Celtic Fire Festival: Lammas Symbols and Rituals

Give thanks to the gods of the grain at Lammas and understand the significance of the Earth Mother's symbols, to bring understanding and comfort in the cycle of life and death.

The significance of the corn sheaf

Nothing can be more symbolic of Lammas than a sheaf of corn. At harvest, fields were scattered with sheaves and even today you'll see straw bales in fields. The entire village would work together to cut the corn with scythes and sickles.

According to folklore, as the corn was cut the god of vegetation pulled his energy away from the crop until at last he had nowhere else to go. Therefore, this led to the belief that he actually lived in the last piece of corn and to cut down the final sheaf was the greatest of privilege.

The last corn sheaf was kept for the next six months, for it was thought to contain a glimmer of the Earth's energy within. This last sheaf was traditionally made into a Lammas corn dolly.

lammas corn sheaf

You can continue this ritual by making your own corn dolly to pay homage to the corn mother and the spirits of the land.

All you will need is a sheaf of corn and some strands of red ribbon. You could ask a local farmer if they have a small sheaf of corn to spare, or, alternatively, you can buy some dried wheat or pick long grasses.

Lammas corn dolly
  1. Arrange your sheaf so that the ears of corn are at the top of the bundle.
  2. Then tie a red ribbon just below the ears and you will have made a head for your dolly, with an interesting hair style.
  3. Tie another strand of ribbon a few inches lower down from the first and this should form the rough shape of a body.
  4. Make a pair of arms for your corn dolly by taking a few short lengths of corn.

You need to tie another ribbon just below the ribbon beneath the ears and again a bit further along to make an impression of shoulders. Then stick the short lengths of corn horizontally into the dolly - you have made your very own corn mother.

Common ritual

To make this activity more of a community ritual, you could bring along sheaves of corn to a picnic with your friends and have fun while you all make a corn dolly.

Summer picnic

Cutting the corn used to involve the whole community. Scores of people would work in the same field, swinging their scythes in rhythm and then stopping to socialise for an outdoor meal.

Continue the tradition by organising a picnic with friends at the local park. You can all bring seasonal foods. Fresh, ripe tomatoes and a sunny looking quiche made with eggs and fresh, chopped herbs. A salad of green beans and bright yellow flowers as a centrepiece for the tablecloth.

lammas picnic

Bring a Lammas loaf (recipe below) and enjoy with butter. Treat yourselves to a glass of beer to commemorate John Barleycorn, the grain god.

Lammas Bread

Make your own celebratory Lammas bread.

Lammas Loaf
  • Mix a teaspoon each of dried yeast and honey in 200ml of lukewarm water and leave the mix in a warm place until it froths.
  • Put 500g flour into a bowl with a teaspoon of salt.
  • Add the frothy water, three tablespoons olive oil and 50-200ml warm water.
  • Stir the dough for 10 minutes and place on a greased baking tray. Pat into shape , scoring a pattern with a knife.
  • Cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise for 20 minutes. Then pop into a hot oven (180°C, 370°F, Gas 5) for 40 minutes. When cooked, the underside of the loaf will sound hollow when tapped.

Celebrating the Earth Mother

Lammas is the great festival of the Earth Mother and a good time for female bonding. Gather with a group of your female friends, wear colourful clothes and celebrate the sacred Mother aspect in your own lives. Talk about your mother and the unconditional nurturing you have received from them.

Circle of mothers

For those among you who are mothers, share what it is like to constantly nurture, always giving no matter what you feel, and express the joys that motherhood brings with others.

In a circle, break the Lammas bread and pass it around the group. As you eat your piece be aware that you are taking in a little of everything that has been shared and spoken of, uniting you as women and as mothers on Earth.