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Pagan festivals - Lammas or Lughnasadh or August Eve?

Updated on January 2, 2015

First Harvest and first blackberries

This festival is thought of as the First Harvest, and rightly so, because already we can see not only the corn being harvested in many fields, but also Mother Nature’s bounty starting to ripen.

The first Blackberries can be found now and many other signs of autumn’s second harvest are already showing. We are well into the summer now and moving onward into the autumnal season ahead.

Blackberries and corn

Blackberries. Photo by Steve Andrews
Blackberries. Photo by Steve Andrews
Corn. Photo by Steve Andrews
Corn. Photo by Steve Andrews

John Barleycorn by Bard of Ely

Horse chestnuts or Conkers

Some years it seems as though we are moving into autumn faster than usual. Already, at time of writing, trees can be seen starting to shed their leaves, and fruits of the Fall, such as Horse Chestnuts, or "conkers," as they are traditionally known, sometimes appear early, lying amongst the leaf litter. Shiny treasures for schoolboys to collect, or at least they were in my childhood.

Wild Mushrooms

Mushrooms begin to crop up in fields and woodlands.These strange fungal growths feed not on sunlight but on decayed remains and so their growth now shows us that the main season of growth is now past and that the sunlight is now declining in its intensity and hours of daylight.

This is epitomized in legend and lore by the Solar hero deity Lugh returning to the otherworld until he shall come again to start the cycle again.

The sunlight is still strong enough to ensure plenty of hot summer days are left though and for me August Eve is a great festival for meeting people who are out and about, as well as for celebrating in the sunshine.

Avebury stone circle

Avebury, the Wiltshire village within a stone circle, is the place I used to always visit for the Lammas Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri. Now I am living in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, it is a festival and location I admit I really miss.

John Barleycorn - a hit song

A great song for this time of year is John Barleycorn, a song the folk-rock band Traffic once had a big hit with many years ago. I recorded my version of the song some years back.

Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band

Speaking of songs, Incredible String Band founder Robin Williamson has a wonderful song called Lammas on his album of originals entitled Ten of Songs . It is one of my favourites of recordings released during Robin's solo career.

Are Crop Circles real?

I am also thinking of something else, which can be still seen at this time of year, as well as the harvesting of the crops that is going on now, and this is the phenomenon of the Crop Circle.

I arrived at Avebury for the Lammas gorsedd some years back to find that an outstanding Crop Circle had just been made on a local hillside.

At the Barge Inn in the nearby Vale of Pewsey, Crop Circle enthusiasts gather to discuss the latest formations and look at recent photos. Mind you, I believe that most of them are carefully made by humans.

I happen to know one of the circle-makers. He is called Matthew Williams and has been in the news for doing this and was prosecuted for making Crop Circles. I first met him many years back when he was running a 'Truth-seeker' magazine and putting on events with guest speakers from the world of ufology and crop circle research.

Matthew puts over the idea that the circles are made by people like himself who often work in teams. But not everyone is convinced. Hardcore Crop Circle enthusiasts still like to think that aliens made them or that they are possibly some communication from other dimensions or the planet Gaia herself!

Singer Reg Presley of The Troggs

Reg Presley, who is famous for his role as lead singer of the Troggs (remember Wild Thing), is very interested in the subject of Crop Circles and UFOs too. One year, he was giving a talk and showing some photos in the back room of the Red Lion in Avebury.

Whatever the reality of this phenomena is, it certainly exerts a most magical fascination over people and is, in a big way, linked to the idea and tradition of the harvest. If there were no cornfields waiting to be harvested there would be nowhere for these incredible geometric mysteries to occur!

© 2010 Steve Andrews


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for posting, EM!

    • E M Smith profile image

      E M Smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Yes brambles are starting to appear here

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for this lovely feedback, Lou! Yes, I think it is crazy how people no longer gather foods from nature like they used to. In so many ways I wish we could go back in time - that is my cure for world problems: get rid of the Monsanto crops and the herbicides and pesticides, get rid of plastic pollution, bring back the use of glass bottles and containers, etc etc - bring everything back to 30 years ago or more! lol John Barleycorn for me is similar to Lord of the Dance in many ways. Martin Carthy I learned John Barleycorn from also does the latter song.

      PS There is a lovely song entitled Lammas on Robin Williamson's Ten of Songs album, which is well worth tracking down! I just did and ordered a copy on Amazon!

    • Lou Purplefairy profile image

      Lou Purplefairy 7 years ago from Southwest UK

      very interesting hub Steve.

      This is my favourite time of year as all of the new produce is harvested. For people like me who like to cook and preserve things there is plenty of stuff about which can be preserved for the scarcer winter months. Sadly in a world where the supermarket rules supreme, the trend of "storing up for winter" is on the wane. people are lacking in skills that our grandparents and great grandparents used as a normal part of everyday life.

      I love the Ballad of John Barleycorn as it epitomises the harvest and reminds us that the crop is a personality in its own right without which we would not survive. Coincidentally this week I have been practising John Barleycorn for a bardic performance at Avebury on August


      I love to go and pick blackberries as they are such an important food source high in vitamin C and a source of energy and best of all free! I have already picked and jammed the first harvest of them and plan to pick more to make some cakes, wine and wonderful bread pudding, (which somebody not a million miles away suggested to me he! he!)

      I read the book "wild things they don't tell us" by Reg Presley some years ago and it affected me very deeply and put me on a path of discovery. You could say it was my own eureka moment. I would love to be part of an audience with Reg! I am hoping that there will be a circle close by to Avebury when I visit on the 31st. I have never been to one before even tho I have studied them for many years and look forward to the experience!