Reflections on Lammas and Text of My 2021 Ritual

The transition from July to August and the first 10 days or so of August are among my most cherished times of the year. The sight of Summertime abundance on displaybasketfuls of mulberries from my own front and back yards; and from local markets, piles of ears of golden non-GMO sweet corn from fields within a quarter mile of where I live; honeycombs and cranberries harvested from Wisconsin farms a short drive across the border; a profusion of luscious peaches, varieties of apples; blackberries; and even gooseberries from Michiganis a welcome treat for the eyes that never fails to lift my spirits and pivot my consciousness into an attitude of gratitude.

Even in the midst of a worrisome drought that’s affected my county since Spring, the Gracious Gods bestow an outpouring of gifts and it’s right and just to give Them thanks and praise. As I smeared organic blackberry preserves on my Lammas ritual leftovers of rosemary-infused bread loves that I sliced and turned into Serbian-style French toast for breakfast this morning for my family, I sighed with contentment. Life is more than good. And every day that I’m above ground is a very good day.

Lammas as a Death Summons: In Loving Memory of One of my Dearest Friends

I don’t share this thought cavalierly, as the Sabbat of Lammas or First Harvest is a bittersweet one for me: It was exactly a year ago (2020) on August 1 that I last saw one of my best friends since early childhood, my friend Felicia, alive for the last time (certainly unbeknownst to both of us at the time). A single mother who was grieving the loss of her own mother, she had only moved into her new townhome in a northwest Chicago suburb with her two tween children just three weeks prior. We were going to celebrate her move with a thorough spiritual cleansing and a Sabbat observance, followed by a quiet girls’-night-in party of sorts with plenty of cabernet sauvignon, home-baked ritual breads and charcuterie, cheeses, and giggles over the Australian reality TV series on Netflix, The Single Wives.

Felicia had mentioned that she believed her daughter Joss is a born Witch who is ready to undergo some sort of magical training curriculum, and could I help with the development of that? My soul was electrified and a resounding YES! was my response! My mind alighted with ideas, including suggestions for travel plans, once the COVID vaccine was readily available and international travel no longer seemed a threatening prospect, to various European destinations: Greece, Spain, the UK and Ireland, Italy. Her, the kids, and me. Felicia had lived in Argentina for 3 months, years before she was married and a mom, following a whim. She honored her wanderlust impulses and rightly knew herself to be a Citizen of the World, at home anywhere. She was a beautiful, vibrant, zero-bullshit-tolerating Taurus who made authenticity and loyalty her core priorities. In 2013, when she started to express an interest in Witchcraft and regularly began appearing at public rituals and workshops I led in Chicago, our friendship entered a new and deeper level of soul sisterhood. “We’re ride or die,” Felicia loved to say.

Felicia and me at my birthday party in 2019 at Chicago’s Gale Street Inn. That was our favorite place to savor a dirty martini or two.

On October 6, 2020, Felicia was slated to undergo a routine operation to repair a herniated disc. That morning, she texted me that she hoped to be able to invest in a storage shed for her growing collection of gardening equipment. Could I help her by looking into some options on the Tuff Shed website and break down various sizes and price points?

“Absolutely,” I replied. “Let’s both get Tuff Sheds! Super fun. 🙂 Praying for your surgery to be safe and uneventful and I will see you on the flip side!” I wrote.

Felicia replied with heart emojis just before 10 a.m., before she was wheeled away to anesthesiology.

Felicia died on the operating table.

To my utter shock and horror that such a thing is even possible in our era of high-tech operating rooms, Felicia’s cause of death was reported as having bled to death.

Lammas 2020 was the last time I saw my friend of the past 40 years alive.

Tomorrow is promised to none of us.

