Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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What is your Lammas Harvest?

It is traditional to bake a Lammas loaf at this time of year, although many may wait to celebrate next weekend, closer to the cross-quarter day.  But there are harvests and harvests. Lammas or Lunasa as we have it in Ireland, is the time when there is a pause in the silage making and hay cutting. There are plenty of festivals around the country and in yesteryear this would be the time for fairs and all that they include - drinking, fighting, wooing, some horse trading.

From Ballycastle's Auld Lammas Fair up in Country Antrim where you can get your dulse and yellow man (a really hard candle that might extract your fillings) down to County Kerry where they crown the goat at Puck Fair, this was the pause for revelry. Many gatherings happened at holy wells and there are numerous accounts of priests having to ban nude bathing of both sexes (together, imagine!) at these sacred sites rededicated to the Virgin Mary.  There were 'faction fights' - supposedly playful, but often they got ugly. My local holy well was contaminated by blood spilt in it at a Lunasa fairy. (All is well; it has been renovated, re-dedicated and the local priest lifted the curse on it back in August 2014.)

Lunasa is the Irish name for the month of August. And there is a tradition of making corn 'dollies' with the final cut of the grain. Before the dry spell ended early last week, my husband cut some rye grass green manure we sowed. These are my salutations to the Grain God who is cut down.


And it felt in rhythm with the season to do it this past weekend when local churches celebrate Cemetary Sunday. The graves get tidied up, grass cut, bouquets laid. The local priest comes and says a mass and blesses the graves of the dearly departed.  It is like a funeral mass for the Corn King. Except, of course, it isn't, but it is an atavism of the old religion under the new customs.

And what is your harvest. Here is a poem I wrote last Lammastide. The reference to Crom Dubh or Crom Cruach as He is called in nearby Fermanagh, is the old God of the Underworld, reverenced in my part of West Cavan and South Fermanagh.


Lammas Song

For what did we seed?
For what did we grow?

The child, the job, the project in need,
the book, the garden, the rising bread dough.

What do we gather?
What do we harvest?

The fruits of our labour, the corn for the baker,
some lightening, some thunder, a fascist dictator.

So what do we reap?
So how shall we winnow?

Where is faith's leap?
How to stand mid-river knee deep?

Once upon a time, the reapers
moved as one, all in a line

Scythes rising and a falling whir -
one, two, three - cut!  The internal rhyme

and rhythm of a single song
known by heart by all in that field.

Now what shall we sing to live long and strong?

What plant is revealed,

sown last spring when all were young,
hopeful, green, and unhearing

that babble by the triple-tongued
(selectiveness being more usual in the aging).

The year, too, is aging.  Now is the time
for the cut, the time to winnow the chaff

before we can all sit down to banquet.
Although the play fights won't all end in laughs.

Crom Dubh presides from below, belly full
grown fat on a summer of sacrifice.


And what we do when the cloud is low.


One Day Last August

We chased the weather forecast west
Away from Cavan low cloud and shower.
We packed the tea flask and picnic basket,
The dog and his water bowl.

Stopped at Eagle's Rock.
You took out your guitar to strum.
Some young women rolled up in their car
Pulled out the new selfie stick for a snap.

The bees hummed along with you
And I looked, because that is what I do
And then the youthful caravanserai
Slammed car doors and fired their engine

Haring off down the lane.
You paused your play to sip your tea
While I lingered, letting the dog
Have his snoutful of sniff

Luxuriating in a whiff of sheep
A field away.  You leaned back
Tipping your chin to catch the rays.
Which is what you do in Ireland

When the sun comes out,
Feeling particularly bold.
The country all turn into lizards
Lolling on stones, drunk on the light.

Limbering sinew, feeling the collective
Bones sigh, even as we turn
Lobster pink, a badge of honour
That we came, we saw, we sunned.

Happy Lunasagh!


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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert Monday, 31 July 2017

    Here is my Harvest Poem, in answer to our question. Blessed Be, Tasha
    My Harvest

    My harvest is not from a field or meadow
    It is not from a garden bed
    My harvest is from within me
    In memories instead.

    I cannot plant or cultivate
    As I did in my youth
    my Lammas celebration
    is a gathering of my truth.

    My back no longer bends to dig
    My knees don't kneel to weed
    But I have gathered my harvest in
    To fill my autumn need.
    Tasha Halpert

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