Lammas is one of the 8 agricultural festivals celebrated by modern pagans – in the UK, Europe, America and other countries where pagan practices are observed (and growing).
What’s Lammas? Agriculturally? Magically? What does it mean for the non-pagans.. and for the world at large? These are questions I have asked myself – for being a pagan doesn’t mean socialising and caring for other pagans, but for the whole world- Paganism is all about nature worships, and nature in my book includes all on Earth!
Here’s what I wrote about Lammas in my Witchcraft and Magic website for the festival section:
“All that rise shall fall again.. says the popular pagan poetry! The newborn Sun-child of Yule has grown to be a rampant and playful youth and lover at Spring, committed man and husband at Beltane and responsible Sun-King at Midsummer. And at the time of Lammas, at the height of his supreme power, the King steps down- or rather gives up his life force to the land! This is harvest time in the fields, where Corn and other such grain are harvested. John Barleycorn is `baked’ and sacrificed. In God mythology, the God willingly gives himself up and the Goddess cuts him down, so that his blood may feed the land. Though it may sound alarmingly gruesome, this is to be seen in terms of symbolism, and not actual! The spilling of his blood is in fact the falling of the grains and seeds to the ground, that they may produce next year’s crops! Just as the fallen seed sleeps safely within the soil, till winter passes and next spring, so the spirit of the Lammas-King enters the underworld.”
So effectively, Pagans celebrate the first Harvest of the crops (agricultural).. harvest of the Corn and wheat! And traditionally, the first cut of the corns is kept, woven into a Corn-dolly and kept in the house as a symbol, and at the start of the following year’s farming preparations, it is ploughed back into the fields. Thus the energy is returned to the farmland/ field.
In magical rituals, traditionally, one person takes on the role of the `Corn-King’ , and is invoked with those energies, revered, celebrated, and at the culmination of magical ceremony amidst songs and dance- symbolically cut down as a Willing Sacrifice. No, not in the style of some hollywood horror movie. But a designated Priestess (representing the Earth) passes a sickle or knife across the neck (symbolic!!) and the `Corn-King’ falls gently to the ground (in a dramatic way!) He is then covered up by a cloth, and all dance around and `mourn’ the passing of the Corn-King, and his willing sacrifice. Towards the end of the ritual, he is `resurrected’ (pagans don’t like to leave an enacting person `dead’ !) This is ritual drama – that is all. Cutting off the head, releases the energy of the Corn king, which is needed to replenish the land once more!
But many years ago, I was having a dialogue with the late Maureen Brown (High Priestess) on these matters, and she discussed the idea of `Every man giving (not giving up, but giving) his life-forces – the ability to create life. Yes we are talking about the sperms! There are impulses within all biological beings to procreate. But there are also primal instincts of self-preservation. To procreate one must choose to let go of some of those self-preservation instincts – because the Offspring born will eventually grow and rise, to challenge his/her father (parental figure). The next generation can not truly be free until the previous one lets go. The great Oak must fall, so that the acorn in it’s shadow can see new light and grow. The genetic material goes on (in the Offspring), but not the biological entity (father).
So for a man, the sacrifice is the letting go of his life-force, in favour of his off-spring. The `corn’ must be cut down, so that its seeds can fall to the ground and crate he next generation of crops. The corn holds the mystery. And a man must let go of his seeds, so that they may create the offspring. This is the deeper male mystery that many have become oblivious to! It has been known that in private & personal magical Lammas rituals, some Male priests have symbolically `offered’ their owns seeds to the Earth. As we all know, magic can be done with all sorts of body fluids – blood, sweat, urine, and of course sperms!
KINGS & DICTATORS – a special case
On a communal, world front, the Lammas principle is all about someone who has been in power – and serving the land and people- stepping down willingly his or her time has come!) – so that another one who has proved him/her self may take the place of the Ruler!
There is such a thing as holding on to power for it’s own sake – something Dictators are well known for doing! They do not step down – for whatever reason, and te land and it’s people suffer under such dictatorial rules. So unless old age, illness or some accident removes those dictators from power – naturally – it is left up to the People ..and rebellions to rise, and over-throw the Dictator! (In democratic places, this would be some sort of referendum, public poles, elections etc, and in non-democratic countries, this often is outright civil unrest, rebellions, even warped rebellion which is terrorism of groups fighting against tyranny of their own government or rulership! Here the Robin_hood principle comes into play!)
There are some special cases of people in power – even the `good ones’- holding on to their reign for so long. One must wonder if it is because of fear of their successor not doing a good job, or if it is pure ego. One example of this that I can see is the Royalty in England at the moment!!
The reluctant King who does not step down – is not limited to royalty, but to other politicians, presidents, military leaders, Board of Directors in Companies, Media bosses…and even community leaders! Anyone who stays past their time in a position of power and authority of serving or ruling is simply.. tempting the natural order to step in.. and Lammas principle to enter their lives. And it will happen, sooner or later! (This will happen to all of us, in our own realms and communities, in whatever power and positions we each hold. That must not be forgotten. And yes, I am aware of it. It is why I tend to step down from certain things when I feel my time has come.. and I start to do that quite a few months before Lammas! That is my way of working this energy! )
So every time pagans re-enact a Lammas ritual, the cutting down of the Corn King- we are in fact enforcing and strengthening this magical principle – for I have realised, that is how we the people of the land rule and govern our Kings and Dictators – by magic!
In Magic, we trust!