Yesterday, a member of my Circle ran a sweet little Lammas ritual on the theme of “as you sow, so you shall reap”. That got me thinking about Pagans, the wheel of the year, and its relationship to nature.
One of the wheel of the year stories we can tell through Pagan rituals is of planting and harvesting: we plant in the spring, the crops grow through the summer, we harvest in the fall, and then everything rests in the winter. Many rituals will draw connections between these literal agricultural cycles and metaphorical growth: starting new projects, nurturing their growth, reaping the results, and then resting to allow for new inspiration.
What is striking me as interesting right now, though, is that the human version of this story is almost exactly opposite nature’s version.
The human version is based on agriculture and food. It is based on what we have done for ten thousand years to feed ourselves. Nature’s version is even older, though. In nature’s version, Lammas and Mabon are not the harvests, but the plantings.
All the luscious fruit and golden grains coming our way over the next couple of months are full of the seeds of the next generation. Imagine a wild apple tree, outside of a tidy orchard. Birds and animals eat the apples and distribute the seeds in their droppings, thus creating the next generation of apple trees. The tree is planting; the tree is creating new life and celebrating fertility; it is in its Beltane, not its Lammas.
Those seeds will not grow much immediately; they will rest in the earth, biding their time over the winter hibernation. When spring comes, the tree reaps her reward – seeds spread and the future of apple trees secured – in the spring. Nature harvests not for consumption, but for the next generation. Spring time is the tree’s Lammas, not its Beltane.
I work in organic food. Every year, it is the same: we get some warm and sunny weather in May or June, and people start asking me where the local food is. They want to know why we’ve still got tomatoes and nectarines and strawberries from California during the summer; shouldn’t we have BC products? So every year I have to educate people about the growing seasons: the local fruits and veggies are still on the trees and in the ground in May and June. That sunny weather that means summer to people is just the start of their growing season. Locally, the best harvests aren’t until August and September, and sometimes later if we have a long, wet, dark spring. So I think that honouring our agricultural wheel of the year is very valuable, as it connects us to our own bodies and needs and reminds us to what extent we are still dependent on nature.
But if we consider nature to be sacred and beautiful in and of itself, not just in how it is useful to us as people, then maybe we will want to honour this contradiction between the agricultural cycle and nature’s cycle. I don’t know what this would look like yet, but I think it could be an interesting theme to play with. I do know we are sometimes so far away from our food, but maybe we are even further away from the wild.