The Lammas festival on the 1st of August marks the beginning of the harvest. What's interesting about Lammas tide and the 7 other special Celtic days, is the way they give the year structure, and also how they help to shape the pattern of the year. The key to understanding these traditions is realising Lammas, means 'Loaf Mass'.
- Feb 4 Imbolc (Candlemas)
- May 5 Beltane (May day)
- Aug 7 Lammas Tide
- Nov 7 Samhain (Halloween)
- Handfasting, or trial marriages were particularly common at Lammas. Once the harvest was over, then young farmers could think of taking a bride. If the partnership did not work out they split up, else the lovers got married. This practice was also known as a Tailltean marriage, which lasted for a year and a day until the next Lammas.
- Farmers presented their workers with white gloves. Perhaps this had the practical use of keeping the flour clean as they ground the wheat?
- We don't think of tax collecting as a tradition, but when you think about collecting taxes has been with us since time immemorial. In Scotland the association of Lammas with collecting dues lingered into the 18th century.
- Although Lammas is associated with the wheat harvest, it was also the more general sense of, 'Feast of first fruits'. Indeed, in Ireland potatoes are harvested at this time, and the first Sunday after Lughnasa was known as 'Cally' Sunday.
- August is a great time for country fairs, for example, 'The Puck Fair', in Killorglin, County Kerry, Ireland. King Puck himself is a goat!
- In medieval times Lammas was known as the "Gule of August", however the meaning of "gule" has been lost in the sands of time.
- The 6th of August is referred to Old Lammas or Lammas O.S. ("Old Style"). It was significant in the Zodiac, and symbolises the Lion the other three tetramorph figures are the Bull, the Eagle, and the Spirit.
- Morris Dancers never miss a chance break out their melodeon and bash sticks their sticks, Lammas tide is no exception.
- See more about Lammas traditions.
How to Make a Corn DollyI still feel guilty picking 20 wheat stems out of the 20 zillion stalks in the field. Even though he is not there, I can sense the farmer's hackles rising, 'Damn Townies - they'll leave the gate open'. Of course I don't even open the gate preferring to climb over the nearby style.
- Once I bring the wheat stalks home, I strip off any leaves, just leaving the beautiful heads and the long stalks.
- Next I soak the straw in water for at least 20 minutes. Before I start work, I stand the straws in an empty flower vase to dry.
- Now I am ready for the real work. I tie five straws together close up by the ears.
- I take one of the straws and fold it across over two corners. Then I take the next straw and repeat the weaving, until I have folded all five.
- With skill and a little luck an attractive spiral pattern grows as round succeeds round.
- You could practice with three-straw version, see picture above right.
- Once you get the idea, be creative and develop your own variations.
Footnote: Please send us your Lammas tide traditions.