In the good old days, the harvest festivals began in August (Lunasa – ‘beginning of harvest’) followed by September (Meán Fómhair) and October (Deireadh Fómhair) translated as ‘middle of harvest’ and ‘end of harvest’ respectively. Harvest was one of the most sacred times of the pagan year and the Harvest Home or ‘in-gathering’ was a community observance at the end of the harvest to celebrate and give thanks for the bounty with all its attendant celebrations, including the singing of the traditional folksongs like John Barleycorn. Celebrating the harvest is still the holiest time of the Craft year and Lammas celebrates the coming of harvest-tide with its decoration of corn sheaves, fancy loaves, berries and fruits – all leading up to the Autumnal Equinox (or Michaelmas) that marked its zenith with the eating of the traditional goose and the raucous festivities of the community harvest suppers and country fairs.
The internet is awash with all sorts of harvest ideas from across the world but not under one title. Harvest festivals are believed to be the oldest form of festivals around the world. They are a way of thanking Nature for the bounty it offers in the form of new crops. They are a celebration at the time of year when all the crops have been harvested, and people celebrate to show that they are grateful for all the food that has been grown. Given the differences in climate and crops, harvest festivals can be found at various times throughout the world because the ‘tradition’ of celebrating the season of harvest as a festival has been around for eons. Ever since mankind began cultivating produce for self-sufficiency and subsequently business, the agriculture culture has been given its due importance.
Different cultures around the world have their own distinct ways of celebrating this harvest season at different times of the year, depending on the regions where crops are cultivated and the differences in climates. However we choose to celebrate the harvest, it is important it is carried out in a spirit of community and sharing and if this is the re-introduction of this integral pagan festival, then it needs to include all ages. Children were an essential ingredient of haymaking and harvesting and anyone who had ever taken part in these rural pursuits, probably still have warm memories of those seasons in their hearts.
Pagan Portals: Harvest Home – In-Gathering: How to Survive (and Enjoy) The Autumnal Festivals by Melusine Draco and published by Moon Books : ISBN 978 1 80341 110 1 : 84 pages ¨UK£6.99/US$10.95 http://www.mon-books.net : Published 26th August 2022
“This is yet another useful, informative, and charmingly written guide from Melusine Draco. With the usual sprinkling of humour and lively writing, she takes a comprehensive look at Lammas/Lughnasadh and the other months of the harvest. The In-Gathering: How-To Survive (and Enjoy) the Autumnal Festivals has everything the reader needs to know about celebrating the important harvest season. Brimming with history, folklore, customs, recipes, traditions around the world and so much more information and ideas of how to celebrate, I heartily recommend it. This is a book that will certainly be going on my own bookshelf.” Harmonia Saille, Pagan Portals – Hedge Witchcraft, Hedge Riding, and Hedge Magic