The First Harvest (Lammas): Suggestions For Practices And A Simple Elemental Ritual

The First Harvest (Lammas): Suggestions For Practices And A Simple Elemental Ritual July 28, 2018

Whatever you call the midway point between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox, it’s a time worthy of celebration. The First Harvest represents the bounty of the land and our lives. I take this time to reflect upon my personal bounty and crops, review my projects and relationships and crafting a corn dolly. Then it’s time to honor the local harvest with a simple feast. The grand finale is a contemplative ritual involving the elements.

My corn doll hanging from the wild rose bushes. A great natural altar for connecting with the elements.

August Eve or the first day of the month marks the midway point between summer and fall.  This is the time of the first harvest, known as Lammas among other names. It is time to harvest what we have planted. The tomatoes are ripe, the corn is high. The growing season is in full bloom and it is time to enjoy the benefits of our hard work.  This time, halfway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox is a great time to take stock of what you are now reaping.

The Significance of the Corn Dolly

My approach is to have a period of contemplation while making a corn dolly. I often jot down a list of the bounty in my life. This is an added boost to my regular gratitude practice that is so vital for attracting plenty. Then it is time review what I am working on – those crops I am tending. Finally, a deep dive into what crops aren’t growing well. Do these projects and relationships need more tending, a different approach or is it time to let them die? Sometimes toxic relationships need to be left to wither. After this it’s time for a meal of locally sourced veggies with my boys, followed by a simple ritual.

Corn dollies represent the first harvest. They symbolized the bounty of the harvest. Modern pagan practices vary, but often include making one for the First Harvest and then burning it when the earth is fallow at the end of October. To me, making a corn dolly honors tradition while providing an opportunity for me to create something that is infused with the energy of plenty as I experience it by pouring into my gratitude while I create the doll. The doll represents all my labors in the same way that it did for farmers. They aren’t terribly difficult to make. NOTE: get yourself some quality husks that are nice and long. Your local grocer may be happy to give you a bag for free. Mine was. You can find the instructions on Pinterest. 

If you can’t make a doll, then I suggest creating a floral arrangement of locally grown stems. Do the contemplation exercise while you organize them in a mason jar. Or do both. Go all out.

An abundance altar incorporating elemental symbols and spirits celebrating the First Harvest. Choose botanicals based on their properties and elemental signatures. 

Your Personal First Harvest

This time of the year, in addition to my personal and family activities, I have a tradition with my group of witch friends to go to a secluded beach for some late night magick. Not specifically a first harvest ritual, but very much in the spirit of celebrating the bounty within our selves, lives and the land. Standing thigh deep in the waves after releasing our paper boats petitioning our various oceanic deities, we began to celebrate all that we were harvesting in our lives. The beautiful bounty of motherhood, academic success and witchcraft were the things we focused on. I turned to my beloveds and asked them how many times we had stood in these waves seeking healing or in a place of want? Here we were, powerful witches, who are currently blessed with almost unbelievable abundance. Old friends and conspirators in wild witchery, we know each other’s secrets.

We are fully aware of how much effort went into the “crops” we are currently harvesting. To me, being waist deep in the Atlantic at this time of the year is my ultimate way of experiencing the bounty of the first harvest. How do you experience bounty? Is it in a wheat field, in the forest or on the lake shore? Go to your spot or meditate on an image of it while journaling about all the bounty you have in your life.

The season of summer is governed by the element of fire. Amplify this energy to burn away what no longer serves. Cool it down with water and/or earth. Blow the fire into air, releasing your magic with it onto the wind.

Contemplating the Bounty and Honoring Your Efforts

The harvest is all the sweeter when it is borne of blood, sweat and tears. To me, this is the meaning of the first harvest. It’s a time to acknowledge all that we have invested in whatever it is we are growing, from children to careers. A time to reflect upon this. See where we need to put more attention, evaluate crops that failed and make plans for further growth. If we are fortunate, there will be early ones to harvest. Like hitting a milestone on this blog. I’m only getting started, but it is important to pause to celebrate every accomplishment along the way. There is much yet to be accomplished. I like to engage in this contemplation while making the corn dolly.

