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Lammas – The Unique 1st Harvest Festival

Hi, my loves and welcome to WiccaNow. Recently I’ve been sharing some of my favourite magickal herbs and plants with you, like this post about the magickal properties of yarrow and another post about patchouli. I want to diverge from this path today and talk about one of the 8 Sabbats of the year, namely Lammas. 

I’ve written previously about some of the other Sabbats including this post about Ostara, another about Samhain and also one about Imbolc. Amythest has also previously written about the wheel of the year so check that out for an overview of all 8 Sabbats. 

wheel of the year including lammas

The Harvest Festival of Lammas

Lammas, also known as Lughnasadh, is the first harvest festival of the season and is one of the 4 “greater Sabbats” in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. It is a fire festival which takes place on or around the 1st of August in the Northern Hemisphere and around the 1st of February in the Southern Hemisphere. For those who worship him, it is the festival of the god Lugh, and for those who don’t, it’s a celebration of the coming of Autumn and a way to give thanks for the bounties of the earth. 

Date: 1st August (Northern Hemisphere) or 1st February (Southern Hemisphere)

Significance: Beginning of the Harvest Season and the end of Summer

Celebrations: Athletic festivals and games, Handfastings, Lammas Feasts, Fairs and Fetes, offerings of grains and fruits.

Lammas often takes place during the hottest part of the year. The nights are still long but are starting to noticeably shorten on their march towards Autumn and Winter. Summer is reaching a peak and signs of autumn are just starting to appear. The first grains are ripe for harvest and many fruit trees are overloaded with ripe produce.

heavily laden apple orchard with barrels of picked apple and a ladder
This is the sort of abundance that Lammas is celebrating.

Lammas is also a Christian festival where the first grain harvest is used to bake bread which is then taken to a church and laid onto the altar so that it can be blessed. I find it so interesting that Christianity has a lot of celebrations that aren’t that dissimilar to celebrations within Wicca and Neopaganism. I think a lot of these cross-overs occurred when the church was trying to convert people and realised that instead of taking all the traditions that people enjoyed away from them, they should essentially just “re-brand” those same holidays to make them Christian celebrations. 

Lammas is a time to give thanks for the abundance that the year has brought and to take note of the way that our intentions have manifested so far throughout the year. Many people choose to perform handfasting ceremonies at this festival (as well as during Beltane) as it’s thought that this will secure an abundance of love in the union and a happy life together. 

Folklore around Lammas

There are a few legends associated with Lammas. Most of them concern gods and goddesses and their relationships with each other and the natural world. Grain and produce was such an important part of life that it was inherently linked with life and death. Many of these legends and folk tales include grief or death and reference the fact that a lack of love will ultimately lead to the loss of crops as everything withers and dies due to neglect only to be reborn when love is restored.

One tales tells the story of the Sumerian god Tammus and his lover Ishtar. Tammuz was murdered and Ishtars grief for him caused all plants on the earth to stop growing. Ishtar went to the underworld to retrieve Tammuz and on their arrival back on the earth, all the plants started producing again in celebration. This myth closely mimics the story of Demeter, Persephone and Hades.

In another Greek legend, Adonis is credited with being the God of Grain. Aphrodite and Persephone both want his love and so so prevent any fighting between the Goddesses Zeus tells Adonis to spend 6 months in the Underworld with Persephone and 6 months on the Earth with Aphrodite. This causes the grain to stop growing for 6 months of the year while Adonis is in the Underworld with Persephone and to start growing again when he spends his 6 months with Aphrodite. This cycle of life, death and rebirth is a common theme within Wicca, as shown by the Horned God and the Triple Goddess.

field of wheat with the sun setting behind it
While wheat field don’t on first glance seem like it, they really are the ultimate symbol of abundance. Think about how many people you can feed and how many different things you could make with a field of wheat…

Irish folklore tells us that it’s a sign of bad luck to have to harvest your grain before Lammas. If you were forced to harvest it earlier, it meant that your supply from the year before had been exhausted and was seen as a huge failure in your crop production and planning. 

Another myth has involved Sif, the wife of the Thunder god Thor. She has the most beautiful golden hair, however Loki decided to prank her and cut it off. Thor was extremely upset and wanted to kill Loki, but the dwarves wanted to prevent this so they spun golden hair for Sif which grew when it touched her head. The hair of Sif is now associated with the grain harvest because it was thought to be the same beautiful golden colour of her magickal hair. 