First Harvest on August 1, 2021

As the Sabbat fell on a Sunday this year and as the Anglo-Saxon Christianization of Pagan observances got translated to “Hlaef-Mass,” literally the Catholic Mass held in honor to bless the baked loaves wrought from newly harvested wheat and etymological source of the term of “Lammas,” I thought it would be fitting to go to the local Serbian Orthodox monastery where my brother is buried and light candles for both him and my friend Felicia. I liked to think that as they, through me, were friends in life, especially with my Aries big brother being the protective person that he was of me and my friends, they are friends in the Other World as well and they recognize, socialize with, and support one another. I also brought to my brother’s grave grilled corn on the cob and a baked potato, as he loved to eat my father’s barbecue foods. I had a good cry and a long talk with both Mark and Felicia and, happily, I felt lighter in heart as I made my way back home. As Ifá reminds me, “Tend to the eggun before any other Work: Ancestors first.”

It is as it should be.

Yesterday was quite a mild and lovely daynot humid at all, thankfully. My good friend and fellow Virgo Witch Adam was slated to arrive just after 2 o’clock for our First Harvest ritual. I’d gone shopping for a variety of types of mead the day before and I also ritually harvested some stalks of mugwort from my garden, which I’ve begun growing for the first time ever this year thanks to my Urban Green Witch friend Joseph, who kindly donated some of his plants from his Albany Park Chicago garden to me last autumn.

Mugwort harvest in my backyard garden!

I was so excited with the ritual preparations, my enthusiasm even spilled over to my octogenarian and terminally ill, hardcore Eastern Orthodox Christian parents. My dad insisted on barbecuing vegan fare for Adam (Beyond Meat “Italian sausages”, burger patties, and the like plus more corn on the cob). And my bedridden mother, to whom I’d recited several of my Deity invocations that I’d be using in the ritual, told me she thought what she heard was “simply beautiful” (thanks, Ma!) and she really wished Adam and me a wonderful ritual celebration.

My quartet of curious and affectionate cats have free reign in my home temple space and thankfully, they generally don’t jump on altar surfaces or otherwise go where they shouldn’t. However, I waited until just before Adam arrived to place my goat skull effigy of my particular Witch Father (I call the effigy my “stang” even though the pole the skull is affixed to is iron, not a forked wooden staff) on the altar. The horns of the goat skull have snakeskin (from my own pet snake, Brimo) and woven corn dollies looped around them, and those organic materials would definitely be too tempting for my kitties to keep agreeing to their long standing, no-jumping-onto-the-main altar policy!

Hail the Witch Father!

The Ritual

The ritual structure is Wiccan with emphases on warding and creation of Sacred Space and on personal purification. Yes, per the Gardnerian Tradition that is my personal background, the ritual tools of Salt and Water, needed to effect said warding and purification, have to themselves first be exorcised in order to be rendered of service. No item on the altar is there for mere aesthetics or showiness and no thing said or done by the participants is done passively or without intention; everything is consciously activated (every ritual is a reenactment of Creation[!]; let the implications of the responsibility of that realization sink in) to drive the coven’s magical Will. The Elemental (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) Rulers (Gnomes, Sylphs, Salamanders, Undines, respectively) of the Four Quarters (North, East, South, and West) are mighty, dreadful, Sovereign Beings Who deserve to be approached with humility and respect. Reaching out to address Them between the Worlds is not a farcical moment of cosplay, empty theatrics, or some other ridiculous LARPing episode that I’ve seen, sadly, become de rigeur in many public Pagan gatherings.

The altar is set up to face North and an auxiliary altar with the offerings of various breads and my garden’s humble fare of baby beefsteak tomatoes and garlic bulbs (the largest of the latter goes to Hekate!) stands adjacent to the right. My Witch Father stang is set up on that altar.

So many of the songs and chants have been a part of my and Adam’s Wiccan liturgical lexicon going back to 1999, and it’s hard to be able to properly credit who devised what. Whenever possible, I’ve made attributions. But all Deity and Elemental invocations are original to Adam and me, as noted in the script below.

Our vibrant main altar.

FIRST HARVEST RITUAL FOR SUNDAY, AUGUST 1, 2021

Preliminaries

Grounding & Centering (Silent Tree of Life Meditation)

Raising Power: Adam leads, Anna follows

“Now is the time,

This is the hour!

