Harvest Festivals

HARVEST FESTIVALS
Compiled by Tree Higgins and David Taliesin

Harvest festivals have been with us since the earliest of times. The basic theme for these festivals is 1) giving thanks and 2) reflecting on the sacrifices necessary for us to survive the coming winter months.

In modern times, the first harvest festival is Lammas or Lughnasadh. Contrary to what you’ve read on the internet, they are NOT the same festival.

Lammas is the English harvest festival which occurs on the same day. The word is Anglo-Saxon for “loaf mass” and was celebrated by Pagans and Christians alike. It celebrates the first fruits of corn, wheat and barley. The main food for this festival is bread in one form or another.

Lughnasadh is Gaelic for the modern Irish word “Lunasa,” meaning August. In ancient times the Sun God Lugh was honored.

Green Corn Festival is an annual ceremony practiced among various Native American peoples including the Cherokee. It is associated with the beginning of the yearly corn harvest. Historically, it involved a first fruits rite in which the community would sacrifice the first of the green corn to ensure the rest of the crop would be successful. The Green Corn Ceremony typically occurs in late July–August, determined locally by the ripening of the corn crops.

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The second harvest festival is known in modern times as Mabon. In early times it was simply referred to as the Fall or Autumnal Equinox. It is the day when light and darkness are in balance with one another.

Mabon is a modern term coined by Aiden Kelly. It’s a reconstructed celebration that incorporates many of the old ways of celebrating the Autumnal Equinox.

Michaelmas was first celebrated in 1011. Named for the archangel Michael (protector), Sept 29, became a harvest festival and a time of taking stock, hiring help an settling debts. Around Michaelmas families decided which animals to keep through the winter and how many to sell or slaughter. Intended to replace Harvest Home, Michaelmas marked the point near the end of the reaping season and concluded with a dinner for landowners and tenants. These dinners gave landlords an opportunity to collect their seasonal rents.

Harvest Home is the English name for the harvest festival that occurred near the Fall Equinox throughout Europe. Some ancient Pagans also referred to this time as the Ingathering. Many of these traditions came from old Pagan fertility rituals; over time the ruling church dedicated the rituals to Christian saints instead of the original Pagan gods.
Other adaptations of the Harvest Festival are Oktoberfest in Germany and Rally Day in Southern Christian churches. You will see elements of the old celebrations reflected in each.

The Christian hymn known as “Harvest Home” or “Come, You Thankful People, Come” reflects the themes of the harvest in a way that may sound surprisingly Pagan! Here are the first two verses:

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come; raise the song of harvest home!

We ourselves are God’s own field, fruit unto his praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

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The third harvest festival is Samhain, which also includes other elements such as divination and communication with the other side. Christians adapted this festival and transformed it into All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day.

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Harvest Festival Symbols

Corn dollies—The word “corn” in Europe referred to all kinds of grain, not just the maize crops familiar to North America. Because of this, the term “corn dolly,” meant a figure fashioned form grain—usually wheat, but rye, millet, oats, and even maize also suited the purpose. There is evidence that this tradition does not originate in Europe, but came from ancient Egypt.

Cornucopia/Horn of Plenty—In classical antiquity, the cornucopia was a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce, flowers or nuts. he cornucopia became the attribute of several Greek and Roman deities, particularly those associated with the harvest, prosperity, or spiritual abundance. In modern times it is associated with Thanksgiving and harvest.

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Falling Leaves Meditation

Here’s a meditation exercise I wrote several years back. It’s a powerful tool for sharpening your magical intentions and life goals during autumn.

FALLING LEAVES MEDITATION

Materials needed: printed copy of the tree, pen or pencil

1. Place the image of the tree in your lap or on a table in front of you where you can see it.

2. Sit still and upright, relaxed and alert.

3. Focus on your breathing. With each exhale let your body relax more deeply.

4. When you are ready take a look at the tree. Focus your attention on the TRUNK of the tree. This represents a GOAL you’d like to accomplish in this season of your life. When a goal comes to mind, write it next to the tree trunk. Don’t force a goal to materialize. Spend some time in silence listening to your heart and spirit until it emerges with absolutely clarity.

5. When you have a goal in mind, turn your attention to the LEAVES on the tree. Think about the THINGS YOU NEED TO LET GO OF in order to make room in your life for this goal to be accomplished. This is a time to think about the things that no longer serve a useful purpose in your life. When these things come to mind, write them next to the leaves on the tree. If you have trouble letting go of things, remember that they will become the compost that provides nourishment for the tree. (Some people might find it helpful to close their eyes during this part of the meditation.)

