It’s not Lammas in the Texas Hill Country. The wildflowers are gone. Dry prairie grasses brown and bend beneath the scorching summer sun. The Ash tree in my front yard drops spotted yellow leaves due to heat stress. It hasn’t rained in nearly two months, and our risk of fire is high at this time of year.
It’s not Lammas. We harvested our first fruits (wheat, peaches, blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other delights) back at Midsummer. Now it’s so hot that tomato plants refuse to flower; only okra and eggplant still produce. The air conditioner works hard to cool the house. It’s no time to heat the oven for baking bread.
It’s not Lammas. Midday temperatures regularly exceed 100F, so I cluster outdoor activities in the early morning or evening. If I’m going to be outside for longer than a half hour, it has to be in water: Bull Creek, Barton Springs, Deep Eddy. Even in Austin, the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World, no one schedules multi-day music festivals in early August. Dehydration, sunburn, and heatstroke are real risks.
Here it is Hearthfire, not Lammas. A spoke on the Wheel when the ancient powers of Fire and Hearth, not Harvest, rule. A time to focus inward and reconnect with the rhythms and rituals of home. A period of rest and re-grouping before the new school year, second growing season, and flurry of fall holidays. An auspicious time to journey to our places of inner power, the temples at the center of ourselves, and to be nourished there as at the hearth in the center of a home.
Hearthfire naturally lends itself to practical, household rituals. Having things in order at home is the foundation for work in the wider world. Here are a few ideas for marking this spoke of the Wheel:
- If, like me, you’re going to plant cool-weather vegetables in late September, spend Hearthfire planning, composting, mulching bare soil, and making any necessary repairs to garden structures.
- Keep your space clean. Wipe countertops, wash all the dishes in the sink, and sweep floors. I also recently re-organized my medicine cabinet and packed up my children’s hand-me-downs from last year to give to a friend.
- To feed your inner fire, commit to a daily practice, or if your current daily practice has become stale or unavailable, choose a new one. My previous daily practice involved walking to a nearby wooded park with my beloved dog. He died in the spring, and I’ve deeply missed not only him but also my daily practice. I’ve recently recommitted to home base practice in my own backyard, while I train a new friend for long walks.
- Wash hands, light a candle, ground, and set an intention, before preparing your next meal.
- Practice gratitude for your meal. My family and I often pause before eating and say these words: We thank the soil, wind, sun, and rain for growing our food, the fire for cooking it, and the plants and animals for giving their lives for our meal.
- Set up a small kitchen altar. It could be as simple as a candle and fresh herbs. Or include symbols of hearth deities and household spirits, if you are in relationship with them.
- Make a witch’s jar and bury it near your front door, or refresh one you’ve already buried. The jar I made for my current house contains glass shards from an old window, rosemary sprigs and cactus spines collected in the neighborhood, needles, a few of my fingernail clippings, and homemade Four Thieves Vinegar. To refresh the intention of protection for my home and family, I pour cool, clean water over the spot where I buried the jar, or I sit there for meditation.
As Pagans we seek to consciously align our lived experience with seasonal cycles, but those of us who live in a humid subtropical climate don’t have to pretend it’s Lammas right now. Here in Central Texas, when I come home in late summer to my own inner fire, I come home to the World. What are your body, the land where you are, and your communities calling you to do at this turn of the Wheel?
Scott, Anne. (1994). Serving fire: Food for thought, body, and soul. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
Stevens, Cedar. (2008). How to make a witch bottle: Traditional protection from curses, hexes, and the evil eye. Retrieved from http://naturalmagickshop.com/articles/How-To-Make-a-Witch-Bottle.html.
Texas Wheat Producers. (2012). Texas wheat facts. Retrieved from http://texaswheat.org/wheat101.
Anna Walther lives in Austin, Texas, where she practices place-based paganism, by honoring ancestors, observing the movements of the sun and the moon, collecting local stories, visiting trees, creeks and springs, and learning about the plants, animals, and minerals with which she shares her home. Anna is a student nurse, and she attends First Unitarian Universalist Church with her husband and children.