Are You Harvesting What You Expected?


Old Europeans had these holidays in which they marked gathering times, rest times, harvest times, and planting times. I try to adapt this practice of living in tune with the cycles of the sun by watching the seasonal changes where I live. Let me tell you, I’m not feeling Lammas - the traditional first harvest of grain - this year.

The strange weather we’ve been having has disturbed my marking of the Northern California seasons. Spring was not particularly warm. We had torrential winter rains in June. Fog rolled in early. Heat spikes were random. And as for the old Celtic versions of this season, well, I am harvesting things from my garden, but as I live in a 3-4 season growing area, what those things are simply has varied. The snap peas have given way to the green beans which will soon give way to squash. And personal harvest? I can mark some things, of course, as I’m a pretty steady worker, but can also point to my long list of projects - many of which were slated to be done by August first - that are not yet complete. Like the variable weather, these projects have been subject to many delays not of my own making: tech crashes on a video editor, uploading issues with the e-books, service committees taking time to form, which is correct, but not on my envisioned timetable…

This Lammas, rather than harvesting, rather than invoking the many-talented Irish hero Lugh and marshaling all of my creative juices to get let in to the feast, rather than enjoying the cooling fog that is the hallmark of late summer by the San Francisco Bay… I am exhaling in order to make space inside to let things flow as they will.

The lessons for me are thus: I am an instigator and being such an animal, I need to set things in motion, give an occasional push, have some tentative deadlines, and let go of attachment to how and when the process will unfold. In the midst of this, I need to keep up the commitments I can and keep others apprised of the commitments that are heavily impacted by the work of others.

So many of the old holidays were based around agriculture and either our control, or partnership, or lack of control or partnership, with holy Nature. Nature feels quite changeable this year, as does government, the economy, and just about everything else. What feels stable is what is at my core and within my practices. What feels stable is that I can continue to notice and choose, love and creativity. What feels stable - even predictable - is that the cosmos is ever changing, and so am I. Best laid plans of mice and 21st century humans, and all that.

This late summer season, I give thanks for what I have that feeds me and the ways in which my life can help feed others. I also intend to practice walking the fine line between consolidating energy and attention, and letting go. Yes, I will show up. Will I deliver the fruits of my labor? Time will tell.

There is always a harvest, whether or not it yields what we expected.

22 Responses to “Are You Harvesting What You Expected?”

  1. Anna Greenflame

    I very much relate to this. My trad usually honors Lugh and also celebrates the bittersweetness of this time: the sweetness of the first harvest, the bitterness of letting things go that you realize now will not be completed. And also, personal sacrifice to bring in the harvest.

    This year, however, Habondia came through a few days ago, and suddenly the whole Sabbat seems geared toward Her. “Let me take care of you,” I hear Her say. “You will be provided for. You will have enough. There will be enough. Breathe.” I take this as a response to the tremendous uncertainty that we are all stewing in as well as the individual “rocky boats” that many of my fellow conveners have experienced this year.

  2. John Beckett

    That’s a good question, Thorn. I usually think of Lughnasadh as a time of celebration – Samhain and the secular New Year are my times for review. But there is value in taking frequent looks back, so we can honestly celebrate our triumphs and make necessary course corrections.

    I’m harvesting some good things. I also see the need for some changes… for some sacrifices. I suppose that brings us right back to the Grain Harvest.

    Thank you for your assistance and your inspiration.

  3. John Carosella

    Seems I’m harvesting change…which is indeed what I have been sowing since early Spring. Everything appears to be in order…er…flux…

  4. KB

    Fluctuation does seem to be the overall theme across so many aspects of the world right now. From within my self, through my intimate relationships, my immediate community and ever increasing spirals through the entire world. It’s all in flux.

    In my primary tradition and personal practice, this is the time of resolution. But just as our agrarian ancestors allocated a portion of the harvest to be the seeds of the coming year, so to does resolution hold the seeds of the next descent. There is both completion and the very first inklings of potential conception. That is what I am trying to hold in my heart at the precipice of another turn of the wheel.

