Saturday, 11 August 2018


“Spread on the land the gold Sun lies,
Sinks deep within, so sweetly dies.
Now dear life spent and poppies red,
Stain the flaxen Sun God’s bed,
So gather crops and brown bread rise,
Now see fresh, new born life arise.”
Harvest Prayer (source unknown)

Since June, all the way through July and into this first week of August, the British Isles have baked. We have experienced and we still are experiencing, one of the warmest and driest summers on record. I am old enough to remember that legendary year of 1976, a summer so hot that there were hosepipe bans and advisory water rationing.  We have had summers like that since, in the eighties and nineties. Yet this year is special and has caught the imagination. We have not had a summer like this for more than a decade.

In my part of central England the weather has followed the same national trends, at times it has been uncomfortably hot, we have endured warm, sticky nights and there has been little rain. The English always talk about the weather and we often complain about it. We shouldn’t, we should enjoy it. In another month or so, we shall be complaining about the rain. Yet it is so very English and so our conversations continue on the subject.

It is now the Lammastide and one of the more unusual harvests that has been taking place over the summer has been archaeological. Like 1976 and those few summers since, the outlines of ancient buildings and monuments have become visible from the air. Stately homes such as Chatsworth Palace in Derbyshire have seen the outlines of lost gardens dating from the seventeenth century reveal themselves. The documentation and research that will follow, will keep many universities busy for years. We the general public, will not reap the benefit until the official reports become available but the potential to gain a fresh insight into our collective past causes justifiable excitement.

We of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel have continued with our own Lammastide observances and activities. I visited London on Saturday the 28th of July to attend the launch of Sean Woodward’s new work and an art exhibition in the crypt of Saint Pancras New Church. That trip will be the subject of a separate blog.

Our planned picnic and open air ritual, originally planned for the end of July was cancelled due to heavy rain. We had not rain here of any significant amount for weeks but on Sunday the 29th of July, we had the proverbial buckets.

The cancellation of the picnic was an inconvenience, a disappointment. We were unlucky. We had to reorganise ourselves and our Lammastide ritual was rescheduled for the 2nd of August, indoors this time. To paraphrase Robert Burns, ‘the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew.’ We have rescheduled our Hearth picnic, a smaller scale affair, for later in August.

Thankfully the weather held for the next weekend and I attended Pagan Pride in Nottingham. A day once again so hot that being out of doors, was at times somewhat uncomfortable. I enjoyed the talks I attended and equally enjoyed socialising with friends. Once again I shall write separately about my day at Pagan Pride.

The date of Lammas as a quarter day can be variable, as much depends on the vagaries between the Gregorian and older Julian calendar, the measurements of the precise middle point between solstice and equinox measured at the equator or elsewhere. This year the date of ‘Old Lammas Day’ appeared to fall somewhere between the 7th of August and the eleventh.

“The stars are gone, the night is done,
The lark as hailed the day,
And labouring men cheerily again,
Hie to the field away,
The morning breeze, that waves the trees,
The mist that sweeps from the stream,
White murmuring rills and towering hills
Are tipt with day’s first beam.
Hurrah, hurrah for harvest morn,
The merriest of the year.
Hurrah, hurrah for harvest morn,
For all things gay appear.

Yet while the dew – the diamond dew,
Bespangles ripened corn,
The labour true how many woo,
The bracing breath of morn.
No rural sound so sweet is found,
As clank of sharpening scythe,
And mountains greet – with gladness greet,-
The songs of reapers blythe.
Hurrah, hurrah for harvest morn,
The merriest of the year.
Hurrah, hurrah for the hardy hands,
Who bind and mow and shear.

How many throng, with rake and prong,
The mowers devious way,
And others lead the sower’s meed,
To stack and barn away.
The summer sun, whose course is run,
Has shed his genial ray;
And golden grain, in vale and plain,
Await the harvest day.
Hurrah, hurrah for the harvest morn,
The best of all the year;
Hurrah, hurrah. Hurrah hurrah,
For harvest home is near.”
Harvest Morn (source unknown)

It was on the 7th that I took a walk around my local area, having lunch at one of my favourite pubs in the next village, before wondering home via the fields. Passing the vintage Jaguar and the Union Flag flying above the old school buildings, I climbed the Redhills, so named because of the clay, to see the harvest close and first hand.

Due to the dry weather and the eventual rain, the cereal harvest that usually starts in late July and continues through early August, was now running at least a week late. The tractors were out and the bailing was in earnest. I stood there admiring the scenery while listening to the buzzards screech above me.

The colours of the English countryside at this time of year, are a delight to the eye. There are fields of gold that stretch seemingly endlessly across the hills. The oaks are producing acorns and the fruit crop is ripening. Indeed in some isolated spots, fruits such as the bramble are ripe enough to pick.

The year has most definitely turned, the sun continues to look down upon the land and the land now surrenders its produce. This is a time of sacrifice, reaping and gathering. These themes are now all around us and so strong, that we can taste them in the air that we breathe.

A most blessed harvest to you all and may those that are wise, understand what is written. FFF the Chattering Magpie.

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