Reaping Tide


“Reaping Tide” is my cuveen’s name for the holiday occurring at the beginning of August, the holiday most Pagans term either “Lammas” or “Lughnasadh” — if they call it anything at all; I suspect many people can’t figure out how it relates to their modern lives, and therefore they don’t celebrate it.

I like the name “Reaping Tide” for a lot of reasons. First, it avoids the Christianity that the -mas ending of Lammas implies (“Hlaf-mass”). That may or not be an issue with you; it no longer is for me but it was for a long time. However, the fact that I had to add the translation of “Hlaf-mass” to the discussion is rather a problem. Why celebrate a holiday with a name you don’t understand, other than the fact it sounds old and quaint?

“Lughnasadh” commemorates the funeral feast of the Irish God Lugh’s foster mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing agricultural land. While anyone can mine a lot of meaning from this story,  many of us are not spiritually aligned with Irish Celtic paganism, which obviously complicates the ritual celebration of an explicitly Irish holiday.

For me, “Reaping Tide” says it all.

It’s a Tide. First, it reinforces the notion that this time of year is a tide. For years I’ve watched Pagans debate when to celebrate the cross-quarters: the 1st? The eve of the 1st? At the astrological 15 degree midpoint? At the closest full moon? My experience has taught me a couple of things about Sabbat timing:

  • The holidays are not 24-hour periods, but waveforms of power that swell and ebb in the vicinity of the traditional date(s). This seems especially true of the cross-quarters.
  • The beginning and end of that wave can vary from year to year. I remember one year when, inexplicably, Samhain seemed to happen on October 24 (or at least kick off strongly on that date).

Reaping is a potent word. You’ve got the harvest meaning of cutting and gathering crops, so it connects you into the food you eat. But “reap” is also a well-known metaphor for experiencing the consequences of your actions.

Some people can’t relate to the agricultural / harvest theme of Lammas because few of us grow our own food. If you don’t grow your own food, this holiday is a perfect time to research how your food gets to you: who grows it, who tends it, who harvests it, who processes, who transports it, and who sells it to you. What are their lives like? What working conditions do they face?

It’s noteworthy that our civil Labor Day holiday falls near the midpoint of First and Second Harvest — a holiday created to recognize the working person. Tailtiu died from working too hard.  People still die today from working too hard. Many of the labor reforms of the 20th century have faded away. Here in the South, they never really took hold. Are we able to reap a harvest commensurate with the labor we expend in our jobs? Or, like Tailtiu, do we have to overexert ourselves?

Also consider that Tailtiu died after clearing land – which means cutting down the trees, disrupting ancient ecosystems. As a species, we’re all reaping the consequences of this, both for our benefit (food, resources) and detriment (environmental degradation, global climate chaos).

What are you reaping? I take this holiday as an opportunity to evaluate what I’ve accomplished so far in the calendar year and to edit the list of goals I want to accomplish before it ends. For example, I’m pretty much done with major landscaping projects this year, although there is so much more I want to do; but the funds and physical energy are needed elsewhere in my life. At the same time, there are old activities that have fallen by the wayside that I want to re-integrate into my life, now that all my energy isn’t going to the yard.

Some years are fallow: not a lot planned, dedicated to restoration. Some years are barren despite our best efforts. Reaping Tide is a good time to grieve the things that died or miscarried.

In summary, by whatever name you call it, this Tide a good “pause that refreshes” to gear you up for the rest of the year. It’s a good time to consider the social and ecological webs that sustain you, how you draw from them and what you contribute back. The next holiday, Fall Equinox, is often considered to be the “Pagan Thanksgiving,” and spending the next several weeks mindful of the webs that sustain you will enhance the gratitude you feel and express at that time.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s