As I pen these words, the temperature outside is a sizzling 37C/99F. While by no means the warmest weather we’ve experienced so far this summer, it is plenty hot all the same. ☀️
Enmeshed in the blazing heat of summer, it can at times feel a bit foreign to turn our thoughts to things such as ripe fields of wheat, harvesting crops, and preparing for the colder half of the year.
Yet that is precisely part of what the Pagan sabbat of Lughnasadh/Lammas invites us to do.
Lammas is, in the Western Hemisphere, the first of three exciting harvest season sabbats that transpire each year. The other two are Mabon, which is often observed on or right around the Fall Equinox, and Samhain, which many celebrate on or around October 31st/November 1st.
Like each of the eight sabbats that encompass the modern-day Wheel of the Year, Lammas, or Lughnasadh as it is also commonly known, can be observed whenever one desires.
(Technically, the two names refer to similar early harvest season celebrations that transpired in Gaelic areas and in England, respectively, however, these days both names are often used interchangeably.)
That said, many opt to do on August 1st or thereabouts. Another option is to observe Lammas a few days later into the month, on the actual midway date between the Litha (the Summer Solstice) and Mabon (the Fall Equinox).
Falling between these two important points in the calendar, Lughnasadh earns itself the distinction of being a cross-quarter day. Sharing this honour with three of its fellow Pagan sabbats (Imbolc, Beltane, and Samhain).
Lammas/Lughnasadh is seeped in the sights, sounds, happenings, and loveliness of summertime. Beneath its sun-drenched heart though, fall is beginning to stir.
This sabbat ushers in the last full month of summer. In roughly seven week’s time, autumn – that most enchantingly gorgeous and magickal of seasons – will commence.
Many witches, Wiccans, Pagans, and others opt to view Lammas as the unofficial start of fall time – no matter how sky-high the mercury may be at the moment.
Falling squarely into this camp myself, Lughnasadh has a special place in my heart, soul, witchy workings, and daily life alike.
As someone who absolutely lives for fall, that season cannot begin soon enough in my books.
Likewise though, as I’m the type who cherishes, adores, respects, and sees the value inherent in each season, I am not looking to show summer to the door quite yet.
Though if it wants to cool down just a touch, I certainly won’t complain! 😄
My husband and I are fortunate to live in a really neat little town nestled at the tippy-top of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.
This area includes some of the desert elements that call the lower portions of the valley home. It is also rife with both woodland and farmland.
Adoring each of these types of settings, I am constantly in awe and appreciation of the diversity, gifts, and beauty that surrounds us here daily.
One of my favourite things to do as July boldly marches into August is to spend time observing the local cornfields.
Some can easily be reached on foot from our home, others require a very brief jaunt in the car. Either way, they don’t take long to reach and are a marvellous sight to behold.
Corn, much like wheat, oats, and barley, is a crop that is often harvested in the second half of summer and/or the early fall.
At this stage, the local corn is nearly ready to be plucked. Very few ears are harvest by hand here anymore. Machines have long replaced that once commonplace task, however that doesn’t detract from the significance and importance of the harvest season in the slightest.
To the ancients, the annual crop harvest was a time to gather and preserve food for the long, cold months ahead. The golden grains, delicious ears of corn, and myriad other produce (and animal) items that were gathered at this point in the year could literally make the difference between life or death in some cases.
We continue, as a species, to be highly dependant on agriculture and will likely always do so, unless something cataclysmic occus that causes us to collectively revert to a traditional hunter-gather type of society.
It was while gazing dreamily at some of our local cornfields recently that the idea for this year’s Lammas blog post suddenly popped into my head.
Before I proceed, I should mention that if you’d like to learn more about the meaning and history of Lammas, be sure to visit my post from last year, 15 Wonderful Animal Correspondences to Connect to and Work at Lammas.
As a lover of art, particularly (though not exclusively) classic art, I’ve long taken note of how the harvest season was a common and much appreciated theme amongst various artists who opted to depict scenes of daily life.
