Lammas ritual for an artist too proud of their success
In the pagan calendar, Lammas, or Lughnasagh, marks the start of the harvest season, which includes the Autumn Equinox in September and the final reaping, honoured at Samhain, or All Hallows Eve. Despite being a harvest festival, Lammas is more about new beginnings than endings because, when something ends, something new always begins, new beginnings only happen because something has had an ending. In all light there is a seed of the dark and in all dark there is the potential of light. This is the truth of light and dark, yin and yang, birth and death.
In the Spring, the newness and growth that we celebrate there finds its companion in a different kind of beginning, celebrated at Lammas. In Spring, the Equinox is a point of balance before the growth and fire of Summer, in Autumn, the Equinox is a point of balance before the descent into the ice and darkness of Winter. Before both of these equinoxes is an opportunity to begin something new, to take a new path.
Spring newness is open, innocent, enthusiastic, Autumn newness is tinged with experience and with the foreknowledge of coming Winter. To my mind, this Autumn newness is the more heroic of the two. To “start again,” is for me a term loaded with implications; it is brave and perhaps weary, it is full of hope, or determination, it implies an acceptance of effort. To begin something new at Lammas is to begin something in the full knowledge of possible failure, or to start again despite past failures. The call to hope, the effort to start anew that we might experience in our Autumns demands the greatest courage.
In some ways, I think artists spend a great deal of their time at a Lammas point, or at least, we maybe work best when we allow ourselves to embrace a Lammas sensibility. The most dangerous place for an artist to find themselves is in the enervating heat of Summer success. Sure, success is a wonderful thing to have (I imagine, not having basked in its glories myself) and it should be enjoyed for every minute that it lasts. But the danger of success, of the languid warmth of Summer, is that we want to stay there and that we want to stay there even after it is gone.
To embrace the call to newness, to starting again at Lammas is courageous and wonderful. Remember, evaluate and learn from your successes, the work you love, the work you do well and then begin something new. Have that courage, trust the creative spirit that you are tapped into, because it is a well that never runs dry. It has its seasons, it’s floods and droughts, but it is eternal and everlasting and you as an artist are part of it. When it’s abundance seems to flow away, when your successes are behind you, when the Summer goes and Autumn comes have the courage to begin, to start something new.
I recommend the following small ritual to help yourself move into the future:
You will need a bottle of pale ale, cider, or mead, a small but much liked artwork of your own making, an outdoor space where you are alone and can see the horizon, a clear, mostly cloudless evening in August or September, a box of matches/ Stanley knife or hammer.
Facing the West, uncork your bottle, lift it and toast the setting sun. It is your past success. Watch it’s beautiful, golden, radiant light slip away. Watch until the last gleam of it has slipped into the horizon, then take your small but much liked artwork and burn it, smash it or otherwise destroy it saying;
“I sacrifice you to the power of creativity, that endless flowing river to which I entrust myself and my purpose and which will always fill me up, even when it seems not to”
Then turn to the East, which may appear grey and drear and shout;
“Here is to the dawn, to new things and to the courage to start again!” Drink down the rest of your ale/cider/mead.
Clear up your mess, go and find some friends and spend the rest of the evening celebrating, preferably with more ale/cider/mead.