  5. SophiaHeath

    The practices sustain me. The harvest confounds me. I *know nothing* and remain open to the unfolding.
    Becaue I have been held before, I know I am being held now, and will be, so long as I keep showing up.
    Change and the surprise that comes with careful attention are my current allies.
    All is well.

  6. Witch

    Hi, Thorn. The truth is that I also cannot feel the seasons, their changes and the Sabbaths this year because of weather but it’s always different. The Nature changes and I know it’s never mind if it rains because it is still very special time. I will meditate and I will be trying to listen to Gods. What they expect and what I expect? I don’t know if I take what I wanted to but I live so it means there are many things to do, to change, to expect. If we have all what we expected, are we still alive? Being human is being to try all the time and goes to our goals, whether it’s “big” or “small”.
    Blessed Be!

  7. Thorn

    It is interesting that so many of you/us are feeling the sense of flux and change this season.

    Tailtu’s sacrifice…

    And John, I’m getting a bit of celebrating into the mix as well!

  8. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    If I am not mistaken, you’re close to Brigid, right? If that’s the case, then I think I have a suggestion for you.

    One of the older Irish and Scottish names of this particular season of the year (the last weeks of July and the first weeks of August), corresponding to the “dog-days” of summer elsewhere, is Iuchar. Iuchar is one of the Three Gods of Skill/Trí Dee Dána, the other two of which were Brian and Iucharba. They were the sons of Brigid. (And, it is very likely that their name lies behind the eventual formation of the phrase “Tuatha Dé Danann,” which does not appear in the earliest Irish sources.) The three of them killed Lug’s father Cian, and in return they had to repay Cian’s honor-price to Lug, which involved him sending them on a quest for seven difficult-to-obtain objects. They succeeded in doing this for all of them, except the last–they did technically succeed at that as well, but were killed in the process of doing so. Lug was enriched by having these six items brought to him (the seventh thing was three shouts on a particular hill guarded by fierce warriors…a sort of stand-in funeral lament for Cian, perhaps?), whereas Brigid was deprived of her three sons. So, there’s some enmity between Brigid’s family and Lug’s, and it’s something to be aware of at this time of year…as much as Lug and Tailtiu deserve our attention and our honor, the Trí Dee Dána do as well, particularly if one is in good with Brigid…If you read the story of The Fate of the Sons of Tuireann, that tells all about their adventures, though it is found in various forms that are older (but more obscure) than that as well.

    So, I wonder if some of your own struggles at present, at accomplishing some of these very-difficult-and-time-consuming-tasks, might in some way be mirroring that of the Trí Dee Dána. I certainly don’t think you (nor anyone else!) has any share in their responsibility for the death of Cian; however, as someone who is as much a child of Brigid as they are, in many respects, perhaps their burdens and their troubles are being shared out equally amongst the larger family, as it were.

    Or, maybe not. 😉

  9. The Wild Hunt » A Blessed Lughnasadh

    […] Time will tell. There is always a harvest, whether or not it yields what we expected.” – T. Thorn Coyle, “Are You Harvesting What You Expected?”“The Anglo-Saxons held their own feast of the opening of harvest upon 1 August, the […]

  10. Thorn

    Sufenas, that is an interesting read on this! Thank you! Lammas isn’t always so for me, but this year, the wacky weather started it, and the rest cascaded. And as you read from the comments, I’m not the only one!

    I was thinking perhaps it is Tailtu saying “I did all this work and Lugh gets all the credit!”

    Will now need to read some more on the Tri Dee Dána.

  11. Jenya

    At our Community Ritual on Saturday, I cried and cried. Felt totally out of sync with my kin there, though all were kind to me in my grieving.
    It’s part of my Understanding that our Dying God, the Sacrificial King, offers His Death as a teaching to us: All that falls shall rise again and Birth and Death are simply doorways between Worlds. I have seen long falls lead to glorious rising, but it feels like the falling is getting longer and deeper now. Will I live to see the rising? Will humanity as a whole?
    Thanks for the reminder to go back to core strength, focus on internal resources and the place of calm within. I believe Big Change is coming and we will need all our Powers. Let’s get Strong for the fight! <3

  12. Sarah

    This year, my garden just isn’t prospering. We added new soil to the pretty much barren ground last year, mixing in compost for nutrients and sand for drainage, and it just isn’t enough: the plants are stunted, starving in the field, even as they bear their harvest.

