Daily Stuff 7-30-13 M’kmaq

Hi, folks!

weather Cloud oceanIt’s only 57F, yet, even past 11am, but we’re in the cloud layer and it’s supposed to burn off. Right now it’s deliciously cool and rather dim.

Some small bird was hopping around in the alder, making the branches shake, particularly the one with yellow leaves on it. (Wow, is it *that* late in the season, already?) He jumped from there onto a tall branch of the confetti rose and petals showered down, making a pink carpet on the grass.

motif insect honeybeeYesterday the migraine finally died. I was starting to wonder…. but I managed to spend most of the day on the computer, catching up on stuff that got left to sit for a couple of days, doing some beading research, researching products for the shop and getting a couple more orders placed. I had to stop a couple of times, because the light sensitivity was really getting to me.

candy corn on the cob

…and then Tempus sicced me onto someone’s pinterest board and I found far too many cool things. The pic on this paragraph is one…. Candy corn on the cob (marzipan)! How fun!

I sat down with thread and beads and learned a new decorative technique for edging cloth  and worked a bit on the needlebook project.

laundryI did finally feel ok enough to start some laundry. Remembering that it was in the washer was apparently still beyond me, however….. I only remembered 4 hours later, but did a couple of loads in the evening. I’m still working on specialty laundry today and trying to find more as we go.

packing BoxTempus went to the store after he closed up the shop and got home around 9pm. I was pulling bits out of boxes and putting them away. How did we accumulate so much stuff? Actually, I know how we did. We’ve got the accumulation not just of us, but our kids, our parents and grandparents and even a couple things from the greats…. Buncha packrats, we….

Bumblebee….and we’ve got to go through at least 40 boxes before it rains. <shudder> We’ve already done 30, but those were the partly-full ones and fabrics. Paper? <glurp> There are already about 20 boxes in the back room of just paper…. that’s going to be last. The sorting effort is just like what I had to do with the beads. First the largest, the large head beads came out of the pile, then the brightly colored wooden lacing beads and the dyed pasta pieces. Next were the “oddballs” and the small wooden beads that I sorted as I went, into the 2 shapes and 3 colors. Last of all was sorting bugles from seeds and that took *weeks* where the wooden beads were all put away inside of 4 or 5 days. If you call the head beads the clothing and fabrics and the seeds the paper, you’ve got the idea. Anyone who has ever moved knows what we’re going through. …oh, and then there are the boxes that we’ve looked into that are down at the shop because they have crafts stuff, or projects or books or….

motif junk food burgerWe had burgers for supper with oven fries and then Tempus turned in after we talked about some of what we’re hoping to get done over the new few days.

motif bird mallard2I worked on a little more laundry and read for a bit, listening to New Dreamers on KLCC radio. After that I posted some photos and developed a few, then turned in.

motif bird MallardI still need to keep going on laundry and I want to get out into the garden today, at least for a bit. I also have to whittle down the piles of books for the shelves in my study. It’s a pretty heavy-duty mess at the moment. Also, it being Tuesday, I have to set up the newsletters for the week. Ugh. Well, we’ll see what I get done. Tempus is over at the Duckmeister’s where they’re working on another section of the re-shaping of the acreage. The big pond is done. They just need to finish the dirt moving around that.

220px-Micmac2Gerina Dunwhich’s Book, the Wicca Book of Days, cites Today’s Feast as being one of the M’kmaq people, a Canadian Maritime Provinces tribe, a feast of blessings and good will. I’m not finding much of anything online that’s from any source but her, so I’m taking it with a grain of salt, but here is a good Wikipedia article about them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mi%27kmaq_people#Celebrations

White_carnationToday’s Plant is Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus. It is often called Carnation, just like others of the dianthus species and I’ve seen it mis-named “phlox” on plant tags at Fred Meyer’s. The difference is the scent. It still has a sweet scent, but not of clove, like gillyflower, or no scent, like phlox. The flowers are edible and attract butterflies and bees, and the seeds will draw birds, who sometimes will also go after the flowers. They’re good as cut flowers, lasting a decent while, being tall, and a cluster, rather than multiple stems. Cate Middleton had them in her bouquet as a nice touch when she married her “Sweet William”. They have the meaning of “Gallantry”. – Masculine, Sun, Air, Venus – All-purpose protection, in healing for strength and energy. Magickally it is very similar to Gillyflower. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_william

Lammas LughnasadhThe shop is closed on Tuesday/Wednesday for our weekend! Spring hours are 11am-7pm Thursday through Monday. If we’re supposed to be closed, but it looks like we’re there, try the door. If it’s open, the shop’s open! In case of bad weather, check here at the blog for updates, on our Facebook as Ancient Light or call the shop at 541-563-7154.

