Seasons – Celebrating Lughnasad with children

Every year, as we cycle through the year and each Celtic festival comes around, I find myself learning a little bit more about each one’s meaning and about the many simple ways we can work with them to connect more deeply with the seasons.  I have two books that I reach for each time and I can’t think of a better way of summing up this festival – Lughnasad (also known as Lammas) the festival of the First Harvest – than sharing some words from each of them.

 

“Slowly the burgeoning energy of Summer has shifted and at Lughnasad we begin to see signs of the wheel’s turning.  The Earth ripens and grows mellow – we can smell the warm and heavy difference in the air.  All around us, plants once stiff with juice are softening, drying, going to seed.  Everywhere are the signs of early harvest, with roadside stands and farm markets overflowing with produce.”

Celebrating the Great Mother by Cait Johnson and Maura D Shaw

 

And this passage feels particularly relevant in this Summer-unlike-any-other, with it’s multitude of layers, stretching challenges and emotions:

 

“Lughnasad, or Lammas, is the holiday that celebrates the beginning of the harvest season.  Summer is at it’s height, but already the days are growing shorter and we know that autumn is on it’s way.  Some things in the garden are ripe; others are still not ready.  The grain is standing in the fields but not yet harvested.  Lammas is a time to think about our hopes and fears.  We hope that we’ll be able to pick and eat all the things we worked hard to grow – but a lot could still happen.  We could have storms or scorching sun or high winds…. To harvest we must cut down the plants we’ve tended so carefully… We feel sad that Summer must end for us to reap the harvest.  But we feel happy, too, thinking about all the good things we’ll have to eat.  Just as the Summer Solstice taught us that we can feel happy and sad at the same time, Lammas teaches us to feel sad and happy.”

Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk

 

With many of us having occupied our children during the lockdown months with planting seeds and expanding veg and flower patches, the elements of this lovely festival are evident in the patches of earth we’ve been able to cultivate (even if that patch is in a pot).  My children have been so loving the sunflowers blooming, the strawberries producing, the bees all over the borage in the herb bed, our veg patch beginning to yield some things and they’re on daily tomato-ripening watch.

 

Some lovely things you can do with your children this week to celebrate Lughnasad:

 

  • A lovely harvest of your own – if you’ve grown veg or flowers this year, chances are you’re harvesting a little from it already.  This festival is a lovely opportunity to pause and appreciate yours and the Earth’s growing efforts.  Taking a basket to gather a few things in that your littles help you make into lunch, dinner or a snack is a lovely, simple celebration.  You can talk about the journey from little seed to the food on your plate.  A posy of flowers gathered from what you’ve grown or wildflowers found on a walk could dress your table in Summer.  Take some pictures of what you’ve grown together – is there anything lovelier than looking back on your small person beside a towering sunflower or with their hands full of something delicious you’ve grown?  You could have you own ‘village fete’ and give prizes for biggest, tastiest, prettiest or most funny-shaped things you’ve grown.
  • Visit a producer – my two boys love a pick your own farm and are well known amongst friends and family for being excellent fruit pickers.  We’ve been known to get calls to come and clear off people’s plum trees before the fruit goes to waste and there’s never a more welcome call as far as they’re concerned.  In our new surroundings there are less PYOs but plenty of farms and producers with drive-through or roadside stalls selling their bounties.  We visit as often as we can through the Summer to support local growers and keep ourselves in fresh goodness.
  • Make a corn dolly – traditionally people would have made a harvest figure out of stalks of wheat to bless the home and remind them of the Earth’s bounty.  There are lots of tutorials online for easy corn dollies and you could use other dried stalks from grasses or similar tall plants if you have no wheat around you.
  • Bake some bread – the alternative name for this festival, Lammas, comes from Loaf Mass and baking a harvest loaf would have been a way to celebrate the good harvest, which was a matter of life and death for our ancestors.  We’ve often made a simple loaf together or I’ve made dough and we’ve shaped it into our own little loaves.  One year somebody made a sweet mouse loaf which swelled in the oven and looked so cute that nobody wanted to eat it.
  • Herbal ice cubes – suggested in one of the books mentioned above and adapted to our own way, we made some pretty, Summery ice cubes last year.  You can keep it simple with a few flowering herbs such as borage, chamomile, lavender, caldendula and rose petals and leafy herbs such as mint, thyme rosemary frozen in water-filled ice cube trays.  Or if your children are interested you could make a tea from the herb and freeze into ice cubes with the flower or leaf inside – learning a little of the properties of that herb as you go.  We use ours in a summery drink of the elderflower cordial we made around the solstice, water and some local apple juice.
  • Go on a seed hunt – how many varieties of seeds can you find in your garden if you have one, or along your walks.  If there’s a meadow area nearby it’s amazing to see how many different types of grass there are, shown through the difference in their seeds.  My children love to play ‘hen or cockerel’ with them.  Asking your partner which it will be before running your thumb and index finger up the stalk to strip the seed – which does it most look like?  Another seed activity can be gathering seed from your spent flowers or veg that’s bolted to save for the next growing cycle.
  • Read some stories that speak to this time of year – there’s a lovely one in Circle Round called the Queen Bee (adapted from the Grimm’s tale by the same name).  The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle is lovely for littles, as is Bee by Britta Teckentrup.  As my two grew and became more interested in growing things they loved How does my garden grow? by Gerda Muller.  You’re sure to have others on your bookshelves as well.
  • Go in search of blackberries – it might be too soon in some areas but here in Herefordshire we’ve been picking blackberries from a few bramble bushes in particularly sunny spots all this week, while we wait for the big ripening to happen on all the others.  Nothing says first harvest more to me.

