(Updated/corrected since this morning)
This is the festival of the First Fruits of the Harvest and is the first festival of the Waning Year. Summer has piqued and though it was traditionally celebrated on July 31st, Lammas is the first day of Autumn. You can easily research Lammas, and it's meaning and history, so I will leave that up to the reader, respectfully.
Here in central hills of the Green Mountains, we have been waking to cooler temperatures during the past week, a welcome reprieve from the constant humidity. Yet, if you sniff the cool morning air, you can sense it is very subtly changing. With the seasonal changes, one may experience an emotional change. To me, this day signifies the fading summer. Grass will begin to appear more yellow than green and leaves on the trees, may begin to change in the same way. You may feel an urgency to indulge and to make merry before the summer season ends for the year.
If this is how you feel, that is perfect! "Lammas takes its name from the Old English "Hlaf," meaning "loaf" and "Maesse," meaning feast."
"This was one of the four great pagan festivals of Britain, the others being on the 1st November, 1st February, and 1st May. The festival of the Gule of August, as it was called, probably recognized the realization of the first-fruits of the earth, and more particularly that of the grain-harvest. When Christianity was introduced, the day continued to be observed as a festival on these grounds, and, from a loaf being the usual offering at church, the service, and consequently the day, came to be called "Hlaf-mass", subsequently shortened into Lammas, just as half-dig (bread-dispenser), applicable to the mistress of the house, came to be softened into the familiar and extensively used term, lady. This we would call the rational definition of Lammas. There is another, but in our opinion utterly inadmissible derivation, pointing to the custom of bringing a lamb on this day, as an offering to the cathedral church of York. Without doubt, this custom, which was purely local, would take its rise with reference to the term Lammas, after the true original signification of that word had been forgotten." ~ from the Chambers Book of Days (1864).
Preparing the Lammas Altar
Every altar is different - - (very personal) - - and yours should be too!
Here, green and white candles have been lit for the Goddess and God, respectfully. A pink candle burns positive vibrations for emotional love, nurturing relationships and romance. A pink candle will also promote spiritual depth, healing of the spirit, femininity, friendships, honor and morality. Pink is used in rituals to draw affections and brings friendly, lively conversation to the dinner table.
This Lammas altar was prepared with apples, seashells and pine cones. A poppet (made of sculpey clay) with a cow statue on the right (God/Male) represents the ancient bull - specifically devoted to His Goddess-Mother. "The Bull owes this association in part to the shape of its horns, in part to its connection with the Sacred Cow-Goddess, and in part to its power and virility. A single bull will produce a herd of calves, which creates prosperity for the people."
A green candle is lit, and surrounded by both seashells, symbolizing eternity, water and the Goddess. Pine cones were also used (symbolic of the Tree of Life), and as a reflection of the fall season to come.
The East: (Air): Incense, Salt
The North: (Earth): Pictured here, the offering of seasonal fruit.
The West: (Water): A picture of blessed water poured into a medieval goblet, a crystal ball and a bell.
Write a wish on a leaf of Bay, burned it over a candle, and then let it finish smoldering in a fire safe bowl (as you visualized the wish coming true).
The South: (Fire): A brass bowl holds the burnt remains of a bay leaf.
Salt is used to purify water, and symbolizes the element of Air / East (or Earth / North).
Blessed water to the West (water).
A stone of Hematite wards off evil and its energy is known to be calm and cooling.
Incense to the East, representing Air.
On the left, is the female fairy. The word Fairy is "derived from the ancient "faunoe o fatuoe" which, in the pagan mythology, indicated the faun's (deer) companions, creatures endowed with power of foretelling the future and ruling the human events. The word Fairy also comes from "fatigue", which in Middle Ages was synonymous with "wild woman", that is woman of woods, waters and, in general, of the natural world. Fairies are supernatural creatures endowed with magic power, thanks to which they can change their appearance and make it change to the others." And since we are celebrating change, this seemed appropriate.
"Lammas is often celebrated as the Wake for the Sacred King. As you know, a Wake is a Celebration of Life, not a time to grieve. And Lammas is a joyous time of celebration. Feast to your heart's content, sing, dance and make merry. Light your Need-Fires and make your Kern-babies. You'll "ne'er forget that happy night" you celebrated in The Old Ways!"