Love & Light, 


Today’s Astro & Calendar –

Waning Quarter moonThe Moon is at the Waning Quarter. Waning Moon Magick – From the Full Moon to the New is a time for study, meditation, and magic designed to banish harmful energies and habits, for ridding oneself of addictions, illness or negativity. Remember: what goes up must come down. From the Full Moon to the New is a time for study, meditation, and magic designed to banish harmful energies and habits, for ridding oneself of addictions, illness or negativity. Remember: what goes up must come down. Phase ends on 8/5 at 2:561pm. Waning Gibbous Moon – Best time for draining the energy behind illness, habits or addictions. Magicks of this sort, started now, should be ended before the phase change to the New Moon. , Associated God/dess: Hera/Hero, Cybele, Zeus the Conqueror, Mars/Martius, Anansi, Prometheus, Phase ends at the Quarter on 7/29 at 10:43am. Waning Crescent Moon – Best time for beginning introspective magicks that are more long term (full year cycle) A good time for beginning knot magicks to “bind up” addictions and illness (finish just before the Tide Change of Dark to New) and “tying up loose ends” God/dess aspects – Demeter weeping for her Daughter, Mabon, Arachne Tyr. Phase ends on 8/2 at 5:51am. 

Astro mercuryTuesday, July 30, dawn – Mercury at greatest elongation west – Mercury joins Mars and Jupiter in the dawn sky, best viewed in binoculars about half an hour before local sunrise.
Lyra astro constellation VegaBright Vega shines nearly overhead these evenings, for those of us at mid-northern latitudes. Look southeast for Altair, almost as bright. Above Altair by a finger-width at arm’s length is its little orange sidekick Tarazed, 3rd magnitude.
Astro SaturnSaturn (magnitude +0.6, in Virgo) glows in the southwest just after dusk, with Spica 12° to its lower right. Look almost as far to Saturn’s left for fainter Alpha Librae. Less than 0.9;° upper right of Saturn this week is dim Kappa Virginis, magnitude 4.3.

Goddess Month of Kerea runs from 7/11 – 8/8
Celtic Tree month of Tinne/Holly – Jul 8 – Aug 4 – Energy and guidance for problems to come.
Rune Runic Month 15 Thorn ThurisazRunic half-month of Thorn, 7/29-8/12 – Northern Tradition honors the god known to the Anglo-Saxons as Thunor and to the Norse as Thor (right). The time of Thorn is one of ascendant powers and orderliness. This day also honors the sainted Norwegian king, Olaf, slain around Lammas Day. Its traditional calendar symbol is an axe.

Sun in LeoSun in Leo
MOon in TaurusMoon in Taurus
Uranus, Chiron, Juno, Neptune and Pluto Retrograde
Color: White

Planting 7/29-30


©2013 M. Bartlett, Some parts separately copyright


Holly Celtic Tree Month Tinne Ilex-aquifoliumTinne  Holly  Jul 8 – Aug 4 – Tinne  – (CHIN-yuh), holly – The holly (Ilex aquifolium L.) is a shrub growing to 10 m (35 feet) in open woodlands and along clearings in forests. Hollies are evergreen, and stand out in winter among the bare branches of the deciduous forest trees that surround them. Hollies form red berries before Samhain which last until the birds finish eating them, often after Imbolc. The typical “holly leaf” is found on smaller plants, but toward the tops of taller plants the leaves have fewer spiny teeth. Hollies are members of the Holly family (Aquifoliaceae). The common holly is often cultivated in North America, as are hybrids between it and Asiatic holly species. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holly

Tinne – Holly Ogam letter correspondences
Month: June
Color: Dark Grey
Class: Peasant
Letter: T
Meaning: Energy and guidance for problems to come

Yew Celtic Tree Month Ioho Taxus_brevifoliato study this month – Ioho – Yew  – Ogam letter correspondences
Month: None
Color: Dark Green
Class: Chieftain
Letter: I, J, Y
Meaning: Complete change in life-direction or attitude. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxus_brevifolia


WavesTides for Alsea Bay
Day        High       Tide    Height   Sunrise     Moon  Time      % Moon
~           /Low       Time      Feet    Sunset                                  Visible
Tu  30      Low   1:37 AM     0.9   6:01 AM    Rise 12:25 AM      48
~    30     High   7:40 AM     4.8   8:43 PM     Set  3:08 PM
~    30      Low   1:07 PM     2.4
~    30     High   7:30 PM     7.1


Affirmation/Thought for the Day – But you do have the power to control how it affects you.


