It’s almost Lammas/Lughnasadh (Do you celebrate one or both?), and I am a bit giddy with excitement. Last year, I wrote of Lammas and harvesting my dreams. Hard to believe, it’s a year later, and I look back on that celebration with fondness. It was the quiet before the storm, but it was a grounding time, much needed before what was to come. Not much happened at Lammas, really. I made a few loaves of bread, which was something I hadn’t done in a long while. All was well in my world, summer was winding down, and I was looking forward to making plans for the rest of the year.
And then it all stopped. My youngest, who had survived a week in the ICU with extensive blood clots a few months earlier, was beginning to feel some pain. That pain ended up lasting close to two months, while we tried to get answers from both bewildered and sometimes indifferent doctors. A few months later, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Now he is cancer-free, his hair has returned, and he is beginning to pick up a life that was disrupted. As for me, I am learning to breathe again, with longer stretches between panic attacks and worried-mother obsessions. We both have felt forged by fire, and I am thinking deeply about fire and strength during this Leo season. Our cores may be strong, but sometimes it can feel a bit wobbly.
It may seem simple, that baking of the bread. Yet that moment was a turning point for me. I am grateful for the Wheel of the Year, and how it makes us pause, celebrate and remember. I am fortunate to live in a place where I feel the seasons deeply as well as physically. While those memories of last year can be unbearable at times, I know my strength came from that grounding and centering action: baking of bread. I may not be a farmer, and not harvesting grains or a garden, but I harvested much this time last year. I just didn’t know it at the time.
Lammas is celebrated as First Harvest, and one tradition had the first loaf of bread blessed, then chunks were torn off, to be put in all four corners of the barn or land, to encourage more harvesting, or to provide protection. I am doing the same this year, for while I feel protected, guided and loved, I do so to honor my ancestors, to provide extra protection for my youngest. While we both have much to be grateful for, we have also planted seeds for our new lives that have sprung from that fire. We will never take good health for granted, and we recognize those who supported and loved us during those trying times.
This year, I am making a version of Elven Lembas Bread, found on a medieval cooking site, with a wee variation added by me. I look forward to making it, sharing some, casting protection on our home, and celebrating. Making bread is a steadfast process, which makes you slow down, pause and think. As I gather ingredients, knead and form shapes with the mixture, I will be setting intentions not only for myself and my family, but also for the world at large, sending out hopes for an improving world, instead of a seemingly disintegrating one. Join me? Let me know how yours turns out.
Lammas Elven Bread
6 tbsp. butter, slightly softened
2 cups self-rising flour
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 egg well beaten
1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp. heavy cream
With a fork, cut butter into the flour in a mixing bowl, until it resembles cornmeal. Do this rapidly, so that the butter does not melt. Add sugar and raisins. In a different bowl, beat egg and milk together until mixed. Reserve one tablespoon of this mixture to brush the top of the bread,. Add the cream and egg mixture to the flour and mix until it is a stiff, soft dough. Knead three times on a lightly floured surface. Set your intentions. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutter, or into squares, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Leave at least one inch of space between each piece. Brush the tops with the egg-milk mixture. Makes about 1 1/2 dozen. Bake for 12-13 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven. When thoroughly cooled, wrap in parchment paper, and decorate with Lammas designs (bread, wheat sheaves, leaves, etc.) Pass out as gifts, or enjoy with your family and community.