August this year brings two full moons: one tonight, this First of August, which is called the Sturgeon Moon, and the second, a Blue Moon, at the end of the month on the 30th. Both are super moons––full moons that coincide with perigee, which is when the Moon is in closest proximity to the Earth in its elliptical orbit. Both full moons of August will appear larger than usual, because the Moon is indeed closer to us than it usually is. All of this Moon Magic inspired me to give you a moon-focused Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month of August. Cover star: “Summer Night Moon” by Eero Järnefelt. Click here for your free calendar: it is, as usual, a printable PDF, and a fine companion to this Book of Days.
This Sturgeon Moon happens to illuminate an ancient agrarian celebration called Lammas, which falls each First of August. It is one of the old cross quarter days that fall between the solstices and equinoxes, and with Lammas we come to the midpoint between the June solstice and the September equinox. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is high summer, but with Lammas comes the acknowledgment of a perspective shift and the understanding that summer’s growth is mostly done and the focus of the things of this world begins to shift now toward ripening, and harvest and gathering.
Indeed, Lammas is the celebration of the first grain harvest. Where Lammas is well celebrated and where it was more widely acknowledged in our agrarian past, this was a time to bake loaves of bread from the new grain. One loaf would be brought to church to be blessed, and some loaves would be shaped into ornamental loaves called corn dollies, “corn” being a general word describing grain (and not necessarily the cornmeal Americans might think of upon hearing the word). Translating these traditions to the contemporary world, it is a very good day, I think, to bake a crusty loaf, or to gather one from your local baker, and to savor each delectable crumb. You might take a wee dram, as well, of whisky: one of the other gifts of grain. The bread is acknowledged in the very name of Lammas, which descends from the Old English hlafmaesse, or “loaf mass.” John Barleycorn is a name you may hear this time of summer: he is the grain, personified. As the old song goes, John Barleycorn must die: Summer is waning, autumn is coming, and with Lammas, as summer’s hues begin to shift from green to golden, we begin to turn our thoughts toward gathering in. John Barleycorn brings a bit of melancholy but a bit of warmth as well––warmth in his crusty bread, warmth in his spirits, warmth in the ones we gather with to celebrate. Happy Lammastide.
SUMMER HIGH FIVE SALE!
At our online shop, enjoy $5 off your order of $35 or more when you use discount code HIGH5 at checkout. Take it to $75 and you’ll earn free domestic shipping, too. Use the deal on anything in the shop. Click here to shop! Years ago, when I was a printing intern at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community in Maine, I wrote a short summery tale called Sturgeon Moon. It was August, and the well was running dry. Before I left the Shakers to go back to grad school, I printed the story from handset type in Brother Arnold’s printshop and made it into a miniature book that is illustrated with a pop-up sheep flying over a barn. You can even use the HIGH5 discount code for $5 off the book!
Top Image: “Summer Night Moon” by Eero Järenefelt. Oil on canvas, 1889. Kansallisgalleria (Finnish National Gallery). [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons. Bottom image: My mom, Millie, in a fishing boat on a lake in Brooklyn, circa 1950.