According to Japanese Buddhist belief, every summer at this time spirits of the dead return to visit their families. O-Bon is a Buddhist ceremony for welcoming back and appeasing the souls of our ancestors.
During the course of this festival, the souls of the dead are guided home, feted for several days, and then sent back to the spirit world.
The formal name of this festival is Ura-Bon, and generally falls on Aug 13 thru Aug 15. Depending on the region, however, the Bon Festival may be held one month earlier, or July 13th-15th.
The word O-Bon has its roots in the Sanskrit word ullambana, which means ‘deliverance from suffering’. The festival combines early Buddhist rituals designed to rescue the souls of the dead from hell, with native Japanese agricultural rites and the Shinto tradition of welcoming back the souls of ancestors in late summer.
Traditionally, the bones of the deceased are placed in individual urns and kept with their ancestors in a family tomb (ohaka). For several consecutive evenings during the week of O-Bon, paper lanterns painted with the family crest are hung to guide the ancestral spirits to the ohaka.
Alternatively, small welcoming fires (mukaebi) may be lit at the entrance to the home, or in front of the gate early on the evening of the 13th to receive the souls of the ancestors.
It is also customary at this time to clean the family grave and present fresh flowers and incense. Those who are unable to travel to their family burial place may instead spruce up the domestic altar. Houses are cleaned and decorated and a place is sometimes set at the family table for the recently departed.
Although many Japanese also hold Shinto beliefs, it is Buddhism that is associated with rituals concerned with death. Therefore it is the Buddhist household altar — the butsudan — that remains the focus of attention during O-Bon.
Offering stands and a small tray with tiny dishes for the symbolic meals offered to the ancestors are brought out, and a special shelf (Shoryodana or ‘Shelf of Souls’) is set up in front of the altar; it is here that, for the duration of O-Bon, the spirits are believed to dwell.
At the end of three days (on the 16th), the lanterns are again set out to guide the spirits back, and an okuribi (farewell) fire is lit to see off the souls of the ancestors.
Collected from various sources including Mythic Maps
In Italy, August 13 is the Day of Hekate. Hekate is an exceptionally powerful spirit. She holds dominion over life, death, regeneration, and magic. She rules wisdom, choices, expiation, victory, vengeance, and travel. Hekate guards the frontier between life and death. She is an intermediary between the spirit world and that of humans. She is the witness to all crimes, especially those against women and children.
Here’s a Hekate Ritual from “Moon Magick” by D.J. Conway. While this ritual can be done on any day dedicated to this Queen of the Night, the Spirit World, and Witchcraft, I thought this might be something interesting for today:
You will need:
- a ritual dagger
- small cauldron
- a wand
- an apple
- a piece of black cloth
- a small bit of salt
- other ritual items you might choose to use.
Put the apple in the cauldron and cover the cauldron with the black cloth. Cast your circle. With the wand tap the cauldron five times and say:
Hekate, Wise one, I ask your blessings.
Lift the Veil for me that I may greet my spirit helpers,
Long-ago friends from other lives, and those who are new.
Let only those who wish me well enter within this sacred place.
Uncover the cauldron. Take out the apple, raise it in offering, and lay it on the altar.
Hekate, your Magick cauldron is the well of death and rebirth
An experience each of us under goes again and again.
Let there be no fear in me, for I know your gentleness,
Here is your secret symbol of life in death.
Cut the apple crosswise with the dagger. Contemplate the revealed pentagram in the core. Put the two halves of the apple back into the cauldron and cover them again with the black cloth.
Only the initiated may know your hidden Mysteries.
Only the true seekers may find the spiral way.
Only those who know your many secret faces
May find the Light that leads to the Inner Way.
Put a pinch of salt on your tongue:
I am mortal, yet immortal.
There is no end to life, only new beginnings.
I walk beside the Goddess in her many forms.
Therefore, I have nothing to fear.
Open my mind and heart and soul
To the Deep Mysteries of the Cauldron, O Hekate.
Do a meditation on seeking the Dark Moon goddess. Listen to her messages. Be aware of any new guides and teacher who may come through to help you.
The phrase “Dog Days” refers to the hottest days of summer. The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days: the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius.
