Celebrate Lammas by exploring sacred gardening ideas with Sacred Actions author Dana O’Driscoll
Many of us celebrate Lammas (or Lughnasadh) this week on Sunday, August 1st, the nearest full moon to July 31st.
Lammas traditionally heralds the start of the grain harvest; in the Middle Ages, it was observed with a loaf made from the first harvest—literally “loaf-mass”—from which we get the more modern name of the festival “Lammas”.
In early Christianity, the first loaves of the season were blessed by the church during mass at this time.
The Celtic fire god Lugh is honored who, by sparing the life of his enemy, Bris, gained the knowledge of agriculture. Lugh’s ritual mating with the goddess, his subsequent death, and resurrection are also reverenced by those who practice the Craft.
Pagans commemorate Lammas as the festival of the god and masculinity, and so this sabbat is often seen as a companion to the festival of the goddess and women at Imbolc. It marks the beginning of the harvest and the celebration of the god before his decline and death at Autumn Equinox (Mabon).
Summer is the season of ripeness, and so Lammas is also the celebration of the abundant fresh produce seasonally available in the Northern Hemisphere, from cucumbers and carrots to lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and much more! Apple and grape harvesting also begin, along with luscious peaches, apricots, nectarines, and plums at last sweet and ready to be savored. Many adorn their altars with first fruits, stalks of grain, acorns, nuts, and even antlers in honor of the god (if they have them).
REDFeather’s new book, Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices by Dana O’Driscoll, dedicates Chapter 6 to Lammas/ Lughnasadh, by exploring–
“Landscapes, Gardens and Lawn Liberation. This chapter explores the concept of sacred gardening and shares strategies for growing food, developing habitat, and cultivating sacred spaces that help regenerate our immediate landscapes.”
As author Dana O’Driscoll states in Chapter 6, “Some of us are blessed with access to a small—or large—patch of land. Others may be renters or have other situations that disallow us from getting our hands into the dirt. The goal of this chapter is to offer philosophies and opportunities for every person regardless of situation, to grow something, even if it’s just as simple as sprouts on the windowsill or having a small, raised bed at a family member’s house or community garden. I have experienced both kinds of circumstances.
From abundant full-sun growing space on my 3-acre homestead in Michigan to my container garden while renting in Pennsylvania, the lessons are the same—tending and growing things deepens our awareness and connection and allows us to engage in sacred action.”
Dana suggests three paths to sacred gardening:
- Inviting nature into our inner and outer lives
- Working with nature to regenerate and sustain the land
- Growing with nature to nourish body and soul
In addition to extensively exploring sacred landscaping outdoors, Sacred Actions also details how to create “Indoor Sacred Gardening”. Here is an excerpt from her book on this topic:
“In terms of what to grow, herbs are always a good choice, particularly hardy herbs that can deal with a range of conditions: sage, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley, chives, basil and mints. If you want to grow a bit of food instead, there are a few good choices: carrots (with a deep pot), any kind of greens, dwarf fruit trees (I’ve had a lot of success with patio lemons and tiny sour oranges), peppers (especially little hot ones) or scallions. Some heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable varieties are specifically selected for their compactness and tolerance to small pots—so look for these when selecting your plants.”
Of course, if you do have access to land to build your sacred garden, Sacred Actions delves into permaculture, a method of gardening that incorporates sustainable living practices, and making spaces for nature. Dana suggests—
“In my own garden and lawn conversions, I didn’t just create a space for plants, but I focused on cultivating sacred sanctuary for all life. This included water features for insects, birds, and amphibians; wild-bee homes (a chunk of log drilled with varying diameters between 2 and 10 mm); and carefully selected plants with varying bloom times. I certainly include milkweed, given the difficulty that monarch butterflies are facing with farming practices that have eliminated hedges and edges. You can do research on species that need help in your area, and work to cultivate spaces that will offer them a nice home.”
Another sacred gardening technique is the age-old tradition of planting and harvesting using the sun, moon, or stars as a guide. The idea here is like other kinds of magical timing through astrology, the Wheel of the Year, and full-moon magic: certain times of the day, week, and month are better for planting or harvesting activities. Dana writes that—
“If you plant by drawing on this energy, your plants will grow stronger (having the pull of the energy of the moon, for example) and if you harvest, your harvests will store longer. “
Consider using the phases of the Moon in your sacred gardening:
- New/Dark Moon: Planting
- Waxing Moon: Planting
- Full Moon: Planting, harvesting
- Waning Moon: Harvesting, weeding, composting
To conclude Chapter 6, Dana recommends some exercises and rituals for sacred gardening, including a profound Planting Ritual that you can use in a variety of ways, whether as a solo practitioner or with your group or coven.
Other REDFeather titles to investigate this Lammas as you explore sacred gardening further include:
Barefoot Wisdom: Better Health Through Grounding by Sharon Whiteley & Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Sacred Gardens by Michel & Judy Marcellot
Spiritual Gardens: A Guide to Meditating in Nature by Danijela Kracun
We hope your Lammas and your gardening are inspired by this week’s blog,
Lammas/ Lughnasadh Blessings from REDFeather!