I’ve always had difficulty with Summer rituals. This time of year I often find myself distracted by vacations, heat, Pagan festivals, and a whole host of other things. For lack of a better turn of phrase Summer is my most “un-witchy” season. It just doesn’t have the zing of Autumn, Spring, or even Winter. Back in June of this year I made a promise to myself to “do better” with my observances this time of year so I’m making sure to put together my Lughnassa Ritual in advance, and thought I’d share it here for good measure.
We know very little about how Lughnasadh was celebrated in ancient Celtic paganism. I’m sure it had something to do with the ripening of the grain, but beyond that it’s hard to say. Many of the traditions we associate with our Pagan holiday come from the agrarian (and often rather pagan) versions of Christianity common in the Middle Ages. For this ritual I adapted some of those practices (as found in Ronald Hutton’s Stations of the Sun) to better fit Modern Paganism and the Wheel of the Year in early August.
Normal Altar Set-Up (Quarter Candles, deity statues, etc.)
Dried kernels of corn
Bannock Bread (for Cakes & Ale and one part of the ritual)
Everyone prepares for ritual differently. In my circle we perform a ceremonial hand-washing. Some groups prefer to use incense, smudge, salted water, etc etc.
It’s important to get yourself in the right head space for ritual. Some groups like to use a guided meditation “your feet are the like the roots of a tree . . .” others chant and sing. It probably depends on how good the singing is in your particular group.
Statement of Intent
High Priestess: “Tonight we celebrate Lammas, the festival of First Fruits. In late Summer the fields ripen and we partake in the year’s first grain harvest.
Casting the Circle
“With sword in hand I now cast this circle thrice round. First pass to stand between the worlds and create sacred ground. Second pass to protect and keep all within safe from harm. Third pass to hold in our energies, magic, and charm. Consecrated in the name of Lord and Lady, the circle is now cast, so mote it be!”
East: “Spirits of the East, element of air and wind, powers of clear will and knowledge we summon you to join us this sacred sabbat night. Guard, protect, and bless our joyous rite! Hail and Welcome!”
South: “Spirits of the South, element of fire and sun, powers of illumination and desire we summon you to join us this sacred sabbat night. Guard, protect, and bless our joyous rite! Hail and welcome!”
West: “Spirits of the West, element of water and rain, powers of death and initiation we summon you to join us this sacred sabbat night. Guard, protect, and bless our joyous rite! Hail and welcome!”
North: “Spirits of the North, element of earth and field, powers of harvest and home we summon you to join us this sacred sabbat night. Guard, protect, and bless our joyous rite! Hail and welcome!”
Call to the God
High Priest: “We call to the Lord of the Grain and God of the Harvest, the Shining Sun who blesses our fields and the fertile Horned One who gives this world the breath of life, be with us tonight in our circle. Reveal to us the mysteries of the first reaping and bless the fruits of our labor as we honor your own toils on our behalf. May your gifts strengthen us for the work ahead. The God has arrived in our circle this night! Hail and welcome!
Charge of the God
Not surprisingly my coven uses the best Charge of the God ever written, mine. Opinions on “best ever” will most certainly differ.
Call to the Goddess
High Priestess: “We call to the Goddess of the Fields and the Queen of all Bounty, the Silver Moon who guards our gardens and the Earth Mother whose womb is the source of all life, be with us tonight in our circle! Reveal to us the mysteries of the seasons and the turning of the Wheel and bless the bread before us as we honor you from which all things proceed. May your gifts to us provide strength and sustenance in the days ahead. The Goddess has arrived in our circle this night! Hail and welcome!
Charge of the Goddess
My coven uses a modified version of Doreen Valiente’s prose Charge of the Goddess. One day I might share our slightly modified version, but copyright concerns keep me from doing so.
The Promise of the Gods
High Priestess: “In times long ago, upon the start of Lammas, families would rise with the dawn and head down towards their fields of grain. There they would pick the first ripe corn and then return to their home, grinding the grain and then boiling it in a sheep’s stomach before baking it. The bread was then scattered around the house as a deterrent against wickedness and evil”
High Priest: “Tonight we will not be boiling any bread in a sheep’s stomach, but we will take the year’s first grain and use it for our own protection. In this bowl are the first grains of this year’s harvest. I have dried the corn and prepared it for our use tonight, baking it with the protective power of the rowan tree. I have taken those kernels of corn and placed them in this bowl and now I share them with you. Take a small handful of the corn, enough for use in this room and enough for you to take home as well. As I carry the bowl around our High Priestess will recite a prayer for us and the grain.”
