by Raven ©1997
The idea behind the celebration of Lammas is not a popular one with modern people -- it is the concept of sacrifice. Lammas, August 1, is a harvest celebration, much like the American "Thanksgiving". This is the time when people acknowledge, in gratitude, all those forces around them that sustain their way of life.
The centerpiece of most Lammas celebrations is the "Wickerman", he is an embodiment of the vegetative spirit of the land that must be sacrificed/harvested so that the people may live/eat. This notion of honoring the sacrifice of the land for the greater good of the people not only blesses the crops, it also insures abundance for the years to come. Modern society has gotten away from the concept of the sacred and thus from honoring the substance that sustains us all. It is an unpopular notion that every living thing in this world is inter-linked with every other living thing, including humankind. But the ancients knew that in order to continue to receive the fruits of the Earth, we must be willing to give something back.
As the Wickerman is a sacred symbol of the consciousness of the plant world he is made from natural plant materials - usually bendable twigs (wicker). It is customary to form a hollow space within this "man" to allow an offering of bread (home-baked is preferred) to rest inside. At the Lammas celebration the Wickerman is burned and the bread within him is shared by all the participants, thus all share the blessing of Lammas.
Because Moderns are most often removed from the practical application of working with spirit, there is a great deal of confusion over the difference between a sacrifice, an offering, and a tithe. A sacrifice is when we give up something we are attached to in order to either gain something more important, or to gain more of what was originally sacrificed. An example of this is when we allow the strongest and best of the vegetables in our garden to go to seed instead of harvesting them, so that we might have a better batch of seeds for next spring. A more urban example of this is when we sacrifice our own day-to-day monetary needs and desires so that we will have seed-money for a grand project or dream that will place us in a better life situation later. The general concept behind sacrifice is that changes must take place in our lives whenever we desire to alter our life situation. Sometimes that change takes the form of clearing away the old in order to make space for the new. Thus a sacrifice is made.
An offering, on the other hand, is a gift, a perfect-gift given to spirit. It is said that anything given to the Gods comes back thrice blessed, and that anything tasted by the Gods becomes divine. So an offering of gratitude often elicits a blessing on the giver, or on the gift itself. Offerings are only made of "perfect" things given in the spirit of love, however it must be remembered that imperfection - diversity - is itself seen as a "perfection" by Spirit.
Of these three concepts, modern Americans are most familiar with the tithe. A tithe is a sort of "tax" made to spirit, or to its material representatives as an acknowledgment of the need for their presence on the material plane. Thus a "tithe" may be paid by a member of a church as his share of upkeep for the church meeting place. Tithes can also be given as a thank you for blessings given, an example of this is the "Thanks to St. Jude" advertisements that occasionally appear in the personals section of the newspaper. Tithes are sometimes calculated as a percentage of your incoming wealth. This is to insure a fair distribution of support from all those in the community.
These concepts of give and take must be kept in mind by all those who wish to partake of the spirit of "Thanksgiving" - the spirit of "Lammas". If there is any antidote for the explosion of antipathy and ennui among those who live in the modern industrial world it is the cultivation of a spirit of gratitude for the simple, and complex, dance of creation that constantly surrounds all of us.
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