Ours is the Magick,

Ours is the Power!”

Building the Temple (Candles at Four Quarters, Tracing Respective Invoking Pentagrams with Each): Anna

(Text by Raymond Buckland)

“Here do I bring Light and Earth in at the North,

To illuminate our Temple and Build It in Strength.”

 “Here do I bring Light and Air in at the East,

To illuminate our Temple and bring it the Breath of Life.”



“Here do I bring Light and Fire in at the South,

To illuminate our Temple and bring it Warmth.”

“Here do I bring Light and Water in at the West,

To illuminate our Temple and Wash It Clean.”

(Ring the bell.)

Announce Circle to Be Cast: Anna

“A Circle of Magick is soon to be cast,

A place of wonder and might.

A place between worlds—future and past—

Caught between darkness and light!”

Salt / Water Exorcisms: Adam exorcises Salt; Anna exorcises Water. (Traditional Gardnerian)

“I exorcise Thee, O Creature of [Earth/Water], casting out all impurities which may lie within.

Keep us from peril and purify this place.” 

(Trace banishing pentagram respective to the Element. Then perform self-anointing where each holds the bowl of salted water for the other to cleanse themselves with.)

Circle Casting and Consecration

Circle Casting: Adam 

“Circle bright, circle dim,

Bless this space and all within!

Circle formed with Witches’ Fire,

Burn with strength and grant our desires!

Circle cast in the Old Ones’ Names,

Let peace and protection thrive and reign!”

Salt & Water Consecration of Circle: Anna (Text adapted from Paul Huson)

“Water and Earth, where You are cast,

No spell nor adverse purpose last!

Begone all not in accord with She

Who walks the Ways of Earth, Sky, Sea!

By Hekate with faces Three,

This Circle is Consecrated: Blessed Be!”

Welcoming the Elementals

Invoking the Quarters: Start in the North (Adam); East (Anna); South (Adam); West (Anna)

ADAM:

“And now let us welcome into our Circle the Elemental Rulers of the Four Quarters, starting in the North.” 

NORTH (Adam): 

“Elementals of Earth, Gnomes in the North,

We summon, stir, and call You up!

Join now our Circle in blessing!

So Mote It Be!”

EAST (Anna): 

“Sylphs of the Air in the Dawning East,

With Your winds that gently blow,

Touch us, fill us, help us sing.

Move our minds that we might KNOW.

With open arms, we embrace Your sky

And laugh and dance and chant and sing.

Your Breath of Life within our breasts.

You are welcome here!

So Mote It Be!”

SOUTH (Adam): 

“Elementals of Fire, Salamanders of the South,

We summon, stir, and call You up!

Join now our Circle in blessing!

So Mote It Be!”

WEST (Anna):

“Undines of Water in the Twilight West,

With cleansing rains from high above,

Touch us, calm us, help us dream.

Shape our hearts to DARE to love.

With open arms, we embrace Your mists,

And hear Your joy in the laughing stream.

Your flowing life within our veins.

You are welcome here!

So Mote It Be!”

Confirm Circle is Cast/Sealed: Adam and Anna (in unison)

“This Circle is bound with power all around;

Between the worlds we stand with protection at hand.”

Welcoming the Gods

Invocations: Hekate (Anna), Pan (Adam), Gaia (Adam), Green Man (Anna)

ANNA:

“And now, we turn our minds and hearts to the Gods Themselves and invite that They join with us,

witnessing this rite we hold in Their honor.”

Hekate statue I purchased in a shop in…wait for it…Chinatown!

HEKATE INVOCATION (Anna):

“We invoke Thee, fair Hekate,

Daughter of Perses and Asteria,

Titaness of the Threefold Realm of Earth, Sea, and Sky,

Revered above all the Ancient Powers by

Olympos-dwelling Zeus Himself!

With pleasing eyes and a gladdened heart, 

Smile upon us, Your mortal Witches

Gathered before You at this turning o’ the Wheel of the Year!

Ela, Khthonia!

Ela, Phosphoros!

Ela, Propylaia!

