Lammas/Lughnasadh Customs and Practices

August 1, is the beginning of the harvest cycle and rests on the early grain harvest as well as those fruits and vegetables that are ready to be picked. Canning of fruits and vegetables goes into full swing, jams and jellies made and cabinets are stocked with herbs before the onset of autumn.
As long as hand reaping lasted so the ceremonies of the “Last Sheaf” endured. In ancient times in Britain, it varied from county to county; some preferred to throw their sickles at it until there was nothing left, others thought it held an evil spirit and trampled it into the ground. Many treated it with honor for they believed the corn-spirit had retreated into it as a refuge when the rest of the crop was cut. On some farms the reapers took turns to throw their sickles at the last stand of corn, thus sharing the responsibility. In this, the corn-spirit was thought to sleep throughout the winter. In the spring it was taken to the fields when the seed was being sown so that the spirit could transfer to the sown seed and awaken it. This ritual re-enactment of the slaying and restoration of Lugh/John Barleycorn was associated with beer and cider drinking to follow.
The last sheaf was then plaited (braided) into a woman’s form, which represented the Harvest Spirit. These were known by various names, the Corn-Dolly, Nell Doll, and in Whalton in Northumberland, a member of the same family made the Kern-Babby each year, for the church Harvest Festival. The Corn Dolly was set in a place of honor at the harvest supper, it was preserved over winter and plowed-in, in the following Spring; in other traditions, the corn dolly was fed and watered throughout the winter and then burned in the fire at Beltane. The vacant land was known as Lammas Lands, used for growing early crops or hay, were then thrown open for common grazing until the next Spring.

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