In Frazer’s The Golden Bough there is some exploration of the notion of the sacred king. There are a number of components to this idea. One is in the Divine right of kings to rule, and subsequently that they are the representatives of the Divine on Earth. Then there is the belief that the kings are connected to the land. As the king succeeds the land thrives, as the king fails or falls ill the land is depleted. In a system that holds these principles to be true, the logical outcome is to demand the sacrifice of the king to relieve a drought or natural disaster. Frazer took that philosophy and connected it to the agricultural cycle of reaping and sowing – death and rebirth.
I came back from spending a long weekend on the land to see my Facebook full of images of our Secretary of the Interior assessing National Parkland for its value to sell to industry for development. Moving from visiting a Prairie reclamation project at the height of success to a clearly out of control consume and profit narrative was disheartening to say the least.
On the way home I noticed the corn was starting to come in from the fields. The corn harvest is the mark for me of the Lammas celebration, John Barley Corn is dead, long live John Barley Corn. This is the representation in Wicca of the sacred king mythology. The grain God is sacrificed to feed the people.
It’s been difficult to sort out the sacred from the political. Police are shooting people, healthcare continues to be threatened in spite of an overwhelming majority who clearly want to have coverage, and our sacred lands are being sold out from under us – again and still.
I see spiritual representatives from around the world being dismissed by Big Oil at Standing Rock. I see a spiritual leader in my hometown, trying to help a neighbor in distress, being shot by police. I see places that I’ve stood in awe of nature being looked upon as a feast for mining, logging and manufacturing industries.
Included in the sacrificial king mythology is the Arthurian story of the Fisher King. This is part of the grail quest. The sacred chalice, that has magical qualities including the ability to heal, is apparently in the possession of the Fisher King. The king has a grievous wound and is failing, as is his land. Somehow he doesn’t have the wisdom, moral integrity, or desire/belief to use the grail. Percival, who was raised by a single mother in the forest away from the society of men, sees the solution but fails (out of politeness?) to ask the question that will heal everything.
We need to ask the questions. We need to keep asking until we get answers that go beyond pats on the head and being told we can’t possibly understand. Why can’t we get along? Why does the notion of “equal rights” always seem to have an “except” clause? When and how much is enough? Who has the vision for our future? Does that vision include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? For everyone?
Previous blogs about the holiday season:
I skipped my blog last week. No notice. No excuses. No nothing. Just didn’t write.
I hit that overwhelmed point. I had things to say. Too many things it seems. I couldn’t find a focus. I couldn’t find a focus in the rest of my life either. I missed a doctor’s appointment. I discovered I hadn’t gotten in my time card when no check came in the mail. I had laundry (and water) in the basement. I had boxes (empty) all over the house. I was a mess.
In all fairness, I’m probably still a mess, but it’s getting better. I got out the calendar and started writing things down (rather than relying solely on the cell phone, which seems to drop appointments for no good reason.) I let go of an obligation that was the “one thing too many” that sent me on this spiral. I got the boxes out of the middle of the living room and into a “staging area” so I can fill them one at a time and put them back.
I’m working on my sleep schedule. At least I’m sleeping, even if the hours are still a little odd. I’m putting away laundry and watering the poor, sad plants. I had my corn for Lammas* and decided I am not in a hurry to dig out the harvest season decorations. I’m trying to be kind to myself – one step at a time.
Last week I got a notification from WordPress saying “Happy Fifth Blogging Anniversary!” My goodness, has it really been that long? I spent some time this last week wondering if I was done, if I needed a serious blogging break. I decided that I’m still good, as long as my readers will forgive an occasional dropped post like last week.
Having a weekly blog is one of my touch points in a rather unstructured life. I need those now and again. Once a week is not so high pressure I can’t handle it. It’s not so infrequent it doesn’t matter. It holds me accountable to take time to reflect on my life, my choices, my spirituality, my vision. Those are good things.
So, dear reader, I may be a mess but if you’ll still have me I’ll still be around on Mondays.
*Previous Lammas posts:
This is my fourth posting about this time of year. You might think I’ve “said it all”. I call my page Spiral Visions for a reason. It seems every time I come around I am never quite in the same place. There is a shift in perspective. Sometimes there are new things to see. Some things take on more importance and others fade into the background. The beginning of August marks First harvest, the Wiccan holiday Lammas and for me always Corn on the Cob.
Because of my surgery I don’t get local corn this year. I did “cheat” and have a couple of cobs shipped up from Georgia right before I started my liquid diet. I ate it reverently and with a nod towards this time of year. It was a feast meal, for me, in advance. It didn’t get me off the hook though. I still had to do something to acknowledge coming around the wheel of the year again. So I meditated for a vision.