6. Finally, turn your attention to the ROOTS of the tree. Think about the PEOPLE AND RESOURCES you will need to bring into your life in order to accomplish your goal. What kinds of things will feed and nourish your goal as well as yourself? When these things come to mind, write them next to the roots of the tree. (Some people might find it helpful to close their eyes during this part of the meditation.)

7. As a last step, close your eyes and take the image of this tree into your minds’ eye. Sit with it for a while and see if any additional insight arise. If they do, write them down on the page after you open your eyes. Keep this image with you and refer to it on a daily basis until you achieve your goal. Continue to write insights on the leaves and roots as they come to you.

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Oak Spell For Courage

(I cannot remember where this spell came from. If you know the author, let me know so I can attribute the source.)

Here is a simple spell that uses something many of us have in ample supply this time of year: acorns! I have a huge 100 year old oak tree in my back yard that produces a voluminous supply of these little magical nuggets. They’re quite popular with the local black bears but they always leave some for me to use as well.

This spell can be used as a meditation mantra, while in a magic circle, or even placed in a mojo bag. The choice is yours. Let your intuition guide you regarding how to use it. We could all use a little courage these days so I hope this comes in handy.

The mightiest of trees springs from a tiny acorn.
Help me to remember that the small can be vicious.
Bless me with the strength and will of the oak.
Grant me the voice of the thunder.
Help me to roar when I would normally squeak.
And help be to make my voice louder than my insecurities.

Blessed be! David Taliesin

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As We Approach 200,000 Covid-19 Deaths

I’m not here to argue politics or statistics. I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories, either. (If you are, then scroll on by!) I’m a spiritual leader who desires to offer a ritual of remembrance as we hit the 200,000 mark of deaths in the United States due to the coronavirus. These are sad times we live in and those who have perished from this dreadful disease often did so hooked up to a respirator with no family to surround them to help ease the transition from this world to the next. I was a hospital chaplain for many years and it was always my desire to give others a “good” death. There are no good deaths when Covid-19 comes knocking. Therefore, it’s up to us to help ease their transition if their spirits are between the worlds.

So, how can we help? The simplest approach is to say a prayer. Work with whatever form of the Divine resonates with you. If you do any work with the Ancestors/Blessed Dead ask for their aid as well. You don’t really need a formal prayer. Just speak it from the heart. Honor those who have lost their lives due to this virus whether you know their names or not. They were somebody’s grandparent, parent, sibling, etc. Remind them they were loved and pray that the Divine/Ancestors will help them find their way to the other side in a way that is peaceful and loving.

If you’re at a loss for words, I’ve always found the following prayer meaningful. It’s from the Jewish Yom Kippur liturgy:

“In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them. In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them. In the opening buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them. In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them. In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them. In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them. When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them. When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them. When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them. So long as we live, they are now a part of us, as we remember them.”

If you want to do a bigger, more formal ritual, here is mine that I’ve been doing on at least a weekly basis since we passed the 100,000 mark.

After I’ve cast a magical circle and called the quarters, I raise some energy and sit in the center of the circle in front of my home altar. I spend some time in meditation until I’m peaceful and my mind is clear.

I prepare a “name paper” to put under a mugwort candle that sits on my altar. On this small piece of paper, I simply write the number of deaths such as 200,000. I anoint the candle with rue oil and light it. (Click HERE if you want more info on candle magic.) If you don’t have a mugwort candle you can burn a little mugwort in your incense burner before you cast the circle. You can also use any other type of candle that speaks to you. This is your ritual so the choice is ultimately yours.

I then spend some time in prayer, asking the Divine Presence and Ancestors to help these lost souls make the journey from this world to the other side. I channel the energy that I raised in the circle and direct it toward the candle, along with my prayerful intention.

Next, I do whatever other magical/energetic work I need to do and then close the circle, returning whatever energy is lingering back to the ground.

I’m sure you can find your own way of observing this sad milestone in our coronavirus journey. Hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas of how to observe it. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Reaping an Abundant Spiritual Harvest Ritual

Here is a small group ritual (socially distanced, of course) that can be done as we move toward Mabon/The Fall Equinox. If you are a solitary practitioner, simply change the pronouns to singular. Please feel free to adapt this in order to bring it more in line with your spiritual path/practice.

 

REAPING AN ABUNDANT SPIRITUAL HARVEST

MABON INCENSE—Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials: Mabon

Pinch dried marigold/calendula
Pinch dried spearmint
Pinch dried sage
2 to 3 cloves or a small pinch of ground clove

Mix together and store in a jar in a cool, dry place. Use a pinch of it on a charcoal briquet as we journey toward Mabon.

