The cows were milked early, ensuring enough time for the process.
- Attract good luck by letting the first-baked cornbread to go stale. This must then be crumbled in all four corners of the barn.
- If the first week in August is warm, winter will be longer and snowier than usual.
- In the Scottish Highlands, one might bathe at midnight on August 1 as a curative to all physical problems.
- Because day and night are “equal” on Lammas, it is said you can make an egg or a broom stand on its end.
- On the morning of Autumn Eve, the sun enters Virgo. Astrologers tell us this is a good time for reorganizing our spaces.
- The Full moon nearest the Lammas is called the Full Corn Moon, Barley Moon and Harvest Moon (with good cause!).
Lammas Astrology – Northern Hemisphere
A sign ruled by the ever-busy planet Mercury, Virgo inspires some of the energies for the Feast of August. Even as our ancestors diligently worked the fields, Virgo is very hardworking and practical This is an Earth sign with both feet firmly on the ground.
Virgo’s love of animals certainly comes out at Lammas where cattle might be given little treats, and the considerable magical efforts to protect their herds. Following protective superstitions is one way of leaving nothing to chance in perfect Virgo manner.
The tenor of Virgo sings with the simple matters of everyday life. What must be done first, what can wait – how to keep ]life in rhythm with the Earth is a keynote to this signs’ vibrations. People coordinating Lammas events will find themselves paying attention to every little detail.
It is Virgo’s hope to bring out the best in people and to help where they can. Neighbors reaching out to neighbors, whole communities celebrating together honoring customs and traditions, and families reconnecting in love are all part of the Virgo vision.
Lammas Astrology – Southern Hemisphere
Early February brings us into Aquarius. This Zodiac Sign is governed by Uranus, which actually spins on its side. It’s no wonder that Aquarians come across as avant-guard. This is the Witch or Pagan who brings a whole new idea to the Lammas circle. There’s no question that concept will be fresh and meaningful. Better still Aquarius encourages being real team players and sturdy friends.
As bohemian as the Aquarius energy can be, it is also focused on helping animals and pressing community issues. The Aquarius influences bring about a customary Autumn Feasts attention to needy animals and environmental issues (like carefully harvesting and turning the soil in preparation for the following year). Nothing hinders progressing toward successful completion of the season.
Our Water Bearer’s oversight brings a bit of innovation to this holiday. There is also a hospitable vibe that’s warm and inviting. Be open to possibilities.
Lammas and Autumn Eve Element: Water
Among Wiccans Water resides in the West in the good company of the Undines. These Spirits radiate with love, joy, capriciousness and the attitude of gratitude. Water comes under the rulership of the Moon, which influences our emotion. Sometimes warm and comfortable, other times cool – all emotions require our attention. So whatever is on your heart, give it a little time in meditation this Lammas.
Love and caring are essential to the human condition. Recognize those with whom you have that intimate, magical connection and celebrate it. Be it a gathering of friends who you haven’t seen in a while, or your family, remember your love – remember what brought you together. Keep that energy moving forward.
Since we are staged at an in-between time, you could try water scrying as part of your personal observances. This type of divination works similarly to using a crystal ball. Think of your question, watch the surface and see if any images appear.
Lammas and Autumn Eve Crystals, Minerals and Sacred Stones
Traditional symbolic colors for Lammas include gold, deep orange, yellow, dark green and all the other shades of the harvest. Let’s consider this guide along with other crystals, gems and minerals for Autumn Eve:
- Agate (Botswana): This is a solution stone. When you are moving into a new season, it feels great to know things are complete. Put that in the filing cabinet and fill your spirit with the harvest. A Botswana Agate has grounding abilities and gives you a better outlook on your aptitudes.
- Agate (Moss): A crystal that bears the name “gardener’s stone” may seem odd for Lammas, but it’s not. The farmers of old looked for ways to bless their fields, so why not bless your figurative fields with Moss Agate. Put a few in vegetable pots or your garden where they can promote health throughout the winter.
