One of my favorite ways to celebrate the cross quarter holyday of Lammas is to do a special tarot reading. (Another is to read the excellent novel Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz, available for Kindle but may be out of print otherwise. More on this below).
But before outlining a Lammas tarot spread for you, a bit of background on this holiday may be useful.
Lammas in Brief
Modern Pagans often use August 1st or 2nd as a date of convenience for Lammas. I prefer the more exact Litha / Equinox midpoint date of when the Sun reaches 15 degrees of Leo. This year that puts the date on August 7 at about 9:30 am, EDT.
The Roman Demeter, goddess of harvest, fertility and agriculture, aka the Greek Ceres, were paid some homage related to Lammas, following the more ancient offerings to the Celtic god Lugh – which is why Lammas is also known as Lughnasadh, which literally means Lugh’s assembly, or a gathering to honor Lugh.
Essentially Lammas recognizes that we reap what we sow on all levels of life, and that some sacrifice is always part of getting what we want, bringing intentions to fruition, and transforming energies from one state or purpose to another.
This is particularly symbolized for the Pagan sabbat with images of wheat and bread. We in the post modern age who are often very disconnected from our agricultural roots might wonder why. Traditionally, Lammas – which falls half way between Summer Solstice / Litha and the Autumnal Equinox / Mabon -- celebrates First Harvests. Grains such as wheat, rye, barley, amaranth, flaxseed, buckwheat, oats, sorghum and spelt were gathered in late July or early August, and used in rituals requesting protection of the rest of the crops harvested before the dark and fallow months of winter.
Stalks of wheat were fashioned into human figures, pentacles and other shapes were used to decorate altars and homes.
Breads baked for Lammas rituals represented the sacrifice of the living grains for the benefit and promise of prosperity of humankind. This is likely where subsequent church authorities decided to usurp the holiday and call it Loaf Mass.
At the center of this story is the idea that the diverse communities of various occult practices banded together to defeat Hitler’s invasion of England. Much of a witchcraft initiation is detailed in the story, tarot is consulted for some of the most important decisions and timings, and astrology is part of the secret tools of the British intelligence forces. There are clairvoyant rituals described, along with observing and using auras for detecting malevolent intentions.
Although a novel, it has hints of actual occurrences, verifiable British history, as well as serving as a pretty good instruction guide for spiritual warrior work against any tyrant at any time of rising fascism. I can’t believe this hasn’t been made into a movie.
This book is only about $5 now as a Kindle version, which is easy to read on your phone or iPad / iPod touch with the Kindle app.
Now, finally, let’s talk about constructing a spread for a tarot reading for your Lammas observance.
The photo above shows the use of 5 cards in a kind of pyramid layout. The positions of the card walk us through the process of harvest, sacrifice, and transformation with these questions:
Card 1 – What energies are you bringing into the harvest season that you may not be aware of?
Card 2 – What your soul is hoping to harvest?
Card 3 – What you need to sacrifice or make sacred in order to complete the desired harvest?
Card 4 – What will be transformed if it’s a good harvest season?
Card 5 – What you will be called to be grateful for after the harvest?
If you read tarot or oracle cards for yourself, I recommend keeping a journal of your readings. Keep track of your layouts and questions asked, and if you have more than one deck, note which one is used for each reading. Journal about your reflections on the cards that come up, and come back to the readings later to compare your interpretations in the light of how life unfolded for you afterwards.