Having recently realized that group ritual, which I’ve engaged in for twenty years now as a neo-pagan, does very little for me except make me feel as though I’m being a good pagan, I found myself at a bit of a loss on Lughnasadh. What non-ritual observances would be right for me?
As an early harvest festival it is meaningless to me. I observe the seasonal foods at the farmer’s market changing all year round and no particularly notable difference occurs here in early August. Corn is there new, I suppose, but such a negative for the modern person living in a world where corn syrup, a poison to our bodies, is cheaper than water. Plus, that delves into Native American traditions and I feel I must tread carefully there (even while I remain adamant that I do have a right to honor the traditions that are native to the land on which I was born and in which I grew). Maybe a corn celebration could be concocted, but I’d need to carefully consider how and there’d need to be activism involved, perhaps.
A loaf-mas would have been weird since bread is the bane of my existence. Gluten causes such intense stomach pain for my family that we have nightmares about forgetting the cause. Before we learned we had celiac disease, we were spending hours on the toilet crying, sweating, having simultaneous and violent vomiting and diarrhea, and passing out onto the hard tile floor from the pain. Given that, there is no way I am doing a loafmas.
Once upon a time I would have looked at the Hellenic celebration that roughly corresponded, but I have moved away from a Greek focus and anyway I was never comfortable with the moving of the Hellenic calendar onto the Celtic and Wiccan wheel of the year. I’ve considered doing a games day in honor of Lugh, but I am not Celtic in focus. I approach the other contemporary pagan holidays from an I-E perspective.
Speaking of I-E, what’s at the root of all that – the corn, the loafmas, the Panathenian festival and Lughnasadh games? I’m sad to say that this year I did not take the time before the holiday snuck up on me to consider that question.
When I think about it now, though, it becomes pretty obvious just by looking at what the various I-E peoples were doing at that time of year. All around Europe in late summer there was a gathering to share the bounty of the harvest that included games and had a patriotic feel. We even do it now in the states, but we call it the county fair. Maybe we’ll aim to hit such a fair next year for this holiday, but I feel glad in retrospect that I spent the past two weeks playing board games as often as possible, celebrating the bounty of new games received during all the July birthdays in our household. We thought about going to a county fair to look at the 4H entries of friends, and wouldn’t that have been perfect?
My religion has evolved and changed and come back round again countless times during the past twenty years, as I go through periods of learning new things by immersing myself in them, then back off and integrate what was most useful into my regular practice. As I write out lesson plans for my youngest son’s study of religion this year, I am struck by how much of a mishmash my religion has become and yet stayed basically the same way it was when I was twelve. As I dig through themed indexes of picture books for references to otherworldly visits, magic wells, deals with the little folk, hubris in the face of deities, old wise trees, and more, in order to provide a context for my son when we do crafty hands-on religious projects together, I realize that the reason I-E religion appeals to me so much is that it is so still here, present in all our stories and even so many of our customs. No matter what I do, there it is, in the 4H competitions at the county fair, in the corn dolls at the farmer’s market. I am pagan because my culture largely is, despite the Christian influence, and I feel that I can rest in it, do the traditional things, and call it magic and religion.
I will post my lesson plan here when it is done, though I don’t know to whom it would be useful with its combination of Wiccan and proto-I-E elements. My non-acknowledgement of the most recent holiday makes me think I had better write up a little book of shadows type thing, a guide to the holidays as our family celebrates them, but as with most ideas I have in the thick of lesson planning season, that will only happen if I remember it and still feel motivated to do it after I’ve scheduled all eight school subjects times three kids. If I ever write that I’ll post it here too. It has also crossed my mind to write out and illustrate the story of the Oak King vs the Holly King and the story of Eostre, the Bunny-Headed Goddess of Spring Equinox. Janus, Hestia and Pan are all lacking representation in kidlit, too. So much to write! It’s my sense that my religion, my understanding of these entities, and my practice is so unique that has kept me from writing this all up before, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. If I can find my religion in the picture books on the market, perhaps the picture book market would be interested to hear the folk tales that I retell my kids as part of my religion.