- Aventurine: The root word for this crystal, aventura, translates as “by chance”. This has given Aventurine the reputation as a stone of opportunity. Just because we are moving into winter doesn’t mean that new possibilities freeze away. Additionally, Aventurine is very healthy for you. It calms the mind, nurtures the body and saturates your soul.
- Carnelian: Right about now some folk are feeling plainly worn out. Carnelian crystal restores that energy and vitality. Also, if you have been carrying negative feelings like jealousy or anger, Carnelian helps reduce them to manageable levels.
- Citrine: Lammas is the perfect time to clean your auric house and build positive vibes. Citrine provides this cleansing and much more. Carrying it as a charm dissipates malicious intent, attracts wealth and generally gives you a great outlook on life.
- Jasper: Jasper is a truth stone. This includes being honest with yourself. Stop for a moment on Lammas and ask, “have I prepared for what’s ahead?” If not, Jasper assists in organizing things with determination so you can take care of business.
- Lodestone: Lodestone is a magnet. That means it attracts whatever energies you most need at Lammas. If you carry two with you one inspires good luck while the other keeps bad luck at bay. Great addition to power pouches.
- Marble: The term Marble comes from the Greek for “shining stone”. Aphrodite, the Goddess of love, held it sacred. Romans considered it a protective stone, and in India using Marble kept away evil ghosts while bringing helpful ones (like Spirit Guides or Animal Totems) your way. For the Autumn celebrations, it fosters cooperation between people.
- Moonstone: Since this time of year comes under the Water Element and the Moon, Moonstone is a perfect addition to your Lughnasadh altar. This crystal is sometimes called the “stone of new beginnings”. Life constantly transforms, and now you here at the edge of something new.
- Obsidian: Paleo-Indian warriors carried this stone as a safeguard against invaders. And truthfully, who of us doesn’t need protection in our daily struggles year round. Obsidian sharpens your intuitions by clearing your Third Eye Chakra.
- Sardonyx: A stone for developing friendships, partnerships and romantic intentions, Sardonyx regulates us between that “stop-go” process. An excellent addition to divinatory efforts on Lammas.
- Slate: Bring this to the family table for your celebrations today. Slate heals feelings and difficult communications. Slate is all about balance too – between our inner God and Goddess. This is a step toward becoming our own Priest and Priestess for daily life.
Lammas and Autumn Eve Herbs and Plants
So what are the herbs and plants that can augment our Lammas celebrations or reflect them in some way?
- Acacia: Use this for anointing your magic candles and other ritual tools (at Midnight is nice). Acacia makes a good meditative incense too.
- Aloe: Another plant for protection, healing, and luck this can ease any sense of loneliness the Solitary Witch may feel right now. Burn this on the night of the Autumn Eve full moon to attract something wonderful by the next.
- Ash: Ash is a sacred Norse tree thought to grant vision. Sometimes called the World Tree, Ash acts as a natural divination booster while also acting on the logical mind, keeping it keen. Carry an Ash leaf with an equal number of points for luck. A common tree found near Holy Wells and used by the Druids for magical staffs.
- Clover: Sprinkle bits of clover around the Sacred Circle for protection, especially against unwanted wandering spirits. Clover also promotes love, money and devotion between people. Three-leaved clovers make a protective amulet and white clover breaks hexes.
- Grape (Vine): Grapes were among the first cultivated plants historically. Vines are very durable and represent long life. The word for vine means “twist” so what is it that you want to twist in one direction or the other? Dry Grape vines make an impressive decorative touch for the Lammas altar.
- Heather: Heather appears in Water Witch spells for rain. If you make a charm from it, Heather protects you from violent crime. It also promotes peace within one’s home. Heather appeared at the initiation for Scottish Witches for opening communication with the Divine.
- Hollyhock: Bees love Hollyhock making the flower one of fertility. Wiccans use it at Lammas because of this abundant symbolism. Greeks connected this blossom with healing, and Egyptians buried a circlet of Hollyhock with mummies, representing the Wheel of Time and Life. Fairies love living beneath its leaves.
