Lammas: Sacrifice and Sustenance

by Tina Whittle

It’s time to bake the bread again, to turn the Wheel of the Year and celebrate Lammas. Time to gather the ingredients — the flour of the field, the salt of the earth, the yeast, the water, the honey — and let the miracle happen anew, the ancient chemical (and alchemical) process. It is time to be mindful of the cycle — creation, sustenance, destruction — that begins and ends and begins again.

Lammas is the celebration of the first harvest, when the ripened grains are ready to be gathered. Some are eaten — hence the baking and breaking of bread — but some must be stored for the lean times ahead. For even though we are in the hottest and brightest part of the solar year, when Leo the Sun-Maned Lion shines in the sky and Sirius the hot-red Dog Star rules the night, the Sun is already waning. The shadows of the dark to come are already growing stronger.

This is the time of sacrifice. The God of Light, having been defeated at Litha, now willingly assumes the role of the sacrificed king, knowing that he will be reborn at Yule. The community puts aside a portion of the harvest for the winter and the time of the fallow field, but also in preparation for the spring and the time of planting. To do so is to understand that true sacrifice is an act of faith, a conscious participation in the cycles that nurture and sustain us. Always, the Wheel turns.

In a ritual sense, sacrifice has many varied expressions. Sometimes it is characterized as a gift or homage to a deity. Sometimes it is performed in a reciprocal manner, as in Santeria, where an animal is often sacrificed and then eaten as a way of offering and receiving sustenance from the guiding spirits. Sometimes sacrifice is an act of atonement or reparation, often on behalf of another.

As a Witch, I view sacrifice with an eye toward the process more than the product. It’s not a simple give-get equation any more than the Rule of Three is an actual mathematical formula. For me, sacrifice asks us to honor all the ways that we exchange energy in our existence, to be mindful of the ancient cycles of death and rebirth, from the grand cosmic flaming out of a star to the culling of an unnecessary memory from our neuronal circuits. Nature doesn’t abhor a vacuum — Nature loves a vacuum so much that it rushes to realize the potential there. This is the respiration of the Universe — in and out, emptiness and fulfillment and emptiness again. Sacrifice asks us to bring attention — and intention — to this ongoing process.

This Lammas, ask yourself what you are being called to sacrifice. Perhaps some of your time is being wasted in a nonproductive activity, or on a project that no longer serves your highest good. Perhaps you have material objects cluttering your life — a junk drawer or stuffed attic — that could be donated to a thrift store so that they can have new life with someone else. Or perhaps your sacrifice will go deeper, releasing an idea or perspective that may be keeping you spiritually stagnant, even if the space you open by doing so feels like a death.

Whatever it is that you contribute to the web of the Universe, may your sacrifice —and you — be blessed.

Tina Whittle is a mystery novelist/freelance writer living in the Low Country of Southeast Georgia. She is a Witchcraft V student in the Temple’s Mystery School and co-editor of The Temple Bell. You can learn more about her at her website: http://www.tinawhittle.com.

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