Difficult Harvests and Failed Crops

After you complete your doll or arrangement, place it on display. Create your sacred space bringing in a sheet of loose paper and a black pen. Light a black candle or draw an “X” on a white one.  This fresh candle can be anointed it if you are so inclined by rubbing it with removal botanicals, like yarrow or dandelion. The candle is the receptacle for the energy of that which you need to release or transform. Call upon your guides if you work with them. Set the intention that you are going to explore the difficult harvests in your life. Envision a protective and healing energy field all around you. In your space, make a list of the “crops” in your life that aren’t doing so well. Then explore whether you should try a “do over” or declare it a “failed crop.” Release the list through burning or another destructive method  or simply pour it into the candle. Set an intention to develop your “do over” over the next month, perhaps using the lunar cycle and other astrological influences to frame your workings. Continue to burn this candle whenever you are working on the things you are releasing or “doing over.”

A simple elemental healing ritual to help recover from “failed crops.”

How About a “Do Over”?

There are many times in life when we can say “hey, wait a minute, these tomatoes need some attention,” so to speak. Checking in on your own life helps to see if there are areas that need your energy. That little voice inside of you, sometimes appearing as a gnarled up ball of anxiety in our stomachs, a feeling that something isn’t quite right, or aches and pains, may be telling you to tend to your life’s crops.

Then there are the times when we can start all over again. The seeds aren’t taking. Dig them up and plant anew. But, here’s the catch.  How many times do we give ourselves permission to ask for a “do-over?”  I know I tend to poke and prod at dead plants for far too long. It’s perfectly acceptable – and a much better idea – to just start again. The freedom of just scrapping a bad plan or rewinding misspoken words.  Give yourself permission to start again if you’re crops aren’t what they need to be – there’s still time to plant new seeds before the fall comes.

Failed Crops

There are times in our lives when our crops fail either because of situations beyond our control or because we fail to tend to them. See these as an opportunity to grow. Sometimes it is too late to go back and do it again. The rain doesn’t come, things dry up, there is nothing to eat. And we have to deal with the consequences whether or not it’s our fault.  Divorce, illness, job loss are all examples of harvests over which we may have little control.  Even in those cases we have the opportunity to plant new seeds. We just need to survive until the time is right for planting. We can choose to heal and grow anew. During the dark times in between the poor harvest and the new planting, we must work just to survive. Dig deep down inside and let your true self guide you through the famine.

Whether this is a time for you to harvest blessings, to endure a famine, or to start anew, know you have the power to make the choice to find the best healing path.

After completing the plenty and personal review practices, I usually hold the First Harvest meal the next evening. I need time after all the deep spiritual diving to process and synthesize.

First Harvest Meal

I have made corn dollies with friends over the years while talking about our personal crops and harvests. This is often followed by a feast of early harvest ingredients. Here in Nova Scotia that means strawberries and a dish of boiled mixed vegetables known as “hodge podge.” This is a simple dish with minimal additions, just butter, cream and salt and pepper. All the local fresh veggies get thrown into one pot for a light boil. Then they are arranged on a platter and tossed with butter, cream, salt and pepper. Corn is often part of this feast if it is ready. The growing season is later here than in less exposed areas. We go around the table expressing our gratitude while stuffing our faces. Strawberry shortcake is usually the dessert.

First Harvest Ritual

If you don’t make a corn dolly, substitute locally grown flowers of your choosing. After the First Harvest meal, place your doll or arrangement in the direction of the setting sun. I like to do up my hair with flowers and anoint myself with a suitable oil (rose is lovely for this).  I really enjoy the process of purification and preparation of mind, body and space. Nevertheless, sometimes there is no time for a big fuss. Do the best you can.

Tips: do this barefoot if you can. Saying the script will augment the experience, but you can simply visualize the various parts if that’s what is best for you. If you want you can hold the doll or arrangement while facing the appropriate cardinal points. North = earth, east = air, south = fire and west = water. NOTE: this varies by tradition, so if your understanding is different, use what makes sense to you.