The rising of Sirius does not actually affect the weather (some of our hottest and most humid days occur after August 11), but for the ancient Egyptians, Sirius appeared just before the season of the Nile’s flooding so they used the star as a “watchdog” for that event. Since its rising also coincided with a time of extreme heat, the connection with hot, sultry weather was made for all time.
More about the Dog Days can be found here: Dog Days of Summer
In August, we celebrate the beginning of the Corn Moon. This moon phase is also known as the Barley Moon, and carries on the associations of grain and rebirth that we saw back at Lammastide. August was originally known as Sextilis by the ancient Romans, but was later renamed for Augustus (Octavian) Caesar. Some Native American tribes knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this full Moon, for them it was the Full Sturgeon Moon. Others called it the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon.
- Element: Fire
- Colors: Yellow, red, orange, gold
- Gemstones: Tigers eye, carnelian, garnet, red agate, fire agate, jasper,
- Trees: Cedarm alder, hazel
- Gods: Vulcan, Mars, Nemesis, Hecate, Hathor, Thoth, Ganesha, Diana
- Nature Spirits: dryads
- Herbs: Rosemary, basil, rue, chamomile, St Johns wort, bay, angelica, fennel, rue, orange
- Flowers: Sunflower, marigold
- Scents: Frankincense, heliotrope
- Animals: lion, phoenix, sphinx and the dragon
- Birds: crane, falcon, eagle
As the summer begins winding down, we’ve made it through the first harvest of Lammas/Lughnasadh, and now it’s time to think about bringing in the next phase of crops. Grain is ready to be threshed and baked into bread. If you have a garden, pick your herbs and veggies, so you can preserve or dry them before the cooler days set in. Gather your herbs and hang them in a dark place to dry, so you can use them all winter, either for magical needs or culinary ones.
Energies should be put into harvesting, gathering vitality and health, also friendships. Harness some of the Corn Moon’s fiery energy for your ritual and spell work. This is a good time to focus on your spiritual and physical health. It’s the time to harvest what you can now to put aside for later use. What sacrifices can you make today that will benefit you further down the road?
Collected from various sources including: PaganWiccan
What follows is a list (in alphabetical order) of the names given to the August moon. Also listed is the tradition and/or origin of that moon name:
Acorns Ripen Moon ~Maidu
Autumn Moon ~Taos
Barley Moon ~other
Berry Moon ~Anishnaabe
Big Harvest Moon ~Creek
Big Ripening Moon ~Creek
Blackberry Moon ~Wishram
Black Cherries Moon ~Sioux, Assiniboine
Corn Moon ~Medieval English
Corn Silk Moon ~Ponca
Cutter Moon ~Abernaki
Dispute Moon ~Celtic, Janic (full)
Dog Days Moon ~Yuchi, Colonial American, Algonquin
Drying Moon ~Cherokee
Edible Corn Moon ~Agonquin
Feather Shedding Moon ~Passamaquoddy
First Acorns ~Pomo
Freshness Moon ~Mohawk
Fruit Moon ~Cherokee
Geese Shedding Feathers Moon ~Arapaho
Grain Moon ~Cherokee
Green Corn Moon ~Algonquin
Harvest Moon ~Chinese, Janic (dark)
Heat Moon ~Creek
Joyful Moon ~Hopi
Last Fruit Moon ~Cherokee
Lightning Moon ~Neo Pagan
Middle Moon ~Potawatomi
Mulberries Moon ~Natchez
Red Moon ~Algonquin
Ripen Moon ~Dakota
Sturgeon Moon ~Algonquin
Yellow Flower Moon ~Osage
Yellow Leaves Moon ~Kiowa
Young Ducks Fly Moon ~Cree
Wheat Cut Moon ~San Juan
Women’s Moon ~Choctaw
Wood Cutter’s Moon ~Algonquin
Wort Moon ~Medieval English
Wyrt Moon ~other
From Llewellyn’s 1994 Magical Almanac, we have the following description of this summer holiday:
“A beautiful city was once believed to have risen gracefully off the shores of a small French village in Brittany, France, only to have been washed away in a high tide. Every year, on the first Sunday in August, the priests go to this fabled spot and bless the waters while observers lean over the sides of boats hoping to glimpse remnants of the city. This might be a good day to consider any spells or rituals pertaining to water and hidden truths.”
The Festival of the Tooth – An extended and lavish holiday which commemorates a holy relic of Buddha, his eye tooth.
