I’ll just come right out and say it: I have a very uneasy relationship with the holiday of Lammas.
Seems like an odd thing to say. Isn’t it strange for a wizard committed to observing the eight major solar holidays of the year to speak badly of one of them? How does one have an “uneasy relationship” with a holiday? I just discovered this myself, only a couple of days ago. A friend mentioned that Lammas is particularly special for her, and I immediately replied, “I have a very uneasy relationship with Lammas.” That was how I learned that this was true.
Lammas is objectively a very wonderful thing. Typically observed around August 1, it marks the halfway point between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, as well as the midyear point for those traditions that emphasize Beltane (aka May Day, May 1) and Samhain (aka Halloween, October 31) as more significant markers of the year than the solstices.
It’s the first of the three harvest festivals, and being the first comes with some serious upsides. We are, for the first time, invited to celebrate the fruits of our labor. And this is intended to be a celebration. The very first results of the work (intentional or otherwise) we’ve spent all year so far engaged in, especially all that time between March and June, are no longer relegated to the world of mere ideas. The fruits are real. We can see them and touch them and even eat them. Sure, the other two harvest holidays yield more – and always seem to get more attention too – but there’s something really special about having tangible fruits of your life’s work in your hands for the first time in a given year.
But yes, the next two harvest festivals yield more, and they’re still to come. Right now, for Lammastide, we kinda get the best of both worlds. The harvest has begun, but it’s also very much still summer. If you’re caught in this batshit heat wave like I am, it might be hard to see this as a positive thing, but humidity aside, this does mean that we still have more time before being confronted with the immediate reality of winter and the season of darkness. And eff that noise.
This is the time of magic bread and blessings.
So what’s my issue, then? Maybe I’m just being an ingrate, falling prey to that all-too-human tendency to fail to relish the magic bread, blessings, and delight all around us at all times. We all do it. But you could also argue that I’m innocent, or at least that my offense is pardonable. We all have times of the year that work better for us than others.
Even I have a hard time explaining why I’d have a difficult time each year smack in the middle of the summer, undeniably my personal season of triumph – although, given the overall nature of the universe, maybe it’s not that odd at all that there would be some element of difficulty or complication in the midst of my highest point. I would also point to some of the specific nuances of how I experience this time of year. I talked about this at length in one of the recent podcast episodes – 15 or 16, I think. Every year, late spring forms a kind of build-up with new and unique pieces put into certain positions, lots of potential all around, but very little of it certain, decided, or even fully manifested. It’s the experience of a distinct state of lived reality that’s specific to this little window of time. It never seems that way. I get tricked every single time. “This is what the summer looks like,” I think.
Then the solstice hits and things come to a head and scramble up and change completely, such that by the 4th of July (or shortly thereafter), I’m in a new state of reality, and this is the one that’s gonna be the real definitive one of the summer.
Jarring, always, every year, but good. I can only think of a few times I’ve ever been disappointed with it. But by the end of July, I always hit a little slump. I’ve fully charged up on my vitamin D such that I’m no longer really getting high off the sunshine. I’ve spent so much time outside that I can take it for granted and no longer feel compelled to take advantage of every moment. The heat, which on the whole I love, starts to slow me down a little bit. It seems to slow everything down, at least temporarily. That last part isn’t just me – it’s what people mean when they reference the “dog days” of summer.
I start off at the solstice like a cosmic warrior with a star blazing out of my skull and then within six weeks find myself basically staggering into Lammas. Then I get here and you tell me it’s the first harvest festival and I want to strangle you because as cool as it may be, I’m not ready for the harvest yet. This is still summer, god damn it, so shut up about the fruit and let me enjoy it.
And there’s truth to that sentiment, even if it does seem a little ungrateful. Summer does continue, and I find that once I get over the hump of late July and early August, things pick back up again and I get to enjoy the fresh newness that approaches the beginning of each “school year”, even as the light fades. Take that under consideration. That phase is about to begin, and that’s cool.
But there’s one killer caveat. Everything I’ve described applies even to a good year, under the best of circumstances. This is not that good year. This is not a completely bad year, but it’s sure as shit an insane one. It’s the Year of the Retrogrades, the Summer of Mars Menacing Us All Every Night. That…complicates things, to say the least. Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about it some more.