The energetic flow of the ritual is to draw in each element into the corresponding internal energy, then releasing all the abundance (i.e., the overflow) into the dolly. The external elemental energies mingle with your own forces, fully activating your personal bounty. The dolly/arrangement becomes an energetic container of abundance that you can draw from over the coming months.

Ritual Script

To the element of earth,
The land on which I tread,
From which all things grow,
May your bounty be ever present on the earth and in my life.
So shall I honor my actions.

See the earth energy from which all things grow within yourself and your connection to it and the overflow pouring this into the arrangement or doll.

To the element of air,
The energy of the mind and wind,
From which the seed is spread,
May your bounty be ever present on the earth and in my life.
So shall I honor my thoughts.

See the energy of the air surrounding you sustaining your life and all that surrounds you, pouring the overflow into the arrangement or doll.

To the element of fire,
The spirit of creation and destruction,
That fuels the sun giving life,
May your bounty be ever present on the earth and in my life.
So shall I honor my spirit.

See the fire of the setting sun that fuels all creation and reflects your spirit and pour the overflow into the arrangement or doll. 

To the element of water,
The energy of emotions,
That grew the crops and nourishes me,
May your bounty be ever present on the earth and in my life.
So shall I honor my emotions.

See the watery emotional energy within yourself, creation and pouring the overflow into the arrangement or doll.

Remain in this connected space, opening up to messages regarding your bounty and future crops. Close off the ritual in a way that best reflects your personal practice.

Keep the doll or the arrangement on display for at least a few days. If they can properly dry, you can burn them when the earth is fallow. This will be the time to enter into a state of internal reflection and rebirth.

Blessings for The First Harvest

However you choose to celebrate the First Harvest, take some time to look back at where you were, even as short a time ago as at the summer solstice, and enjoy the fruits of your labors. So often we fail to pay attention – and take credit – for all that we accomplish. The small steps that lead to major progress. Not eating that bag of cookies when you are feeling blue, being honest in a difficult situation, doing something you’ve never done before, remembering to honor our family commitments – these are the sorts of things that we fail to mark as true rites of passage. Take time to celebrate all you’ve contributed to your current harvest.

Many Blessings on The First Harvest,

Cyndi

Hekate and August: Celebrating The Harvest, Storms, Witchcraft, Keys, and Children

Hekate’s Wheel of the Year for 2019

Elemental Healing Ritual

A Simple Elemental Ritual Welcoming Autumn

Welcoming Winter: Elemental Correspondences, Witchery & A Ritual

A Simple Beltane Elemental Ritual

Keeping Her Keys Table of Elemental Correspondences

If you connect with elemental magic the way I do, you can find more in True Magic: Unleashing Your Inner Witch and The Sacred Seven: A Course of True Magic. 

 

About Cyndi
Cyndi Brannen is a witch and spiritual teacher living the coastal life in rural Nova Scotia. She is a trained energetic healer, psychic and herbalist. Merging together her training in shamanism, Tarot, past life work, meditation and her twenty year career as a psychologist, she teaches and writes about better living through witchcraft. She founded Open Circle about a decade ago which now offers online courses, including The Sacred Seven: A Course in Applied Modern Witchcraft. She has written the forthcoming Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft. Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft: The First Key is a year-and-a-day course that will start November 1. More info at keepingherkeys.com You can read more about the author here.
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  • Mary Petrucha

    Always something new to learn, thank you so much Cyndi for taking the time to create so much magick by awakening this beautiful, peaceful spiritual heart that live on in us all

  • dan schwendinger

    merry meet, Cyndi!…i include the Elementals in my Daily Devotionals, but never so succcinct & so Simply Beautiful!…ya took my breath away!…thx…peace

  • Hi Dan! Thanks! I really like the way I called the elements in this, too.

  • Thanks Mary!

  • dan schwendinger

    merry meet again, Cyndi!…i like to think i’m on a “first name basis” with the Elements!…if that’s possible!?!…right now though, i’m trying to figure out the Divine Spirit (Akasha)…i get almost a scared/subserviant feeling…any thoughts?…peace

  • I have a close personal relationship with the elements as well.