Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mí Lúnasa

This morning I noticed the leaves on one of the trees in the backyard has a slight yellow tinge to it. It has been hot and somewhat dry, but not enough for this...this is the beginning of harvest.

When I was in Missouri a couple of weeks ago, I noticed  corn in the fields-though stunted due to drought-had small tassels on it, tomatoes were heavy on the vine, squash were abundant...we are on the doorstep of the First Harvest in the Northern Hemisphere. In a few weeks, the grapes will be thick on their vines, pumpkins will show a slight oranges cast, and the grain fields will be ready to mow.

"Lughnasadh"," Lughnassah", "Lughnasa"," Lammas"...The spelling varies depending on the source and the origin. Although definitely a holiday founded in Celtria, it's celebrations differ among the Irish, Scots, Manx and English. Lammas is the AngloSaxon/Christianized version, translated as " Loaf Mass", indicating the first loaves made from the new harvest.The Catholic Church has established it as a day to bless the fields.Some Pagans are increasingly uncomfortable with this name, to others it doesn't matter any more than the varied spelling.

Lughnasadh celebrations have been held in fields where the first sheave is cut by hand with a scythe to symbolize the wounding of Lugh (pronounced 'Lew', the modern spelling being 'Lu'), the dying God of the Harvest. Accounts of folklore center upon Lugh's self-sacrifice so that his blood (and seed) would fertilize the soil for the next growing season. Lugh is a solar god  associated with thunder and lightning, games of sport and crafts such as smiting. He is also associated with fire, which is why Lughnasadh celebrations in the British Isles are often held around bonfires on hilltops. Like most Celtic festivals, there is feasting, drinking and dancing. During some celebrations Tailtui- the step-mother of Lugh- is honored for clearing the fields; in ancient Ireland she is remembered for clearing the plains to make way for planting, after which she died of exhaustion. The day is thought to be especially lucky if a gentle rain falls, which is interpreted as the god bestowing his blessing on the people.

Those who came to America during the Irish Diaspora brought their agrarian festivals. Lúnasa festivals survive in part through festivities such as Harvest Home, a time when family reunions occur. The Festival of First Fruits ensures culinary bounty for these gatherings, with much homemade food and merriment. In the Northeast, where blueberries are plentiful, churches hold festivals featuring the fruit as pies or paired with shortcake and whipped cream. In the pacific Northwest, the featured fruit is blackberries. Other parts of the country celebrate with Apple Festivals or Strawberry Festivals. All are directly related to older harvest festivals.

I use cut wheat and grasses to braid into a circle. The braid is tied with a red ribbon, and the circle is hung in the kitchen as a talisman to protect the home during the year and as a visual prayer for abundance. The talisman may consist as three interlocked circles, or something a bit fancier. I use the single circle because it is simple to make, and I can make a number of them quickly to bless on my home altar and gift to friends.( The circle from the previous year is burned.)

Loaves of wheat bread are simple to make and there is a lot of personal satisfaction in making bread for Lughnasadh. Wheat bread recipes  are pretty straight forward and difficult to screw-up, even by the first time bread maker. The loaves can be formed into ovals or simple rounds, or into the shape of a man to honor Lugh. I especially like any homemade berry jam with the bread, and a good strong pot of tea or fruit juice, which is fitting for the season.

In case you missed it, here's last year's blog for Lammas: http://amethjera.blogspot.com/search?q=Harvest+home

Monday, July 16, 2012


When 13 year old Sahara Aldridge of Cape Girardeau, MO subcombed  to a malignant brain tumor nearly five years ago, her parents Shannon and Amy decided to create an event that would bring the wider community together to raise funds for the pediatric brain tumor research program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, where their daughter received outstanding treatment and care.  The Hoops for Life 5K Run/Walk was inaugurated in 2010 and  raised $7,500. The next year they raised over $9000, and they hope to top out around $10,00 this year.http://hoopsforlife.net/ 

In four days, I'm on my way to Cape Girardeau,...by Greyhound Bus...Sigh. I swore off  cross country bus trips when I was a production assistant a few years back. But it's the only affordable  mode of transportation my all too skimpy budget will allow for these days, and I don't want to miss a thing. I was invited to this year's event by Amy Aldridge, and because of the generosity of  some pretty special people who are life-long Rick Springfield fans, I'm going to be there. ( You all know who you are. Once again, thank you.)

I cannot not be there.
  I remember reading a heart shattering plea for prayers from Rick Springfield on his official website when Sahara was first diagnosed with a gliblastoma.  All he asked for were prayers-and nothing else- for a little girl who fell in love with him while he was performing in the MGM Grand show EFX ALIVE  in 2002. Sahara had a brilliant smile and a charm that set her apart, and she and Rick became fast friends during Amy's frequent trips to Las Vegas.

From the perspective of an outsider, I have to say that Rick's fans aren't just loyal to him,they're loyal to his causes, so when he went online asking for them to pray for a miracle they did...and more, because miracles take a lot of work-and in some cases a lot of money for medical bills.  As a fan, I can honestly say-and proudly-everyone opened their hearts to Sahara with an outpouring of prayers, donations to help cover her mounting medical bills, gift cards to cover essentials while Sahara and Amy stayed at Ronald McDonald House in Houston while she was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center. There were stuffed animals and toys, craft supplies...and Starbucks cards. When MD Anderson reached the extent of their capacity to help, Amy and Shannon weren't content to take their daughter home to die, they got online and found an experimental form of treatment offered by the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University. The treatment looked promising, and after surgery to remove the majority of the tumor, things were hopeful and the future was a reality.

At home one evening, Sahara quietly died. Shannon said he believed she was so weak from the intensive treatment that her body just simply gave up.

Many of us followed Sahara's fight on a blog maintained by the wonderfully witty and warm Pamela Yeager at http://www.saharaaldridge.blogspot.com/ Not long afterward, Rick Springfield and Matt Bissionette wrote several songs in her memory-" God Blinked", "Oblivious" and the most notable, "Saint Sahara":

Come on, close the book
Turn out the light.
Put your plans aside tonight...
Oh, I know it's not wrong, but it sure isn't right.
An angel bids her last goodnight to us.

Come on, Sahara, give us that smile-
You walked this far with us.
Let's walk one more mile.
Oh, Saint Sahara
Beautiful Child
You left us all wanting
You left us beguiled...*
*from the album Venus in Overdrive,copyright Rick Springfield,all rights reserved.

Sahara became everyone's little girl in the same twinkling of the eye you see in photos of her. She would be turning 18 on the 24th of July-just a few short days away. Her high school class has just graduated. They remembered her with a basketball, and a jersey with her number "21" and nickname " Hoops" on it. Her mom is working on legislation to put a box on Missouri income tax forms for an optional donation that will go to pediatric brain cancer research. They're calling it "Sahara's Law", and it has good, sound backing by local politicians.

Come on, Sahara!

July 21, over 900 people from all over the United States are participating in the Hoops for Life event, and later that evening, Rick Springfield is headlining a concert to benefit pediatric brain cancer research.

I am tickled to be spending time with my Rock Star Muse, but as it turns out, he's just icing on the cake because the day is about Sahara- all about Sahara-as it should be....and I dare anyone to try to make it into anything other than than.  Because this is  strictly Sahara's day.  I am personally willing to make it an affair to remember for anyone who is selfish enough, foolish enough or just plain dumb enough  to try to steal her thunder. There is a legion of us still willing to fight the good fight for her and those to whom she leaves her legacy of strength and hope.

So until next week, Broom With A View is officially on hiatus and on the road, with a mission.