It is Lammas, high summer, and the time is nigh! The Wheel of the Year clicks onward into the grand sign of Leo. I don’t know about y’all, but down here in North Carolina, I’m feeling the heat of this fire-y sign; feeling the juicy, high-tides of this greater sabbat deep in my solar plexis, deep in my Will. I am on fire to continue the magickal work I began back at my Imbolc dedications.
“Summertime, an’ the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ an’ the cotton is high…” (1)
Lammas is a “pregnant” time, full of expectation, succulence, and satisfaction, and I’m beginning to taste the fruits of my labors within the Great Work, and my back yard garden, too!
Not long after The Sojo Circle celebrated our Litha, the first day of summer, under a scorching noonday sun, and the oak king fell in battle to the holly king (complete with light saber swishing noises, because we liberally sprinkle the mirth in with our reverence), I began to feel the shift, the deepening, the long shadows cast into the dark half of the year. The message was loud and clear: Vacation is over; it’s time to get crackin.’
Mind you, I’ve been “turning the wheel of the year,” as they say, pretty much continuously now since 2005. Like anything worth doing, practice makes perfect. (Heron’s fourth rule of Witchcraft: You must be present to win, more on that later…)
Long ago, at a distant Imbolc rite, when I was a new-baby witchling, I stood at the altar and with giddy expectation spoke these words:
“Spirit! Great Weaver of all things, I seek to know your nature! Ignite within me your fires; wash me clean of doubt; blow my mind. I dance to your rhythms with earthen shoes and the starry heavens tangled in my hair. Show me the way! As I will, it is so. Blessed be.”
Since that day, I have been a Witch on fire. I am washed free of doubt. My mind enjoys regular blowings. We are old dance partners now, so I sense the subtle twirls and dips. The magick is so intuitive, yet, so visceral to me.
So, here we are at high summer, and my “garden” is bursting, both literally and figuratively. Each evening I go out to fill my basket with vegetables I’ve been cultivating since Ostara. I sing my gratitude to the plants, Reiki flowing from my palms as the red and yellow cherry tomatoes fall into them. It is easy for me to feel the bounty of the first harvest approaching because that basket is getting heavier each night!
All the best books on the Sabbats, and even my own training course in Modern Witchcraft, speak of this being the first harvest of “corn” and grains. The word Lammas itself is said to derive from the Old English phrase hlaf-maesse, which translates to “loaf mass.” So we celebrate with bread rituals, and adorn the altar with stalks of wheat. Then there must be the ubiquitous singing of “John Barleycorn,” just because that’s what you do.
However, the other day one of my students asked me where the best place was to find dried wheat stalks for his altar, and I said, “the arts and crafts store.” We are city folk and I don’t know any local wheat farmers. Yellow Corn? Sure, but not wheat. The silk floral section of the local Michael’s is where I’ve found it in the past, but the deeper I get, the more I value the power of collecting my supplies first hand. Not to mention that I own the local metaphysical shop, so buying these things from a non-local, mega-corporation just feels…tainted.
That’s when my perception shifted, and I suggested that this harvest is about what is growing right here, right now, in our own back yards, thanks to our endeavors and partnerships with nature. For me? Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and flowers.
Lammas is also about sacrifice. The Sacrificial King voluntarily gives his life to feed his people. The vegetable life in my garden give of themselves to sustain my family, and for that I am eternally grateful. However, despite any delusion that I might be on the top of the food chain, when I go out to the garden in the liminal of dusk, not only have I given of my sweat and tears, I inevitably leave a blood sacrifice to the horde of vampirous mosquitoes. If they don’t get me, the rose bushes will. They will have their due, no matter what skeeter beater potions and lotions I douse myself with. There is no way around it; nature feeds on itself.
“One of these mornin’s
You’re goin’ to rise up singin’
Then you’ll spread yo’ wings
An’ you’ll take the sky.” (1)
As for the Great Work of my spiritual evolution, at this time of year I contemplate not only what harvest I am beginning to reap, but what sacrifices need to be made to create space for those bounties. How is my energy exchange with the Universe remaining balanced?
As it happens, my dedication this year to my patrons Aphrodite and Hermes were to offer my voice and my talents to bring Her thealogy of Divine Love to the wider world through my writing. My students keep badgering me to write a book, so, I asked Hermes for his help in mediumship, communication and travel to other communities.
Within days of the dedication, I left for Pantheacon, and His message was a resounding, and understandably tricky: “shut up; pay attention.” There was a LOT to hear. Suddenly, I was mute. I haven’t written anything in months; couldn’t even find my favorite journaling pen, which for me, is serious business.
Lammas nears, and the message shifts to, “Now it is time…what did you hear?” The obsessive fervor to write, to craft, to fully engage all my artistic skills, (Hail, Lugh!) and to prepare my upcoming workshops filled me. FIRE took over and I’ve been driven like a madwoman for three weeks. When my personal will feels like that, I just know it is in alignment with my highest Divine Will because it feeeeels goooood. Anyone truly meant to *be* a witch (as opposed to “dabbling in Witchcraft”) will tell you that witching isn’t really optional. The Work demands to be done, and there is no rest, no peace within your soul, until you’ve found your way to those inner crossroads, your own Axis Mundi, to commune with your Gods, and accepted your sacred mission.
So, to the crossroads I go. “OK, what’s next?”
That’s when I got the invitation to write this column on Agora. WITCHCRAFT, I tell you! I just love it when that happens. Talk about a harvest! Furthermore, my first out-of-state teaching gig is next week at TempleFest in New Hampshire. Huzzah for travel! This is the Lammas festival hosted by The Temple of Witchcraft, and I make my debut on the night of the blue moon, no less.
So, I posed these prayerful questions of myself, and send them out to the Universe. Do I have the courage to do the work of Divine Will, accepting the sacred mission to be Their public voice, even when that terrifies me? To truly be Their priestess? I ask my squishy, empathic, Piscean self if I can take the heat…nay, *be* the fire that catalyzes the world I live in? Am I willing to make the sacrifice?
Then I drew the cards: Art XIV, Queen of Wands, Knight of Disks.
“Yes,” I answered. “I accept the sacred mission. What should I name the column?” I ask of my patrons.
“Witch on Fire,” They answered, over and over again.
Alrighty, then. So mote it be!
Blessed Lammastides, my lovelies,
(1) “Summertime” is an aria composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, the author of the novel Porgy on which the opera was based, although the song is also co-credited to Ira Gershwin by ASCAP.” Link to source.