The cult of the Virgin Mary absorbed the attributes and celebrations of earlier goddesses, and many of her soubriquets and festivals were taken wholesale from her Pagan predecessors.  

Marymas is the Scottish name for the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on 15 August. In more northerly latitudes the harvest is later, and Marymas, rather than Lughnasa, marked the start of the harvest and was surrounded by its own customs, many of which survived well into the nineteenth century. [1] The assumption of Mary into heaven supposedly took place at Ephesus, a famous sanctuary of the goddess Artemis who was represented there by a many-breasted statue, symbolising the productive and nurturing powers of the Earth.

The Marymas start of reaping was a day of celebration and ritual with distinctly Pagan overtones. Whole families would go to the fields dressed in their best clothes to hail the god of the harvest. The father of each family would lay his hat on the ground and face the Sun. Taking up his sickle he would cut a handful of corn which he passed three times around his head whilst chanting a reaping salutation. [2] The rest of the family would join in, in praise of the God of the harvest who provided bread, corn, flocks, wool, health, strength and prosperity.

The Lammas Bannock, made from the new wheat, would be dedicated to Mary Mother of God, and elaborate rituals surrounded its preparation.  Early in the morning the people would go out into the fields to pluck the ears of the new corn. These would be spread over rocks to dry and then husked by hand. After being winnowed and ground in a quern, the flour was mixed into dough and kneaded in a sheepskin. It was traditional to cook the bannock over a fire of rowan, then the father of the family broke it into pieces to be shared with his wife and children. They would sing the Ioch Mhoric Mhather or ‘Paean of Praise to the Holy Mother’ whilst walking in a procession sunwise around the fire with the father in the lead and the rest of the family following in order of seniority. The family then proceeded sunwise around the outside of their house, and sometimes around the fields and flocks while reciting a protection charm. [3]

We can celebrate Marymas in our own way, as praise and thanks to the Goddess of the Harvest.

[1] Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1928

[2] Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1928

[3] Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, Floris Books 2001


Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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