Two Radio Spots

I recently made a trip to Indiana, as is my wont in the summertime. While I’m up there I always try to stir up some trouble. Some of my attempts are more successful than others. International Flag-Burning Day was a bust, for example.

But there is evidence that some of my other provocations were more successful. Audio evidence. These two pieces aired on WFHB yesterday.

Bart Everson, from Local TV Slacker-Provocateur to Atheist Religion Author  ~ less than ten minutes ~ “This month marks the 25th anniversary of the first episode of Rox, arguably the most controversial show ever to air on public access TV in Bloomington. The program generated outrage and calls for its removal during its heyday in the early and mid 1990s. It has also been one of the most popular programs on Community Access Television Services.WFHB News Director Joe Crawford caught up with one of the producers of Rox, Bart Everson, who recently returned to Bloomington in support of a new book.”

Standing Room Only: Can we derive a secular spirituality from the seasons?  ~ almost an hour ~ “On July 7, Bart Everson spoke about eco-spiritual practices at The Venue in Bloomington. A longtime atheist, Everson emphasized the celebration of living on Earth and the process of becoming better citizens of the planet. Much of Everson’s talk revolved around ideas also found in his book Spinning in Place: A Secular Humanist Embraces the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year.”

Happy Lammas

John Barleycorn Must Die

When is Lammas anyhow? Though usually observed on August 1, I recently learned that August 6 is known as “Old Lammas.” I think that might be because the midway point between solstice and equinox tends to fall on this day, though technically this year it’s on August 7 at 9:05 AM, Central Time. Further complicating matters is the old tradition of beginning a holiday observance at sundown the night before, which means you could get started as early as July 31.

As for me, I got started even earlier than that, working on this essay: “How Lammas Changed My Life.” Please give it a read.

The confusion of dates should really present no problem. It allows a full week to celebrate. Keep trying until you get it right!

Lammas Mix

A fresh mix for that most obscure of holidays. You should listen to this sometime in the next week or so, preferably whilst fashioning corn dollies, baking bread or imbibing your favorite malted barley beverage.

Lammas from editor_b on 8tracks Radio.

Happy Lammas!

Happy (Belated) Lammas

We had a wonderful Lammas. It has emerged as probably my favorite holiday, which is kind of funny considering I never heard of it until two years ago.

Lammas Embers

It’s taken a few weeks but I finally got some photos up. And as an unexpected bonus, we even have a short movie, which contains the very first video ever shot by Persephone.

It’s just a series of raw clips but it captures the spirit of our holiday. On Lammas Eve, we had a small bonfire to which we committed the Brigid’s Crosses we made at Candlemas. Normally I wouldn’t approve of burning crosses in the front lawn, but I don’t think the neighbors were too alarmed.

I took the day itself off work. We baked bread figures, as shown in the video. It was last Lammas that I started baking bread, which has become a weekly habit and devotional ritual for over a year now. (I’ve told my boss she can’t say I’m “on a kick” anymore.) The bread figures themselves were far from beautiful, and they were hard and tough, kind of like a bagel. But they tasted pretty good, chock full of jumbo raisins and dates.

We also made dollies.

Tropical Dollies

Like with the Brigid’s Crosses, we used the tropical ferns growing in our back yard for the raw material. It’s always more interesting to use locally grown stuff. The dollies are now hanging around the kitchen. In half a year’s time they will be dry and ready for burning next Candlemas. So the wheel turns.

Speaking of fire, we also learned a valuable lesson: Do not put fire pit on lawn, even for a little fire that doesn’t burn very long. We now have a nice dead patch right in the middle.

Aftermath

One Full Revolution

Lammas is rapidly approaching. It was last year at Lammas that I began making an effort to observe each holiday in the Wheel of the Year with my family. Now that we’ve seen one full revolution of the wheel, I’m taking stock and reflecting on what it means.

It’s my understanding that the Wheel of the Year is a mashup of sorts, combining Germanic and Celtic traditions. The result is eight holidays more or less equally spaced throughout the year. These consist of the solstices and equinoxes plus the four cross-quarter days, which fall approximately halfway between the solstices and equinoxes. As far as I know, putting these two sets of observances together is a modern invention, originating in Wicca. Practitioners of Wicca generally call the festivals sabbats.

The Wheel of the Year is so beautiful and compelling that it’s been embraced and adapted outside of Wicca, which is what I’m doing. It lends itself to endless variation and interpretation. Even though I’m not Wiccan, I admire many aspects of the religion, the wheel most especially. I like how the cycle of holidays connects to the changing seasons and the cycles of nature. This should come as no surprise; after all, the very first sentence I wrote here when I started this online journal was, “I’m fascinated by cycles, including the cycle of seasons.” That was over seven years ago, long before I ever heard of the Wheel of the Year. I also like how these holidays connect to the past, as they are all rooted in antiquity. Each one resonates with its own meaning and traditions, the accretions of centuries. I’ve been trying to understand how to celebrate each one in a way that is relevant and meaningful to me personally and to my family as well.

