The First Harvest celebration falls halfway between Midsummer and the Autumn Equinox in the first week of August. Depending who you ask, it might be celebrated on the full moon in Aquarius (while the sun is in Leo) or anywhere from July 31st or August 7th. On the modern calendar, it is August 1st but many practical Pagans celebrate it on the first weekend in August, because we have to work during the week. First Harvest can also be celebrated at an even more variable date, the first ripening of fruit is a good time to celebrate, but which fruit?

The festival we celebrate as the First Harvest is known in some circles as Lammas or Lughassadh or Kronia. In truth, first harvest is not an accurate name for it, as it's hardly our first harvest, but since we don't worship Lugh or grow grain crops, the other two names don't suit either.

It's true that around the first of August we are harvesting; we've been harvesting. Berries have been going for months, peas, beans, cabbages, lettuces, etc. Indeed, it is a time of plenty reminiscent of the Golden Age of Kronos when mankind need merely pick our food from the ever-ripened trees and never needed to toil, but only for a moment. The tomatoes and eggplant are just starting to ripen, but many of our plants are about spent, in fact, and we're getting ready for the second sowing. Maybe Second Sowing would be a better name… Fava beans, most members of the cabbage family, peas, lettuce, beets, radishes, carrots and my very favorite salad green, arugula, all grow best in cool weather, though they like August's warmth for germinating.

So, the first week of August, our First Harvest, marks not just a harvest, but a cleaning up of the beds of spent plants in preparation for re-planting. This is a very easy metaphor for the death and rebirth themes found in many of the seasonal traditions for this time of year.

I am reminded of the sacrifices of Gods such as Dionysus who was torn to pieces and devoured by his enemies, but was born again. By his blood he promises the further ripening of fruits and by his reincarnation he promises that we will have the same. And of Prometheus who brought us fire after the defeat of Kronos and the end of the Golden Age so that we could make the tools of creation and taught mankind to shape our own destiny. Without this gift, we would not be able to farm, or to make offerings to the Gods. And for the theft of fire, and other trickeries on our behalf, he suffered the torment of an eagle eating his liver every day, which grew back each night. In honor of these Gods, we celebrate the feast of sacrifice at our house.

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For Celtic Pagans…
According to Celtic lore, Lugh established the Lughnasadh games and festival in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu who died of exhaustion clearing a field (or the whole country) for planting, in order that their people could be fed. Thus, in many traditions, the festival includes games of skill. It is also traditionally a time to begin trial marriages to be made permanent, or terminated at the following year's festival.

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For Wiccans…
Now is the time of ripening. The new life within the mother is now noticeable and not to be denied. The Great Father is weakening and will soon die. But within the Mother and all around the Earth there is nothing but the evidence of abundant life. It is through his sacrifice that it is all possible.

Most Pagan faiths do not visualize the God and Goddess in this particular way, but they may still honor the Grain God in one form or another. He is slain, cut down with the harvest and his body transformed into life-giving sustenance for his people. The first harvest, and/or the first loaf of bread from the first harvest is blessed and shared among the people.

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For most of us

This day marks the beginning of autumn. Though the Sun still shines strong, blanketing the Earth in his warmth, we know that winter is right around the corner. We are harvesting and preparing for winter, but we are also still enjoying the summer. Some of us are preparing to go back to school and that is a scramble of its own. We might have lost touch with some of our people during the summer, but now we're thinking about reaching out and reconnecting because cooperation and communication is going to be key in the coming months.


Recipes for your First Harvest Feast

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