The Festival Of The Corn Harvest
This festival accords with many of Wiccan principles, especially the Threefold Law.
Time: Sunset 31 July-sunset 2 August (31 January-2 February in the southern hemisphere)
Focus: Willing sacrifice for the greater good, natural justice and karma, trusting the cosmos to provide
by giving without seeking immediate return; also spiritual transformation, renewal of the life force by
absorbing the powers of the spirit of the corn through food and drink.
This is the festival of the corn harvest, called Lammas or Loafmass, when on 1 August the first loaf is
baked from the harvested wheat. It corresponds to the Christian harvest festival when in some churches
corn is still offered on the altar, but the concept of offering up the first fruits to the deities in return for
abundance throughout the year is a very ancient one.
The Lammas loaf, made in the pagan tradition from the last sheaf of corn to be cut down, was regarded
as sacred by very early agricultural societies onwards. Before Christian times, it was believed to
contain the spirit of the corn; the barley fermented by the autumn equinox was the blood of the Corn
God, or the spirit of the crops, who in popular folk song was called John Barleycorn. This is probably
the origin of the Wiccan cakes and ale ceremony. This last sheaf was cut by a number of people casting
their sickles simultaneously, so no one would know who killed the Corn God, though he offered
himself willingly so that there would be abundant future harvests.
As well as being used to make the harvest loaf, some of the corn was woven into corn dollies, symbol
of the Earth Mother, decorated with the scarlet ribbons of Frigg, the Norse Mother Goddess. These
corn dollies would be hung over domestic hearths throughout winter. Some were made into the shape
of a Corn Mother or a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, and others were tied into knots that bound in the
power and protection. This art continues today in rural places.
The old name for this month in the Celtic Coligny calendar was Claim-time, when debts would be
collected and contracts were arranged. Trial marriages for a year and a day were frequently set up at
Lammas, by young couples simply joining hands through a holed stone – they could renew the contract
annually if they wished.
Lammas evolved over the centuries into an occasion for craft fairs and festivals, with people travelling
from miles around to sell their wares. There were also parades by the trade guilds, and hiring fairs
where workers were found to help in the fields for the summer weeks.
Nowadays, the festival energies are good for fighting injustice for oppressed people or creatures,
especially for making sure that workers in Third World countries are not exploited financially; for
teaching new skills so that people in poor lands and deprived areas may have a chance to create their
own prosperity, and for all acts of unpublicised charity.
On a personal level, Lughnassadh is potent for rituals concerning justice, rights, contracts, business
affairs, regularising finances and seeking advancement in career; for personal and legal commitments
and partnerships of all kinds; also for learning new skills and trades and for mature people in their
forties and fifties.
Candle colours: Dark orange and yellow candles, to reflect the coming of autumn, and purple for
Symbols: Ears of corn, corn dollies, anything made of straw; bread, cereals of all kinds
Crystals: Brown agate, desert rose, fossilised wood, leopardskin jasper
Flowers, herbs, oils and incenses: Cedarwood, cornflowers, Chamomile, cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger,
myrtle, rosewood and sunflowers
A Lughnassadh Ritual For Renewing The Sacred Exchange With The Earth
You can work around dusk, either alone or in a group or perhaps invite a friend or family member to
share the ritual.
* Bake or buy a round loaf of wholegrain bread and a small bottle of barley wine, organic ale or a fresh
* Place the bread in a straw basket and surround it with ears of grain or dried grasses and pour the
wine, ale or juice into a pottery jug.
* Light first a large, orange candle on a very large, fireproof tray and place it so that light falls on the
food and drink.
* Burn gentle Chamomile, Cedarwood or rosewood oil or incense, saying:
Spirit of the corn, I thank you for your bounty for giving your life for the life of the land and the
people. I offer in return my crafts and skills.
* Take an ear of grain, straw, or a dried grass and pass it through the oil vapour or incense smoke and
then begin to weave a knot, saying:
I offer … [make a pledge, however small, of some way you can use your abilities for the good of the
family/workplace/community or any project dear to your heart].
* Now take a second grass and pass it through the candle flame, then weave it into the first, forming a
second knot, this time asking for something you or your loved ones need.
* Place your miniature corn knot in a straw basket, continuing to make a double knot of pledges and
needs, until you have exhausted your ingenuity. Pass each through the incense and the candle. (If you
are working with others you can take it in turns to make and name your corn knots and place them in
the basket. If you have a joint goal as a coven, you can work on a large knot to represent the collective
energies and needs, by making individual knots and binding them together with red ribbon.)
* Then take the bread and raise it above the candle, saying:
I give thanks for this the willing gift and offer the first fruits to the Earth Mother who transforms and
restores all in the ever-turning Wheel.
* Crumble some bread either on to the ground if you are working out of doors or into a large wooden
or ceramic dish.
* Break the bread in its dish and offer it to anyone present before eating yourself.
* Take the wine or ale and raise it above the candle, saying:
We give thanks and offer this free-flowing life force to the Earth Mother who reforms and renews all in
the ever-turning circle of the year.
* Pour some of the wine either on to the ground or into the dish with the crumbled bread and pour the
wine into a glass. (If you are working in a group, pour it into individual glasses and hand them round
before serving yourself.)
* After drinking, blow out the candle and say as a rising chorus:
Power to the Sun.
* On the final word, blow out the candle.
