Friday, August 1, 2014

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Today, August 1, is Lughnasadh or Lammas. 

It is the first of the harvest festivals celebrated by Pagans. I touched base on the holidays in my post on Druid's and you can find it here.

Lammas is one of the Greater Sabbats celebrated by witches, which occurs when the sun is 15 degrees in a fixed sign of the zodiac, Leo.  Lammas marks the end of summer and the begining of fall. Wiccans use the names "Lughnasadh" or "Lammas" for the first of their autumn harvest festivals. It is one of the eight yearly "Sabbats" of their Wheel of the Year. 

It follows 
Midsummer and precedes Mabon. It is seen as one of the two most auspicious times for handfasting, the other being at Beltane. Some Wiccans mark the holiday by baking a figure of the "corn god" in bread, and then symbolically sacrificing and eating it.

Lughnasadh or Lughnasa (pronounced LOO-nə-sə; Irish: Lúnasa; Scottish Gaelic: Lùnastal; Manx: Luanistyn) is a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season that was historically observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Originally it was held on 31 July – 1 August, or approximately halfway between the summer solstice and autumn equinox. 

In Irish mythology, the Lughnasadh festival is said to have been begun by the god Lugh as a funeral feast and athletic competition in commemoration of his mother Tailtiu. She was said to have died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Tailtiu may have been an earth goddess who represented the dying vegetation that fed mankind. 

The funeral games in her honour were called the Óenach Tailten or Áenach Tailten (modern spelling: Aonach Tailteann) and were held at Tailtin in what is now County Meath. TheÓenach Tailten was similar to the Ancient Olympic Games and included ritual athletic and sporting contests. 

The event also involved trading, the drawing-up of contracts, and matchmaking. 

At Tailtin, trial marriages (handfasting) were conducted, whereby young couples joined hands through a hole in a wooden door.The trial marriage lasted a year and a day, at which time the marriage could be made permanent or broken without consequences.

This month's theme is August fire

In honor of Lammas, I thought I'd talk a little about... 

The Cauldron

One of the staples in a witches arsenal...

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Annotations for the Witches' Chants

A dark cave. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.
Enter the three Witches

First Witch 
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

Second Witch 
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.

Third Witch 
Harpier cries "'Tis time, 'tis time."

First Witch 
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch 
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch 
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch 
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

[Enter Hecate, to the other three Witches]

O well done! I commend your pains;
And every one shall share i' the gains;
And now about the cauldron sing,
Live elves and fairies in a ring,
Enchanting all that you put in.

[Music and a song: 'Black spirits,' etc, Hecate retires]

Second Witch 
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks! 

Shakespeare has given us the image of witches and cauldrons that many of us have ingrained in our mind. However, today's witches are a much more tame bunch. They still use the cauldron in rituals, but, to my knowledge, they no longer boil eye of newt, and tongue of dog.

The cauldron is a symbol of the Goddess, and it’s all about femininity. The cauldron is the womb in which life begins. Although it usually represents the element Water, the cauldron is an interesting tool because it can tie in to all four elements. You place it upon the Earth, heat it with Fire, fill it with Water, and send the steam up into the Air. In Celtic legend, the goddess Cerridwen possessed a cauldron of immortality and inspiration.
In some traditions, a cup or chalice is used in place of a cauldron, and in others the cauldron and cup are used together. A cup is just a small cauldron, and can be made of any material.

In modern Wicca, however, the cauldron is still regularly used. It can be placed in a sacred or ritual circle and used to burn items during a ritual, to hold the ingredients necessary for a spell or incantation, for scrying in water, as a container for making brews and potions, or to provide a vessel in which transmutation, germination and transformations may occur. It is a symbol of the womb of the Goddess, and of rebirth, as it was in ancient British Celtic religion, and is therefore sacred to the Goddess.

In some traditions of Wicca which incorporate aspects of Celtic mythology, the cauldron is associated with the goddess Cerridwen. Celtic legend also tells of a cauldron used by warring armies, in which dead warriors could be placed and returned to life, although lacking the power of speech (and possibly lacking souls, like golem). These warriors could go back into battle until they were killed again. Also, in Irish mythology, Tir-Na-Nog, the Irish Land of the Dead or Otherworld, was presided over by a crone and her cauldron, to which all life returns to await rebirth.

Since today is Lammas, and we're talking about cauldrons, I'll leave you with a spell.

In researching for my series, The Druid's Curse, which features witches, I met a wonderful Celtic hereditary witch, Lady of the Abyss, and she has a website that has a wealth of information. She's very nice and answers any questions you may have quickly. Please check her out at...

If you'd like more information on The Druid's Curse series my website is...

Thanks for taking the time with me today on Lammas, hope you enjoyed it!



Maureen said...

wow, what an informative post. great info sophia!

Sandy Wright said...

And happy Lughnassadh to you Sophia. Thank you for an interesting and unbiased post.

Sophia Kimble said...

Thanks a bunch guys.