So that brings us back around to Lammas. It’s a cross-quarter day, partway between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. Another name for the day is Loaf Mass.

there is some evidence of the Christian Anglo Saxon harvest festival of Loaf Mass, which is likely to have been built on a pre-existing pagan ritual of the same time, as the festival is one of the harvest…. July was commonly the hardest month of the year for a pre-industrial farming economy, and many of the poor, who could not afford to buy bread and had run through their own stocks, died during July. So the bringing in of the harvest was the first time in months that most people would have a good meal and drink.

So it’s a day for bread. My daughter loves bread.

Bread Mask

It’s our good fortune as a family not to worry about running out of bread in July. The supermarkets around here are fully stocked, year-round. In fact, in our society obesity is a bigger problem than starvation. We also consume vast amounts of fossil fuels to ship food around the world. I certainly don’t romanticize the past, but I don’t believe our current divorce from seasonal cycles is entirely healthy.

A discussion of such matters on the naturalistic paganism group got me curious about what is really being harvested at this time in this area. I did a net search for “Louisiana harvest season.” Isn’t that a sad comment on how disconnected I am from the cycles of nature and agriculture? I have to search the net to figure out what’s in season around here! Anyhow, I found a “Louisiana Harvest Calendar” from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry.

And so I learned that fruits and vegetables currently in season here include acorn squash, butternut squash, cushaw, pumpkins, yellow squash and zucchini, apples, figs, muscadines, peaches, pears and plums, banana peppers and hot peppers, butter beans and southern peas, cantaloupes, melons and watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, okra and sweet potatoes. (Interestingly enough, my spellchecker doesn’t recognize cushaw or muscadines.) Of course, it seems something is always in season here in the subtropics. But this gives me some ideas for a seasonally appropriate Lammas feast.

I am planning to take a day off work for Lammas, bake a loaf of bread in the shape of a person, and make some corn dollies with my daughter. We’ll save them for burning at Candlemas.

Demeter is associated with the harvest, and I associate Demeter with Xy, and she’s a teacher, and this is the time of year teachers are gearing up to go back to school. My daughter will also be beginning her first year of school. So I’d like this to also be a time to honor them (the women in my life) and mark the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Maybe we’ll make two loaves for mother and daughter.

Lammas is probably the least well-known of the eight holidays. As such, it seems like a fine starting point for learning about all this — a happy accident, but it will always have a special place in my heart. So, for me, it’s not just a celebration of the agricultural harvest but also a time to think about how we stepped into the spiral and where we’ve come since and where we’re headed. Right now I feel pretty happy that Xy has played along so far, as the interest in these holidays is primarily mine. Rituals and traditions gain power over time, as associations and resonances build. Simply doing the same thing at the same time of year can be richly rewarding. I’m looking forward to deepening our experience as we continue to move around the wheel again.

Happy Lammas

Grass Horsie

Happy belated Lammas or Lughnasadh or whatever else you may call it. (I guess it’s over now. I get confused with these traditional-style holidays that last from sundown to sundown, essentially extending into two days of our modern calendar.) This is a time, in the Northern Hemisphere anyhow, to celebrate the beginning of the harvest. It also marks the beginning of the end of summer. That seems a long way off in the middle of this heat wave, but the “back to school” ads are appearing in the paper, and we painted Xy’s new school room not long ago, so I guess that’s what time it is.

I took Persephone to her first Lammas celebration this past weekend. This was organized by New Orleans Lamplight Circle and was specially planned for kids. It was my first such thing as well, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

What we found was all very sweet and beautiful and meaningful. We did some chants and songs with hand motions, honoring nature and the elements. There was some face painting and story-telling. We shared a simple but satisfying feast with an emphasis on bread. We also made corn dollies. Actually we made horsies, and (corn husks not being readily available) we made them out of grass. The one I made was a little on the shabby side, but I was holding a toddler on my lap the whole time.

Next year I hope to make some bread.

Participating in this celebration fulfilled a longstanding goal. I want my daughter to have a broad and well-rounded religious education. Mainstream Christian doctrine is easily encountered, but rituals such as this are a little more obscure. I want her to see that religion comes in many forms and varieties, and that it needn’t take place only in a church or a mosque or a synagogue.

But it’s more than that. I’ve been interested in religion myself for as long as I can remember, and in the last few years I’ve studied a bit about the diverse practices loosely grouped under the umbrella term of contemporary paganism. I find it endlessly fascinating, not to mention aesthetically compelling, and after so much reading it was gratifying to encounter the actual thing.

I’m looking forward to the autumnal equinox already.