- Meadowsweet: Called Bride of the Meadow, Druids held this herb sacred and often used it in Lammas celebrations. In this case, it was a garland or a circlet for weddings. Meadowsweet cheers your spirit.
- Milkweed: The fluff that dreams are made from, at least in dream pillows!. That white cotton is associated with Fall. The Iroquois used Milkweed use this for protection against mal-intended magic. In a Witch’s garden, Milkweed attracts the fey. Release a bit of freshly gathered whisps on Lammas and make a wish while blowing it to the wind.
- Mint: Another sacred Druidic herb, Mint promotes healing and protection. If all the activities of this festival leave you with a headache, rub a fresh leaf on your forehead. Or, make a power pouch with mind and keep it with you in winter for on-going good health.
- Myrtle: Since Lammas is a traditional time for marriages, Myrtle is a customary decoration. Greek renditions of Aphrodite show her with mint in her air. Mint-scented water creates beauty. Each bridesmaid should carry a sprig of myrtle in their bouquet gifted by the bride. Lore tells us that Myrtle only flourishes when planted by a woman.
- Poppy: Filled with Lammas’ Element of Water and energy of the moon, this is great for nearly any ritual endeavor today. Additionally, it represents Persephone on your altar as she moves into the underworld.
- Sunflower: By Lammas, the Sunflower grows heavy with seeds. These warm as the Sunflower turns its head ever sunward. Aztec priestesses carried or wore Sunflower crowns. This plant works cooperatively with the Base Chakra. Plant one near your door for attracting positive energy not only for your home but all your guests. Other associations for this flower include honesty, devotion and truthfulness.
Lammas and Autumn Eve Foods, Beverages, & Recipes
You are going to see a lot of common themes here, most associated with the harvest, preservation, and protection.
- Barley Cake: Lammas is all about grains, and Barley ties to the sacrificed Grain God. It is among the first grains harvested and considered a sacred grain around the world. Barley nurtures the Heart Chakra and wards off the evil eye.
- Basil: Basil safeguards us against our own fears as well as unwanted spirits. Carry it with you or hang it where you need both protection and luck. Also called Witches’ Herb.
- Beer: Beer gets its magical power from hops, which are a brewers friend. Hops are healthy, but they also have metaphysical properties. It aids sleep, brings good dreams and works as a suitable offering for Lugh or the Grain Goddess.
- Breads (various grains): What would a Loaf Mass be without, well, bread! The best variety for use on Lammas would be any grain-based, healthy products. Sprouted bread is particularly nice warmed with honey.
- Corn: Welcome the Corn Moon! Seeing kernels of corn on the road to or from your gathering means company is coming. Extra long husks portend a long winter. BTW you can use corn husks to make wish bundles for the fire. Mark the Sacred Circle with kernels (the wildlife will thank you later).
- Crab Apple: Crab apples appear in a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here Puck, ever the trickster among the fairy folk, says he’s like a roasted crab apple bobbing in a cup of ale. In early English spells, it is among the nine preferred plants for protective charms. One suggestion: Put on your inner Kitchen Witch persona and make it into jelly to “preserve” your magic for many months to come.
- Elderberry Wine: Elderberries act as an anti-evil charm. As part of a ritual cup, this helps with the transition from mundane thinking to spiritual awareness. It’s ideal for Lammas, reflecting the Goddess of Death and Regeneration (Holle). Other attributes associated with Elderberry include purification, healing, offerings and prosperity.
- Garlic: As far as defensive herbs go Garlic seems to fit nearly every need. It wards against evil, breaks curses, removes negative influences and banishes contaminants from food. This isn’t surprising considered that Garlic comes under the dominion of the Fire Element and the planet Mars.
- Lamb: Lamb represents sensitivity and healing. From a realistic standpoint, the lamb can also symbolize the sacrifice of the Grain God so others can be renewed. Sheep also have strong associations with gatherings of people, in this case, all for one purpose – honoring Autumn Eve.