Where the name Lammas comes from

Lammas is a word which comes from an Old English phrase “hlaf-maesse” which means “loaf mass”. This comes from the earlier mentioned Christian festival where the first loaf of bread made from freshly harvested wheat is taken to church so that it can be blessed during the Lammas mass.

Why Lammas is also called Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh honours the Celtic god Lugh, who is connected to the sun. He is also the god of creativity, poetry, magick and smithcraft. Legend has it that Lugh created the festival himself to honour his foster mother Tailtiu. She was a goddess who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland so that the people had space to cultivate crops. Lugh made the festival for her and created a funeral feast and a sporting competition in her honour. It’s common for those who follow Celtic Paganism to celebrate by holding sporting competitions and games as well as grain-related celebrations. They give thanks to Tailtiu for giving her life so they could thrive.

bas-relief from 1867 of the god lugh
This is an engraving of a God often identified as Lugh. This bas-relief was found in Paris in 1867 and was first published by J.-L. Courcelle-Seneuil in 1910.

There are a lot of Ancient Celtic traditions and influences that have been carried into Wicca so both Lammas and Lughnasadh have become common names for the same festival.

How to pronounce Lughnasadh

This is an Irish word which is pronounced “LOO-nah-sah” with the emphasis on the first part of the word. This pronunciation, however, is based on modern Irish pronunciation. where the word would also be spelt Lúnasa not Lughnasadh which is the classical Irish spelling. If you were to pronounce the classical Irish word, it would be said more like “LUGH-nuh-sudh” with the “dh” being pronounced more like a “th”.

Deities Associated with Lammas

  • Adonis
  • Attis
  • Ceres
  • Demeter
  • Lugh
  • Mercury
  • Osiris
  • Parvati
  • Pamona
  • Persephone
  • Tammuz

How to Celebrate Lammas

While most of the 8 Sabbats CAN incorporate a feast or special dinner, Lammas is the one sabbat where a feast is expected as part of the celebration. Because it’s the first of the harvest festivals, it’s a time to celebrate the plenty and abundance of the world. Making a feast with all the bounty of the season is a way of showing your appreciation for everything the earth produces throughout the year. As this is a festival of plenty and abundance, having a feast is a way of saying that you aren’t worried what the winter will bring because you have enough and more to come.

At this stage in the year, the power of the Horned God is waning while the Triple Goddess is in her Mother Aspect, which is thought by many to be her most powerful aspect.  This time of year is all about the fertility of ideas and creativity; of reaping the fruits of one’s labours and enjoying the fruition of your intentions.

While celebrating with a feast, you can choose to incorporate some or all of the decorations and food laid out below. I like to make bouquets of summer flowers and set up a table full of the most delicious fresh fruit and vegetables with some of my favourite foods placed in between. I like to have beeswax candles when the sun starts to go down and plenty of crispy cold ciders and wine. If I’m somewhere that allows it, I like to light a bonfire as the evening progresses. For me, this is a festival of joy and acceptance to be shared with friends and lovers.

Lammas Decorations

  • Dried grains
  • Ears of wheat
  • Strings of popcorn
  • Freshly baked bread
  • Summer flowers
  • An abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Jars of honey
  • Beeswax candles
  • Foraged nuts
  • Preserved fruits or vegetables you’ve made or bought
  • Your favourite Lammas crystals

Lammas Associations

ColoursRed, orange, yellow, gold, green and light brown
FlowersSunflower, honeysuckle, daisy, lily, passionflower, cyclamen, nasturtium, cornflowers, poppies, dandelions
HerbsBasil, mint, hops, mugwort, raspberry leaf, aloe, comfrey, marigold, elderberry
IncenseSandlewood, frankincense, rose, rosehip, rosemary
FoodsGrains, bread, berries, nuts, corn, early pumpkins, honey and fresh fruit. Baking an apple or blackberry pie is common
DrinksElderberry wine, beer, mead, cider
CrystalsCarnelian, citrine, peridot, aventurine, sardonyx
Altar DecorationsFreshly baked bread, grapes, vines, corn dollies, sickles and scythe, freshly picked berries, nuts and fruits, sprouted wheat

So, my lovelies, I hope this guide gives you all the information that you were searching for about Lammas and Lughnasadh! May your celebration be filled with utter joy abundance.

Until next time,

Blessed be,