Bless our eyes to receive Thy sight;

Bless our ears to receive Thy counsel; 

Bless our lips to ever sing praises of Thee,

Torchbearing Lady of the Crossroads!

In heartfelt devotion, we kneel and beseech Thee:


Be with us in our sacred celebration of First Harvest!


Hail and Welcome, Mighty Hekate!”

PAN INVOCATION (Adam): 

“Great God Pan! Lord of all that is wild and free!

We invoke Thee! Io, Pan!

Who roams wooded meadows, wreathed in oak leaves, 

He Who sits upon the same throne as Time,

We invoke Thee!

Hail, Pan!

All Earth, All Air, All Water, and Immortal Fire,

Great Spirit enlivening all the limbs of the world 

To which You give passion and purpose,

Embrace us with Your Presence!

In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust,

So Mote It Be!”

GAIA INVOCATION (Adam): 

“Great Goddess Gaia!

Born of Chaos, Titaness of Earth,

We invoke Thee!

Deep-Breasted One,

Who has been since before the birth of Time,

We invoke Thee!

O lovely and fertile Gaia!

Great Mother Whose Children are both marvelous and monstrous!

Join us in this sacred rite and lay Your blessings here!

In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, 

So Mote It Be!”

GREEN MAN INVOCATION (Anna):

“Hail and Welcome, O Green Man, 

Leafy-visaged One,

Golden-haired Son of Mother Earth and Father Sky,

Lover of the Sovereign Goddess of the Land,

Sacred King Who meets death at the Queen’s hand.

By leaf and twig, by root and bough,

By Water and Earth, come to us now!

Bring us Your grain, the staff of our lives;

Bring us Your fruit, wherever it thrives. 

In love and joy we call Your Name, John Barleycorn!

Come to us now! Extend Thy grace!

Step into our Circle in this holy place!

Be welcome here at our rite of First Harvest!”

Hail to the Life of the Fields!

Statement of Purpose

ANNA:

“We are gathered here to celebrate the Sabbat of First Harvest as the time of culling approaches.

The fields grow golden in the sun with ears of ripening grain.

It is a time of rejoicing, for we see the fruits of our labors.

It is a time of danger, for the drought might still destroy the uncut crop.

It is a time of death, for the Green Man sacrifices Himself that we may have our bread.”

Ritual Body/Main Working

PRESENTATION OF THE OFFERINGS: Adam 

“Gracious Gaia, Mother of us all,

We rejoice before Thee for these

First fruits from the fields…”

(Hold aloft produce and name it.)



“Plus the baked bounty of fresh-made bread.”


(Hold aloft loaf.)

“And the sun-kissed ciders and honey wines of August.”

(Hold aloft chalices/bottles of libation offerings.)

“Be pleased to accept these offerings upon Thine altar,

That all who partake of them are blessed with the abundance of this sacred season.”

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS CEREMONY 

Adam to Anna:

“Will you count your many blessings on this Sabbat of bounty?”

Reply: 

“Gladly I will!” (Holds loaf, recites blessings, eats chunk of it.)

Anna to Adam: 

“Will you count your many blessings on this Sabbat of bounty?”

Reply:

“Gladly I will!” (Holds loaf, recites blessings, eats chunk of it.)

Adam:
“Blessed be fruitful Gaia! 

Blessed be the grain-giving Green Man as God of the Harvest!”

Anna:

“Blessed Be!”

Energy Raising: Turning the Sabbat Wheel (Said in unison; text adapted from Raymond Buckland)

The Wheel of the Year is literally turned.

“Turn, turn, turn the Wheel,

Round and round,

Around it goes.

The flames that died

They now do heal.

Round and round,

Around it goes.



“The Green Man dies,

The Green Man lives,

Round and round, 

Around it goes,

Death opens hands and new life gives.

Round and round,

Around it goes.

“Turn, turn, turn the Wheel,

Round and round,

Around it goes.

The flames that died

They now do heal.

Round and round,

Around it goes.”

(Repeat as needed until it’s time to release the Cone of Power.)