- Mushrooms: Mushroom rings appearing mean that there is fairy magic afoot. The Egyptians associated mushrooms with immortality so only royalty could eat them. The Chinese and Japan had similar connotations for mushroom as representing strength and long life. For Lammas add some into your meal for pre-winter fortitude.
- Onions: These were part of Egyptian oaths, which makes them an interesting idea as food for a Handfasting or Lammas Wedding. Hungover the doors, onion protects the home from disease and promotes spiritual health.
- Pears: Pears are a traditional part of the Fall harvest. Pear flowers and branches appear in some protective charms for children. In China, the golden pear represents long life and abundance. Germans often plant a pear tree on the birth of a baby girl.
- Riceis one of the Seven Sacred Grains of the World. Rice typically symbolizes fertility and abundance which is why it’s thrown at newly betrothed couples.
For more delicious holiday feast ideas visit our Pagan & Wiccan recipes section!
Lammas and Autumn Eve Ritual
Lammas celebrates the first harvest—often that of wild edibles and early-ripening cultivated foods such as apples. Specifically, Lammas honors the Grain Spirit, as the giver and preserver of life. Consequently, Wiccans frequently observe this day by baking bread, rolls, or cookies for during or after the ritual.
Additionally, an ancient version of Lammas was dedicated to Lugh, the god of mastery and craftsmanship. With this in mind, your ritual tools can be cleansed and blessed today, along with any other implements of personal arts. Once the ritual has ended, it is an excellent day to work on something creative! The themes of Lammas are community, money, Providence, manifestation, and agriculture.
Use oatmeal soap as part of your ritual bath. Fashion a Corn Maiden from dried husks and keep this to decorate your altar every year so your household will never want for food. Staying with this theme, have a bowl of dried loose grain to sprinkle around the circle during the invocation. This brings prosperity, protection, and fertility.
Cover the altar with an orange-colored cloth. Decorate the surface with sheaves of grain, wheat, and crab apples. Add a bundle of Indian corn as an alternative God emblem and a loaf of cornbread for the Goddess. Place the bowl of grain at one side of the surface, your seedling from Candlemas at the other; in the center, place a small bowl with a teaspoon of honey and your magical tools or artistic implements.
Also have a brazier of burning charcoal ready, upon which you can place any cleansing herbs you desire.
Lammas Magical Invocation
At the altar, pick up the bowl of grain. Disperse this evenly around the circle as you invoke the quarters. I suggest beginning the invocation in the South since the Wheel has not yet turned to fall. My thanks to David Ledwin for inspiring this adapted piece:
Warm Rays of Sun that nurture seeds to maturity,
I call and charge you.
Let your burning flames forge and temper my spirit
through the smelted fires of creation.
Hail, Fire, hail!
Warm Water that saturates Earth’s seeds to grow,
I call and charge you.
From you am I born, from the ocean’s waves
by sea, and spray, and mist.
Hail, Water, hail!
Warm Earth that roots seeds in its womb,
I call and charge you.
Let your rich soil grant my spirit sanctuary
in the house of the ancients.
Hail, Earth, hail!
Warm Airs that carry seeds to the waiting Earth,
I call and charge you.
Let your singing winds fill my heart and soul
with the canticle of the Mysteries.
Hail, Air, hail!
Great Spirit who gives life to the seeds,
I call and charge you.
Let your presence bind the elements together
and birth the grains of magic in me.
Hail, Spirit, hail!
Magical Meditation and Visualization for Lammas
In Scotland, it’s customary to pay bills today and make an accounting of finances on Lammas. Following in this tradition, this combination meditation and spell help draw money to you. When the financial blessing arrives, set it aside for emergency use.
Before beginning the meditation, prepare a dollar bill wrapped three times around with a string. Leave enough string so you can place the money across the table from you. Also, find a green candle; carve it with the image of a dollar sign and put it in the middle of the table.
Light the candle, put the dollar bill across from you with the string in your strong hand, and sit at the table. Center yourself. Observe the candle flame. Use it as a focus. See nothing else; know the flame to be the same as the one in your heart. Slowly let this image blur and close your eyes.