Goddess of the Grain, Mother of the Earth
I cut me a handful of the new corn,
I dried it gently in the sun,
I rubbed it sharply from the husk
With mine own palms.
I prepared it in my house,
I baked it with loving care.
I toasted it with the power of the rowan,
And I shared it round with my people.
I scatter it sunways round my dwelling,
In the name of the Great Lady,
Who promised to preserve me,
Who did preserve me,
And who will preserve me,
In peace, in flocks,
In righteounsess of heart.
So mote it be.”
High Priest: “And now that we have all received the gift of the grain we shall charge and then scatter it around our Temple Room, keeping the place of our rites safe and secret for another year. Join me in the following chant:
The grain is ripe
All free of blight
Our future’s bright!’
And as we dance and chant ’round the room fill your grain with positive energy and share that blessing in our sacred space. Do not throw all of your grain, when our ritual is at an end and you all have returned home, scatter the grain you have left over in your homes where it is needed, or put your corn kernels upon your own altar. Now let us raise energy and celebrate Lammas night!
(Everyone then dances around the circle clockwise, chanting and raising energy as they go along. When enough energy is raised the High Priestess should signal the grain to be thrown about the room. This portion of the ritual is based on the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary as practiced on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. In the old calendar the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary took place on Lughnasadh, so it’s not that much of a stretch to suggest that it might contain remnants of Lammas or Lughnassa celebrations past. The poem in the middle is my adaption of The Paean of Mother Mary, Paganized and updated to more accurately reflect how I prepared the kernels of corn used in the ritual. Speaking of corn I used maize in my ritual because it’s native to North America. I dried out the kernels in the sun and in my oven, per the poem.)
High Priestess: “The bread most associated with Lammas is bannock, which cooks quickly and can be found in various parts of the world. Tonight we eat this bread in celebration of the first harvest. As we pass around the bread I ask that you take a piece and share what it is you hope to reap in your own life during the months of the harvest. Remember speaking has a way of making our desires manifest; there is power in words and power in sharing those words with those you love and care about. So now partake in the harvest with your coven.
(Everyone takes a bit of bread and shares what they are working on in their lives. This is not a spell, but powerful magic none the less. Sharing should be an important part of every coven’s rites.)
High Priest: “And now that all have eaten and shared we ask the blessings of the Lord and Lady upon our words, deeds, and desires. Help us to reap what we are growing in our own lives at this time of the first harvest. So mote it be!”
The Great Rite/Cakes & Ale
High Priest: “As the grain ripens in the field we are reminded of the greatest mystery-the magic of joining!”
High Priestess: “Sun and rain, soil and breeze, all must unite to create the living upon this Earth!”
High Priest: “As the athame is to the male.”
High Priestess: “As the chalice is to the female.”
Both: “United they bring forth new life. Blessed Be.”
(Athame is plunged into cup.)
High Priestess: “Lord and Lady bless this food and drink set out before us. May each bite and sip remind us of your love, beauty and abundance. So mote it be!”
(Cakes and Ale, or Wine or Cider or Kool-Aid or Whatever, are passed around the circle.)
High Priestess: “We thank the Great Goddess for being with us tonight in our circle. Goddess of the Grain, Queen of the Harvest, you have shared your bounty with us this night, and we are grateful. Continue to walk with us in the waning days of Summer and help us to harvest the fruits of our labors in our own lives. Blessed Be!”
High Priest: “We thank the Great God for being with us tonight in our circle. Lord of the Sun, Horned One of the Fields, you have shared your blessings with us this night, and we are grateful. Continue to walk with us as Autumn draws near and keep us, our loved ones, and this work safe and sacred this turn of the Wheel. Blessed Be!”
Dismissing the Quarters
North: “”Spirits of the North, element of earth and field, powers of harvest and home we summoned you to guard, protect, and to bless our rites. You have served us well and now we wish you hail and farewell!”
West: “Spirits of the West, element of water and rain, powers of death and initiation we summoned you to guard, protect, and bless our rites. You have served us well and now we wish you hail and farewell!”
South: “”Spirits of the South, element of fire and sun, powers of illumination and desire we summoned you to guard, protect, and bless our rites. You have served us well and now we wish you hail and farewell!”
East: “Spirits of the East, element of air and wind, powers of clear will and knowledge we summoned you to guard, protect, and bless our rites. You have served us well and now we now wish you hail and farewell!”
High Priestess: “We have celebrated the first harvest. May the first fruits of Lammas protect us, may the first bread of Lammas nourish us. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again! And may the gods preserve the Craft!”