Up until remarkably recently in human history, the summer and fall harvest was, as touched on above, done by hand. Hardworking animals such as horses or oxen may have been involved, as were some hand and early mechanical tools, but the process was a far cry different from the scenes of huge pieces of farm equipment lumbering across golden fields that we often see today.
Regardless of if a person was, themselves, directly involved in the harvest process, many people lived (and still live, for that matter) in close proximity to fields that were/are being harvested.
This sight was a welcome, happy one in general and an exciting time of the year to boot. Summer was beginning to wind down, the promise of cooler weather danced in the breeze, and, in plenty of areas, communal celebrations of the harvest season would transpire.
For these and various other reasons (including the breathtaking beauty of ripe fields bathed in golden summer light), it is perfectly natural that artists would opt to depict something as important to life as the harvest season in their art.
I do not have a degree in art history, I am not an art dealer, and I certainly don’t profess to be a leading expert on art. However, I love and appreciate art with all of my heart and have been studying it since early childhood.
Today I’d like to tap into that passion and share with you a selection of 17 pieces of classic art that celebrate the spirit and beauty of Lammas.
That isn’t to say that these works of art were created with a traditional or Neopagan approach to the year’s first harvest season in mind. Objectively, I doubt that few if any of them were.
However, the earnest depiction of hardworking farmers and farmhands coupled with the endearing beauty of late summer and early fall is something that is apt to appeal to both fellow Pagans/witches and non-Pagans/witches alike.
And I would venture to guess that many of my fellow paper crafters find immense inspiration in pastoral scenes such as this, too. 😃
So, without further ado, allow me to present seventeen captivatingly lovely classical paintings that suit Lughnasadh superbly.
17 pieces of classic art that celebrate the spirit and beauty of Lammas
- In The Orchard by František Dvořák. Created in 1912, this painting is perhaps my all-time favourite autumn scene that depicts a person. Or, as I like to think of the beguillingly beautiful figure seen here with her arms overlaiden with harvest season fruit, of a goddess.
2. Corn Harvest in Provence by Vincent van Gogh. I highly suspect that van Gogh was a great fan of late summer and early fall, as he chose to paint a variety of images that brilliantly showcase this chapter of the year.
As such, I was hard-pressed to narrow down my selection of his wonderful harvest season scenes to just one. Ultimately, I selected “Corn Harvest”, which he painted in 1888, as it instantly makes me think of the spacious local fields here that are bursting at the seams with ripe ears of sweet, delicious corn.
3. The Seine and the Eiffel Tower in the Sunset by Henri Rousseau. As much as Lammas involves an emphasis on agrarian happenings and imagery, it is also important to remember, seek out, and celebrate the shifting seasons in whatever landscape we happen to call home.
In this absolutely lovely 1910 painting by one of France’s most famous Post-Impressionist painters, we are treated to a tranquil sunset scene over the Seine River, which captures the warm colours of late summer and early autumn magnificently.
4. Autumn, The Grape Harvest by Fransisco Goya. A jovial, peaceful scene, this 1786 painting by one of Spain’s most famous artists leaps out at the viewer not only for its beauty, but also because of the primarily soft, elegant colour palette and wonderfully charming scene showcased here.
5. The Veteran in a New Field by Winslow Homer. This stirring painting was created in 1865, in the wake of the American Civil War and shows a lone man industriously harvesting wheat.
It is a poignant image the unabashedly hints at the return to a calmer life that awaited some of those souls who were lucky enough to pull this horrific multi-year battle (while also symbolizing, including via the man’s scythe, the huge number of lives that were cut down in their prime during the Civil War).
6. Still Life with Apple and Round Bread by Zinaida Serebriakova. Painted in 1948, this Lammas perfect image is the most recent to make it onto this list. The scene it depicts is, however, abundantly classic, highlighting both apples and rustic loaves of bread. Each of which is a poignant symbol of the harvest season.