Newsletter Journal PromptJournal Prompt – What? – What kind of fairytale creature would you be?



~   Delays breed dangers. – John Lily
~   It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up. – Vince Lombardi
~   It takes less time to do things right than to explain why you did it wrong. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
~   Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. – John Lubbock

Easter Exultet
Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.
Trust deep water
and head for the open,
even if your vision
shipwrecks you.
Quit your addiction
to sneer and complain.
Open a lookout.

Dance on a brink.
Run with your wildfire.
You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.
Not dawdling.
Not doubting.
Intrepid all the way
Walk toward clarity.
At every crossroad
Be prepared

to bump into wonder.
Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.
Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.
Nothing perishes;
nothing survives;
everything transforms!
Honeymoon with Big Joy! – James Broughton (Sermons of the Big Joy)


lughnasadh wheat border

Magick – Lughnasadh Lore – http://www.wilsonsalmanac.com/lammas.html (site and most links defunct)

Our road starts where they say all roads end: Rome.

The Roman Catholic church claimed to have in its possession one of the chains with which the Apostle Peter was bound, and from which the angel delivered him. The empress Eudocia brought the two chains in 439 from Jerusalem, sending one to Constantinople and the other to Rome. Over many years, the popes sent miracle-performing filings of it to devout princes. August 1 is known as the Feast Day of the Chains of St Peter – in Latin, Peter ad Vincula.

The month of August was the first in the Egyptian calendar, and called Gule, which when Latinized makes Gula, which in Latin signifies throat. Seeing the word at the head of the month’s calendar, the Roman Catholic Church made the day a feast to the Christian daughter of the Roman tribune Quirinus, who was cured of a throat disease by kissing the chain of Peter on the day of its festival. “Forcing the Gule of the Egyptians into the throat of the tribune’s daughter, they instituted a festival to Gule upon the festival-day of St Peter ad Vincula.”  (Every-day Book, William Hone 1878)

We are also celebrating Lammas, or Lughnasadh; however, the modern date for Lughnasadh, as for the other great Celtic festivals, Imbolc, Beltane and Samhain, is only an approximation made necessary by a solar calendar. In Ireland, the festival began in mid-July, and lasted till mid-August, but its main focus was August 1. In the Asatru tradition, that day is sacred to the Norse deities Odin and Frigg; celebrants used to ascend the spiral path of the Lammas hill, on way to Lammas festivities.

What is it?

In the Northern Hemisphere, halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox, comes the ancient Celtic pagan festival of Lughnasadh, also called Lughnasa (or the modern Irish spelling, Lúnasa) and Lammas, one of the eight Sabbats – one of the High Holidays, or four Greater Sabbats – of the Celtic Wheel of the Year. (This is the least known of the four seasonal cross-quarter days. Certainly, Samhain (Halloween) and Beltane (May Day) get more press in our age.) In the Southern Hemisphere, some neo-pagans call this time Imbolc, after the station of the year directly opposite Lammas on the Wheel.

Lammas comes from Old English hlaf maesse, meaning ‘loaf mass’, the Christian holy repast at which bread baked from the first wheat of the season was blessed. Many cultures have the ceremony of the first of the harvest being sacrificially given to the gods, or god; the ancient Hebrews offered their ‘first fruits’ to Jehovah, just as the Bemanti clan of Swaziland offer theirs to their king during December’s full moon, in the Ncwala ceremony. When Christianity came to the Celtic lands, most ancient festivals such as Lughnasadh were imbued by the Church with Christian symbolism, so loaves of bread were baked from the first of the harvested grain and consecrated on the church altar on the first Sunday of August, a tradition still enacted in many churches.

Some have claimed that the word is from Lamb-Mass, “because on that day the tenants who held lands under the cathedral church in York, which is dedicated to St Peter ad Vincula, were bound by their tenure to bring a live lamb into the church at high mass; others derive it from a supposed offering or tything of lambs at this time” (Hone 1878).

