LAMMAS: Let the harvest begin!

Here we are at the days of ripe grains that are so much a part of the human diet. Wheat, barley, oats and rye stand proud and golden in the fields, ready to be reaped and made into bread, ale, beer, pies and cakes. Food and drink of every description since very early in human history has had grains at the heart. The word ‘Lammas’ is derived from Anglo-Saxon ‘loaf-mass’ meaning that the first bread could now be made. Deities include Demeter, Ninkasi (ancient Sumerian goddess of beer), Bacchus, Silenus and Dionysus. We may also honour Ceres, goddess of edible plants (the word cereal comes from her name) and in this part of Britain, Lugh the Celtic god of Light. The river Lugg that meanders through Herefordshire might be named after him, as ‘shining one’ are attributed to the river and to Lugh. In his honour another name for this festival is ‘Lughnasadh’ (pronounced ‘LOO-nassa’). 

Perhaps the most fitting way to celebrate this festival is to enjoy the simple pleasure of a loaf of bread and a glass of ale or beer. Home-made is great, otherwise find the best quality you can afford (many non-alcoholic beers are available too, if that’s what you prefer). They go together wonderfully, fill the stomach and nourish the body. Break bread with family and friends. Drink a toast to the harvest, the farmers, reapers and millers of grain, brewers, bakers, the deities of the grain and make an offering in homage. 

Seasonal songs include ‘John Barleycorn’ which tells the story of the harvest from sowing to celebrating. ‘The Barley Mow’ is a cumulative ditty that adds verse upon verse, naming the sizes of containers and sequence of people who contribute to bringing us the end product: a hearty drink. We don’t know any songs dedicated to bread-baking but maybe you could compose your own?