CASTING THE CIRCLE
Incense all four directions with the following chant. Use a feather or feather wand to waft the smoke in each direction.

May the harvest be plentiful in our lives
That we may be agents of change and transformation
In our community and in our nation.

CALLING THE QUARTERS—David Taliesin

Guardians and Ancestors of the East, Spirits of Air, keepers of wisdom and mystery, whisper into our ears all that we need to know. May the cool fall breezes that rustle the leaves beneath our feet point us in the direction we need to go. Hail and welcome!

Guardians and Ancestors of the South, Spirits of Fire, purifiers of heart and mind, burn away the clutter and confusion from our lives so that we may have absolute clarity regarding your will for our lives. May the bonfires of fall that give us light and warmth, bring comfort to our weary souls tonight. Hail and welcome!

Guardians and Ancestors of the West, Spirits of Water, vessels of peace and compassion, may our thirst for justice and equality be quenched. May the fall rains which nourish the roots of the trees, give strength to the dreams you have planted in us. Hail and welcome!

Guardians and Ancestors of the North, Spirits of Earth, stewards of hearth and home, gather around us the community we need to make us feel safe and loved. As the fall harvest continues, we ask you to bring about a harvest of good things into our lives, Hail and welcome!

As we draw closer to Mabon, the Fall Equinox, things come into balance, day and night, light and dark, God and Goddess. As we journey into the dark time of the year, May the Divine bring balance into our lives and into this Circle. We are honored by your presence and draw strength from you.

Hail Demeter and Lugh, Mabon and Osiris.
Hail Parvati and Tammuz, Pomona and Dagon,
Hail all harvest gods and goddesses
Who see us into the dark half of the year,
We bid you welcome!

The Circle is cast. We are in protected space.
May we use this time to gather what we need
For the journeys which lie ahead. Blessed be!

MEDITATION ON BALANCE [Mabon Activity Sheet and then discuss if in a small group]

CLOSING THE CIRCLE—David Taliesin

We ask the Divine Presence, who is known to us by many names, to help us find balance in our lives May the Fall Equinox inspire to to take the steps necessary to accomplish this task. We also thank the Divine Presence  for the wisdom and insight we have received tonight. Blessed be!

We turn to the North and give thanks for the Guardians and Ancestors who dwell there. May the Spirits of Earth keep us grounded in the days ahead and surround us with people who make us feel safe and loved. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

We turn to the West and give thanks for the Guardians and Ancestors who dwell there. May the Spirits of Water calm our fears, and increase our ability to be compassionate to the struggles of others. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

We turn to the South and give thanks for the Guardians and Ancestors who dwell there. May the Spirits of Fire give us the energy and motivation we need to accomplish the goals we have set tonight. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

We turn to the East and give thanks for the Guardians and Ancestors who dwell there. May the Spirits of Air blow through our lives, filling them with magic and mystery. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Our Circle is now open but never unbroken
Because it is a circle woven in love.
Whatever energy is left in this space
We return to the earth with a spirit of gratitude.
Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again.

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Oktoberfest, Rally Day and Mabon

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Hofbräuhaus Hall Oktoberfest in Munich

Several years ago, while I was on vacation in Munich, I got the opportunity to attend the city’s infamous Oktoberfest. The best way I can describe it is a county fair on steroids! There are amusement rides for the kids, booths selling all kinds of yummy foods and trinkets and, of course, the beer halls. These halls are enormous and can seat thousands of people. I had lunch in the hall sponsored by the Hofbräuhaus which is one of Munich’s oldest breweries. The place was decorated with hops from floor to ceiling. Beer flowed freely, the band played traditional German music, the food was incredible, and there was lots of singing and celebrating. Oktoberfest is a celebration of life in all its exuberance. It’s a time to give thanks and enjoy the company of family and friends. A German friend of mine remarked that Oktoberfest and the Christmas Markets are the two times of the year Germans give themselves permission to set aside the formalities of their culture and really let their hair down. Trust me, they know how to throw a party.

No matter what culture we are a part of, there is something about this time of year that calls us to come together as a tribe and give thanks. Perhaps, it’s because in older times the harvest was mostly completed and the hard work of farming was coming to an end. It was a time to preserve and store food for the hard winter months ahead as well as give thanks to the Divine for the bounty of the land. Unfortunately, this year we’re going to have to get creative due to the coronavirus. Large gatherings are not even a remote possibility. They even cancelled Oktoberfest in Munich so you know these are dangerous time we live in.  Hopefully, we can all find a way to observe this changing of seasons even if it is on a smaller scale than usual.

