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The season of Lammas (also called Lughnasadh) begins on August 1st and continues until the end of September in the Northern Hemisphere (Feb 1st until the end of March in the Southern Hemisphere) marking the cross-quarter or midpoint in the Sun's progress between Midsummer (Summer Solstice) and Mabon (Autumnal Equinox).
A Time of Thanksgiving
Lammas marks the point in the growing season of many crops (particularly grains such as wheat, barley and corn) when the first harvest may take place. As a sign of gratitude for these first fruits and hope for a bounty in the remaining season, the very best of this first harvest are set aside as a sacrifice.
In ancient times, the sacrificial fruit was sometimes burned as an offering to the gods, or given to the high-priests. Today, some people celebrate Lammas by selecting produce from their own gardens, or perhaps a farmers' market and then sorting out the very best to give away to complete strangers, or to be left anonymously on the steps of family or neighbors.
To be truer to the "giving of grains" aspect of this holiday, some people choose instead to create delicious home-made breads and other baked goods to give away as gifts. In this second scenario, the giver bakes only for others until everything has been given away, leaving none for the baker who goes without (sacrifice). Once the gifts have been given (often a day or so later), the baker might make more for herself and her own family.
In order for any sacrifice to be meaningful, there are two very important steps that must be followed:
- the process must deprive us of something that we desire, so we feel a sense of "loss."
- giving must be done in such a way that there is no easy way (nor any expectation) for the receiver of our gift to compensate us for our generosity.
The simplest way of accomplishing both goals is to make donations secretly. Only the giver is aware of the sacrifice made. In this way, the giver will reap the maximum karmic benefit from the Universe - ironically for the lack of any expectations.
A Great Time For Teaching
Lammas is a wonderful opportunity to teach children the concept of "selflessness" and true charity. A discussion about somebody the child knows who is less fortunate than they are is a nice foray into giving an anonymous gift. Children often can't contain their secret for long, and often will brag to everyone about how generous they are. If this happens, be sure to gently remind them of the meaning of selflessness and tell them that feeling of bragging is now all the reward they will get. Conversely, if they are able to contain themselves, after a few days (when presumably they forgot all about it) be sure to treat them to something very nice to illustrate the way the Universe rewards us many times beyond our initial gift -- if we don't seek that reward in advance.
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Articles: Wiccan Wheel of the Year
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