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- the harvest festival

1/2 August = Northern hemisphere
1/2 Febuary = Southern hemisphere

Lughnasadh falls between the summer solstice, when the Sun's strength is greatest, and the autumn equinox, when daylight and darkness are of equal length. It celebrates the cereal harvest and its alternative name, Lammas, is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon 'Hlaef-mass' meaning "loaf mass". The title 'Lughnasadh', however, derives from the name of the irish God Lugh whom contemporary pagans honour as a Sun deity, and this harvest festival marks the gathering in of the grains ripened by his or her rays.
For our ancient ancestors, the cycle of cereal crops represented something altogether more mysterious; the growth, fall and rebirth of the grain reflected the human cycle of birth, death and continuation. Carvings representing corn can be found in ancient burial sites, indicating its spiritual as well as its material significance. The spirit of the corn had to be propitiated and tempted back to the fields and it is known from documented customs of more recent centuries that a couple would make love in a field shorn of corn in order to enact the regeneration of the crops.
The mysterious but potent corn spirit was lured into and captured by the woven corn dollies that feature at this festival, also known as 'spirit cages'. This is the time of 'John Barleycorn', the caring father aspect of the god who was wedded to the pregnant Goddess in May, and is now cut down as the harvest, to feed the people. Some witches see the harvest as a gift from the Mother Goddess, who shares her body to nourish her children.
Again we see one of the contradictions innate within the festivals; the time of plenty and celebration is also the time of cutting down and sacrifice. Lammas fairs still exist in parts of England, remnants of a time when the cereal harvest was greeted with great jubilation.
It is hard for city-dwellers, who have the privilege of the year-round availability of nutritious food, to understand the importance of the harvest to people for whom the staple stock from last year may have run out many weeks before. At Lammas, the time of gathering in the blessings we reap from the planting, we are reminded also of the importance of its distribution. Consequently, some witches combine their enjoyment of feasting and celebrating this time of plenty with a commitment to 'giving back' either through money or charitable or political work, to ensure a fair harvest for all.

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