Wednesday 29 July 2009

Doing your own thing for Lammas

With Lammas - the pagan celebration of the start of the harvest - taking place over next weekend, many of us will just want to do own thing rather than take part in an organised ritual.

Hopefully, the weather will be lovely and it will be a great time to get out and enjoy the sunshine. But even if it rains, in the tradition of British summers, there are plenty of things you can do at home to mark the festival of the first fruits.

Here are a few ideas:

Go for a country walk
One of the best ways of appreciating the season - especially for urban pagans - is to go for a walk in the countryside.

Find footpaths that go through ripe fields of wheat, barley or corn and as you walk give a few silent words of thanks to the spirits of the grain. The wild poppies that grow at the verges of fields are often seen as a symbol of death and the knowledge that the crops must be felled so we may eat and live.

If you don't own a book of walks, you can usually find a selection in your local library. My favourite is 50 Walks to Country Pubs by the AA (that's the Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous :) )

Forage for wild food
How better to celebrate the harvest than to pick you own? No matter if you don't have your own allottment, picking wild food is the in thing at the moment, and can be a healthy, cheap and fun way to eat. You could try gathering nettles to make nettle soup or pick Jack by the Hedge, otherwise known as wild garlic, to put in a salad. Blackberries aren't quite ready yet in my area - the early berries might look ripe, but are very bitter.

A couple of great books about how to identify and cook wild food are A Hedgerow Cookbook by Wooden Books and Food for Free (Collins Natural History).

When you are foraging, always ask permission before picking anything on private land, never pick rare or endangered plants and if you are in any doubt, leave well alone - you don't want to make yourself sick by eating something poisonous.

Bake your own bread
Another name for Lammas is Loaf Mass, and baking your own bread is a great way to celebrate it. Before eating the lovely hot loaf, go outside and sprinkle a few crumbs onto the ground and give thanks to nature for her bounty.

Make a corn dolly
In pagan festivals, corn dollies are sometimes made to give the spirits of the corn a home to live in for the winter - or are sometimes burnt as a symbol of the sacrifice of the corn in the harvest.

You can find instructions to make a corn dolly online or from books such as Discovering Corn Dollies (Shire Discovering) or Corn Dollies: A WI Home Skills guide to the craft behind the legend.

Corn dollies can be made with long, thick strands of grass from your garden or with craft straws if you don't have any corn. Never pick grain from fields unless you have the farmer's permission.

50 Walks to Country Pubs
A Hedgerow Cookbook
Food for Free (Collins Natural History)
Discovering Corn Dollies (Shire Discovering)
Corn Dollies: A WI Home Skills guide to the craft behind the legend

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