I saw a cornfield. Flying high above the corn was the Thunderbird. The Corn Mother walked out from rows and I asked her for rain.
She said, “What you are looking for is balance. Three weeks of rain and three weeks of sun is even, but it is not balance. It is balance the crops need to grow, balance the people need to thrive. You have no sense of balance. You delude yourselves with notions of “fair” and “equal”. You believe that balance is static, stable. You are only fooling yourselves. Balance is like standing on the water. It is always shifting, but the movements are small. Large shifts will dump you into the deep. You need to climb out of the deep you find yourselves in and learn again to stand in balance upon the earth.”
She reached her arms up and corn silk streamed down from her sleeves like wings. She reached for the Thunderbird, and he swooped lower. She did not fly and he did not land. That night, there was no rain.
It is balance I am reaching for, yet again. Specifically a balanced relationship with food and nutrition. More globally it is a balance about making heathy and sustainable choices.
Enjoy your first harvests.
We were talking about Lughnasadh (Lammas) on the Blog Talk Radio “The Priestess Show” last Friday. Of course when asked what the Sabbat means to me personally I talked about Corn, just like I did in my first year’s blog post. But if I had to sum up the point of the Sabbat it is about celebrating abundance.
In a year where the harvest is iffy that may be a little more challenging. The corn is really just starting to come in from the fields fully ripe. There are still raspberries, very late in the season. The apples are barely green and so small I have to wonder if they’ll ripen before the frost.
Financially things are tight, and promising to get tighter. More people may be employed, but if you’re not work is hard to find. Salaries have stayed the same but gas, milk and beef prices continue to climb. If the corn harvest is poor all three commodities will get even more expensive. Honey is harder and harder to come by as the bee populations diminish. Without bees many other crops will also suffer.
This is the climate in which we gather to celebrate abundance. The thing is, abundance is subjective. It is useful to be aware of the problems in the world. But if we become too focused on what’s wrong we quickly get unhappy, losing all track of what is going right. We have a culture that encourages us always to want more. We are bombarded with marketing for the next new thing (to replace the one we just bought because it’s out of date.)
Someone once told me that contentment is being happy with what you actually have. Most of us have more than enough of something. I am reminded that what is one man’s trash may be another man’s treasure. Take a look at the Landfill Orchestra. How about getting help with mobility. Even a small bit of food can be abundance to a hungry child.
Let’s take some time in this early harvest season to be grateful for the bounty in our lives. Let’s see if we can find an abundance that we can share with someone in need. I know I could use more practice at being content. Simple things are often the hardest.
Although the last Wiccan holiday, the one at the Solstice, is called Midsummer, it is this Sabbat that seems to fall in the middle of the summer as most of us experience it. It is after August 1st that the school letters go out and shopping for the fall clothes begins. It is the beginning of the Dog Days, and often the worst of the heat and allergies.
The Dog Days are actually an astronomical reference. The sun moves into close proximation with the Dog Star Sirius. At least it used to when this term was originally coined. Our entire galaxy moves around a central core and so over time it shifts our solar system’s relationship to the other stars.
Not being a particularly athletic person, I’ve always been amazed that the hottest time of the year seems to also be associated with athletic contests. From the caber tossing festivals in Scotland to the Greek Olympiad August is the month for athletic competitions. I can barely breathe, much less move and yet this is the season for proving ultimate athletic prowess
In the days before air conditioning the hottest days were often good for baking. My mother always said “When it’s this hot already warming up the oven doesn’t make much difference.” Actually baking could make the house feel cooler as the oven produced a dry heat and reduced the overall humidity in the air. The yeast certainly rises faster on those warm August days.
I often think of this as the forgotten Sabbat. Between everyone’s summer vacations, all the county fairs, the Renaissance fairs and Pagan festivals it’s hard to find room in the schedule to get together and celebrate. Maybe that’s the point of the physical competition. People tend to find time when a sporting event is included with the picnic. Maybe it’s why tailgating is so popular.
The holiday is also referred to as Lugh’s day or Lughnasadd. It stems from a celebration of the end of the corn harvest. Or more probably the barley harvest in the Brittish Isles. There the contests were usually for a keg of beer, or barley malt. The yeasts don’t only work quickly in baking, it’s also a good time for certain stages of the brewing process.
August is a great month for pies. Many of the berries are peaking, especially in the northern climates. The early apples will be in. Even meat pies are good as a use for the stringier meat of the older animals and the pests (squirrels, rabbits, 4 and 20 blackbirds…), and they’re a welcome contribution at a picnic or pot luck.
So have a picnic and remember that those summer days are getting shorter as the harvest begins to come in. Enjoy the summer Olympics. Have some corn on the cob. Eat more pie.