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Lughnasadh/Lammas

Happy Leo season, witches! I thought we’d never make it! That last week of Cancer season had me very nervous, there were a lot of big emotions. But here we are in Leo season, it’s a New Moon tonight and it’s all good. Today we are going to spend some time talking about Lughnasadh, or Lammas, which is the first of the three pagan harvest festivals, and which takes place this Monday.

But first, let’s start this episode with an email:

Hey, Eli, it blessed me so much when you called us a little coven in a recent podcast. It can be a lonely path for solitaries, esp in bible belt areas. When disassociating myself from the long term bondage that had been my prior religious practice for 35+ years, it took me a minute to realize some of my spiritual-awakening depression stemmed from the loss of all my old daily ‘rituals’ (yes, you know that’s what they are), and I had nothing to fill that void. I had to create my daily practice. It was not an instant epiphany to me that as a christian, I was L-A-Z-Y! I knew I needed something practical with worshippy vibes but not pushy. And truly the Goddess provided. I suspect there are multiplied multitudes of ‘me’s’ out there dealing with the same feelings of loss and loneliness. In the spirit of sisterhood, here is a little set of small devotional type books that I try to read from several times a week. Not expensive, and I do always try to buy used copies.

If I had to choose just one to keep, it would be Practicing the Presence of the Goddess. Title will be deja vu to many, but trust me, it is so meaty, I haven’t even finished it and I’m already rereading parts of it. I will be WRITING in this copy so it can pass down to my future generations with my notes, that’s how good it is (also writing in my copy of 9 Ways to Charm a Dryad). I think I’ll go ahead and bless it and dedicate it to that end, also. Very very practical, very down to earth, very Goddess-centric, which vibes perfectly with my own practice. Not a wicca manual, and not following any particular dogma. Kinda antinomian in some mild aspects. 5 stars, highly recommend. -Rose

So Rose actually sent a picture of all the books she’s recommending, and the titles are: Practicing the Presence of the Goddess by Barbara Ardinger, 9 Ways to Charm a Dryad by Penny Billinger, 420 Meditations by Connor Kerri, How to Be More Tree by Potter Gift, and the Daily Spell Journal by Patti Wigington. And I will list all of these books in the show notes for the several of us who are definitely going to be interested. In fact, I already ordered two of the books she recommended, even though I have a deal with myself that I’m only allowed to buy one book at a time. But I got around this rule by convincing myself that one of them is a journal and therefore can’t be read all at once like a regular book, so it didn’t count. I found my own argument compelling, and therefore allowed myself to get them both.

And Rose is also correct that there are a lot of us out here who did and still do feel that lack of community, the lack of ritual, of daily practice that organized religion used to provide. And this is one of the reasons that I am working to create an online community for us all, as witches, as a coven of like-minded hell raisers who want to share book recommendations, and talk about our practices and swap stories and spells and infused oil recipes. There will be an announcement forthcoming with more information about what we’ve got planned, but it’s still incubating for the time being. It won’t be long though.

And one more question before we start our discussion about Lughnasadh:

Hey Eli! My question is similar to a witch who wrote in recently, however I feel the need to ask your advice anyway. I work in a small medical office with several people who really connect & enjoy working together. A year ago, our provider decided to leave the current “for profit” health care system we worked under and move whomever wished to go with him to a different “non-profit” health care system and start a new practice. Of course, we all went. We were moved into an older building that we had to basically start from scratch. We’ve been here a year now and I can’t begin to express the significant amount of issues we’ve had since beginning this practice.

My coworkers and I have joked from the very beginning that the building or the land was cursed. None of us have experienced anything paranormal per se, but we have had power outages, phone and internet issues- pretty much anything that can go wrong with the technology in our building including all of our office equipment – has gone wrong. For a little while, we were having patients pass away frequently after having their first appointment in the new building, our boss lost her mother and a few other people had misfortunes occur as well shortly after the practice opened. Call it coincidence, but I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a connection between the two. I still feel with all of my heart that something either doesn’t want us there, the land is cursed or we have personally been hexed in some way or another.