Visualize the same brilliant light pouring down from the heavens to shower you with abundance. Change the color to greenish gold, the hue of prosperity. Let this energy fill you to overflowing.
When you feel all but ready to burst, allow this power to flow into your fingertips toward the dollar bill across the table. Slowly draw the string into your hands, whispering, “Money to me; magic fly free,” until the bill reaches your hands. Wrap the remaining string around the bill and tuck it into a wallet or purse. Leave the candle to burn down on its own (in a fire-safe container); this will further energize the magic.
When this spell manifests, donate the dollar bill to a worthy cause to show thanks.
The Body of the Lammas Ritual
Stand before the center of the altar. Sprinkle whatever significant herbs you’ve chosen on the charcoal. When the smoke begins to rise, lift one of your magical implements and move it through the smoke, saying, “Today is the first harvest, and I wish to reap magic. Lord of Light, Lady of Creation, bless and charge this tool once again to be used in your service.” Repeat this procedure with each of your regularly used magical implements.
For those who have brought artistic tools to the altar, use this blessing instead: “Lord of Inspiration and Vision, Lady of Muse, today is the harvest, and I wish to reap creativity. Bless and charge this tool for my art that it may ever reflect the growing spirit of light within me.”
Put these items aside, except for your athame (or a pair of scissors if you don’t use an athame). Cut a leaf, flower, fruit, or vegetable off the plant you started at Candlemas. Drop a small bit of honey in the soil to thank the plant for its gift. This clipping is about to become your offering of “first fruits.”
Place the clipping in the brazier, saying, “This is my gift to the God of the Sun and the Lady of Earth. As this burns, so too burns away my_______.” Fill in a bad habit or anything else you need to release, such as a memory from the past. “In its place, I reap_______. “Teach me to receive nourishment and abundance even as you nourish and fertilize Earth.”
Let this fire burn out of its own accord. As it burns, you may wish to chant this popular circle song, originated by lan Coran:
Hoof and horn, hoof, and horn, all that dies shall be reborn.
Corn and grain, corn and grain, all that falls shall rise again!
Other Magical Activities for Lammas
As part of your attire, consider making a corn necklace. Cut fresh corn kernels carefully off the ears so the ends are intact, Pierce each kernel with a threaded needle. Hang the strand in dry, breezy room and turn the kernels regularly so they dry evenly. Use Indian corn for a more colorful collection. When dried completely, this lasts nearly forever. Longer strands make unique decorations later in the year. Put them on the Yule Tree as a symbol of the returning sun.
Another tradition is to begin the process of preserving for winter today. Perhaps the easiest recipes are those for conserves. Blend together equal parts of sugar and symbolic fruits—perhaps raspberries and oranges, for foresight, abundance, and love. Boil these together until thick, then can them. Keep the blend fuse at other gatherings (or for your breakfast toast)!
Closing the Circle
Lord of the Wind, your seed carries the promise of future harvests from this place. As we sow, so we reap and sow again. Go in peace.
Mother Earth, your bounty sustains and blesses all. Let it nourish my spirit and body until I join you in this sacred space again. Go in peace.
Lady of the Seas, of the cleansing, nourishing waters, thank you for flowing into this place and my life. Let drops of wisdom within me, as you go in peace.
Lord of the Sun, master of the Fire, thank you for ripening the crops and maturing my soul. Energize this magic, as you go in peace.
Lord and Lady of Creation, thank you for watching over the seeds in the earth, and in my heart. Manifest this magic, as you go in peace.
Postritual Foods & Personal Celebrations for Lammas
Try homemade bread, and the first fruits and vegetables gathered from your own garden or purchased at a farmer’s market, especially apples and zucchini. Fall is a lovely time for a crisp walk through nature to see what gifts you discover. You can also make a corn dolly for your home, or simply place a sheaf of grain on your fireplace decorated with ribbons in hues of Autumn. If you decide you want to have a gathering in your home, Potluck is the perfect representation of the in-gathering. Everyone can focus on root vegetables, fresh herbs, fruits and perhaps some goodies from your own backyard.