The similarity of the pre-Christian name Lughnasadh to the Christian name Lammas might be more than coincidental, but it is a contended matter. The etymology might go something like this: the Celtic word nasadh meant ‘commemoration’, or ‘to give in marriage’; the Anglo-Saxons called this festival Lughmass; because it took place between the hay harvest and the corn harvest, the name was later confused with hlaf maesse; hence ‘Lammas’. We might, however, as easily assume that ‘Lughnasadh’ means the ‘Marriage of Lugh, as ‘Lugh’s Mass’, a rather common interpretation.

Lugh, Celtic sun god

The god associated with the season is a Celtic sun god, Lugh, whose name is related to the Latin lux, or, ‘light’, and means ‘the shining one’.

He was handsome, perpetually youthful, and full of vivacity and energy. Poet and author Robert Graves proposed that his name came from the Latin lucus (‘grove’), and even perhaps lu, Sumerian for son. Lugh was a deity cognate to Hercules or Dionysus, the Romans’ version of the Greek god Apollo. Another name for him was ‘Lugh the Long Handed’. In Wales, he was called Lleu, or Lleu Llaw Gyffes, meaning ‘Lion with the Steady Hand’. Lleu means lion, related to the Latin leo. (Note that the Zodiacal sign of Leo is now in the sun.)

Although we are uncertain whether the Gauls’ name of this Celtic deity was Romanised to Lugus/Lugos, (whom they identified with the god Mercury), or vice versa, we do know that the impact of both the name and the deity were widespread. Lyons in France, for example, was originally called Lugudunum, or the Fort of Lugus, and a festival formerly held there on August 1 was later renamed after Caesar Augustus who had assumed major deity authority. The European towns of Laon, Leyden and Carlisle (originally Caer Lugubalion) also were all named after Lugh, and the modern name Hugh also derives from the deity.

Let the games begin!

Several important and hugely attended assemblies, all involving Olympics-like games, took place during Lughnasadh in Ireland, and there is growing evidence of such games throughout Europe, because Celtic culture took root from Ireland to as far as Galatia, the Middle Eastern town mentioned in the Bible (Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians – the word is etymologically related to ‘Celtia’).

Lammas and athletic contests go hand in hand. Ranggeln, an ancient style of wrestling from which the terms ‘wrangle’ and thus ‘Wrangler jeans’ derive, is still practised in Austria. The St Jacob’s Day (July 29) Ranggeln festival at the summit of Mt Hundstein harks back to pre-Christian Celtic Lughnasadh festivities.

The Oenach Tailten was the assembly of Tailte, held at Talten or Teltown, a mountain in Meath, for the fifteen days on either side of August 1. Fostering was a Celtic practice that survived into early 18th century Scotland, and the goddess Tailte (Tailtiu), for whom the Oenach Tailten were held and the games played, was Lugh’s foster-mother, a female chieftain of the Fir-Bolg. After she and her people were vanquished by the Tuatha De Dannan, she was ordered by them to clear a large forest for the purpose of planting a field of grain, and Tailte died of exhaustion in the attempt.  The legend tells us that she was buried beneath a large mound named for her, at the place where the first feast of Lughnasadh was held in Ireland, the hill of Tailte. Lugh’s birth mother was Ethnea Ní Bhaloir. Lughnasadh also commemorated Lugh’s two wives, Nas and Bui, so a strong feminine aspect can be seen in Lughnasadh, as well as its primary masculine theme of the solar deity.

Fun, fun, fun, including divorce

When ancient Celts went to a Lughnasadh celebration, they could expect to find many features of a modern fair or market day, not just sports and sacrality. Crafts (probably including ‘corn dollies’, which are still a Lammas tradition), preserves, all kinds of foods and local produce would certainly have been displayed and sold at the games, so it must have been a fun and colourful affair.

One ancient custom still associated with cross-quarter days, and in particular Lughnasadh, was for a large wagon wheel to be dragged to the top of a hill, covered with tar, and set on fire; then it was blazingly rolled down the hill – perhaps recalling the end of summer, with the flaming disk representing the declining sun deity. This, in Christian times, evolved into the popular firework, the Catherine wheel, since St Catherine of Alexandria (who was intended to be martyred on a wheel but survived miraculously), was commemorated on her feast day at Lammas (though the Church has moved it several times) and the wheel rolling continued as part of her day.

