Column: The Joy of Sacrifice

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Lughnasadh is a time of sacrifice, abundance and joy. The first harvest in summer means family gatherings, soaking up hot sultry days, and rainy summer nights. Afternoon crab feasts eating silver corn and drinking beer allow us to celebrate the harvest and abundance in our lives. Picnics with red-ripe tomatoes, sun-kissed watermelons, juicy peaches, sloppy joe sandwiches, and chips dot the summer landscape.  Children play outside late into the day and relax with friends. We can take a day or two to just while the afternoon away fishing with no purpose in mind.

Abundance comes in so many forms. Lughnasadh is a time of harvesting our thoughts and our individual sacrifices made throughout the year from the seeds we planted  and the paths we nurtured.  Plenty seems to abound around us. Sometimes  nature in her glory appears overwhelmingly generous with luscious sunsets, playful meteor showers, and a continued sense of renewal. We revel in the flavors of late summer just as the bees hum and swarm around flower blossoms.  We soak up earth’s energies when we lay on the ground whether on a towel or in a tent.

A Lughnasadh altar [C. Ajana]

The period of the sabbat asks us to explore the role of joy in our lives? Where do we find pleasure and passion in our lives? Do we enjoy how we make a living by making it pleasurable for others and for ourselves? Making a good meal, savoring bursts of flavor from a ripe piece of grapefruit,  or tasting a particularly delightful sparkling drink brings joy to the body. We enjoy the moment as we ingest nourishment.

Who are we serving during this time? Are we wearing ourselves out with physical work or mental chores? The blessings and abundance of pandemic life has brought about a realization that our best service requires a rigorous and thorough examination of what matters in our lives at this time.

We may find that the best service is to leave a well-worn path in the form of a job that no longer works or pays well or allows for good mental health practices.  A recent trend for some has been to quit or form their own jobs entirely to serve the best interests of mental health. Service to the gods include remembering to keep ourselves in the best of shape emotionally, mentally, and physically.  The pandemic opened up questioning of what matters in terms of sacrifice.  In terms of Lughnasadh, the act of the harvest goddess Tailtiu dying from exhaustion led to honoring of her sacrifice with a harvest festival emphasizing happiness instead of mourning and tears.

Likewise at this time, when we jettison our pre-pandemic expectations for schedules, life commitments, and energy levels we can harvest our true worth and happiness. Think of how often a project or commitment is halted due to the sacrifice of time or personal energy in another area. This time of rest allows for a re-set in examining what we are choosing to make as sacrifices in our lives, and what we no longer are willing to harvest at this time.

The life cycle of reciprocity occurs with parents and children. Parents are expected to sacrifice as it is the norm. Who does not give to their children what they can when they can for their betterment? We work multiple jobs to provide the best care, education, and life preparation that we can.  When parents age, we as adult children sacrifice in reciprocating the care we received at the start of the life cycle.

Sacrifice is a daily choice made with the knowledge that we harvest a crop that may or may not nourish us in return. We sacrifice our time during the month of Lughnasadh to our detriment in colder climates as the summer runs short.  We don’t notice the slightly shorter days at first, which is what makes this time all the sweeter.  Similar to the moment at the top of a rollercoaster when the car is about to tip over the hill into free fall, we are suspended in moments of happiness.

In these brief moments, we find generosity of spirit and of life. Where are we willing to let our spirits soar in happiness without thought of tomorrow or the pain of yesterday? Where do we share our laughter with others freely?  When a surprising chat with a friend turns into a conversation of beauty, rich in texture like a bundle of ripened grapes that taste sweet on the tongue, do we acknowledge how the sacrifice of an hour yields an even deeper personal connection than what might have been expected just days earlier?

In our celebrations, do we slow down to rest? When we choose to rest in all its forms at work, at home, and in our interactions with others, we embrace the totality of the Lughnasadh season and its lessons. The underlying sacrifice includes burdens and the effort to bring forth the abundance we now enjoy. Rest is valuable for the soul just as it is for the physical body.


Birth [Pixabay]

When we enter this life as babies, we sleep a great deal. Our wide eyes attempt to stay awake when we are not sleeping for fear of missing out. Throughout life, we speed up until somehow our physical selves and our emotional selves are out of kilter from time to time.  It is no wonder that in the northern hemisphere the month of August is prime vacation and family time.  We can soak up the sun with our bodies and find ourselves relaxing. Likewise, we use the physical relaxation to allow our spiritual selves to take a break.

Another way to find abundance amid our sacrifice is to embrace spiritual decluttering.  While so many have spent the past 18 months or so removing or looking at items, for many, the long extended period forced us to find where we needed to let go in order to receive.  This dark half of the year is focused on our internal goals. In order to get to some of them, we need to get rid of what is useless or no longer wanted.

This is both sacrifice and abundance. Intentionally, are we leaving a margin for spontaneity with ourselves, our friends, our families, our partners, and our jobs? The balance between sacrifice and abundance grows less difficult at this time of the year. We focus on the celebration of abundance while never forgetting what it took to get to this place.

Cupcakes at a picnic [Pixabay]

For some, this is a time to re-think our connection with technology. Can we sacrifice an hour a day to spend more time talking with our children? Can we sacrifice a day a week to focus on what we enjoy personally as a type of rejuvenation? Can we sacrifice a week for one year without technology to rebalance ourselves inside and out?  Do we appreciate who we are as persons for what we contribute to the world, to our families, and to ourselves? The sabbat of Lughnasadh reminds us to be inspired, passionate, honest, excited, grateful, open-minded, and supportive of the sacrifices made to get to this place of sweet abundance and joy.