* Bury your crumbled bread and wine in a hole in the garden or a large plant pot, saying:
Grow anew, come forth in the spring and keep your promise as I will mine.
* If you poured the offerings directly on to the ground, plant flowers close by.
Keep your dish of knots. Take them out one by one and as you fulfil your pledges cast each into
flowing water or from the top of a hill on a very windy day. Before long, your needs should be met, in
a way that should bring you new opportunities, though perhaps not exactly as you planned.
Mabon, The Autumn Equinox
Time: For three days from sunset on or around 21 September (21 March in the southern hemisphere)
Focus: A time of abundance, reaping the bounty of the Earth and of celebration for life and its gifts;
welcoming the waning, darker part of the year, the god in the Underworld or within the womb of the
Earth Mother; for letting go and if necessary grieving for what is not fulfilled
The autumn equinox, or time of gathering, was traditionally celebrated as the wild or green harvest, a
time of celebration for the fruits and vegetables of the earth and the Earth Mother. This equinox is the
second time of the balance between day and night in the Wheel of the Year, and sees Lugh, the god of
light, defeated by his twin and alter-ego, Goronwy, the god of darkness. Goronwy was associated with
the Horned God as Lugh was with the Green Man, god of vegetation.
Mabon, or Maponus, was another form of Lugh, and was regarded as the son of the Earth Mother and
known as the liberator-prisoner. The Corn God lies fallow in the womb of the Mother. But because his
sacrifice was willing, Death has no dominion over him and he grows stronger.
This is the time of the second harvest of vegetables, fruit and remaining crops, the harvest home that
pre-dates Christianity. On the day when equal night and day heralded winter, the feast formed a
sympathetic magical gesture to ensure that there would be enough food during the winter, by
displaying and then eating in celebration the finest fruits of the harvest. Druids traditionally climb to
the top of a hill to take leave of the summer Sun as the nights will get longer. Michaelmas, the day of
St Michael, the Archangel of the Sun, is celebrated on 29 September. St Michael was patron saint of
high places and replaced the pagan Sun deities in Christianity.
Today, global rituals concentrate on positive steps to ensure enough food, shelter and resources for
vulnerable communities and individuals, relief of flood and famine, protection of endangered water
creatures, dolphin, whales and fish whose death involves great suffering; they also look for peace
especially where initiatives are already in motion.
On a personal level, autumn equinox rituals are potent for the completion of tasks, for abundance in all
aspects of your life, including security for the future which may involve issues of employment or the
need to consolidate finances; reconciliation, the setting down of unresolved anger and quarrels; all
matters concerning retirement and older people, especially those who are turning their experience to
new fields; the resolution of chronic health problems and all Water magick.
Candle colours: Blue for the autumn rain and green for the Earth Mother
Symbols: Ripe fruit and vegetables, autumn leaves, berries and nuts
Crystals: Blue lace agate, aventurine, malachite, laboradite
Flowers, herbs, oils and incenses: Chrysanthemum, geranium, lemon, parsley, pine, sage and
A Falling Leaf Ritual
This ritual of the autumn equinox may be performed to shed fears and regrets and welcome the coming
of winter. Anyone who has seen a profusion of swirling brilliant red, yellow, orange and vibrant brown
leaves will understand that this is a time of great energy as the light battles but finally submits to the
As the winds blew at the spring equinox, bringing new life, now they and the autumn rains carry away
all that is fulfilled and unfulfilled, leaving room for the quieter contemplation of a time when the Sun
still shines and the fruits of the harvest are all around. In this way we can say goodbye to the summer
* Collect a basket of autumn leaves or any dying greenery and surround it with the fruits, vegetables,
seeds, and nuts of the harvest.
* Place blue and green candles alternately at the four quarters, beginning with green in the West,
marking out a square that holds both the joys and sorrows of the year that has passed. Make the square
large enough so you can work within it.
* Light first the blue candle of the North, followed by the green candle in the East and the blue candle
in the South, saying:
The light is born, increases, flames and flares, and with it our lives increase, intensify, we plough and
plant, create and tend, travel far and seek our destinies.
* Light finally the green candle of autumn and the West, the Celtic direction of endings and the
direction of the Otherworld, to which souls go for rest and regeneration, saying:
The harvest is gathered and the fruits of our endeavours made great by the bounty of Mother Nature.
* Take now a large bowl (or your cauldron) filled with water and place it to the West of the leaves and
the circle of the harvest fruits.
* Take a leaf to symbolise an ending, an unfulfilled hope or plan and another for one that was achieved
or a problem now resolved; name first the sorrow and then the gain and drop the leaves into the bowl
of water, saying:
What is lost and what is gained are balanced and one and the same, as the waters of life flow on.
* Eat a nut or seed or a sliver of fruit, saying:
I take with thanks the abundance of the harvest and I bid farewell to the summer with joy and not with
* Continue to name and float leaves and eat nuts and seeds until your repository of regrets is empty.
* Move the candles closer to the container of water and look into the water and see, either in your
mind’s vision, or on the surface images in the light and shadows. If you wish, drop blue and green wax
from the candles on to the surface of the water to create images that may suggest ways in which you
can make the darker days ahead rich and fulfilling.
* When next you go out of doors, scatter your unused leaves into the air, saying:
Fly free, fly joyous, not in sorrow, to return renewed in the spring.
Use the remaining fruit and vegetables for a meal for family and friends.
The Festival Of The Corn Harvest