by Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman
The summer cross-quarter day was celebrated
by the Saxons as Hlaf Mass, *Feast of Bread,*
and by the Celts as Lughnasadh, *Commemoration
of Lugh.* Lugh was the grain god, son of Mother
Earth. Every August he was sacrificed with the
reaping of the corn only to be born again in the new
shoots of spring exactly as the Egyptian, Osiris, had
been. At the moment of death, according to Egyptian
scriptures, a person is also a kernel of grain, *which
falls into the earth in order to draw from her bosom
a new life.*
Loaf Mass and Lugh Mass evolved into Lammas, the
Druid corn feast, one of the four cornerstone festivals
around which their year revolved. When the Church
adopted, co-opted, Lammas, it was referred to as Lamb’s
Mass in commemoration of St. Peter in Chains, and the
practice of the offering of the first fruits on the altar
remained exactly the same.
Traditional celebrations of the first corn were observed
on August 1 in many cultures. Named for Juno Augusta
of Rome, August was particularly sacred to the Goddess
Who Gives All Life and Feeds It, Too. It was considered
for this reason an especially propitious time to be born.
To this day, when a Scot says that someone was born in
August, it is a compliment in praise of skilled
accomplishment, with absolutely no bearing on the person’s
The midsummer cross-quarter day is the only one of the
four, which is not still actively celebrated in our contemporary
culture. Midsummer is celebrated in Europe, but there it
refers to June 21, the first day of summer and not the middle
at all. Shakespeare’s *A Midsummer Night’s Dream* actually
takes place on the Summer Solstice.
The only living vestige of Lammas in the United Stated is a
rural holiday called Second Planting. But unless you read the
Farmer’s Almanac or belong to the Grange or 4H Clubs, you
would have no reason to hear about it. It is celebrated exactly
as Midsummer has always been celebrated. The first grain is
harvested, threshed, milled, baked into bread and cake, and
then shared in community. After a night of feasting and
dancing, work starts again at first light planting the second crop
of summer wheat, which will the mature by the fall harvest.
How can we, separated from the agricultural process by city and
century, appreciate the atmosphere of the season which
surrounds us, but which we cannot see? What is the Goddess of
Grain to us of the boulangerie? The patisserie? We who buy our
grain in bags, in boxes, premixed, pre-measured, prepackaged,
prepared; sown, grown, harvested, hulled, milled, by someone
else, somewhere else. How can we identify with the earth values
taught by Terra Mater during this time of year from where we are
held captive in the synthetic heart of the pop tart culture which
Well, we can behave, as they say, as if we were born in August.
We can, in fact, become august – wise and generous and gloriously
noble, each in our own chosen paths. We can hone our skills as the
tenders of Mother Earth. We can hoe our row. We can carry our load.
We can break bread together. We can feed the hungry.
We reap what we sow.
(c) 2008 Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman
Unofficial Commissioner of Public Spirit of NYC. The New Yorker
Part performance artist, part witch, part social director for planet earth. The Village Voice
Globally significant theater-in-the-round. Brooklyn Bridge Magazine
The woman is balanced. Paper Magazine
Solstice Sister. TimeOut New York
The Original crystal-packing mama. NY Press
Frankly, I for one, do not doubt her. Dan Rather
One of the best “goddess gals” around. Olympia Dukakis
DONNA HENES, Urban Shaman, has been a contemporary ceremonialist
for 30+ years. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately known, is the author
of The Queen of My Self, The Moon Watcher’s Companion, Celestially
Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles, and Celebrations, Dressing Our
Wounds In Warm Clothes and the CD, Reverence To Her: Mythology,
the Matriarchy, & Me. She writes a weekly column for UPI Religion
and Spirituality Forum. In addition to teaching and lecturing worldwide,
she maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and
consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, New York, Mama Donna’s Tea Garden
& Healing Haven, where she works with individuals and groups to
create personally relevant rituals for all of life’s transitions.
Mama Donna’s Tea Garden & Healing Haven
PO Box 380403
Exotic Brooklyn, New York, NY 11238-0403
What is an urban shaman?