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Review: Lammas, by Anna Franklin

By Mike Gleason | September 19, 2003 | Leave a comment

Lammas: Celebrating the Fruits of the First Harvest, by Anna Franklin
Llewellyn Publications, 0738700940, 216 pp. (+ appendices, glossary, bibliography and index), 2003

In a pleasant change from the average Pagan book, the authors of this work admit that there is very little documentation, folklore, or anything known for sure about this festival, or even when it was held. It was, apparently, a fairly regional celebration (Britain, Ireland, Gaul and possibly northern Spain).

A number of associated festivals and observances are explored, as well as traditions (both Pagan and Christian) which grew up around this time of year. There is no attempt made to assert primacy for any of these. They are simply presented to the reader as information to be enjoyed.

During discussions of the representation of the vegetation gods, there are constant references to the use of corn as a symbol, without making any mention of the fact that, in much of the ancient world, corn was synonymous with grain in general, and did not necessarily refer to corn as it is commonly seen today. Thus, when “an ear of corn” is referred to, it may be more accurate to think of a “head of wheat.”

This book is moderately “padded” by the restatement of the same information several times in various places; but, as many people tend to “browse” through books of this type, this “padding” serves the useful purpose of increasing the likelihood of that information sticking in the reader’s mind.

Several short lists of deities appropriate to various celebrations occurring at this time of year appear in Chapter Four. While these lists are quite limited, they do serve as a starting point for ongoing investigations. Suggestions for food and games appear in later chapters.

Chapter Five is dedicated to basic magics associated with this festival. Instructions are included for the construction of several different forms of corn dollies. The examples they offer use “corn” in its generic sense, since wheat stalks are the basis of these dollies.

There are sample spells for friendship and love, as well as practical advice on making a staff. There is a recipe for Vervain Lustral Water on page 97 about which I have some reservations. My uncertainty is about the amount of vervain – the conversion from U.S. to Imperial measurement just doesn’t seem right to me. Interpretations of some omens are included as well as suggestions of stones to be used in household protection.

There are nine pages of incense recipes for a variety of deities from a number of cultures. If you can’t find one you like out of this bunch, you’re not trying. I would recommend making a small bit of each of them (and burning them), so that you can see which works best for you. Don’t be afraid to tinker with the proportions, if you are so inspired.

Paul provides insights into the dyeing of fabrics, including some plants as source material and instructions in basic dyeing techniques.

Chapter Six consists of games and competitions to liven up your Lammas gathering. With a couple of exceptions all of them are quite enjoyable ways to divert yourself and your guests.

Chapter Seven includes recipes for body paints, and making stencils; as well as mask and shield making; and suggests ways to find your totem and power animals. The relaxation techniques and visualizations are pretty standard. There is a healthy amount of information given about a reasonably large group of animals. This part of the chapter is a valuable resource and should not be overlooked.

Chapter Eight consists of recipes for the Lammas/Lughnasa feast. All measurements are provided in American, Imperial, and metric quantities so, no matter what system you are used to using, you don’t need to make conversions.

Naturally, being a harvest feast, there are plenty of bread recipes, but no aspect of the feast – from the salad course to the dessert – is neglected. This chapter will enable you to plan a real harvest feast.

As in Midsummer, which I have previously reviewed, the final chapter is dedicated to ritual ideas from a variety of sources. The instructions for ritual preparations are fairly simple and standardized.

The “Lughnasa Calendar” in Appendix One runs from July 15th through August 25th, and includes many festivals [Greek, Chinese, Roman, Christian, and Nordic (among others)].

Appendix Two is simply a listing of alternate names for this festival.

Appendix Three provides a short list of symbols associated with, and appropriate for, Lammas; while Appendix Four gives some of the associated deities. The seventeen pages which make up Appendix Four should serve as a starting point for your own explorations.

Appendix Five gives the words (but not the music) for a few songs and chants relevant to Lammas, as well as a bit of their background.

The two page Glossary was hardly needed. It is too short to be of much help, and the terms have already been dealt with adequately in the text.

As with the other books in this series which I have read, it is a good source for general background on the holiday. It is NOT what I would consider a “must have” book, but it is well worth adding to the Coven library for basic information.


