Breaking bread at Lugnasad

by | Feb 1, 2015 | Rituals, Uncategorized | 11 comments


The wheel has turned, rain has fallen on the parched earth and a lively wind is rattling loose branches around my home. Time to sip tea, break bread, and give thanks.

Thanks for the golden summer, which is now turning its head towards a doorway marked ‘northern hemisphere’.  It won’t be departing just yet, but all action begins with a thought, a turning away and a turning towards, and today that thought is buzzing in the breeze.

In the Celtic calendar of old Europe tribes would gather to give thanks to the grain god Lugh, who was sacrificed with the reaping of the corn. Back to the body of the Earth goddess he was gathered, ploughed in so that new life might emerge in the spring. And so today we remember Lugnasad, his festival, and its continuation through Christian times as the festival of Lammas.

Loaves made from the first grain harvest were brought to church to be blessed. Last night I baked a gluten-free loaf of bread, from a recipe posted by Australian blogger Charlie, who is a superb cook. She calls it a ‘life changing loaf’, and it certainly is. No flour is used at all. It’s easy and nourishing, full of nuts and seeds. You can find it by clicking here.

This season is also berry time, which was important in the Maori seasonal cycle. Not being a grain growing society (until European contact), Maori depended on the kumara (sweet potato) crop as the staple. However, at First Fruits/ Lugnasad/Lammas the kumara was still sitting in the ground, needing another month or so to mature. And so this was a lean time, ‘Te Waru’.

The native berries which the wood pigeons have been feeding on so enthusiastically out at my bach, provided some food, though not of a very substantial kind.

And the karaka berries needed special treatment, including long soaking in water, to remove their poison and making them safe for eating. Have you ever gathered wild berries? Berries are hard work.

And so, in giving thanks for plentiful food, I am also mindful at this time of year that for many, the basket is half empty. In my book Celebrating the Southern Seasons: Rituals for Aotearoa, I call this time the Festival of the Half Harvest. I find it a good time both to offer up gratitude, and also to make donations for those who are in need.


  1. Hotly Spiced

    Hi Juliet, thank you so much for your kind words and I think your loaf of ‘bread’ looks really good. I really must make the crackers that use pretty-much the same ingredients and post the recipe so you can try them as well. Maybe I’ll get to it this week! Yes, the seasons are constantly changing but this season is my absolute favourite – I just love feeling the warmth from the sun xx

    • Juliet Batten

      Charlie, it’s so delicious that the loaf is now a little smaller than when I took the photo. I’ve also frozen some slices, as you suggested. No hurry about the crackers, but I’ll look forward to that post. There’s just the right amount of warmth in the season for me right now; hope it’s the same for you. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Cottage Tails

    yes we picked our first blackberries of the season. One can see and feel the season change. Thanks for bread recipe link.

  3. Penny O'Neill

    Wonderful, wonderful Juliet.
    It seems that though you are still in warmth, and we are cold and snowbound, we are both in the lean seasons, and we must all be mindful of those whose pantries are bare. Thank you.

  4. Friko

    I always find something new and thought provoking here. Today’s post is no exception.

    Yes, I gathered food to eat too, albeit a long time ago. Grain, herbs, fruit and berries. As well as potatoes left over in the ground after harvest.

    Nowadays I gather blackberries, elderberries, sloes and crab apples. Sometimes rosehips too. It’s a pleasure to do now that I don’t depend on my gatherings for food.

    I make jams and jellies and Beloved makes wine. The old country habits stay with us still.

  5. Juliet Batten

    * Gallivanta, the bread tastes very good. Thank you so much for your tribute to ‘Celebrating the Southern Seasons’ on your blog.

    * Leanne, oh blackberries, how I love them but there are few opportunities to pick my own now. Lucky you.

    * Penny, ‘those whose pantries are bare’, you put it so well. I hope the sun starts peeping in on you soon.

    * Friko, how wonderful to be able to gather your own fruit. When I was in England I gathered blackberries, hazel nuts and elderberries and made elderberry jelly. I enjoy hearing about your old country habits.

    Thank you Gallivanta, Leanne, Penny and Friko for your comments – I appreciate them so much.

  6. Jane Valencia

    Oh, how beautiful! I enjoy this walk with you through Lughnasad, as, being in the northern hemisphere, we’re just in the spark of our growing cycle, celebrating Imbolc. Gazing at the delicious food in your photos, I cradle dreams of the first harvest, wondering what they might be this year, but knowing they’ll include blackberries!

    • Juliet Batten

      Jane, I love that phrase, ‘the spark of our growing cycle’. What a perfect way to describe Imbolc/Brigid. Blackberries, picked from the wild, are a favourite of mine. When you are in Lughnasad, we will be in Imbolc. Such polarities, and I delight in them. Thank you for visiting and for your comment.

  7. restlessjo

    What a lovely post! I know nothing of Maori culture other than I have gleaned from Ann, who sent me here. 🙂

  8. Juliet Batten

    Restlessjo, welcome! I guess with a name like that, you must be a traveller. Thank you for visiting, and your appreciative comment.


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