A Meditation for Lammas(Lughnasahd)
- In the season of John Barleycorn, the heat hangs heavy in the air
as you enter into the clearing...
By Laura Wildman
This is the season of John Barleycorn, the European God of the
grain. Grain is a staple of life in many cultures, and their
religions reflect this reality. Rites that celebrate the
transformations of the grain, from planting to harvest, are at the
heart of many festival cycles. One recurring theme in such rites
portrays the essence of the God being absorbed into the grain. He is
then cut down, a harvest sacrifice for the good of the tribe. In His
rebirth each spring, we see the continuity of the cycle and the
renewal of life.
The heat hangs heavy in the air as you enter into the clearing. It
is accented by the loud humming of June beetles and the buzz of
bees. There is hardly any breeze. A brook is beside you. The flowing
waters of the brook look appealing. You think about removing your
clothes and jumping in, but then you hear the sound of pipes in the
fields on the other side of the brook. You're curious about what's
happening, and go to find out.
You cross the brook using stepping-stones and make your way up the
gentle slope. There is a fence around the pasture. You find the
gate, open it, and enter the field. The hay smells sweet and strong.
The crickets are chirping. They hop out of your way as you walk
through the tall grass. The grass tickles your hands and rubs
against your legs as you make your way through it. A hare scampers
and hides, camouflaged among the browns and greens.
You reach the garden that was planted last spring. You remember the
planting rites and notice that the vegetables are full and lush. You
reach out and part the large, rough leaves of a zucchini plant to
see the shiny green fruit hidden beneath them. The cornstalks are
tall-almost as tall as you. Nubs of young ears line their surface.
The tomatoes are not quite ripe, but the peas and beans can be
picked. You snap off one of the pea pods and break it in half. The
fresh green scent is released. You place the peas in your mouth and
savor their sweet taste.
You walk through the garden admiring the growth. The musical sound
that beckoned to you is coming from the other side of the hill. With
the excitement of discovery, you walk on.
As you reach the top of the hill and look down, you see stretched
out before you an ocean of yellow grain. A gentle breeze comes
through. The shafts sway lightly in the wind, creating a wave of
wheat. Below you is a couple sitting by a hedgerow. They both appear
to be of early middle age. She has the wide hips and breasts of
motherhood; He, a thick yellow growth of beard on His chin. He is
playing His pipes for Her, a wistful, plaintive lament. You watch as
He finishes His song. They stand and embrace. It does not appear to
be a sad scene, yet you feel a sense of sweet parting.
They release their lovers' embrace. She gently smiles, touching His
fuzzy cheek. You hear Her call Him "John." He throws His head back
and laughs at some private joke shared between them. The sound
echoes through the field. He then kisses Her good-bye and walks into
the field of grain. His fingers lightly play along the tops of the
sheaves as He makes His way deeper and deeper into the tall growth.
He wades until He stands in the center of the field. He is
completely surrounded by grain. His outstretched palms lie lightly
on the heads of the seeds. He looks over to where the Lady stands.
As She waves to Him, he smiles and slowly starts to expand, become
translucent, and fade from sight. His essence is pouring into the
grain all around Him until all that is left is the grain. A breeze
ripples the wheat, reflecting the sun in a wave of golden hues. When
you look back to the Lady, She too has gone.
The silence is soon replaced with excited, happy voices. People-
men, women, and children-are coming over the hill, carrying baskets
and harvesting equipment. They begin the harvest, singing joyful
songs. You can smell the fresh hay as it lands on the ground to be
raked into mounds. You are handed a tool, a rake, or a scythe. The
wooden surface is smooth from years of use. You take it and help
with the harvest. (Pause long enough for the task.)
It takes time for all the sheaves to be cut and bound, but finally,
you stand up and stretch. Your muscles may be sore, but you feel
satisfied with the work you've accomplished. You look around the
field. It appears that the grain has all been cut. Then you notice
one spot. One small sheaf still stands, waving in the wind. A young
girl emerges from the crowd, carrying a small sickle. Calls of
encouragement follow her into the field. She approaches the sheaf
and shyly cuts it. A cheer rings out. She gathers the fallen grain
and returns to her mother. Together, they quickly fashion a small
doll from it, holding it up to the crowd, which responds with more
cheers and song.
While the merriment continues, the young girl uncovers a basket
filled with freshly baked bread. Its rich scent makes your mouth
water. A keg of cold ale is brought up from the stream and opened.
Each person walks past the mother and daughter, taking a piece of
cut bread from the basket and a glass of cold brewed and fermented
grain. Both are symbols of the Earth's and John Barleycorn's
sacrifice for the good of the people.
The young girl smiles up at you as she hands you your piece of
bread. It feels warm in your hands. You realize the bread contains
the essence of the Earth and sun and of the God. You give thanks as
you bite into it, tasting the love that it holds. Enjoy your glass
of ale and your bread, the fruits of your work and gifts from the
The sun is beginning to set. The harvesters are getting ready to
leave for the day. They wave good-bye to you as they, and you, begin
to make your way home. You walk up the slope, through the green
garden, and back into the pasture. Find the gate and close it tight
behind you. Before you is the stream with its crossing stones. You
lightly jump from one to the other, back into the clearing, and
return to your inner home.