The Cauldron is a symbol of rebirth and rejuvenation, so it is appropriate that the squires should now begin to study the history, traditions and aspects of modern knighthood, since they will soon be reborn as knights at the Arming ritual. Through their studies and the seasonal games that are part of Lughnasad celebrations, they are discovering the particular Magickal Weapon that they will dedicate themselves to at the Arming that will make them knights.
The Cauldron Season is the time of year when people like me celebrate their garden. I take a great deal of pride in the Motherhouse garden. It helps me stay connected to the earth. Many people in the modern Western world live in apartments or condos in urban sprawls with little or no vegetation around them at all. It is very easy to forget what season it is when you purchase your food in modern supermarkets that bring exotic foods in from hot houses and locations around the world year round. Just about every food is available all the time. Lughnasad helps remind people in such circumstances where their food comes from and gives them an opportunity to give thanksgiving to the earth for this bounty. Of course here at the Order of Paladins Motherhouse we grow a lot of our own produce both in the greenhouse and out. Just as our ancestors went out at Lughnasad to gather hay and reap the wheat and barley, so do we go out at Lughnasad to harvest the bounty of the garden. In some areas a flaming wheel was sent rolling down the hillside at this time to symbolize the descent of the year towards Winter, and in the Druid ceremony a wheel is passed around the circle in symbol of the turning year.
As this is a time of bounty it is appropriate that the aspect of chivalry that we emphasize in this Season is Largesse. The spirit of cooperation that is essential for a good harvest reminds us of one of the thirteen precepts: Power with.
For Lughnasad, our ritual area and altar are decorated with grain and grain products in honor of the first harvest. A corn dolly/corn king representing John Barleycorn is made up and decorated with nine roses and placed on or by the altar. One rose is set aside for each participant to wear. The rose is a summer flower, which is part of the reason that we’ve included it in this ritual. The other is that August 1 also happens to be the anniversary of the battle of Minden in 1759, during the Seven Years War. Six British regiments, the Royal Hampshire Regiment, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, the Lancashire Fusiliers (who are now part of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers), the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the Suffolk Regiment (which is now part of the Royal Anglian Regiment advanced towards the French through rose fields. As they advanced they took up roses and put them in their hats and coats and equipment. They subsequently drove the French from the field. Ever since this battle, these regiments have worn roses in their hats and have decked their colors and drums with roses to commemorate their victory. The Lancashire Fusiliers have a tradition for initiating new officers: The new officer has to eat rose petals floating in champagne. You’re not an officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers until you’ve done this. Since we honor the warrior path, we’ve included the rose in Order of Paladins rituals.
Later the corn dolly or corn king is brought out and carried around the Circle in procession. The corn dolly is then placed at the foot of the altar, followed by an invocation to the Gods. During this procession the John Barleycorn song is sung. The song John Barleycorn appeared in print in the Journal of Folk Song Society Volume VIII, 41, and there are several seventeenth century broadsides of this song. This song first appeared in the reign of James I but is said to be much older. One can find variants of this song in Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Somerset and Wiltshire.
The lyrics to the John Barleycorn song are as follows:
“There were three men came out of the west
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn must die.
”They’ve ploughed, they’ve sown, they’ve harrowed him in
Threw clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn was dead.
”They let him lie for a very long time
Till the rains from Heaven did fall,
And little Sir John sprung up his head
And so amazed them all.
”They’ve let him stand till Midsummer’s day,
Till he looked both pale and wan.
And little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard
And so become a man.
”They’ve hired men with the scythes so sharp,
To cut him off at the knee,
They’ve rolled him and tied him by the waist,
Serving him most barbarously.
”They’ve hired men with the sharp pitchforks,
Who pricked him through the heart
And the loader, he has served him worse than that,
For he’s bound him to the cart.
”They’ve wheeled him around and around a field,
Till they came unto a barn,
And there they made a solemn oath
On poor John Barleycorn
”They’ve hired men with the crab-tree sticks,
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller, he has served him worse than that,
For he’s ground him between two stones.
”And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl
And his brandy in the glass
And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl
Proved the strongest man at last
”The huntsman, he can’t hunt the fox
Nor so loudly to blow his horn,
And the tinker, he can’t mend kettle nor pots
without a little barley corn.”
After this song is sung a loaf is then brought out, representing the first loaf of harvest. It is hallowed with this reaping blessing inspired by the Carmina Gadelica:
“On Lughnasad at the rise of the sun,
Sun shining on the ears of corn from the east,
I will go forth with my sickle under my arm,
And reap the first of the harvest.
“I will strike my sickle down
While the fruitful ear is in my grasp,
I will raise mine eye upwards,
I will turn me on my heel quickly,
From the airt of the east to the west,
From the airt of the north with motion calm
To the very core of the airt of the south.
“I will give thanks to the Gods
For the growing crops of the ground,
They will give food to us
According as They disposeth to us.
“Dagda and Ogma, Mabon and Modron
Brigid beloved, the fullness of light,
On Yule eve
We will all taste of the bannock.”
The loaf is broken in two: Half is shared around the Circle and the other half is offered to the spirits in the garden with these words inspired by the Quern blessing from the Carmina Gadelica:
“On Lughnasad Eve
We shall have flesh
We shall have mead,
We shall have wine,
We shall have milk,
We shall have honey,
Abundance of that,
Abundance of that.
We shall have harp,
We shall have drums,
We shall have lute,
We shall have horn.
We shall have songs,
We shall have feast.
The calm fair Brigid will be with us,
The gentle mother Danu will be with us.
Lugh the chief
Of glancing glaves
And the spirit of peace
And of grace will be with us,
Of grace will be with us.”
Since this is Lughnasad, we recount the story of the Second Battle of Moy Tura, in which Lugh Lamfada defeated the giant Balor with his sling. Balor died, and his eye flew into the sky and there became the sun of the harvest season. We’ll then hold games in honor of Tailtiu, mother of Lugh Lamfada, the Il Dana. This may include archery, leg wrestling, arm wrestling, wheelbarrow races, three legged races, quarterstaff jousting, singing and storytelling. This is all in keeping with the spirit of knighthood that the squires are now exploring on their way to becoming knights themselves.