The wheel has turned, rain has fallen on the parched earth and a lively wind is rattling loose branches around my home. Time to sip tea, break bread, and give thanks.
Thanks for the golden summer, which is now turning its head towards a doorway marked 'northern hemisphere'. It won't be departing just yet, but all action begins with a thought, a turning away and a turning towards, and today that thought is buzzing in the breeze.
In the Celtic calendar of old Europe tribes would gather to give thanks to the grain god Lugh, who was sacrificed with the reaping of the corn. Back to the body of the Earth goddess he was gathered, ploughed in so that new life might emerge in the spring. And so today we remember Lugnasad, his festival, and its continuation through Christian times as the festival of Lammas.
Loaves made from the first grain harvest were brought to church to be blessed. Last night I baked a gluten-free loaf of bread, from a recipe posted by Australian blogger Charlie, who is a superb cook. She calls it a 'life changing loaf', and it certainly is. No flour is used at all. It's easy and nourishing, full of nuts and seeds. You can find it by clicking here.http://hotlyspiced.com/homemade-vegan-bread/
This season is also berry time, which was important in the Maori seasonal cycle. Not being a grain growing society (until European contact), Maori depended on the kumara (sweet potato) crop as the staple. However, at First Fruits/ Lugnasad/Lammas the kumara was still sitting in the ground, needing another month or so to mature. And so this was a lean time, 'Te Waru'.
The native berries which the wood pigeons have been feeding on so enthusiastically out at my bach, provided some food, though not of a very substantial kind.
And the karaka berries needed special treatment, including long soaking in water, to remove their poison and making them safe for eating. Have you ever gathered wild berries? Berries are hard work.
And so, in giving thanks for plentiful food, I am also mindful at this time of year that for many, the basket is half empty. In my book Celebrating the Southern Seasons: Rituals for Aotearoa, I call this time the Festival of the Half Harvest. I find it a good time both to offer up gratitude, and also to make donations for those who are in need.