Historically, both Christians and Pagans have their own forms of some kind of fall ritual observance.  Many Southern Churches where I live celebrate something called Rally Day.  It’s usually held the first or second weekend after Labor Day and is a time when most churches kick their activities into full gear. Sunday School resumes after a summer break and attendance goes up in worship because vacation time is over. Many churches have a Pot Luck lunch on Rally Day or a special time for celebrating and catching up with friends. It’s the antiseptic version of Oktoberfest that has been filtered through our American Puritan heritage. It also has its roots in our Pagan past as is reflected in a familiar hymn of the season:

Come ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home:
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide for our wants to be supplied:
Come, to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

Harvest Home, which is also called the Ingathering, is a traditional English harvest festival that has been celebrated for thousands of years. Like Oktoberfest, it’s a time of singing, dancing and decorating the town with symbols of the harvest. My Wiccan friends call this festival Mabon which is named after the Welsh God, Mabon, the son of Earth Mother goddess Modron.  They mark the holiday with feasting and enjoying seasonal foods like apples, pomegranates and root vegetables. From a spiritual perspective, Mabon is a time to reflect on the previous year, giving thanks for our successes (i.e. the things we have harvested) and assess which crops, projects, or dreams didn’t come to fruition. It’s a time to let go of that which no longer serves a useful purpose in our lives, so that we create space for something new to grow.

There is tons of information available on the origins and celebration of Mabon, so I won’t repeat it here.  What interests me the most is how the Fall Equinox calls us all to give thanks and celebrate, no matter what our culture or spiritual path. It’s one of the times of the year when nature’s message to us appears to be heard and received by all.

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Fall Is In the Air

This weekend I finally felt it. I woke up one morning and it was 58 degrees! Considering we had just gone through a heatwave in North Carolina where it was 90 for three days, the cooler weather was a welcome change. For a moment, it felt like autumn was a possibility. It made me smile as I inhaled a deep breath of that cool, crisp air.

Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. After sweating profusely for about three months and feeling exhausted most of the time, I wake up in the fall refreshed and ready to go. Yes, nature is beginning to wind down, but I’m starting to wind up. Perhaps you can relate!

I use this time to finish up my harvest of medicinal herbs and vegetables. Things are being dried, placed in mason jars, frozen, and canned. I take an inventory of my herbal apothecary and decide what I need to keep and what I should give away to others.

Typically this time of year my Christian calendar kicks into high gear with lots of increased activities. However, thanks to COVID-13, my schedule remains the same as it has most of the summer. This is good news because I’ve mastered the technologies I needed to learn since the beginning of the pandemic such as video editing and Zoom. These things come to me much quicker and easier than they did back in March and April which means i’ll have a little more free time this fall than I usually do. Yay!

My pagan calendar will be a lot freer as well since gathering in a large group to celebrate Mabon and Samhain are not even a remote possibility. I also throw a big bash every year to celebrate All Saints/Dia de los Muertos. Again that’s not going to happen either!

So, I’m ready to embrace a slower pace and a simpler observation of some of my favorite holidays. I suspect that many of you will be doing the same thing. But this is not bad, just different. My plan is to spend a lot of time with the Ancestors whose wisdom we need desperately in these crazy and uncertain times. I also promise to post simple activities and rituals that you can use to celebrate this changing of the seasons.

I hope you all are all doing well and that we will all use this time to find activities that will nurture our souls and deepen our magical and spiritual practices. Some days it’s hard to remain strong, but I am confident that we will learn valuable lessons in this time of pandemic we would have not learned otherwise. Blessings to all of you!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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September Full Corn Moon

4b34277f8b465047acf3fabc83f271cfAccording to the Farmer’s Almanac the September Full Moon, Sept. 2, is called the Full Corn Moon by many Native American tribes because it traditionally corresponds with the time of the harvesting moon. Other tribes call it the Barley Moon for the same reason. Living in the mountains of North Carolina, however, the corn harvest is long gone but there are many things that are being harvested including apples, squash, gourds and pumpkins.

No matter where you live, the energy of this moon corresponds to harvesting. It’s a good time to reflect on what is ready to be harvested in our lives. What project can be completed with just a little effort? What relationship can be nurtured with a little more time and attention? What idea has been rolling around in our brains that come to fruition if we focus our energies on it?