Lughnasadh was seen as a propitious season in which to marry, as food was abundant between the two harvests for the ‘honey moon’, and leisure time was available once the harvest was in. At the Oenach Tailten began a widespread custom called a Tailtean (or Teltown) marriage, similar to neo-Pagan ‘handfasting’, and it only took place at Lughnasadh. Such a marriage lasted only a ‘year and a day’ and could only be dissolved if both parties returned to the Lughnasadh fair. To divorce, the spouses stood back-to-back, then one spouse walked to the north and the other south. This custom carried on well into the 16th century and, like bundling (‘[occupying] the same bed without undressing – said of a man and woman, especially during courtship’ – Webster), which was known even later and certainly in colonial America, was considered proper, even by the Christian Church.

Another of these great Lughnasadh festivals was the Oenach Carmain, the assembly of Carmán the evil sorceress. She, like the Fomorians (evil giants; the people of the other world) came to Ireland from Athens, accompanied by her three ferocious sons. The people of Leinster province, at Carman or Wexford held the Oenach Carmain, once every three years, beginning on Lughnasadh and ending on the sixth, believing that by holding it they would receive various blessings, such as prosperity, and corn, milk, and fruit in abundance, as well as protection from incursions by other provinces. There also were racing, poetic competition, satirical drama, and history, with a strong role played by women, who had political meetings called aireachts. Probably due to the influence of the patriarchal Christian Church, the Oenach Carmain only lasted until the 11th Century.

As well as the sports played at this event, there were marriage contracts made in the ‘Marriage Hollow’. In Europe, the festival of Lughnasadh was also associated with the myth of the marriage of Lugh to Bloddeuedd. This goddess, whose name means ‘face of flowers’, was conjured up out of flowers of oak, broom, and meadowsweet, by Lugh’s uncle, King Math, to be Lugh’s consort. When she later turned out to be an unfaithful wife, she was cursed by Gwydion, brother of the moon goddess Arianrhod, to be forever disturbed by sunlight, and she experienced a shapeshift into an owl, a creature said to be hated by all other birds.

At gatherings of Lammastide, villagers placed offerings of blackberries, acorns, and crab apples in the lap of a maiden dressed in white, seated on the top of a hill, and a dance and procession home would then be held.

Was King William Rufus a pagan sacrifice?

The Celts celebrate the main part of the festival of Lughnasadh from sunset on August 1 until sunset on August 2. On August 2, 1100 English King William Rufus was killed when shot through the eye by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. Rufus (‘the Red’) was a son of William the Conqueror, and his elder brother, Richard, had also died in the New Forest. Rumours probably abounded that Richard and Rufus were victims of heathen ill will, for William the Conqueror had expelled the dwellers of the New Forest. These were the pagans, for that is what the word pagan originally meant.

\Pagan\ (p[=a]”gan), n. [L. paganus a countrymanpeasant, villager, a pagan, fr. paganus of or pertaining to the country, rustic, also, pagan, fr. pagus a districtcanton, the country, perh. orig., a district with fixed boundaries: cf. pangere to fasten. Cf. {Painim}, {Peasant}, and {Pact}, also {Heathen}.] Source

Pagans were thus the dwellers in the forest/countryside, whose old religions were at odds with, and ruthlessly suppressed by, monotheistic religions like Christianity and Islam, the hegemonies of which led to the longstanding pejorative connotations of the term.

The legend says that on the night of August 1, Rufus dreamt of his blood reaching to heaven, darkening the sky. The same night, an English monk dreamt that King William Rufus entered a church and picked up a crucifix; he gnawed at Christ’s arm, then the figure kicked him, making him fall backwards, and smoke and flames came out of his mouth. Rufus heard about this dream but dismissed it. The a third dream occurred, and on August 2 a messenger brought Rufus a letter from Abbot Serlo in Gloucester, saying a parishioner had dreamt on the same night of a virgin (the Church) pleading at the feet of Christ to be freed from her oppressor (Rufus), and Jesus had assured her he would. William, who had many enemies, for he was known as an oppressor of England, taxing the people heavily, took no heed of all these prescient warnings.

It’s possible that William the Red was killed by his younger brother who was with him on that hunting trip and was crowned King Henry I almost immediately. Tradition has it that William’s bleeding body was taken by a charcoal burner named Purkiss, to Winchester Palace, and for his kindness he was rewarded with an acre or two of land. (It is interesting to note that a charcoal-burning family named Purkiss still lived on the same land at least as late as the 1880s.)

