Approaching the cross-quarter day of Lammas (August 1), the events of this summer have caused me to reflect more deeply on the underlying motifs of this ancient holiday: harvest, sowing, and light. Traditionally, within the Northern hemisphere, this cross-quarter day marks either the start of the harvest season (in more northern latitudes) or the sowing of grain seed (in regions closer to the equator). Another major theme is the calendrical marking of the light of the sun.
Lammas lies halfway between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. In the northern hemisphere, the days (sunlight hours) are shortening; in the southern hemisphere, the sunlight is increasing. Harvesting (or sowing) grain to feed animals and ourselves and to make bread “the staff of life” are also key to Lammas. The word lammas comes directly from the Old English word hlaefmasse meaning “loaf mass,” i.e. the celebration and honoring of the sunlight infused into the grain, the seed of the grain sown and then harvested, and the bread made.
In addition to all the similar Northern European bread terms, in ancient Egypt, the hieroglyph for offering of hospitality or sustenance was the symbol htp (also hotep or hetep) which depicts a loaf of bread on a reed mat or stone table. Egyptologist Wallis E. Budge wrote that hotep/hetep/htp means “to rest, to be happy, to be content, to be glad, to do good to someone . . . to set (of the sun), to rely upon, to be at peace with.”
Making bread is hard work! After harvesting and threshing the grain from the stalks, there is the necessary removal of the protective and inedible hulls. When the grain is ground into flour and water, oil, and seasonings added, the bread needs warmth to rise, and vigorous kneading to develop the tender elasticity that is the hallmark of good bread.
I know you can see the obvious metaphor here.
In light of all the terrible worldwide events that have erupted since the sun waxed in strength at the vernal equinox, as well as the dark vision trumpeted at the RNC and ably refuted by President Obama, the critical need for each of us to carry light, hope, love, tolerance, and compassion within our hearts and minds appears emblazoned upon our current human condition.
We, all of us, are human beings.
be the light,
be the love,
be unafraid of the hard work of removing all the hulls of hatred,
be sowers of the seeds of nonviolence, respect, & interdependence,
be vigorous and joyful “bread makers” who delight in tenderness & revel in the tolerant flexibility & strong elasticity of open-heartedness,
be givers of sustenance, comfort, rest, & pleasure,
be nourished by all of the others (like you and me) who celebrate this Lammas by being even brighter within our hearts & even stronger in our loving brave actions.
Blessings to all beings who carry the courage to be connected instead of divisive, choosing love in all ways large and small.