    I’m torn between being saddened by the whole thing and being struck with wonder that even without the nutrients to grow tall and strong and nourish themselves, they put forth seeds. Given how tempted I often feel to wait until this or that is perfect before moving forward, I think there’s probably something for me to learn there!

  13. Jade

    Thorn, while I don’t wish the way I’ve been feeling on anyone else, it IS a relief to learn I am not alone. Thanks again for a timely post.


  14. Jane

    I listen to the thunder as I write on this Lammas. It seems we are all hearing thunder brought on by winds of change this year, as it re-orders our priorities and expectations. This shifting seems to be our first harvest. Ground. Listen to the wisdom of the wind. It tells me “Spend time feeling your roots. Send them deep as you watch the sky. Awaken and adapt.” I expect this level of change at Samhain . . . so what will that season’s change bring?

  15. John

    Echoing your words – something which came Saturday during preparations for a Lughnasadh ritual… There was a time when we knew only too well that the Land – Nature – had uncontrollable aspects. And so we worked very hard, which included showing our gratitude – even making sacrifice to the land.

    Nowadays, in either our shortsightedness or our technological arrogance, many have moved beyond this, gone past dominion, and act as if we have domination over the earth. So the Earth has to speak more and more loudly to remind us that She still holds the Power.

    Which reveals the even greater need to work in harmony WITH the Earth. The active power of the sun (and the multi-talents of Lugh), the receptive fecundity of the Earth, and the work of our hands, all participating in the cycle of giving – exchanging – with each other. Remembering there are still things which we don’t control, and connections which are too complex for us to follow. So there is still a need to work towards the right thing, adjust when necessary, and trust.

    Work, gratitude, letting go. Harmony.

    (As a side note, another bit that came which goes with another theme you’ve been speaking much on lately – acting despite fear. This played off the possible root word for “Lugh” translating as “oath” – which ties in with “intent”. I’ll give you the words directly as they came.

    “A wise one once said ‘There is no try. Only do, or do not.’ But without your words, and your actions, there is no do or do not.”)

  16. Helen/Hawk

    “There is always a harvest, whether or not it yields what we expected.”

    And for this Harvest, I am grateful (whether it’s the one I envisioned/planned for or not).

  17. Madelon

    I always associate Lughnassad with the first tomatoes out of the garden. Here it is unrelentingly, oppressively hot and humid day after day. I am preparing for further harvest by weeding, by letting go of what no longer serves me. At the full bloom of the summer, traces of autumn hide in the shadows.

    Thanks for the reminders.

  18. Friday

    The seasons have definitely felt out of joint all over the country this year, that much is clear. Certainly, for me, it’s been a really uncertain ‘harvest.’ Probably a lean one. I’m worried for what’s to come, but there’s apparently nothing for it but to dig in and muster a lot of determination.

    (In a literal sense, we didn’t plant much here, since we expected to have moved by now: untended plants from last year fed a little wildlife, though. 🙂 )

  19. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    If you’re interested, I’ve incorporated what is basically a hymn to the Trí Dee Dána (in the form of a litany of their associates and underlings) from a number of Old Irish manuscripts into a ritual for this season, which I posted on my blog here.

    I certainly agree that there are various figures who can or have felt “left out” because Lug is the eponym of this festival, despite Tailtiu having done the majority of the work and suffering involved in it.

    I suppose this is one of the “dangers” (though I think of it more as a splendor) of being a polytheist: there’s almost always more deities involved in things than we might assume initially, and so our attention has to range that much more widely and more keenly. Or, one hopes, in any case!

  20. David-Circe

    As for me, I’m harvesting an opening and a quite cold summer (I needed it to do my work). I can only celebrate my results while I keep my task (like, in the 12 swans, Rose would be happy for having finished another shirt, while sewing the next).


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