(While not specific to this time of the year, I would be remiss if I brought up Serebriakova’s work and did not mention her gorgeous painting, At the Dressing Table, Self Portrait, which is likely my favourite of her many works.)
7. Village Holiday (Autumn Holiday in the Village) by Boris Kustodiev. In this delightful slice-of-life image painted in 1914, we see a jovial group of Russians enthusiastically celebrating the fall harvest season, complete with golden fields in the background and saffron-hued fall leaves throughout.
As someone with Russian ancestors who were themselves hardworking farmers, I like to imagine my relatives on that branch of the family tree engaged in similar scenes back in the day.
8. Bouquet of Sunflowers by Claude Monet. While it is often van Gogh whose work we tend to associate (and rightfully so) with sunflowers, he was by no means the only painter to capture this joyful summertime bloom on canvas. Artists have been painting sunflowers for centuries now and will no doubt continue to do so for ages to come.
In this 1880 iteration by an equally famous artist, we see a cheerful arrangement of sunflowers in vase (or tall piece of crockery) situated on a tablecloth in colours that are instantly evocative of late summer and fall. This peaceful, gorgeous impressionist painting epitomizes timelessness and is one that is sure to appeal to sunflower fans the world over.
9. Autumn by Henri Fantin-Latour. Not unlike the Dvořák piece that kicked off this list, in this enchanting 19th-century painting (I couldn’t track down a precise date for its creation) we see a singular female figure clad in classical Grecian or Roman style garb.
She could be a mortal or just as easily, a goddess. That decision is left up to the viewer, as is, in this case, what her face would look like. By forgoing her face, this figure takes on a deeper symbolic quality, as her unknown age could be youthful like summer or more mature and thus represent autumn time to an even greater extent.
10. Three Little Girls Picking Blackberries by Hans Andersen Brendekilde. Like countless youngsters throughout the course of human history, each summer and early autumn, part of my time was spent gathering ripe fruit to bring home for our family’s meals. Plenty was savoured in the moment, though the bulk of it was usually turned into jam, (otherwise) canned, or frozen for future enjoyment.
While I didn’t pick many blackberries (as these children are doing in this endearing c. 1885 painting), I did pluck a ton of raspberries, along with cherries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, grapes, plums, pears, and apples. My mouth waters at those lovely memories!
(And speaking of harvest season produce, be sure to check out my look at 25 Magickal Ways to Use Summertime Stone Fruits.)
11. A Cottage in the Cornfield by John Constable. You didn’t think I was only going to include one corn harvest-related image did you? 😄
In this idyllic farm life scene from 1817 (old school #cottagecore if ever there was), we see a charming cottage surrounded by tall stalks of corn that are ready to be harvested.
It is a pastoral landscape painting and one that does a splendid job of capturing the warmth, shifting agrarian tides, and golden beauty inherent to late summertime.
12. Autumn Leaves by John Everett Millais. This immediately captivating fall scene is another favourite for me. In it we see four girls of varying ages engaged in the classic act of raking and piling up leaves. One, the youngest, is enjoying an apple (itself emblematic of late summer and fall) as the older girls continue their diligent work.
I adore this painting from c. 1855, which, without fail, makes me think each time I see it of how if you added a cauldron to the mix, this image could take on a decidedly witchy theme.
13. Apples and a Dog-Keeper by Pyotr Konchalovsky. In this sweet, welcoming scene (which was painted in 1939) we see a bevy of recently harvested apples on display – a sure sign that summer is winding down.
This scrumptious harvest is overseen by a watchful dog, whose stoic expression is one of both professionalism and, I cannot help but wonder, perhaps a longing to sample some of that lovely fruit firsthand.
