“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” Sylvia Plath
The holidays are in full swing, and a feeling of normality is seeping back into our days. Whether you’re reading this post from a beach or a hammock in your garden, this little Almanac is our guide to help you celebrate August at its fullest.
How August got its name
Just as July got its name from Julius Caesar, August hails its name from Augustus Caesar.
In Scotch and Irish Gaelic and Manx, all the months take their name after Lughnasadh, one of the four Gaelic agricultural markers of the year. Lughnasadh, which falls on August 1st, is the primary harvest festival that celebrates the cutting of the first wheat sheaf.
Although August is the height of our summer holidays, traditionally, it was the beginning of harvest.
The August Moon is known as the Grain Moon
Under the low, golden light of August’s moon, food was harvested and put away for the cold, hungry months that lay ahead.
Tree of the month: Hazel Tree
The Celtic name for the Hazel Tree is Coll which translates to “the life force inside you.” As the harvest began, the life force was quickening in the fields, trees and hedgerows, the hazelnuts ripening on the trees.
Flower of the month: Gladiolus
Dates for your diary:
August 1st– Laughnasadh (pagan)
9-14th: Hajj (Muslim)
10-11th: Tisha B’Av
11-15th: Eid al-Adha (Muslim)
12th: The Glorious Twelfth – beginning of grouse shooting season
15th: The Assumption of Mary (Christian)
24th: Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu)
31st: Islamic New year
What’s in season in August
In the garden: Apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, raspberries, loganberries, strawberries, gooseberries, loganberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, blueberries, melons, plums, apples, pears.
In the allotment: Potatoes, carrots, salads, peas, asparagus, globe artichokes, endive, chard, sweet peppers, chilli peppers, tomatoes, mangetouts, spring onions, lettuce, runner beans, French beans, calabrese, celery, courgettes, fennel, shallots, globe artichokes, rhubarb, leeks, asparagus, radishes, wild rocket, spinach, beetroot, turnip
Mint, oregano, marjoram, thyme, dill, basil, edible flowers.
In the hedgerows, woods and fields: Lemon balm, cherry plum, wild gooseberry, green walnuts, cleavers, hairy bittercress, hedge garlic, lemon balm, wild pineapple, wild thyme, wild fennel, bilberries, blackberries, rosehips, wild strawberries, rowan berries, cobnuts.
At Lughnasadh, the solemn ritual cutting of the first of the corn signalled the shift into the colder, darker part of the year. John Barleycorn, a folkloric character representing the barley crop, stood bent and golden – his time had come to feed the people.
Our ancestors honoured John Barleycorn’s sacrifice at Lughnasada by taking a portion of the corn and bringing it to a high place to bury. They performed rituals such as sacrificing a bull, sharing a meal, dancing, and staging plays and fights. To indicate the end of the ceremony, they installed a carved stone head on the top of a hill to represent that the harvest god Lugh had been restored to his rightful place.