Lammastide

August 1st. I walked to work today, taking a route across the common to avoid the busy main roads. I felt the need to spend some time in nature, as thought it were trying to catch my attention over something important I had near forgotten. As my steps dropped into a rhythm of root rock and sand, I let my mind wander un-constricted. Half-constructed thought skittered about the heather to alight in a slender birch, before a breeze sent them off again low over ironstone nuggets, disturbing the soft flitter-wings of a meadow brown butterfly.

Heavy dew wetted my legs, which were bare below the knee, as I brushed past long grasses. Refreshingly cool after long weeks of heatwave. Ling and bell heather is now in bloom, and their purple hues contrasted with green bracken turning chestnut, and sunshine splashes of dwarf gorse. Where the trees closed in, offering shade and solidarity, their tops rattled with scampering squirrels keen to get into position to raid the ripening cones for the papery seeds they enclose. The squirrels are not the only ones preparing for harvest. The dry scratch of yellowing heads of grass held echoes of the cereal crops maturing in the fields, where combines will have been turning since first light tinged the hedge-tops.

It was the combined effect of all these things, a pulling on a subconscious thread of ancestral memory, far more than the winking pixels of the date number on my phone screen, that told me of the progress of the year. Lammastide is upon us.

The robin’s song caught me by surprise. These familiar birds, cloistered by the moult fall silent in high summer, finding their voice again only once we reach that first day when the sweet, sharp scent of autumn taints the air.

By noon, summer ruled again and glaring sun beat down from a sky that was touched by only a couple of white clouds, like marks on a school chalkboard not quite wiped fully clean in the rush to escape the classroom for the holidays. As hot temperatures returned and the thermometer crept towards 30c once more, thoughts turned to summer treats such as icecream, but this time it would be topped with the first ripe blackberries from the hedge beside the allotments. And I must remember into which book I tucked the scrap of paper last year, that holds the recipe for spiced marrow and apple chutney.

“ Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, “loaf-mass”), is a holiday celebrated in some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, usually between 1 August and 1 September. It is a festival to mark the annual wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop, to be blessed.”… “Lughnasadh or Lammas is also the name used for one of the eight sabbats in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year. It is the first of the three autumn harvest festivals, the other two being the autumn equinox (also called Mabon) and Samhain. ” – Wikipedia

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