Kandy is a beautiful city in Sri Lanka. On a small hill is a great temple which was especially built to house a relic of the Buddha – his tooth. The tooth can never be seen, as it is kept deep inside may caskets. But once a year in August, on the night of the full moon, there is a special procession for it. But other festivities occur on ten days leading to that final day.
The dates of the festival vary from year to year. In 2017, the festival runs from July 29 thru August 8th. The Festival begins with the cutting of a sanctified young jack tree. Branches of the tree are then planted near the shrines of the four guardian gods Natha (a Buddhist savior), Vishnu (for safeguarding Buddhism in Sri Lanka), Kataragama (protector of the south) and the goddess Pattini (goddess of health and fertility). Traditionally, this was a ritual performed to ask the gods for blessings on the King and the people.
For the next five nights, festive dancing and drumming are held outside each of the temples. On the sixth night of the festival, processions begin from each shrine and parade toward the Temple of the Tooth. The processions get longer and more magnificent for the next three nights.
The highlight is on the last night of the processions: an enormous elephant carries a gold casket containing a replica of the Tooth Relic as the drummers and dancers enthrall the crowd along the route. The drummers and dancers themselves are followed by elephants and other groups of musicians, dancers and flag bearers.
After nights of processions, a water cutting ceremony brings the festival to an end at dawn, when priests representing each of the four temples walk into the Mahaweli River, “cut” a circle in the water with a sword and fill pitchers with water from within the circle. The water is kept till the next year’s Esala Perahera, when the pitcher will be freshly filled again.
The next day, Kandyan chieftains in ancient regalia, march to the Presidential mansion in Kandy, following royal tradition, to report to the Head of State, the successful completion of the annual event.
The story behind the tooth is as follows:
It was believed that if the Bodhi Tree that came into contact with the Buddha had the power to bring rains, then the parts of His own body had much greater power to invite rains. With this in mind, the sacred tooth relic was brought all the way from Kalinga in India to the island of Sri Lanka in the fourth century AD. At the time, the sacred tooth relic was brought to Sri Lanka, the king was Sri Megha varna. His name itself meant ‘the Resplendent one whose complexion is that of the Rain-cloud’.
The time when the sacred tooth was brought to Sri Lanka was around six centuries after the sapling of the sacred Bodhi Tree was brought into the island country. However, very soon, the popularity of the sacred tooth surpassed that of the Bodhi Tree. The simple reason for this was that it could be moved any number of times from one place to another, very unlike the Bodhi Tree itself. Also, the possesion of the tooth relic soon became a matter of power and claim to rule the land. The king who had possession of the tooth relic had the authority to rule the land and, wars were fought to keep the relic from falling into hostile hands.
This is amply manifested in the attempt made by the kings when the Europeans enhanced their power in the island country. King Senarath quickly transported the relic a little distance away from Kandy when the Portuguese came to close for his comfort. Later, the significance of the tooth relic became known to the Europeans themselves. They wasted no time and made it their primary goal to get hold of the precious relic. The British succeeded in 1818, and the people themselves gave up all efforts to prevent the former from ruling them, all because the British possessed the tooth relic.
Historically, a number of festivals were celebrated to honor the sacred tooth relic right from time it came to Sri Lanka. Initially, processions or peraheras were taken out for the tooth relic alone. However, later, the festival was incorporated with another festival meant to appease the rain god, the Esala peraheras. At this time, a Kandyan king, Kirti Shri Rajasinghe was in power and he made it possible for the common people to worship the relic by announcing that it would be taken out in a procession for the masses to see and offer their prayers. Before this, the tooth relic was the property of the king and the common people were not allowed to worship it.
Source: Wikipedia and My Odyssey Tours
Lughnasadh (pronounced “LOO-nahs-ah”) aka Lammas, is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on August 1st or 2nd, although occasionally on July 31st. The Celtic festival held in honor of the Sun God Lugh (pronounced “Loo”) is traditionally held on August 7th. Some Pagans celebrate this holiday on the first Full Moon in Leo.
Other names for this Sabbat include the First Harvest Festival, the Sabbat of First Fruits, August Eve, Lammastide, Harvest Home, Ceresalia (Ancient Roman in honor of the Grain Goddess Ceres), Feast of Bread, Sabbat of First Fruits, Festival of Green Corn (Native American), Feast of Cardenas, Cornucopia (Strega), Thingtide and Elembiuos. Lughnassadh is named for the Irish Sun God Lugh (pronounced Loo), and variant spellings for the holiday are Lughnassadh, Lughnasad, Lughnassad, Lughnasa or Lunasa. The most commonly used name for this Sabbat is Lammas, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “loaf-mass”.