 

And for you dear Mama

I love honouring the Celtic festivals with my children.  They love hearing about them and it’s another lovely way to connect with the natural world around us.  As well as this, I always love to have something for myself to do that feels like cup-filling, nourishing, self care alongside honouring the seasons and the turn of the wheel.

This Lughnasad falls at a many-layered time for me.  Alongside Summering with my boys and all the lovely outdoor adventures that entails, I’m feeling a lot of feelings in relation to this intense year we’re having, I’m working on preparation for my Mother Wild retreat that I’m hosting in the woods in September and I’m looking ahead to plans for the rest of the year and into next.  It’s a lot to hold in one go, I find, and time to unravel my thoughts is really valuable.  So I’m keeping it simple.  I plan to sit in a favourite spot in our garden where we’ve let the grass and wildflowers grow wild around some baby fruit trees, with a cup of fresh-picked herbal tea (definitely there’ll be some Borage in there for courage) and I’m going to gift myself some time to unwind and appreciate the abundance around me.  I might journal it or I may just gaze into the distance and let it all be.

 

What could you do to nourish yourself or to connect with the abundance of this time of high Summer?

Mother, Nuture & Wild

For nature-inspired Mamas and their Children, a guide to celebrating Lughnasad (or Lammas) and the Celtic Wheel of the Year

Mother, Nurture & Wild

For nature-inspired Mamas and their Children, a guide to celebrating Lammas (or Lughnasad) and the Celtic Wheel of the Year

Natural Craft: Circular Weaving

 

I was digging out a few pictures of the heavenly circular weavings we worked on at the very first Mother Wild retreat for a lovely mama so she could see what I meant by the foraged hazel loom/frame and I realised they might be useful inspiration for other mamas needing easy/cheap/natural/calm activities at this crazy time.

There’s something distinctly meditative about circular weaving. You find yourself falling into a quiet place inside while your hands do the rhythmic in : out of the weave. Seems to have the same effect on children as well as grown ups in my experience. We were all pretty zen’d out working on these in the sunshine together a few Summers ago.

 

A simple how-to:

  1. Forage a good length of nice bendy hazel.  You’ll find it in most native hedgerows or often around the edges of parks. Willow works well too if you have access to some. Or I’ve often used holly with all the leaves stripped off which is a gorgeous dark colour when dried out.
  2. Strip the leaves and wrap into a secure circle by wrapping it around itself until it holds firm
  3. Warp your loom using strong thread – crochet cotton or garden twine both work well– tie the last warp thread in the centre, drawing in the cross points of the other warp threads to secure your end
  4. Check. Ideally you’ll now have an odd number of warp threads on your loom which will result in a nice weave pattern as you go
  5. Attach any yarn to one of the warp threads close to the centre point (for the first rounds a thin yarn works well)
  6. Weave in whichever direction makes your heart happy – over one, under one, over one, under one…
  7. Change yarn and colour at will, tying the new piece to the old piece and hiding the ends behind your weave
  8. Laugh out loud when you realise you’ve chosen the colours you’re wearing as most of us did!
  9. Alternate between thick and thin yarns for a nice texture or build from thin yarn up to chunkier yarns as you weave from the centre out towards the edges.
  10. Add a couple of beaded tassles or a found feather from your foraging walk to the bottom edge if you’d like and hang on your wall to admire every time you pass.

Simple, meditative, natural crafts are always part of our Mother Wild Retreats. Sitting in the warmth of nature with a group of like-minded mamas making something beautiful with our own hands brings all kinds of happy-heart magic.

