Wednesday, August 1, 2012
John Barleycorn must die...and I have to write about it!
So here we are at the crux of another holiday....Lughnasadh/ Lammas/ Loaf Mass / gee ain't it hot out! Today is also a full moon, so I'm going to keep this pithy and relatively short.
For most of the big holidays, a few of the local traditionalist groups in Chicago metro and their various pagany pals and retinues gather together to celebrate the sabbat together, feast, make merry, gossip about each other and the "pagan community at large" and just have a general good time. Some of us are a few decades or more into the Craft, so we have that tongue-in-cheek sense of humor about things, which makes rituals fun and mostly light-hearted.
As we hail from different trads, we do a round-robin thing with a different HPS hostessing the rite and sharing a watered-down (read: not oathbound) version of how their group would normally celebrate the seasonal rite.
This time, it is my turn to wear the pointy shoes and striped tights (well, since we're not doing the Gardy thing, I have to wear something y'know!)
And I'm really quite excited to write a little ditty for this particular festival. I like the harvest festivals. Something about the winding down of Summertime's extreme exertions of heat and growth and production of bursting fruit...the coming to term...the ripening...the culmination of all that abundance, by way of making the outcomes into something nourishing, sustaining...the PURPOSE of it that potent energy to yield a tangible result that you can now hold in your hands, take a big bite out of and pronounce it YUMMY, FILLING and GOOD!
I like the healthy WHOOSH! of the scythe in the field --- or in this modern age, to see the combine rolling all that grain and corn through the blades, shooting it in a magnificent arc into the waiting bin trailing along behind.
Yeah, and I really like the clever old English poem about Mr. Barleycorn. You've probably heard it set to music by Steeleye Span or maybe Traffic....yummy! The tale of the seed, growing to shoot through the soil, gracefully reaching upward toward the sun, turning golden with the Midsummer heat and then ol' John Barleycorn's eventual demise at the hands of the reapers, the miller and finally being partially ingested and partially reseeded so that he would return again the following year.
Gotta love a story with an adventuresome plot. First, the rise of our gentle hero in who is faced with dangerous odds. Then there's his struggle to prepare himself for battle, followed by a wild chase and a climactic moment when our hero recognizes that the situation calls for making a "personal" sacrifice for the greater good. He offers himself up, and in a twist of fate, finds that his choice offers him rewards beyond imagining. He becomes a legend, a symbol and blessing to others. Nourishment for the spirit.
Sharing bounty among family, friends, community. Labor and hope made manifest. Real. Tangible and yet ephemeral. Breaking bread. Warm barley cakes drizzled with clover honey...and whisky aged in barrels that offer a heat which warms from inside when you take a sip.
Gratitude for work, for toil which yields plenty.