At Lammas, the hot days of August are upon us, much of the earth is dry and parched, but we still know that the bright reds and yellows of the harvest season are just around the corner. Apples are beginning to ripen in the trees, our summer vegetables have been picked, corn is tall and green, waiting for us to come gather the bounty of the crop fields. Now is the time to begin reaping what we have sown, and gathering up the first harvests of grain, wheat, oats, and more.
It’s the dog days of summer, the gardens are full of goodies, the fields are full of grain, and the harvest is approaching. Take a moment to relax in the heat, and reflect on the upcoming abundance of the fall months. At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh, it’s time to begin reaping what we have sown throughout the past few months, and recognize that the bright summer days will soon come to an end.
Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Lammas, but typically the focus is on either the early harvest aspect, or the celebration of the Celtic god Lugh. It’s the season when the first grains are ready to be harvested and threshed, when the apples and grapes are ripe for the plucking, and we’re grateful for the food we have on our tables.
Lammas is a time of excitement and magic. The natural world is thriving around us, and yet the knowlege that everything will soon die looms in the background. This is a good time to work some magic around the hearth and home.
This is also a time when the God mysteriously begins to weaken as the Sun rises farther in the South, each day grows shorter and the nights grow longer. The Goddess watches in sorrow as She realizes that the God is dying, and yet lives on inside Her as Her child. It is in the Celtic tradition that the Goddess, in her guise as the Queen of Abundance, is honored as the new mother who has given birth to the bounty; and the God is honored as the God of Prosperity.
Deities associated with Lughnassadh are all Grain and Agriculture Deities, Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses and Father Gods. Particular emphasis is placed on Lugh, Demeter, Ceres, the Corn Mother and John Barleycorn (the personification of malt liquor).
Activities appropriate for this time of the year are:
- Baking bread – especially bread baked in the form of a God-figure or Sun Wheel
- Wheat weaving – such as the making of Corn Dollies, or other God and Goddess symbols which may be used both as a fertility amulet and an altar centerpiece.
- Sand candles can be made to honor the Goddess and God of the sea.
- You may want to string Indian corn on black thread to make a necklace,
- Bake corn bread sticks shaped like little ears of corn
Other actions include the gathering of first fruits and the study of Astrology. Some Pagans symbolically throw pieces of bread into a fire during the Lammas ritual. Spellwork for prosperity, abundance and good fortune are especially appropriate now, as well as spells for connectedness, career, health and financial gain.
The celebration of Lammas is a pause to relax and open yourself to the change of the Season so that you may be one with its energies and accomplish what is intended. Visits to fields, orchards, lakes and wells are also traditional. It is considered taboo not to share your food with others.
Correspondences for Lughnasadh:
- Colors: red, orange, gold, and yellow. Also green, citrine and gray.
- Candles: golden yellow, orange, green, or light brown.
- Stones: yellow diamonds, aventurine, sardonyx, peridot and citrine.
- Animals: roosters and calves.
- Mythical creatures: phoenix, griffins, basilisks, centaurs and speaking skulls.
- Plants: corn, rice, wheat, rye, ginseng, ash tree.
- Herbs: vervain, acacia flowers, aloes, cornstalks, cyclamen, fenugreek, frankincense, heather, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, sunflower, and wheat.
- Incense: aloes, rose, rose hips, rosemary, chamomile, passionflower, frankincense, and sandalwood.
Traditional Pagan Foods for the Lughnassadh Festival include homemade breads (wheat, oat and especially cornbread), corn, potatoes, berry pies, barley cakes, nuts, wild berries, apples, rice, roasted lamb, acorns, crab apples, summer squash, turnips, oats, all grains and all First Harvest foods. Traditional drinks are elderberry wine, ale and meadowsweet tea.
It is also appropriate to plant the seeds from the fruit consumed in ritual. If the seeds sprout, grow the plant with love and as a symbol of your connection to the Divine. A cake is sometimes baked, and cider is used in place of wine.