Summer Solstice Ideas for Mothers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Solstice falls on Saturday (20th June 2020) and while looking for inspiration I found a list from a Summer Solstice gone by I’d shared on my old blog.  It was lovely to revisit and remember the Solstices when my two were really little and had no idea what we were celebrating but loving it anyway.  Now they run with the celebrations and have plenty of suggestions of their own.  In case it’s useful for you Mamas, I thought I’d revamp that list to share here.  I’ve added suggestions for how you could combine marking the solstice with doing something lovely for yourself.  The cycles of the year can provide a lovely opportunity to check in with yourself and tend to your own needs and nature connection, as well as marking it with your children.

 

Lovely Solstice Activities for Children

  • Eat outside – some summer veg for dinner, a bowl of strawberries and a jug of elderflower cordial with a few summer flowers in a jam jar on the table – lovely!
  • Light a candle and sing a summery song or read a poem – we love the National Trust book ‘The Seed that Grew the Tree’ for it’s simple and seasonal daily poems.
  • Make paper suns together to hang in your windows.
  • Light a solstice fire in your garden, toast marshmallows, sing, tell your children happy stories from campfires of your childhood.
  • Take a short walk after dinner in the evening light – make it different somehow so it stands out in your memories – a pyjama walk or all wear something sun-coloured!
  • Do something you wouldn’t usually do outside – bath the kids in a warm paddling pool or baby bath on the grass – make it fun.
  • Task your children with making a sun mandala on the grass – grab building blocks, crystals, play cloths, yellow and orange toys, or petals and arrange them into a sun – they’ll love it.
  • Glue torn strips of summery shades of tissue paper around a jam jar and take it in turns to write down something simple you’d like to do together this summer and pop it into the jar, for inspiration over the holidays.  Or make it a gratitude jar – write down some of the light-filled things around you.

 

Lovely Solstice Activities for You

  • A Solstice Bath

I know a bath is a cliché but I find it’s rare that I give myself the time to have a good long soak and by making it a really nourishing bath it feels like a real gift to myself.  You could use some summery floral essential oils like lavender and geranium diluted in a carrier oil, adding orange essential oil as well can be really uplifting.  Wild dog rose is abundant in the hedgerows at the moment and you may have calendula (marigold) or chamomile in your garden.  These flowers are all used medicinally as bathing herbs since they’re wonderfully nourishing for the skin and the spirit.  Scatter some in the bath (or dried version if you have them in the cupboard work just as well) and delight in bathing with the flowers.  I often add to cup of Epsom Salts to my bath for the magnesium. I find I sleep really well afterwards, if children allow.  Tip: have a sieve ready to scoop out the petals afterwards!

  • An evening ‘alone time’ walk

If you crave some alone time, an early evening walk around a nearby nature spot is a lovely thing to gift yourself.  Go somewhere you feel comfortable and inspired.  Take it slow or power walk if it feels good to walk at adult pace for a change.  If you love taking pictures, making it a photo walk can be lovely and help you really notice the beauty that surrounds you.  Up the nourishing stakes with a flask of your favourite tea and a snack and take a pit stop.

  • Journal

The markers of the year can be lovely times to check in with yourself.  How are you feeling this Summer Solstice?  What do you need?  This is a time of long days and plenty of light, how would you like to invite that into your world right now?

  • Create

Making time to create something just for the pure joy of it can be the hard to manage but such a gift when we do.  Is there something you love making?  What could you create just for the joy of it?  Draw or paint something?  Make a nature mandala?  Blends some oils or tea? Try out that thing on your pinterest board you’ve been longing to try?

  • Watch the sun go down

It used to be my tradition pre-children to watch the sun go down on the longest day.  I ditched it when I wasn’t getting much sleep (and it might not be for you if you have wakeful babies or toddlers right now) but this year if it’s dry I think I’ll set myself up in the garden with a book, a drink and a blanket and soak up the evening.

  • Dream the rest of the year

I fully subscribe to Summer daydreaming.  With the light as it is now, the possibilities usually seem broad.  Coming out of lockdown, I admit, it all feels a bit different, but nevertheless.  It’s sometimes nice to take a wander around our imagination and dream our way through the second half of the year.  Come the Winter Solstice what’s one thing you’d like to have done, seen, manifested or experienced?

 

 

My advice always with this kind of thing is to keep it simple.  While lots of the suggestions might appeal, perhaps picking one thing to do with your children and one thing for you is the kindest approach.  I’ve fallen foul of trying to squeeze too much in and not being as present as a result.  And I freely spread these things over the days around the Solstice.  That way it’s a relaxed and easygoing thing rather than a slightly time-pressured tick in the box.

Ideas for Celebrating Summer Solstice with Children from Mother, Nurture & Wild

 

 

 

I’d love to hear if you’ve used any of these suggestions, in the comments here or over on Instagram or facebook.  Enjoy dear Mamas!