At last night’s gathering in New Mills, a kind soul shared the tale of her difficult day and how she had been forced to spend it in a place she hated, doing things she did not like for the sake of those she loved. The only way to get through it, she said, was to have no expectations and simply see how it would be.
I have written a lot about expectations here, particularly in the early days of this blog, but it never occurred to me until last night how letting go of expectations is such a prominent part of Lammas.
As a celebration of the First Harvest, Lammas always feels to me like the last big blow out before the end of Summer; the big party before heading back to school, that final raucous night before heading home from a holiday. For those in the past who lived by the agricultural cycles, Lammas was a chance to celebrate and relax before the hard work of the Harvest began.
As part of these celebrations they would often perform acts of folk magic to encourage a good yield on the months ahead. They might libate the fields, burn bonfires made of special woods, sacrifice a Corn King (think giant corn dolly, not an actual King!) or bake a loaf to be blessed and shared by the workers. And not just for the fun or the fancy of it all – as we with our supermarkets and seemingly endless supplies might do – but because their survival through the coming Winter would very much depend on the Harvest’s success.
And it occurred to me as we spoke last night of letting go of expectation, that the only way these historical farmers and their families and communities could celebrate at this uncertain time of year, and the only thing that would make their actions feel vital and meaningful as opposed to powerless and futile, would be to release their expectations of what the Harvest could or should be and simply accept the coming of what would be; without expectation of survival or demise but with hope, faith and determination in its place.
Some years it would pay off. Others, maybe not. Either way they had found time to celebrate, to share and to enjoy life and one another, placing their trust in themselves and the cycles that defined them. Which must have made both the rich and the lean times that much sweeter.