Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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The Trouble with Lammas

OK, I'll admit it: “Lammas” bugs me.

Yeah, yeah, purism is its own punishment, I know. But it's Hláf-mæsse: “Loaf Mass.” Not our ritual, not our word.

There's always Lúnasa, sure and that's a nice pagan word. (You can keep all your Gs, Hs, and Ds for all of me: if Lúnasa is a good enough spelling for the Irish Language Academy, it's good enough for me.) But it's Irish. It's a borrow, an import. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.

Lammas is the better word: tighter, less exotic: native. But there's that pesky mass on the end.

Hard-core Old Craft turn up their noses at names like “Samhain” and “Bealtaine” anyway, which they regard as New Age Pagan-Speak. Back in the Old Days, you wouldn't be caught dead (literally) throwing around pagan lingo like that. Cover, they say, is worth a mass. If Hallowmas, Candlemas, Roodmas (“cross-mass,” argh), and Lammas were good enough for the ancestors....Protective coloration, all the way. Besides, it's not as if Christians keep any of these holidays any more anyway.

Much as I admire their commitment to the Old Ways, I don't (thank you, Old Hornie) need to wrap myself in Christian cloak to survive. Still, what to do?

Maybe the most practical solution I've seen to the Lammas Problem comes from Garman Lord, founder emeritus of Theodism ( = [very roughly] Anglo-Saxon heathenism).

He simply renames the Old English holiday Hláf-maest: “Loaf Feast,” maest meaning “food, meat, feast.” (Not mast as in part of a ship, but mast as in acorns and beech nuts.) Had this term existed 1000 years ago and survived into our day, we would today be wishing each other a Happy Lammast.

So I'm way out of season here (gods help us, first frost predicted for tonight and the Samhain stuff already going up), but here's my wish for a happy Lammast to you and yours.

Lammast. Tastes good.


Garman Lord, The Way of the Heathen: A Handbook of the Greater Theodism (1985). Watertown.








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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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