Sacrificial kingship

It’s widely believed amongst neo-Pagans that William and other kings who died violent deaths on or near Celtic cross-quarter days, such as this one, were actually victims of sacrificial  kingship. This ritual of pre-Christian times in Europe was related to giving thanks to the sun for a good harvest. Such sacrifice was also practised in ancient Greece, and the Celts might have acquired the practice from there.

Lughnasadh would be the time for the king to reaffirm his sacred ‘marriage’ to the prosperity of the kingdom. One notes that both the murder of King Olaf of Norway, and his feast day, are close to Lammastide (July 29); sacrificial kingship is also known in other parts of Europe. Also, apparently it is known in Africa: Walby, Celestin, ‘The African Sacrificial Kingship Ritual and Johnson’s Middle Passage’, African American Review 29.4 (1995): 657-669. It has strong connections with the self-sacrifice of Odin in Norse mythology, and to the Christian myth of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

William Rufus might have been the last pagan sacrifice of a king, and his death disguised for the Christian authorities as a hunting accident. Some of the clergy, by the way, hated Rufus and saw his death as divine judgment, while some contemporary accounts said he was accidentally shot by his friend William Tirel.

Harvest, death and rebirth

Despite its marital associations, Lughnasadh was also a mourning feast. A long tradition of a symbolic funeral procession during Lammas continues today in Lancashire, England’s Wakes Week, and long wake processions such as one across the Yorkshire moors, called the Lyke Wakes Walk.

To this day, young men carry an empty coffin about 60 km (about 40 miles) along an ancient track. We must bear in mind that while Lughnasadh is Lugh’s marriage, when the sun is called upon to allow a successful harvest from the feminine earth, it is also Lugh’s wake, for he is the Sun-King, whose light begins to pale after the Summer Solstice.

Lughnasadh, too, recalls the theme of death, because, as the first of the three harvest Sabbats, (Lughnasadh, Mabon and Samhain), ancient people celebrated the ripening grains and corn, which must be mowed (killed) for ‘rebirth’ to begin. The Greek story of Demeter and Persephone, likewise, is a story about the cycle of death and rebirth associated with grain. Here is where the theme of the sacrificed god motif is so central, Lugh’s death being essential for rebirth of the land to take place.

Lugh’s death is a sacrifice that will occur again with the new growth in the spring, and must be repeated each year. Thus it was that pagan kings sometimes had a duty to sacrifice themselves for the land, although we do not fully know to what extent human or animal sacrifice occurred in pagan cultures. All we know is that in those times, kings did at times allowed themselves to be sacrificed at the end of the year, whereupon a new king could be appointed and the cycle could begin anew.

Waverly Fitzgerald* has an excellent article at School of the Seasons, called Celebrating Lammas, so why not pay her a visit? She writes,

“Lammas is a festival of regrets and farewells, of harvest and preserves. Reflect on these topics alone in the privacy of your journal or share them with others around a fire. Lughnasad is one of the great Celtic fire-festivals, so if at all possible, have your feast around a bonfire. While you’re sitting around the fire, you might want to tell stories.”

As a final word on this ancient calendar custom, I add that ‘At latter Lammas’ is an old English expression meaning ‘never’. And never shall we see the likes of earlier Lammas.

Some Lammas snippets

“It was once customary in England, in contravention of the proverb, that a cat in mittens catches no mice, to give money to servants on Lammas-day, to buy gloves; hence the term ‘Glove-Silver’. It is mentioned among the ancient customs of the abbey of St Edmund’s, in which the clerk of the cellarer had 2d; the cellarer’s squire, 11d; the granger, 11d; and the cowherd a penny. Anciently, too, it was customary for every family to give annually to the pope on this day, one penny, which was called Denarius Sancti Petri, or Peter’s Penny.”
Hampson’s Medii Aevi Kalendarium

 ‘Prodigies’ and omens at William’s Death

The Biddenden Maids were conjoined twins who were born in Biddenden, Kent, in 1100. In the popular imagination of the time, the death of King William was associated with the Maids and other ‘anomalous’ occurrences.