These are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves this full moon. and as we soak in its powerful energy, perhaps, we’ll find the energy and motivation to manifest something good in our lives and in our world. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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August Full Moon: Sturgeon Moon

supermoon-sturgeon

According to the Farmer’s Almanac “Some Native American tribes called the August Moon the Sturgeon Moon because they knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this Full Moon.”

Since the habitat of sturgeon is water, perhaps we can use this full moon (Monday, August 03) to reflect on our emotional life which is commonly associated with the element of water. Even though Lughnasadh has come and gone, the harvest continues. In fact, we have two more harvest festivals to go! With this in mind, what “emotional harvest” do we want to reap in our lives at this moment? Is fear preventing us from pursuing our dreams? Is anger alienating us from others? OR do we want to cultivate more peace in our lives? Do we have the courage to feel love again?  I think you get the point.

If this sounds like a worthwhile activity to you, my suggestion is to go outside Monday evening and find a place where you will not be disturbed. Soak in the energy of the full moon and let Divine, in its feminine form, whisper to you the truth about your emotional state at this point in your life. What needs to be cultivated? What needs to be uprooted?

As a side note, several species of sturgeon are harvested for their roe which is processed into caviar.  This is a rare and expensive gift that symbolizes the rare and expensive gifts each of us possess, some of which are emotional. What gifts do you want to reveal this full moon? Claim your power and let your light shine!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Lughnasadh/Lammas: August 1st

lughnasadh

August has a rhythm all it’s own, especially in the South. These hot, humid days force us to slow down our pace a bit, and why not? The soil has been tilled. Gardens have been planted. Many vegetables have already been harvested and more are on the way. The only thing left to do is pray for rain and wait until everything is ripe and ready. In the meantime, we can escape the sweltering heat of the day by “sitting a spell” on the porch with friends, sipping glasses of sweet tea and eating a freshly baked peach cobbler! That’s how we roll in North Carolina and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The first of August is known by several names: 1) Lughnasadh, which is Gaelic for the modern Irish word “Lunasa,” meaning August. In ancient times the Sun God Lugh was honored. 2) Lammas is the English harvest festival which occurs on the same day. The word is Anglo-Saxon for “loaf mass” and was celebrated by Pagans and Christians alike. 3) Festival of Green Corn, which is the name Native Americans attach to this harvest festival, and 4) Feast of St. Peter in Chains, which is an odd ancient Christian observance that has been removed from the liturgical calendar.

Basically, Lammas is the first of three harvest Sabbats or festivals.  This particular one celebrates the first fruits of corn, wheat and barley. Needless to say, this is something to be thankful for, especially in ancient times. A successful harvest meant there would be plenty of grain to last through the cold winter months. The main food for this festival is bread in one form or another. Bread has always been universally symbolic of life, Mother Earth, home, hearth, harvest and vitality. Because of this, ritual bread appears in every religious tradition I can think of.

For early Christians “Loaf Mass” was an adaptation of the Pagan Lammas. In both traditions, bread was baked and presented as an offering to the Divine in thanksgiving for a successful harvest. Here is an ancient Christian prayer that was used on Loaf Mass:

Holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, graciously deign,
to bless this bread with Thy spiritual benediction
that all who eat it may have health of body and soul
and that they may be protected against all sickness
and against all the snares of the enemy.  Amen.

Some of the bread in the Christian tradition was used to celebrate the Eucharist (Holy Communion) on Lammas. The rest of it was blessed and taken home for the Lammas Day feast. I also discovered that in Anglo-Saxon England this blessed bread was used by some to work magic! According to a book of Anglo-Saxon charms, a Lammas loaf was broken into four bits, which were placed in the four corners of the barn in order to protect the gathered grain.

In modern times, we can celebrate Lughnasadh/Lammas not only by giving thanks to the Divine for a successful harvest, it can also be a day to support local farmers. Let’s face it, they work their tails off to grow the food that appears on our tables. Perhaps we can use this holy day to commit ourselves to buying as much locally grown food as possible. I make a weekly trip to a tailgate market that is less than a mile from my house. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us urban dwellers to connect with our agrarian brothers and sisters. I always have wonderful conversations with the vendors there and I’ve learned a lot about how to cook the fruits and vegetables that are grown by them.

As a final note, my Cherokee brothers and sisters still celebrate the Festival of Green Corn. There is always dancing, singing, drumming and the eating of corn in a number of forms. You can Google the topic for more information.

So I wish everyone a most blessed Lughnasadh/Lammas celebration. If you’re ever in North Carolina I have a glass of sweet tea and a peach cobbler waiting for you!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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