Cakes and Ale/The Simple Feast

BLESSING OF MEADS AND CIDERS: ADAM

“Glorious Gods, Ancient and Mighty, Whom we adore and serve,

we ask that You bless this mead as our offering and sacred libation.

As we partake of it, may we learn that there is no part of us that is not of You!”

BLESSING OF BREAD: ANNA

“Great Green Man, Lord of the Harvest, we ask that You bless this bread,

the fruit of the womb of Gaia, without which we would not live.

As we eat of it, may we partake of Your love in Your willingness to sacrifice.”

Chant-O-Matic Interlude

“Hoof & Horn” composed by Ian Corrigan (Chanted slowly in unison)

“Hoof and horn, hoof and horn,

All that dies shall be reborn.

Corn and grain, corn and grain,

All that falls shall rise again!

Mother Earth, Mother Earth,

We call on She Who gave us birth!

We are Yours, blood and bone,

Kin to tree and standing stone!”

Sacrifice

OFFERING TO THE FIELDS: Anna

“We consecrate this offering back to the Mother from Whose Body it came.

We consecrate this offering also to the Green Man,

and to the animals of the fields, as well as Beings from the Realm of the Fae.

With gladdened hearts, we give this bounty of the land back to our Holy Powers.” 

(Break bread into four fragments and place one in each Quarter, beginning in the North, saying:)

“Gracious Gods, Grant Your protection.”

Adam: 

“Great and Mighty Gods, grant Your blessings to these lands.

Protect them and us from the powers of blight, disease, and despair.

Be with us in our lives as You were to those of old.

Grant us Your wisdom.

In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, Blessed Be!”

(Anna pours libation of liquid offerings; text communicated in person by Diana Paxson, Trothmoot, 2009.)

“From the Gods to the earth to us,

From us to the earth to the Gods.

A gift for a gift.

HAIL!”

Reply: “HAIL!”

Deinvoking

DECLARATION: ADAM

“We have gathered together this day to celebrate the Feast of First Harvest.

Together we have worked to accomplish our Will, which the Gods have witnessed.

We have called our Gods forth in humility and joy.

It is not for us to command the Powers we worship.

Nor is it for us to bid Them to be gone.

I ask instead, as we honor each of Them with our profound gratitude and love,

that They continue to guide us as our True Parents, even as we are Their children.

Let us end this rite in the joyful knowledge that we shall meet once more.”

Thank Elementals at Quarters: Start in the West (Anna) and go widdershins

ANNA: “And now, let us give our thanks to the Elemental Rulers of the Four Quarters.”

WEST: 

“Spirits of Water in the Twilight West, 

Undines beautiful in form!

Our thanks and love we send with Thee!


Go if You must, but stay if You will;

We say Hail and Farewell, and Blessed Be!”

SOUTH (Adam): 

“Elementals of Fire,

Salamanders of the South,

We thank You for Your gifts and blessings!


Go if You must 

And let there always be harmony between us:

So Mote It Be!”

EAST (Anna): 

“Spirits of Air in the Dawning East, 

Sylphs of inspiration! 

Our thanks and love we send with Thee!

Go if You must, but stay if You will;

We say Hail and Farewell, and Blessed Be!”

NORTH (Adam): 

“Elementals of Earth,

Gnomes of the North, 

We thank You for Your gifts and blessings!

Go if You must

And let there always be harmony between us:

So Mote It Be!”

Deconstruct Circle: Anna

“Circle Round of the Sacred Sphere, may Thy boundaries be dissolved.

Thy purpose is accomplished—thy Work well done.

The Circle is open, but unbroken.

Around and within us always flows its magical power. Blessed Be!”

Final Proclamation

ADAM:

“This rite of First Harvest is ended! 

Let us go forth ever mindful of the Old Gods’ gifts. 

Blessings have been given and blessings have been received. 

Merry Meet, and Merry Part, and Merry Meet Again!”

ALL: “Blessed Be!”

Ceremonial Pan-themed dish holding my newly harvested and consecrated mugwort stalks.

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