“It may be urged that the date fixed for the birth of the Biddenden Maids is so remote as to throw grave doubt upon the reality of the occurrence. The year 1100 was, it will be remembered, that in which William Rufus was found dead in the New Forest, (with the arrow either of a hunter or an assassin in his breast.’ According to the Anglo-saxon Chronicle, several ‘prodigies’ preceded the death of this profligate and extravagant monarch. Thus it is recorded that ‘at Pentecost blood was observed gushing from the earth at a certain town of Berkshire, even as many asserted who declared that they had seen it. And after this, on the morning after Lammas Day, King William was shot.’ Now, it is just possible that the birth of the Biddenden Maids may have occurred later, but have been antedated by the popular tradition to the year above mentioned. For such a birth would, in the opinion of the times, be regarded undoubtedly as a most evident prodigy or omen of evil. Still, even admitting that the date 1100 must be allowed to stand, its remoteness from the present time is not a convincing argument against a belief in the real occurrence of the phenomenon; for of the dicephlic Scottish brothers, who lived in 1490, we have credible historic evidence. Further, Lycosthenes, in his ‘Chronicon Prodigiorom atque Ostentorum’, published in 1557, states, upon what authority I know not, that in the year 1112 joined twins resembling the Biddenden phenomenon in all points save in sex were born in England.”

Corn dollies, by the Weather Doctor

In many agrarian communities, the last harvested sheaf of grain was treated with special honour, for the farmers believed that with the cutting of the last sheaf, the corn spirit retreated into the soil. There in its underground refuge, the corn spirit slept throughout the Winter until Spring. In the Spring that last sheaf was returned to the fields when new seed was being sown, so that its spirit would awaken both seed and land.

One traditional Lammas custom was the construction of the kern-baby, corn dolly, or corn maiden. This figure, braided into a woman’s form from the last harvested sheaf of grain, represented the Harvest Spirit. (In America, the tradition is continued in the making of corn husk dolls.) The doll would be saved until Spring, when it was ploughed into the field to consecrate the new planting and insure a good harvest. In other traditions, the corn dolly was fed and watered throughout the Winter, then burned in the fires at Beltane to insure a continuation of good growth.
Keith C Heidorn, PhD, The Weather Doctor

Lothian, Scotland

Before Lammas, Lothian cow-boys, (as ‘cowboys’ used to be spelt in Britain) used to build a tower of stones and sods in a conspicuous place. On Lammas morning they assembled there, bearing flags and blowing cow horns. They breakfasted on bread and cheese, then had a procession and foot races. Each group would try to demolish the tower of a neighbouring group and sometimes bloody fights would ensue.

Ladybird prognostication   

Folklorist Charles Kightly (Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson, 1987) says that Lammas is a time at which spirits walk abroad, and hence a good time to divine the future.

He says that to learn the whereabouts of your lover’s home, take a ladybird and address her thus before releasing her:

Lady, Lady, Lanners [Lammas? – PW]
Tak your cloak about your heid
And fly away to Flanders
Fly ower moor and fly ower mead
Fly ower living, fly ower dead
Fly ye east or fly ye west
Fly to her that loves me best.

Manx Holy Wells at Lammas

On the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, where they speak the language known as Manx, Lammas is called “Lal Lhuanys”, and this great festivals of the Druids is still observed. The first Sunday in August was called “Yn chied doonaght a ouyr” by the Manx peasantry who would climb the highest hills in the country on that day, as well as visiting the various sacred healing wells. The most famous of these today is the Well of St Maughold, which was first described in the 7th Century in the Book of Armagh. The water of this well has always been honoured for its health-giving properties, and on Lammas Day, islanders come to drink its sanative waters. The Manx bishop is said to have blessed St Maughold’s Well so that it will give fertility if one drinks from it while seated in the ‘Saint’s Chair’.

To quote the Book of Armagh:

And in the cemetery of its church is a sarcophagus of hollow stone, out of which a spring continually exudes, nay, freely floweth, which is sweet to the palate, wholesome to the taste, and healeth divers infirmities, and the deadliness of poison; for whoso drinketh thereof, either receiveth instant health or instantly dieth. In that stone the bones of St. Machaldus are said to rest, yet nothing is found therein save the clear water only; and though many have often times endeavoured to remove the stone, and especially the King of the Norici (of Norway ?), who subdued the island, that he might at all times have sweet water, yet have they all failed in their attempts; for the deeper they dug to raise the stone, so much the more deeply and firmly did they find it fixed in the heart of the earth.