Since it’s a medical office it’s limiting as far as cleansing practices and the majority of the staff are pretty hardcore Christian, so I’m not sure what to do and how to go about cleansing the space. We’re adding a new provider next month along with making other changes to the practice, so I want to see us grow and flourish but everyone has been so bogged down with the constant discouraging obstacles, the morale has plummeted. I know that’s a lot of info, but any advice you could give me would be so welcomed. Thank you

Oh dear. Where to begin?! Well it definitely seems like this is more than just a run of bad luck. Tech and equipment issues are one thing, but for people to be falling ill and dying is another issue entirely, especially when a witch is saying she feels like something in that building wants them out. This feels like an angry, vengeful spirit or spirits to me. So I just threw a whole bunch of ideas out there so that she could just take what might work and leave the rest.

So smoke cleansing is off the table, unless she thinks she could use frankincense and myrrh (either incense or the actual resins). Christians tend to look a little more favorably on those, as they were birthday gifts for the baby Jesus. But even if that’s asking too much from her coworkers, maybe a spray would be possible. I would still include powdered frankincense and/or myrrh, and also garlic, basil, mugwort, rosemary, pepper, nettle, salt, and witch hazel. And this next suggestion was a little weird, but it is a very good idea, when you’re dealing with especially nasty entities, to add a small amount of your own urine to the mixture. Doesn’t need to be a lot, but it is incredibly effective for establishing your own dominance in a space, but that’s a call she will have to make on her own. Make a good strong tea with all your ingredients (and I’d make and use New Moon water for this; the next New Moon is well, tonight), and pour it into a spray bottle.

And she’s gotta spray the hell out of every nook and cranny from the back of the top floor to the front of the bottom floor, room to room, stairwells and closets, all the way out to the main front entrance of the building. As you spray each room from the back to the front, sprinkle some powdered eggshells (cascarilla) on the TOP of any window ledges and door frames. I find that this is less likely to be disturbed than if you just sprinkle it in the windowsills or along the floor, and it’s helpful for making sure nothing finds its way back in.

Another possibility is to enlist some houseplants in the fight. Office plants are very common, don’t arouse suspicion amongst the Muggles, and can be really good watchdogs. Have a conversation with any plants in the building, and ask them to be on the lookout for negative spirits or energies. And her part of the agreement will be to give them some form of regular payment (water doesn’t count, it needs to be special, like a quality fertilizer every month). Make sure to take care of them properly so that they can do their part. Plants are a great ‘canary in a coal mine’ as well.

And this is good witchcraft info in general, if you’re doing everything to properly care for your plants and they’re in the correct conditions, but they seem to be struggling or they just start mysteriously dying, it can mean that you’ve got a nasty spirit in the building and you need to take care of the protective spiritual hygiene. Another great thing about plants is that you can bury protective stones in the soil. Obsidian is a good one. A small chunk of obsidian for protection, along with a bit of quartz to amplify it, will help.

Creating and laying sigils is another way to discourage reinfestation of the building. Spend some time creating a good strong sigil, charge it, and draw it around the building wherever you discreetly can. You may use florida water or your homemade spray for this and just use your fingertip to draw it on windows, exterior walls, and doors. Draw it on the ground across the threshold of any exterior doors. You can draw this sigil with chalk onto the back of any hanging art in the building or on the bottom of any decorative statuary, and even under doormats.

Lastly, depending on the cleaning schedule of the building, you can discreetly sprinkle some protection floor sweep powder in each of the rooms that will be vacuumed or mopped on the day that the cleaners are scheduled to come. A little goes a long way, and you don’t want it to be obvious, but a monthly sprinkling of protection powder that is quickly vacuumed away will also help to maintain the protective standards of the building. A good blend of protective herbs such as High John root, comfrey, basil, thyme, yarrow, black cohosh, blessed thistle, and pepper ground into a fine powder and kept in a spice bottle for easy and discreet sprinkling is also helpful. You can buy powders like this if you’d prefer, but you can easily grind your own.

