“And he took the bread, and gave thanks, and brake it and gave unto them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.’ Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup IS the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.’”
The Gospel of Luke 22:19-20
In ancient times, the Celtic and Germanic peoples of Europe would celebrate Lammas, or “Loaf Mass” around August 1st. This festival marked the height of summer and the time when the crops were ready for the first harvest, specifically the wheat harvest. It was customary to bless a loaf of bread made from the wheat, and in Anglo-Saxon England, this bread may have then been employed in a magick ritual. This ritual was later “Christianized”
This festival was known as “Lughnassadh” in even earlier times, named after the Celtic Sun god, Lugh. In Ancient Ireland, races and games were held in his name and that of his mother, Tailtiu, which may have been funeral games in honor of Tailtiu who died of overwork clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture.
The primary myths surrounding this time have to do with sacrifice, either of the Goddess of the Land or the God of the Sun. We see this in the myth of the Sacred King, who is understood to be an aspect of the Sun Deity. This is an ancient legend wonderfully retold here by Lady Spring Wolf:
“In the green land of old, the men and women walked the fields in hunger. They would eat of those that walked in fur, fin and feather, and thanked them for their sacrifice. But their gifts were not enough for the people to live. They would eat of the wild fruits of the Earth, but that was not enough. They would forage the wood and eat of the wild berries, mushrooms and gourds, but this was not enough.
As they looked for fruits and berries, as they hunted for fur, fin and feather, their homes could not be built. The roofs leaked in rain, the rooms stood cold for lack of fire, the land could not be tilled. For all of these gifts of food must be found, and hunted, and a home cannot be built on its own.
The Sacred King saw the men and women in their suffering. He watched, waited, and thought upon it for a time, and his face grew grave and sad. He spoke to the Lady, and said, ‘I must die. The land will be fertile and the earth will bring forth a harvest and the people will live and grow.’
The Lady sobbed and fell on her knees. She grieved for Her Lord and watched him leave for the fields beyond. The Lord traveled to the center of the land and he fell upon his sword, and died. The blood of his body flowed through the land and covered it in red.
The Great Mother buried the Sacred King in the Earth, returning him to her womb, and mourned his passing from the land of life.
Winter wrapped the world in ice and snow. Covering the land with a gentile white blanket that hid the sleeping life beneath it’s frozen splendor.
The Great Mother covered the face of the sky with dark clouds, and her tears of rain poured from there in cascades and torrents. The Tears of the Mother melted the snow and ice, and covered the ground in wetness.
Time passed and the Sun warmed the ground, and a green shoot appeared, poking its head out from the womb of the Mother. The green shoot grew as the days grew, longer and taller, until the golden hair of the Sacred King once more waved proudly in the wind; until the Grain of the Fields stood, row upon row, as far as the eye could see; until the Bounty of the Mother, the Sacred King Himself, stood upon the world, ready to be harvested.
The great Mother looked out upon the green fields, and saw the wind caressing the face of the Sacred King. ‘That was well done,’ she whispered upon the wind, ‘But it pains me to see you die once again.’
‘It is as it must be,’ He said, ‘And does it not show them that Death is an illusion. It is just another change in a multiverse of change?’ he added. ‘And through their harvest, they strive and survive. They eat and grow. Their houses are built, their fires burn and their bread bakes for the harvest. And all this is a good thing.’
‘You are right,’ She sighed with sadness, ‘But I just wish it could have been done in a kinder way. The Lady still mourns your sacrifice and each year it will be so. Her tears will fall and her heart will ache, for her love has left her side.’
‘Change is never easy, Great Mother.’ He spoke, lowly, ‘But it is as it is, nonetheless. The fields are green, and the harvest is plentiful. The people are well and the land will grow again’.
Thus it was, and so it is, and ever more shall be so!”
Here we have the “self-sacrifice” of the Sun, the “Sacred King” for the benefit of the people. Remember that Christ Jesus is referred to as a “King”, as well as the “Son of Man”. Jesus allowed himself to be sacrificed so that humanity might be “saved”, just as the Celto-Germanic Sun God of pre-Christian days did. This is a recurring theme that is as old as humanity itself. This sacrifice of the Sun that is alluded to in the myth extends to the wheat, barley and corn that is harvested from the Earth.
At the “Loaf Mass”, the people harvested the wheat for making the bread that would help them survive the colder months. They recognized the “sacrifice” of the Sun, which was slowly beginning to wane and diminish in power. The Sun gives of Himself so that we may live. In the 1899 book, “Aryan Sun Myths: The Origin of Religions”, author Elizabeth E. Titcomb states that “All Indo-Germanic nations have worshiped crucified saviours and overwhelming proof was obtained that the sun-myths of the ancient Aryans (Indo-Europeans) were the origin of the religion in all of the countries which were peopled by the Aryans.”
