Lugnasad, or Lammas, is the cross-quarter holyday in early August which celebrates the first harvest of the grain. The first harvest is always the greatest, and grain is important to us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I held a Peace Feast at my home a few years ago, and invited sisters to join me in focusing on Peace. I invited everyone to bring something that represented Peace to add to the altar. One friend brought grains of rice; she said if everyone were fed there would be peace. How simple, and how true. Conflict has always broken out been between the have’s and the have not’s.
The collecting of grains and the making of bread to share with family and community has long been an important seasonal ritual. The age-old myth of Persephone’s return accounted for the reflection of Demeter’s joy in the fertility and bounty of the Earth. Bread has been an important character in our stories, whether the unleavened bread of Passover or the sacred bread of Communion to more mundane rituals of sharing abundance and breaking bread together.
Grain took on a whole new dimension to me two years ago when I visited crop circles in English barley fields. I’d never been in a field of grain – other than corn – and as I walked the tramlines through the acres and acres of barley plants, I truly understood the term “the staff of life”. The barley was alive – like the ocean – responsive to the wind, the sun, the clouds. I recalled the scene from The Gladiator symbolizing his passage to paradise as I brushed my hands along the tickling tips of the barley plants. I heard Eva Cassidy’s version of Fields of Gold in my head. I deeply felt the joy that the plants had in growing towards the sky. As they brushed against each other, it was as if in applause of their being.
I could feel the energy of the grain that was bent (not broken) to the earth in magical patterns as I walked in the crop circles. Crop circles are mysterious occurrences, and I know that the Circle Makers mean only to give us wisdom, healing, and peace with their exquisite sacred geometric art. During the growing season, the grain rises to stand straight and be harvested with the rest of the field. The following year, however, there may be a “shadow circle” created by the seeds that were shaken off the heads of the grain by those walking the circle.
I’d never eaten barley before that visit. Now I cook with it to celebrate any ritual of gratitude for the abundance with which we are gifted. Barley soup, barley casserole. I even use raw barley in some of my art. The crop circles affected every aspect of my being.
While Lammas is the holyday that celebrates the harvest of the seeds we have planted, I also like to use this time to consider what seeds I want to plant now. These are seeds of actions to come based on dreams and hopes.
(These are photos I took while in the crop circle shown (the bottom one shows the circle's proximity to Silbury Hill, an ancient sacred site) in the summer of 2008.)