And that’s something to keep in mind for all of us. As witches, we spend a lot of time communing with the universe and with folks who have crossed over, some of us are in touch with deities, spirit guides, ancestors, we exude and we command a great deal of energy, and all this activity will attract all kinds of entities. So it’s important, even if your home isn’t haunted by the damned and your clients aren’t dying, to maintain good spiritual hygiene. So having a good protective, cleansing, floor sweep powder or wash on hand and ready to go whenever you need it is an excellent practice to keep.

So thank you so much for that question, and as always, if there’s something on your mind, please message me on socials at @middleagedwitch, or email me at eli@middleagedwitch.com. And now we get to talk about Lughnasadh!

As I mentioned at the top, Lughnasadh, which is the grain harvest, is the first of the pagan harvest festivals, the next two being Mabon, or the autumn equinox which is the fruit harvest, and closing out the harvest season is Samhain which is the cattle harvest. The term Lammas is more widely used in Wicca and neo-paan circles, but I just generally prefer to use the Irish name of the festival, Lughnasadh. So they’re basically interchangeable as terms, but they’re referring to the same sabbat. Lughnasadh is named for the Irish god Lugh, who was associated with sorcery, history, poets, and carpenters.

According to legend, Lugh began the festival as a funerary feast and athletic competition in honor of his mother, who was said to have died of exhaustion after clearing the Irish plains to allow for agriculture. Historic writings tell us that folks from all over Ireland would meet at what is now County Meath to participate in the festivities. Kings would agree to a truce, disagreements were paused for the duration of the games, and sporting contests such as horse racing were intermingled with markets, music, storytelling, feasts, the settling of legal disputes and matchmaking.

Of this matchmaking, we know that trial marriages were frequently entered into during this festival. These marriages lasted one year and one day, after which the marriages could either be made permanent, or dissolved with no further consequences. In 1962, a book called The Festival of Lughnasa by folklorist Máire MacNeill was published. Ms. MacNeill summed up the festival as follows:

“A solemn cutting of the first of the corn of which an offering would be made to the deity by bringing it up to a high place and burying it; a meal of the new food and of bilberries of which everyone must partake; a sacrifice of a sacred bull, a feast of its flesh, with some ceremony involving its hide, and its replacement by a young bull; a ritual dance-play perhaps telling of a struggle for a goddess and a ritual fight; an installation of a [carved stone] head on top of the hill and a triumphing over it by an actor impersonating Lugh; another play representing the confinement by Lugh of the monster blight or famine; a three-day celebration presided over by the brilliant young god [Lugh] or his human representative. Finally, a ceremony indicating that the interregnum was over, and the chief god in his right place again.”

As Lughnasadh is the grain festival, traditionally it was marked by the baking of breads, cakes, and the making of corn dollies, and these are among the traditions that are still observed to this day. Decorating the altar in observance of this festival can be done with the addition of apples, birch or holly branches, or stalks of grain. Candles of yellow and gold are an excellent addition, as well as offerings of beer or ale and cakes or bread. Obsidian, sapphire and topaz are stones associated with the sabbat and therefore would be right at home on a Lughnasadh altar.

If your town doesn’t have a Lughnasadh festival, as mine certainly doesn’t, we can still observe the spirit of the sabbat by visiting farmer’s markets and enjoying the bounty of local harvests, or we may attend a beer festival or music festival. We can’t faithfully recreate all the traditions of the distant past, but we can certainly find echoes of them in our own local communities and we can figure out how to blend them into our celebrations. And as the summer harvest gives way to autumn, we can continue to find events and activities in our own towns, or at least relatively nearby, that we can choose to observe and participate in as a tribute to this underrecognized sabbat. It isn’t as widely celebrated as some of the other days on the wheel of the year, but it does mark the season so beautifully.

I think we will spend this weekend making jam, grilling, and harvesting from the garden, and spending time with family while we do our damnedest to stay cool, and I think that is a fair homage to Lughnasadh. And I’d love to know how you’re going to be observing this sabbat. So as always, please send pictures of your Lughnasadh celebrations, and enjoy the last days of summer before they slip away into fall. Have a lovely sabbat, and we’ll talk next week. My name is Eli Ro, and this is the Middle-Aged Witch podcast.

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