In later centuries in England, there was born the legend of John Barleycorn- the God who sacrificed himself for the Goddess of the Land and for the harvest. Below is an excerpt from “The Ballad of John Barleycorn”:
“There were three men come out of the west their fortunes for to try
And these three men made a solemn vow John Barleycorn should die.
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in, throw’d clods all on 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 rain from heaven did fall
And little Sir John he throw’d up his head and he so amazed them all.”
Going back to the Sacred King story as retold by Lady Spring Wolf, we also see the story of a tribe of humans moving from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agrarian lifestyle. In Mesoamerica, we have the legend of Quetzalcoatl, the legendary “Sun King” of Mexico that brought the “light of knowledge”- specifically the knowledge of agriculture, to the people.
The development of agriculture was imperative to the development of complex civilizations, simply due to the fact that it freed up time that would have been spent hunting and gathering. We see this problem described in the story:
“As they looked for fruits and berries, as they hunted for fur, fin and feather, their homes could not be built. The roofs leaked in rain, the rooms stood cold for lack of fire, the land could not be tilled. For all of these gifts of food must be found, and hunted, and a home cannot be built on its own.”
With the coming of agricultural society, the relationship to Spirit also changed. In hunter-gatherer societies, this relationship was primarily focused on manifesting a successful hunt. This is illustrated (literally) in the cave paintings found in the caverns of France and Spain. But when all time and energy was no longer going into searching for food, there was time for deeper inquiries into the nature of reality. This allowed for man to “build” a spiritual “house” in a way that had not been possible in hunter-gatherer times.
However, the ancient Europeans knew of a deeper level of existence to the Sun that just what appears as a blazing disc in the sky. They also knew of the Sun’s deeper relationship to mankind. In his book, “Celtic Mysteries”, author John Sharkey talks about an interaction with the Sun God Lugh, and the warrior hero of the Ulster Myth Cycle, Cu Chulainn:
“In one episode, when the champion is badly wounded and needs a respite, the Sun God Lugh himself appears… ‘Who are you?’ Cu Chulainn asks the ghost warrior. ‘Your father from the Outerworld am I… Lugh, son of Ethliu. Sleep a while Cu Chulainn,’ says the radiant warrior, ‘and I will oppose all during that time.’…
In the Cu Chulainn story, the Sun God materializes to take over the functions of the warrior, who by dying for three days can remain mortal. In this bardo state he can ascend the three mystical worlds of the Celtic afterlife: from earth-body to the physical spirit and finally into the radiant soul-light in which the Sun Himself is manifest. When Cu Chulainn sleeps he becomes joined to his own embodied radiance, inhabiting all worlds at once…
This easy movement between the human warrior hero and his otherworldly archetype, the Sun God, is a common practice in every kind of Celtic Story.”
In my initiation into the Mysteries, I was taught how to see what is referred to as the “Self” in meditation. The Self and the Soul that encapsulates it is physically located in the Solar Plexus (yes Solar as in “Sun”- there is no other meaning to the word). Visually, it appears to me as a dark luminescence, like a black light, with a corona and a bright center that is still somewhat hard to look at directly for a lengthy period of time. It feels like joy and laughter. I am able to “see” it by closing my eyes and focusing my attention on that region of the body.
Father Paul Blighton referred to the Self as “a cell in the body of the Father… situated in man’s spiritual body basically, but it can be seen through the physical when the veil between the two worlds is removed, with the attainment of God-realization.”
Father Paul also stated that the “center of one’s Self is like the sun. It is a reflection of the great Sun- the Christos… The Self is the sun of our body, of our universe.”
The Sun sacrifices itself so that we may have life in a physical sense AND in a spiritual or “metaphysical” sense. The Self or “Inner Sun” sacrifices part of Its Divine Essence when it incarnates part of Itself into matter. But this incarnation is what allows for a new type of spiritual growth and development to take place.
Like the suffering people in the story of the Sacred King, we too often find ourselves too distracted with “surviving” to tend to our own houses and when this happens, we do indeed suffer. We suffer from the pains, depressions, and sicknesses that all have their prime root cause at the separation from our true nature- the nature of the Self. But the sacrifice of Christ Jesus- the Sacred King of this Age- has helped bridge that gap of separation and opened up a direct link to Self and a possibility of spiritual growth and development that wasn’t there before. We just have to make time for it and nurture and develop our relationship with it.
Developing a true relationship to Self- to the Divine within, inevitably takes sacrifice. We need “to separate the wheat from the chaff” and let go of those ways of being that no longer serve us, giving ourselves in service to the Higher Impulses of Truth, Knowledge, Compassion, etc. This is our Bread of Life.
Namaste and God Bless.