The First Harvest-Reaping the Green
Some of the historical reconstructions of the ancient solar festivals are matched poorly depending on one’s location and environment. The practices of the British Isles and Northern Europe follow a seasonal cycle based on the weather patterns of the Northern Hemisphere. Many of these important dates were observed based on natural occurrences that varied by one’s immediate environment, following the phases of the Moon or some other natural phenomenon. Apart from the general theme of harvest and sacrifice, I do not personally have much of an affinity for the reconstructed festivals of modern Neo-Paganism.
I mainly follow a green which observes local plant cycles, growth and harvest seasons, and the phases of the Moon. Lammas, the Anglo-Saxon counterpart to the Gaelic Lughnassadh has certain important similarities. Lammas is the first of the three harvest festivals still celebrated in Great Britain and other areas. In the Gaelic version of the festival, Lughnassadh is one of four seasonal festivals, also marking the beginning of the harvest season. The festival usually begins on August 1st continuing through to September 1st. Some practitioners celebrate on the Full Moon closest to the calendar day. When following a plant-based practice, the cycles of the plants dictate when these practices traditionally fall. From the Summer Solstice until the First Harvest, plants spend their time producing leaves to catch as much energy as possible. This is used to produce flowers and fruit before being absorbed by the roots. This is a time for harvesting the verdant foliage put out by plants. The strong solar energy of the Dog Days adds volatile energy during the drying process as well. Most plants are in bloom or producing fruit, making this a great time to collect flowers for pressing. The blooming plants at the height of their season are at their most potent. Energy at this time of year is electrified in the green world. Denizens of the green are busy preparing for winter or producing their harvest, meanwhile absorbing power from summer storms and morning dew. Because of the powerful solar energies, long days and warm weather, bonfires do not normally have a prominent roll. The green energy of the genus loci is strongly present at the surface of the Earth, not yet descended to the Underworld, plant spirits are ready and willing to communicate with the proper offerings. During this time the constellation of fiery Leo also hangs in the sky bathing everything in its radiance. All of these factors combine to create a unique combination of forces.
The Green Man is the spirit and symbol of the First Harvest. At this time offerings of sacrifice, ancestors and genus loci. The themes of this festival are sacrifice, harvest, death and rebirth. This is also a great time to evaluate your goals for the next year and take stock of your current accomplishments. Bringing completion to goals of the previous season laying a fertile groundwork for future goals. This is also a time when we, like the plants, can call upon this extra energy that is in abundance at this time. Rituals of empowerment and magical mastery gain extra potency. This surplus of energy can also be utilized for cleansing and charging objects for future use.
The season of Lammastide happens to correspond with my own birthday on August 2nd. I’m sure many people in general share a special connection with holidays when they fall close to or on their birthday. I don’t have any of my own personal birthday ritual or anything like that. However, this is a great time of year for making green tinctures from fresh leaves or preserving harvested plant material. Herbs harvested at this time can be dried and preserved for use at Samhain. The green realm and its spirits still occupy the Middle Realm during this time prior to their yearly descent. Making offerings to plant spirit familiars and other genus loci is a central part of green practice. I also love taking forest walks and foraging for mushrooms. There has always been something very profound about being in the forest. I have felt this way since I was a child feeling somehow safer within the trees. Forest walks are one of the best ways to connect with the collective spirit of a place.
Happy Lammastide from Coby Michael Ward of Poisoner’s Apothecary