The Give and Take of Lammas By Rev. Catharine Clarenbach

By Rev. Catharine Clarenbach


In the Stone Circle, Lammas was not just the First Harvest, but also the celebration of the Gift of the Godself and the reaping sickle in the Goddess’ hand. One example, one full moon of Lammas in the early 2000’s, we stood in that Stone Circle on the hill.  There was one ceremony full of drama, one ritual I experienced as real and magical. I floated between seeing my friends, priests and priestesses, and seeing the determination and fear and sadness of the Divine. I stood there in interfaith community, celebrating one version of a holiday for one version of one Pagan tradition.

I had been UU and I would be again, but in these days, I rested my heart in this interfaith tribe, a community that carved its rhythms into my soul. Those rhythms were lessons, gifts of the seasons responding to the needs of the community.

The CeremonyLammas Goddess

That full moon of Lammas, there were four pairs—one man, one woman, standing at each Quarter, mirroring the God and Goddess Aspected in the Center of the Circle. In each Quarter stood one man, stripped nearly bare, and one woman, robed in red, a red flower in her hair.

One God in the Center, fey, prepared to give everything for His Love, His Goddess and Their people. One Goddess, looking with love and sorrow on Her Love.

The Goddess carried Her sickle in Her left hand. With her right hand, she reached forward, so quick we almost couldn’t see. All four women around the Circle reached toward their partners…bloody handprints, men kneeling, the God fallen, looking into the eyes of the Goddess.

The Gift

And then, moments later, the bloodied body of the God holding a basket of bread and saying, “This is my Body, given for you.”

The words I knew from my Catholic upbringing, coming dolefully from the eyes of the God of Wicca. Given, offered, magical. My friend and priest, transformed, bloody, and determined. His lover, His mother, my friend and priestess, my Goddess, standing behind him, supremely sad, supremely determined, sickle in hand.

The bread, kneaded by many hands, many of the community the God would save again this year…The bread in the shape of His body…The bread he carried in the basket, offering a piece to each of the tribe as we stood, ringed around Them.

And then a dear friend, her face transformed by desire and hunger, reached into the basket in her turn. Reached in, looking into the God’s eyes, and tore into the bread. Tore into it and savaged it as she bit down. This is Your Body, she seemed to say, Your Body is for me, Your death for me, and I am taking it, desiring it as a desert does water.


Lammas was intense in the Stone Circle every year, and especially that one. Moreso than Samhain, even though Samhain is sometimes celebrated as the recollection of the slaughter of beasts for the people’s winter. In the Stone Circle, Samhain was respectful, divinatory, grieving. Lammas, though, was the violent Gift. Remembering that the grain bends its golden head and is cut down. The echo of the kine bleed into the ground, falling on the knife. The flower, so straight and tall in spring wilts as it must in the late summer turning towards fall.


What is given is let go. What has been taken will be relinquished. The open hand is the beginning of entirely letting go, of dissolution, decompensation, of living given for Life. What has been green and proud will be humbled and diminished

All That Lives is Given for All Life

This diminiLammas breadshment is holy. The browning of the green is the gift of the living, given for Life.

When Lammas comes, I recall the savagery of my friend and priestess. I recall the vigor and energy with which she took what was given. Not without gratitude, but with all the force of her life, a life continuing because of the gifts of others.

I recall the sadness of the Divine eyes. Sadness that does not withhold the gift, given for the Life of all the tribe. I remember that I am called to give of myself for all Life, give with both hands, my body, soul, and love. I remember that I am to share what I have for the greater good, for all the Tribe for all Life.

I recall and remember that I owe the Spirit of Life my energy, whatever that looks like at any given time. I owe the Spirit of Life my vigorous gratitude, my consideration when I take what is offered, my honoring of the blood on the ground, given for me and all Life on Earth.

One Way to Remember

This ceremony was one way to remember the lessons it taught. There are other metaphors, other ways. There are ways to queer these lessons, to make them less heternormative, and I have been in those too. This was one ceremony and one version of one tradition, written by one priestess.

UU traditions have the opportunity to teach by ceremony, as well. How can we make our ceremonies, in those places where we are supported in having them, teach the lessons our communities yearn for? I haven’t learned how, yet. I haven’t been surrounded in UU community by those skilled in ceremony. I haven’t been in UU communities where I find the ritual compelling, breathtaking, powerfully instructive.

How do you do it? Where and with whom?



Author:Rev. JP Vanir
Published:Jul 23rd
Modified:Jul 23rd

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