The Scythe

harvest_sceneThe Lammas story, they say, begins with John Barleycorn, a scythe, and the hand of the Goddess.

“They’ve hired a man with a knife so sharp
For to cut him through the knees
And they’ve pitched Barleycorn
and tied him down with thorn
And served him barbarously”

Our senses want to run immediately to the pain of the situation and say, “Why does there even need to be a loss?” We hear this deeply in the Gaia Consort song “The Scythe”:

“In some flinch of your shoulder,
some look in your eye
I see the fear of disorder,
the fear of the scythe – comin’ down”

When we experience deep loss, we might even feel the rage along with our Goddess, as in the myth, The Descent if Innana. She ventures into the Underworld to challenge Death directly, demanding of him, “Why do you cause everything I love to die?” I’d like to think that, at that moment, she might have felt as grouchy as I can.

Death replies that Old Fate, one of the gods of traditional witchcraft, is out of even his jurisdiction. He gently reminds her that he does bring comfort and peace through reunion after death.

Lammas is a ritual crystallization of that very moment of questioning. As in all things, we want to place a value on our experiences, calling one experience good, and another evil. In the story of Caw! Or, That Poor Bastard, we see how events are not so simple as we might think they are.

Once upon a time, a kindly witch had an apprentice, whom she loved like a son. One day, he dropped her cauldron on his foot, and broke it. And, her Raven friend in the tree said, “Caw!” Which is Raven for, “That sorry bastard. Bad karma!” And, the witch said, “Maybe yes, maybe no. We will wait and see.”

Finally, his foot healed, but left him with a limp. Time passed, and war broke out. Every man in the village was drafted, except the apprentice, because his injury excluded him. And, opinionated Raven on her rooftop said, “Caw!” Which is Raven for, “That lucky bastard! The gods are looking out for him.” And, the witch said, “Maybe yes, maybe no. We will wait and see.”

In the meantime, the apprentice wanted to marry. Being gay, he had no boyfriends to choose from. And, the noisy Raven on her shoulder commented, “Caw!” Which is Raven for, “That sorry bastard. Bad karma!” And, the witch said, “Maybe yes, maybe no. We will wait and see.”

Time passed, and all wars end. But, when sickness comes, it takes a wise healer to defeat it. The apprentice had learned well from his teacher, and he stewed that obnoxious raven with healing herbs, and saved everyone. And he said, “Ha!” Which is human for, “That poor bastard.” (Humorously retold by L. Barshana Kyraphia)

And so we can that only in the fullness of time can we truly see fortune as good or illl… and sometimes, not even then.

The scythe is merciful. It removes the things that distract us, lock us into place, and leave us feeling stranded, far away from even our own feelings. As witches, we can use the Lammas energy to ritually cull those overgrown bits that induce separation, or to harvest the completed work we have so carefully tended. Finally, Lammas is the invocation of rest, the first time in the Wheel of the Year where we can catch our breath and relax. The scythe can cull, can harvest, or can set aside, but in all cases, the scythe is the mercy of the Goddess.

I need a bigger basket

Easter is a complex time of year for me.  With the American culture’s propensity towards marketing, often times it is hard for me to see past the campy plastic eggs and our bright colorfully dressed bunny hiding them.  I also intellectually know that this holiday is a remnant of old agrarian beliefs around the ever important fertility (even today!) and significant events that are happening around us to mark that we have indeed crossed a line in nature telling us that there is going to be more sun than shadow, and that the hard line that we had to hold to make sure that we didn’t freeze or starve to death is starting to fade.


To say that fertility, light and the turning of the seasons are not important anymore is just not correct.  I found out that I cannot have children and made a choice not to do fertility treatments, and I discovered that many hurting people faced this alongside of me this year.  We have more people doing fertility treatments than ever before to have children, men or women leaving partners who are barren or cannot conceive, Martha Stewart in the last twenty years single handedly made gardening into a mainstream obsession (which is GREAT for the environment)  and eco-spirituality followed mainstream consciousness since the 1900’s and later when we watched Emerson go to live deliberately in the woods.  While many of outpourings of Easter might be considered to be shallow outpourings from a unexamined soul, they are still fostered through something deeper.


I have heard more times this spring that hearts that have been embedded in winter blues were so glad that spring was here.  I have heard that it was a hard winter and when we started seeing daffodils and crocus’ our little hearts skipped a beat.  These little beauties signaled to us that the light had come back and our soul was in for a treat!  In Oregon where I live, we get very little sun, and have gotten less sun as time has gone on.  We joke about Juneuary, and the coldness that exists when it should be 65 degrees.  If we look at the deeper conversation that we are having, we are really saying that we have been in a struggle with darkness and our soul feeling the loss is ready for some help with this with the insertion of joy!


Spring is this insertion of joy as medicine… Easter personifies this!    In Christianity, the belief is that there is a personified gift of God that opened a bridge for all of humanity to come into the light and reunite with the Life.  This gift was viewed as the bridge to the higher reality and on this day he offered this bridge to all of humanity to come out of darkness and embrace joy as a lifestyle, a birthright of sorts and to step back into the original plan for humanity which was to live in wholeness in the presence of divinity.


In paganism we see the same thing with a different telling of it where [the] physical part of our selves (symbolically represented by the God) finally finds what He has been looking for and decides to step into his birthright and claim that he truly is eternal (Goddess is symbolic of the eternal part of humanity).  He agrees to step into full sun, and to move out of the selfish and self seeking ways that he has followed until that point and anchor himself into something deeper.  He is enticed by eternity to embrace his eternal soul as being a worthwhile enough venture to commit.  Jesus committed with his soul and brought life into the world, and the God of paganism commits with his soul and brought forth life with the Child of Promise being birthed.  Both agree to let a part of themselves die in order to have something larger.


And this bunny, in all of his caricatured glory is the representation of this fertility inserting joy into hidden places!  The eggs are personifications of the eternal truth that our Maker gives us gifts that are beautiful and full of surprises, and that after our death there is life.


This Easter my hope is that we are looking for the hidden joys with a basket that is big enough to carry them!   I challenge you increase your inner capacity and allow joy to be part of your spiritual make up, to allow the divine  gifts to be present in our lives.  Divinity is benevolent, and wants the best for us.  The presence of pain and darkness is not an indicator of the way that god does not care, but instead is a unique opportunity to become closer to that which is Real, to find the hidden gems. Sometimes God has to stop talking so we can learn to listen better, to strengthen our spirit and ultimately realign in a real way instead of being led along by the nose like a pack animal.


This year I am going to get a bigger basket!  In that basket I am going to place the hidden gifts in my life, bring them forward and celebrate them!  By doing this, I realize that I can allow the light to overcome the darkness and heal my spirit.  It is then, when we get brave and open our hearts we allow our gifts to be seen and discovered by divinity!


For the kingdom of God is within you!



© 2012 By Terradon Iler