A Ritual by Elizabeth A Kaufman
Each year, on August 1st, I begin a series of three rituals honoring the harvest of the year's bounty, whatever that may be, as well as preparing myself for the descent into the waning of the year. In general, my rituals from February through July have focused upon growth and increase. Now, as the first harvest comes in, I gather, give thanks and begin the inner spiritual work of the season.
The gathering of the harvest includes many things, not just food. Creative energies, healing works, spiritual quests are all part of this harvest. We have planted ideas as seeds and now we reap what we have sown. Consider that this is also a time, the waning of the year, where we can go within, below and nourish and feed the sprouted and growing seeds.
The following ritual is a suggestion for women focused on a goddess oriented path and does not include any Celtic mythology as most Lammas celebrations do. As I am dedicated to the Greco-Roman pantheon, Demeter seemed a natural choice for this festival. It has no historical basis and is my own creation; it helps me fit into the Wheel of the Year as celebrated by most Pagans when I circle with others. If Demeter does not resonate with you, feel free to substitute any goddess of choice that fits the parameters of the cycle.
For this ritual, gather together the following:
Cauldron with candle for the center of your circle
Other candles of choice including four candles for the quarters
Matches or lighter
Platter of feast and offering foods, such as fruits, vegetables, barley and bread
Brew - Cup of wine, fruit juice or tea, spiced & sweetened with honey
An extra bowl for the Lady's offering
Wand and athame as well as your usual tools for such workings
For the charm:
A square of green cloth, a length of red yarn or ribbon
One almond for wisdom
Basil for wealth
One bay leaf for strength
Sage for a healthy, long life
Three Cloves to repel negativity
Three Elderberries for protection
Three Hawthorn Berries for happiness
Oregano for joy
Three Rose Buds for love
A pinch Yeast
Three drops of your favorite essential oil
Tarot cards, Crone Stones, Runes or any divination tool you like.
For some rituals, I do not cast a circle, but for most, and this one, I do. For me, the casting of the circle is not to keep anything out, but instead, it is the descent to another, more sacred place. Because of this, I cast my circle in an anti-clockwise or widdershins direction which takes me down into the Otherworld, the place where ritual and communion with the goddesses and spirits happens. This idea of going down and within enhances the experience of my ritual. Feel free to cast your circle in your usual manner.
Cast the Circle
I begin all rituals with the usual grounding and focusing as well as an adaptation of Jennifer Reif's Rite of Self-Blessing from her book, Mysteries of Demeter. Use this or any other beginning that you like. Light a candle or lamp that is in the cauldron at the center of the circle.
Walk to the north with your wand and say:
I come to the Hedge and cross beyond,
To the Gates of the Underworld with my wand.
At the Mother's tree and Her holy stone,
The place the Pale Ones dwell, no longer alone.
I cross the hedges and go forth
In the name of the Lady, do I come.
With my wand in my left hand, I make the sign.
(a sign, of your choice, that marks your crossing, should be drawn)
Beyond the bridge, the hedge, the river, all three,
From within the Moon's shadow and the Land's Mystery,
Between here and there, Beyond and about,
I am nowhere, I am there. (tap wand three times)
My circle is walked three times, first scattering herbs, second scattering ashes of willow, birch and rosemary and finally, sprinkling an herbal brew made with wine and vinegar. I then make a crossroads by lighting a candle in the north, then south, east and finally west. When this is done, I continue walking the circle, keeping my eyes focused on the candle in the cauldron, until I have achieved a light trance. Your circle should be cast in which ever manner you prefer.
Prayers and invocations may be made at this time. I always invoke Hekate first, as She is my Matroness. For this ritual I also invoke Persephone and finally Demeter. I also call upon the Spirits of my home and Land as well as the ancestors of my ways.
Magic: A Woman's Blessing Charm
Place the green cloth in front of you, on the ground or your altar. Hold the bowl of herbs and enchant in your usual manner; speak to the spirits of the herbs. Pour the herbs onto the cloth. Add three drops of oil then gather up the corners of the cloth, giving a little twist. Take up the red yarn and chant the following as you tie nine knots, chanting the verse nine times at each knot.
Herb & nut, fruit & flower,
Come together into power.
Light to dark and into night,
My charm now one of strength & might.
The charm does sing of all good things,
The Lady's power to me brings!
Hold the charm up to the moon, then touch to the earth and finally to your heart. Keep the charm in your handbag or leave on your altar.
Blessing the Gifts of Demeter
Ring the bell.
(raise the platter)
Here are the fruits of Great Demeter's hands,
Life of Earth, blessings of the soil.
(return the platter to the altar, hold your hand over it)
I consecrate them in Demeter's name.
With my hands I bless them, a gift from Demeter and to Her.
Hail Lady, thank you for Your bounty and abundance.
Your generous blessings sustain all who dwell here,
On Middle Earth, between the Realms of the Otherworlds.
(use the knife to cut the food as you say)
With my own hand, I take its Life and give it to Demeter.
(Set aside some of the feast and place into the Lady's bowl.)
I eat Her bounty and receive Her blessings! (eat a bit of the food)
Ring the bell.
(raise the cauldron or cup holding the brew)
Here is Demeter's brew, it fills me with blessings and abundance.
From Her fruits & herbs, barley and wine,
She has given us Her blessings.
(return cauldron to altar, hold your hands over it)
I consecrate this brew in Great Demeter's name.
(Pour some of the brew into the Lady's bowl)
To Her some is given, and some I drink as a blessing.
I drink from this cup in Great Demeter's name.
May I receive Her blessings! (take a sip of the brew)
(raise the Lady's bowl)
As some is taken, some is given by a Daughter of the Family of the Old Faith.
I give it to the Land & the Hedge that divides.
I give it to the Pale People below.
I give it to Great Demeter.
For what She takes is truly given and what She gives is truly taken.
(If your ritual is inside, after you open your circle, take the Lady's bowl outside to some quiet place or beneath a tree or hedge. As it is poured onto the ground repeat the above prayer)
Divination: Take up your divination tool and focus strongly on what the rest of the year holds for you. Choose a card or rune. Keep the card on the altar so you can make a note of it later.
Closing of the Ritual:
Thank the Goddesses you have called upon.
Uncross the crossroads - blow out the candle in the west, then east, then south, finally north.
Walk the circle three times clockwise, focusing on returning to the mundane world. Clap your hands three times and ground yourself. If you have worked in your home, now is the time to take the Lady's bowl outside and gently tip the offering onto the ground. Walk away from this place and do not look back.
May Demeter's bounty be abundant for you!
©2009 E A Kaufman
Walter Burkert (1987), Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical, Wiley Blackwell
Robin Artisson (2009), The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill, Pendraig Publishing
Doreen Valiente & Evan Jones (1990), Witchcraft, A Tradition Renewed, Phoenix
Evan Jones, Robert Cochrane & Michael Howard (2001), The Roebuck in the Thicket, Capall Bann