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A Meditation for Lammas(Lughnasahd)

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  • Norman Thompson
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2007
      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
      Gods. (pause)

      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.
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