14. Autumn in Bavaria by Wassily Kandinsky. A kaleidoscope of colours leaps out at the viewer as they take in this appealing vivid expressionist landscape that was painted in 1908. I adore how one side of the painting is seeped in summer’s palette, the other in fall’s. If there was an apt painting, colour wise, for the “in-between” nature of Lammas, surely this beauty is it.
15. The Grape Harvest by Léon Augustin Lhermitte. Not to be confused with the Goya painting above of a nearly identical name, this captivating late Victorian image from 1884 embraces the same theme, but depicts it considerably differently.
Gone are darling rococo era vibes, in their place we instead see an emphasis on realism and the family effort that often went into ensuring a successful harvest was possible. (For another captivating harvest season painting by Lhermitte, see his well-known work, The Gleaners.)
16. Four Trees by Egon Schiele. There are some works of art that stop you square in your tracks. For me, this stunning late Edwardian era (1917) interpretation in paint of a fall sunset is one of them.
Admittedly more autumnal than early August usually looks, this scene embodies the warm, earthy colour palette of Lammas and serves to excite us all the more about the wonderful season that lies ahead.
17. A portrait of a Young Peasant Girl by Jeanne Bôle. A symphony of late summer/early autumn hues greets the viewer as they take in this captivating 19th-century piece by a French artist whose work and life are not nearly as well known as that of many of his contemporaries at the time.
In “A Portrait of a Young Peasant Girl”, the harvest season comes to life with wondrous vividness and timeless beauty (and helps to remind us that the growing season began with the archetype of the goddess as a maiden and wraps up just as she is embarking from motherhood to becoming a revered crone).
Which of these awesome Lammas season classic paintings is your personal favourite? 🎨
Make hay while the sun shines
This classic harvest season-derived expression invites us to be industrious and utilize opportunities as they come our way.
From a spiritual perspective, Lammas/Lughnasadh welcomes us to do the same. To embrace these warm, fantastic days that fill the second half of summer and use them as a means to be productive, to relish the fruits of our labour, and to plan ahead for the dark half of the year that looms in the not-too-distant future.
In the paintings above, I am struck by certain repeating themes. For one, appreciatively, we often see women depicted in the fields or otherwise bringing in the harvest. As well, a sense of community and camaraderie is frequently depicted. Only the smallest of farms could likely have been harvested singlehandedly, so the harvest season was often a group effort that often involved multiple generations, neighbours, and/or hired workers.
There is so much skill, creativity, heart, and passion in the brushstrokes of these classic paintings. The images they convey may be from centuries past, but the universal act of harvesting and preparing for the colder half of the year is timeless.
Far less harvesting may be done by hand these days and many of us no longer farmers ourselves. We may not live in close proximity to fields teeming with grains, corn, other vegetables, or late summer fruit, but a lot of us still appreciate and value the incredibly important role of the harvest season in terms of supporting life on this planet.
This weekend, I will be observing Lammas in a multitude of ways. This day is sacred to my spiritual practice and life in general, as is the whole of the harvest season + autumn.
Magickal workings, seasonal eats, and a walk to our nearest cornfield will all be on the agenda. As will be giving the deepest of heartfelt thanks for the life-sustaining gifts of sunlight, farmable soil, and the delicious crops that are plucked from the earth each harvest season.
Lughnasadh is a joyous period of the year. We have worked hard to get here and while it may not be time to hibernate quite yet, the start of August serves to remind us just how incredible the overlapping elements of summer and autumn are.
My dear friends, I wholeheartedly look forward to sharing many new posts, both seasonally related and otherwise, here with you during the harvest season.
It is my steadfast hope that summer’s warmth and life-fuelling qualities, as well as fall’s magic(k) and many blessings are yours straight on until winter returns.
Happiest Lammas wishes to one and all! May we bask in the light of summer and experience all the wonders, natural offerings, and beauty that fall has to offer as well. 🌽💛🌽
And to those in the Southern Hemisphere, may you have a tranquil, joyful, safe, and wholly blessed Imbolc! 🕯️❄️🕯️