Key actions associated with Lammas are receiving and harvesting, honoring the Parent Deities, honoring the Sun Gods and Goddesses, as well as celebration of the First Harvest.
From: PaganWiccan and other sources,
Lammas and Lughnasadh are ancient Pagan festivals celebrated in many parts of the world. Typically falling on the first day of August, these festivals celebrate the fruits of the first harvest of the year with a focus upon gratitude and blessings for abundance. The names Lammas and Lughnasadh are often used interchangeably which can create some confusion but the following will help to clear things up.
Lughnasadh, which is pronounced LOO-nah-sah, traces its roots far back into Irish history. In Celtic mythology the god Lugh is said to have held a funeral feast in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu, who died after clearing the plains of Ireland for the purpose of agriculture.
The festival of Lughnasadh became a day based upon this Celtic myth and historically it was a day of contests, games, handfasting or marriage, and seeking lodging for the long winter months. It was also one of the four main festivals of the Irish medieval calendar signaling the height of summer and the approach of autumn. The word Lughnasadh means “marriage of Lugh” which again ties in with Celtic mythology, for the god Lugh was seen as married to the land, or earth, and sacrificed to the earth. This is symbolic of crops being planted and then “sacrificed” in harvest.
Many modern-day Pagans celebrate the festival of Lughnasadh in a variety of ways, depending upon the Pagan tradition that they follow and their personal preferences. In Wicca, Lughnasadh is viewed as one of the eight sabbats that make up the Wheel of the Year. In Dianic Wicca often focus primarily upon the Goddess aspect in the form of the Goddess of plenty, Kore and Ceres or Habondia.
Celtic Reconstructionists base the celebrations of Lughnasadh largely upon historical research of the polytheist beliefs of the ancient Celts and typically celebrate it on the day of the full moon that falls closest to the festival. They often recognize the day by giving thanks and asking the deities to grant them a bountiful harvest. Many Celtic Reconstructionists will also honor the goddess Tailtiu on this day.
- More about Lughnasadh can be found here: Lughnasadh aka Lammas
Lammas was the name used in medieval England for the Christian holiday that celebrated early harvest. An Anglo-Saxon word, Lammas is thought to be a combination of the words loaf mass, the reason being that in medieval times it was typical for loaves of bread baked from the grains of the first harvest to be blessed during a church ceremony at that time.
However, Lammas was originally a Pagan harvest festival that, like Lughnasadh was one of gratitude and celebrating the first grains of harvest even though, in some parts of the world, it was incorporated into the Christian church.
- More about Lammas can be found here: Lammas – A Feast of Bread
Today Lammas is viewed primarily as a Pagan festival and many modern-day Pagans view Lammas and Lughnasadh as the same thing although the history behind each of the names is slightly different.
In many cultures around the world, staple crops such as corn and rice are believed to embody a spiritual essence.
In European cultures, a corn doll was often used to represent the spirit of the harvested crops. However, Europe didn’t have a monopoly on this at all. In South American countries, some tribes took the largest portion of the crops — typically maize — and dressed it in clothing as an effigy.
In Peru, people honored different spirits of the crops. The Maize Mother was the zara mama, the spirit of quinoa was known as quinoa mama, and everything from the cocoa tree to the lowly potato had a life essence.
In North America, the native tribes grew corn, or maize, as a staple part of their diet. Some groups have stories of rebirth and regeneration, and a few have folktales that parallel the story of Demeter and Persephone. In the southwestern part of the United States, Native Americans still perform a ceremonial dance that honors the harvesting of the maize every fall.
It’s not uncommon to find spiritual connections to agriculture. The Malay people of Indonesia believe that rice plants — again, a staple crop — possess a soul or life force just as humans do. Harvesting is even done in a way that is seen as “painless” to the rice plants, so that it will not suffer. In some parts of the Malay Peninsula, there is a big ceremony at the beginning of each harvest, in which a complex ritual is performed that identifies the mother of the rice soul in the selected sheaf.
Folklorist Sir James Frazer makes mention in The Golden Bough of the global phenomenon of the honoring of the spirit of the grain. He says that the mere fact that underdeveloped, primitive cultures honor a “corn mother” archetype indicates that this has been going on for thousands of years. In other words, because these cultures are “unspoiled” by modern society, their worship of such an embodiment of the grain is probably very close to the original ritual and ceremony.
Article by: Patti Wigington