On the Calendar
In August, the hot, humid weather gives plants time to complete their annual cycle of growth. Dazzling thunderstorms punctuate lazy days as summer slowly winds down, yet autumn seems a distant horizon. Like June, this month was originally named by number and called sextilis because it was the sixth month on the Roman calendar.77 Caesar Augustus changed the name of this month to honor himself.
On the Calendar
August 1: Lammas/Lughnasadh
Although the shortening length of the day is just starting to become noticeable, daylight hours still seem long as we slowly drift toward autumn. Lammas marks the first harvest. The name Lammas comes from the Anglo-Saxon hlafmas, meaning “loaf-mass,” a celebration when the first loaves of bread were made from fresh-cut grain.78 At this sabbat the god was often portrayed as the Corn King, who was symbolically sacrificed and his seed laid to rest in the womb of the Mother Goddess.
The word “corn” in this regard is a reference to cereal grains in general, not the maize of North America. In fact, barley was the traditional grain that was later superseded by wheat. Place fresh-cut herbs and fresh-baked bread on your altar for this sabbat. Give thought to where your food comes from and the cycles that helped create and nurture the plants.
Despite the Gaelic name Lughnasadh being a reference to the god Lugh, who is associated with the sun, this is not a solar celebration. It is one of the cross-quarter days associated with the earth. In Ireland, this date originally marked the funeral feast of Tailltiu, Lugh’s foster mother, who was considered an earth mother.
August 5: The Celtic Month of Hazel Begins
Young catkin-bearing hazel branches were commonly called wands, and according to legend, Mercury’s winged wand was made of hazel. When hazel is found growing with apple and hawthorn, it is said that these mark the boundary of a magical place.