This year Sapphire Coven and Grove celebrated Lammas with Aurora Coven and Grove. Lammas is when we honor the symbolic sacrifice of the god, usually with a special loaf of bread filled with seeds and cut during ritual. It marks the beginning of the harvest cycle culminating at Samhain. This is a festival that gets into the concept of sacrifice with participants offering something up which they do not wish to part with.
While the term “sacrifice” used been used since antiquity, much of its connotations have evolved since then to incorporate various modern concepts including Christian ones. So what does sacrifice mean to pagans, anyhow?
On the meaning of sacrifice
Sacrifice: “the act of offering something to God or a god,” from early French sacrifice (same meaning), from Latin sacrificium “sacrifice,” from sacr-, sacer “sacred” and -ficium, from facere “to do, make”
1 : an act of offering something precious to God or a god; especially : the killing of a victim on an altar-Merriam-Webster
2 : something offered in sacrifice
3 : a giving up of something especially for the sake of someone else; also : something so given up
4 : loss of profit <sell goods at a sacrifice>
Why would Lammas and the start of a harvest season involve sacrifice? Simply put, it’s the cycle of life, death, and rebirth in the form of crops. We must cut down the wheat we worked so hard to grow that we may make bread, beer, etc. That food sustains us until we die and become part of the land we grow our crops from. That awareness of the cycle of life, of the fertility of the crops, and what must be done in order to reap our own harvests is essential to understanding the importance of Lammas. In order for there to be life, there must also be death. That is part of the sacrifice we must make.
Sacrifices vs offerings
So when is a sacrifice a sacrifice and an offering an offering? It can be argued that a sacrifice is a type of offering. Offerings are gifts, given freely without thought of reward. We burn incense, make libations, and bake cakes as offerings to the gods. Sacrifice implies difficulty, the giving up of something that has value and meaning for us. The idea is that without that meaning, the sacrifice would not matter.
Why give something up? For a greater purpose, a greater cause, something that means even more than what we’re giving up. To contemplate Lammas we must also reflect on our own individual sacrifices which we make in life for things that have meaning to us. To continue to have life, we must also have death. Cycles are a part of the human experience and of existence in general.
Awareness of our part in nature and what we must do in regards to our responsibility for others is all baked (if you’ll forgive the pun) into Lammas. As witches we must be mindful of our involvement in the cycles of nature and its importance to life as a whole. It’s what it means to be human.