The goddess Habondia

Many neo-Pagans give praise at Lammastide to Habondia, the generous one, the Goddess of the Harvest, for the abundance and prosperity that she brings. At Lammas she is seen in her pregnant and birthing aspects as she ripens and swells with the life that she now brings forth, and the earth reflects this growing fruitfulness. The Great Mother is seen as having moved through the seasons from the promise of new life in February (Imbolc) to the fulfilment of that promise with the harvest beginning in August.

The Games of Lugh

This is an old Celtic name for the Perseids, the most familiar of all meteor showers, that take place at around this time of year. Associated with the Swift-Tuttle Comet, the Perseids have been well documented since at least 830 CE and take their name from the constellation Perseus where shooting stars appear. We can well imagine ancient Celts looking upon these wonders and associating them with other phenomena of the season between the equinox and solstice, including the heat of the last of the Dog Days. They attributed the celestial display of Perseid lights to games being played by their sun god, Lugh, ‘the shining one’.

As is well known, most ancient cultures looked on meteor showers and other phenomena in the sky as having supernatural meaning. In pre-Zoroastrian India, the Perseids were the Pairikas, the prototypes of the Peris, the nymphs or female angels of later Persian tradition, and likewise the Parigs or witches of Manichaeism. The Pairikas, in the form of worm-stars, are said to fly between the earth and the heavens at this time. These ‘shooting stars’ fall annually at about the time when Tistrya (Sirius) is supposed to be most active.

The remarkable annual appearance of the Perseids might explain why the ancient Egyptian Lychnapsia (‘Festival of Lights’, or ‘The Lights of Isis’) at this time of year was revered in the Osirian mysteries. In Arab folklore, shooting stars are traditionally said to be firebrands hurled by the angels against the inquisitive Jinns or Genii, who are forever clambering up on the constellations to peep into heaven.

In Greek mythology, Perseus (pictured) was the son of mortal Danae and the god Zeus.

More on the mythology and folklore of Perseus and the Perseids on August 10 in the Book of Days.

Loch-mo-Naire pilgrimage

An ancient healing waters custom from Scotland that was practised annually on August 4, leading one to postulate that it was a Lammas commemoration. Its rites contain actions that remind one not only of Celtic practices, but also the Christian sacrament of baptism.

Loch-mo-Naire, a lake in Strathnavon, Sutherlandshire, famous for its supposed miraculous healing qualities, was a site of pilgrimage for the lame, sick, impotent, and mentally ill. At midnight, these faithful unfortunates would gather on the shore of the loch to drink from its sanative waters, strip naked, and walk backwards into the loch. After immersing themselves three times, they would throw offerings of silver coins into the depths.

An old tradition informs us how the loch obtained its wondrous qualities and its name. Long, long ago, an old woman had somehow come to own some bright crystals, which, when placed in water, had miraculous powers of rendering the liquid an infallible cure for all “the ills to which flesh is heir”. As the fame of these wonder-working pebbles soon spread far and wide, it soon attracted the greed of a member of the neighbouring Gordon clan, who made up his mind to secure the miraculous crystals for the Gordons’ exclusive use.

To this end, Gordon feigned sickness, but the moment he presented himself to the crone, she divined his intention and fled. Escape, however, was impossible, because she was old and her pursuer had youth and swiftness on his side. Yet rather than surrender her charm-stones she threw them into the first lake to which she came, exclaiming, as she did, “Mo naire!”, meaning, “shame!” She then prophesied that the waters of Loch-mo-Naire would heal all who dipped in them or drank of them, except for those who belonged to the accursed Gordon tribe. (No offence intended if you’re a Gordon!)

Writing in 1897, William S Walsh (Curiosities of Popular Customs and of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities, JB Lippincott Company) tells us that the tale of the crone is evidently very much more recent than the superstition connected with the lake’s healing charms. Loch-mo-Naire does not, in fact, mean ‘the loch of shame’, but ‘the serpent’s loch’, the word for serpent, nathair, being pronounced exactly in the same way was naire meaning ‘shame’. Walsh writes, “This manifestly points to the great archaeological fact that almost everywhere the serpent is represented as the guardian of waters supposed to possess curative virtues. It is also the recognized emblem of Aesculapius, the god of the healing art, who himself sometimes appeared in the form of a serpent.”

A WWW source local to Loch-mo-Naire asserts that the loch’s name derives from that of an ancient Celtic goddess and that the immersion rites continued there until the First World War.


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