Happy belated Lammas of 2019! This year, July's Super Black New Moon occurred the day before Lammas, and these two days could not have fit together better.
If you haven't noticed, I haven't posted in a long while. Recently, my life has become unbalanced and hectic. This month signals the hottest point of summer; it's the period where many of us feel like the heat will never end. Couple this month with a new Mercury retrograde, and suddenly you're grappling with impatience and frustration.
Throughout the month, I've been prayer journaling to work through my consistent impatience. The topic of gratitude popped up within the last week, and I was surprised to learn that both the new moon and Lammas emphasize this idea as well. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and appreciative for what you have.
If you cringe a bit at the concept of gratitude (likely from New Age spiritual overuse), I don't blame you. But know that practicing gratitude is heavily backed by research.
Here's my point: If you want to feel happier, you should be practicing gratitude. But how do Pagans incorporate gratitude into their worship? For this post, I'm going to use the recent new moon and Lammas as an example.
Lessons from the New Moon and Lammas
As many witches know, the new moon signals a beginning: the ideal time to embark upon new journeys and hobbies. This year's Super Black New Moon enhances these energies. This moon phase encourages two perspectives at once. One is a positive outlook on the future. As the new moon develops into waxing crescent and gibbous, so too will your energies grow. Waking up early will grow easier; a tough work project will slowly crawl toward its end; the hottest month of the year will cool down. When we envision "beginnings," we see ideal opportunities. Pain does not last, and if you've been experiencing several hurtful days in a row, know that they will eventually end. After all, life constantly changes, just like the moon phase.
The second message of the new moon is a focus on the present. The beginning is now. If you want to become an avid reader in the future, you won't become one unless you have that goal today. This isn't to say that the now is always positive. If you're struggling with rent, summer heat, and a slimy coworker all at the same time, the present feels like a bad omen. But remember: the new moon is a beginning. Today is a beginning. Not only do we have the opportunity to change things, but we have the resources to enact these changes. Remember this, because this idea from the new moon bleeds into Lammas.
Lammas, also called Lughnasadh or the Grain Harvest, is the summer harvest festival. In Wicca, harvest is one of the Greater Sabbats, or the most important of the Celtic festivals. Why? Because it signals a time of abundance. Although we may feel like the Earth is wilting in the heat, it's actually producing more than it's taking away. Vine vegetables, like tomatoes, corn, squash, and cucumbers are ripe for the picking. Grain sprouts during this holiday, and tropical fruits grow plump. In fact, the ancient Celts celebrated this abundance by cutting the first grain and sharing bread with their community.
However, the tale behind the name Lughnasadh grants us a perspective on the holiday that many Pagans don't know. Most understand that Lughnasadh derives from the Irish God Lugh, a master craftsman and just king. But do you know why Lugh designated the holiday? It was actually in honor of Tailtiu, wife of the last Fir Bolg High King of Ireland, Eochaid mac Eirc. Tailtiu cleared all the plants and plains of Ireland so that its people could grow crops. After she finally died of exhaustion, Lugh established a harvest festival in her honor, including funeral rites and games.
Lammas and gratitude go together like grain and sunshine. During the harvest, we celebrate the Earth's ripeness, and all who have sacrificed their hard work to feed us. We couldn't eat without farmers and butchers. They couldn't provide food without the Earth. Grains can't grow without the sun. And the sun and Earth cannot work in harmony without the Gods.
Remember this lesson from the new moon: We have the opportunity to create a new beginning. And from Lammas, we know that we have everything we need to do so. We are alive. We are fed and sheltered. The Gods gave us an entire Earth to pull from and celebrate. What's there not to be grateful for?
How to Practice Gratitude in Paganism
When I learned all these lessons from the new moon and Lammas, I realized that I had been perceiving my life in detrimental way. It's so easy to envision the future negatively when your past and present have been difficult (to say the least). Not only does the "everything sucks" mentality not reflect reality, but it also omits every blessing we have. We take the sun and the crops for granted almost every day. These are both products of the Gods, and when we recognize that, we grow closer to Them.
Needless to say, when we rehearse what we're grateful for more often, we'll feel less hopeless about our lives even during rough times. But how do we do that? Over the past two weeks, I've been rehearsing methods to incorporate more gratitude toward the Gods. And I'm ready to share some of those methods here.
As a disclaimer: I'm Wiccan, so all my examples will have a Wiccan tone. Please change them in a way that suits your own religion.
TAKE MORE BREAKS. At work, I tend to let deadlines determine my schedule. I consistently think, "I'll take a break later, and push through now." By the end of the day, I'll be worn out, hungry, and left with a mind full of "fuck fuck fuck let this be over soon please fuck." That sucks. And I know I'm not the only person who does that.
When I started taking more breaks--say, a couple 10-minute breaks instead of one 30-minute one--my day felt phenomenally better. Breaks encourage gratitude because you're focusing on your needs now, not when you finish. If you have trouble sticking to set times, schedule alarms that will force you to step away from your work desk or studies.
I recommend walking outside for your break. You can soak in all that the Gods offer and recite a gratitude prayer, which is my next tip.
RECITE A GRATITUDE PRAYER. Remember when I mentioned that repeated affirmations make people happier overall? Thanking the Gods acts as an affirmation because it reminds us of what we have.
In order for your prayer to work, it has to represent something you actually believe. For example, saying "my day is great" might not make you feel better if you know that your day has been frustrating. But reciting "the Gods have blessed my day" helps more, because no matter how your day has felt, the Gods have likely gifted you nourishing food, nice weather, good sleep, etc. It also encourages us to know that a higher power is on our side.
Make your prayer short and sweet. You don't have to memorize it, but you might want to write it down somewhere. I kept mine on a phone note that I always kept open. That way, whenever I unlocked my phone on my break, I'd see it. You can also set the prayer as your lock screen,
I made mine a poem, because rhymes and meter make verses easier to memorize. Mine is based off of one of Scott Cunningham's example prayers, but revamped (let's face it; he wasn't the best poet, bless his soul). Here is mine:
"Divine Mother, Father Divine,
Blessed am I,
to share my day with both of You."
See how short this is? It makes life a lot easier to only recite three lines rather than a page. Also, you can change any line you want. For instance, you can say "Blessed am I / to share my meal with both of You." Or, you can switch it from Wiccan deities to your own. I'm only listing my prayer as an example, or hopefully inspiration.
If you need more inspiration, look up historical prayers, such as Delphic Maxims or magical chants that correspond with your religious views.
JOT DOWN YOUR THANKS TO THE GODS. In the past, I've mentioned Pagan prayer journaling and using this topic as a potential prompt. But you don't need to have a "Pagan prayer journal" to do this; you can simply have a gratitude journal. Again, science proves that writing down what you're grateful for lifts your overall mood and outlook on life.
Every night, I like to write down five things I'm grateful for in my day, bullet-point-style. But you don't have to limit yourself to five; you can do one, or ten, or however many you want. Writing one thanks to the Gods is better than none.
You can begin with, "Dear Gods, Thank You for ___." Or possibly, "Dear ____, I am grateful that You gave me ____ today." As with all prayers, don't feel constricted by formal speech. Thanking and praising the Gods is effective in any language.
These are all the tips I have for now. This is a longer, more in-depth and personal post than I usually write, so please let me know if you enjoyed it (or even made it this far). And as always, message me about any topics you'd like me to cover. Best of luck to you and your path.