Review: Midsummer, by Anna Franklin

By Mike Gleason | September 13, 2003 | Leave a comment

Midsummer: Magical Celebrations of the Summer Solstice, by Anna Franklin
Llewellyn Publications, 0738700525, 173 pp (+ appendices, glossary, bibliography and index), 2003

One of the books dealing with the Sabbat cycle, this book shares all the basics of that series.

First there is the mythic and historic background of the festival, drawn from a number of cultures and historical periods. We also get some basic divination forms which are traditionally used on this date. Ms. Franklin also includes instructions for making a set of runes and for interpreting Tarot and the runes as well as the use of playing cards and oghams.

She includes some basic lore on fairies, as well as gemstones, wand making and herbalism.

Spells are given, and their folklore and background explained. The roots of the folk magic which underlie many of our customs are explored and explained.

Chapter Five deals with traditional herbcraft and production of gargles, oils and teas. While by no means extensive, there is a good sampling of herbs and their uses. There is also a fairly extensive listing of incenses for various deities, Sabbats, etc., and a short list of oils. While not as thorough as Cunningham’s works, it is a good basic section which will give you a working foundation on which to build.

Chapter Six is devoted to recipes. The information given is fine, but there are some minor glitches. On page 136 Ms. Franklin says “Christians believe that the bread and wine is the transubstantiated flesh and blood of God.” While that is true of Catholics, it is not necessarily true for all branches of Christianity. It is, as such, an overly broad statement.

Chapter Seven is about rituals, both indoor and outdoor. The rituals are drawn from a variety of traditions, and the reader is sure to find inspiration in them. It also includes a suggested hand-fasting ritual. My only quibble with the basic instructions for setting up an altar is the same one I have with the majority of books which include such instructions: On page 144 she says “The Goddess image is placed on the left, and the God image on the right.” Is that as the officiator faces the altar or as the altar faces the circle (since the altar is placed in the north in this situation)?

All of the rituals included are designed for group involvement, but could be easily adapted for solitary use.

The appendices include animal totems appropriate for this time of year, ranging from bees to snakes to reindeer; a midsummer calendar; correspondences; deities of midsummer; and symbols of the sun.

The glossary is a bit thin (actually it is VERY thin), but the index and bibliography help to make up for this shortcoming.

This books gives a lot of good, basic information. If you have never done a Midsummer ritual, you will find inspiration here. If you have even wondered about some of the traditions associated with this time of the year, this book is an excellent starting point. It is easy to read and quite enjoyable. While it will not my “Required Reading” list for students, it would certainly be a nice addition to a coven library.


The Fairy Ring, by Anna Franklin

By Mike Gleason | November 30, 2002 | Leave a comment

The Fairy Ring: An Oracle of the Fairy Folk, book by Anna Franklin, illustrated by Paul Mason
Llewellyn Publications, 0738702749

One thing needs to be very clear at the outset. This is NOT a Tarot deck. It has no Major Arcana, as such, instead it has eight Fairy Festival (Sabbat) cards, there are only 13 cards in each of the “suits” of the Minor Arcana (there is no “ten” and the Page has been replaced by the Lady). It also includes four cards illustrating layouts and the meanings for each position within the layouts. These cards will be an invaluable aid to becoming comfortable and familiar with these new layouts.

These cards are interesting on many levels, ranging from the expected ones of divining information and serving as a meditation tool to the unexpected use as a kind of mug shot book of the Celtic branch of the wee folk. Utilizing the book which explains the cards, one can gain more insight into the habits and behaviours of the most elusive inhabitants of our world.

Proper methods of behaviour towards these races are discussed, as are their expectations of the humans they choose to interact with.

Granted that there are a very limited number of fairy folk discussed, and this group is all derived from Celtic lands (specifically the British Isles), still there is a wide variety of types discussed. In all there are 56 spirits covered (each suit contains one double card). Of these, ways of contacting and working with are given for 40. The other 16 are “not recommended” to work with, for various reasons.

The cards are beautifully drawn, and the descriptions and divinatory meanings given in the book give a good starting point for your own encounters with the inhabitants of the land of Fairy.

Even in you don’t want to use them for divinatory purposes you could spend hours meditating upon them, Each card provides an easy entrance into the world of the particular spirit.

It will be a while before I have any solid, personal opinions regarding the layouts developed for these cards, but at this time I can say that they appear to offer some very interesting insights.