Lammas or Lughnasadh or Lunasa is the festival that falls about August 1-2 in the annual eight-great-days calendar of a lot of forms of modern paganism. In 2021, just after we moved to a new house in the town of Goshen, I began writing a sequence of songs about the observed weather and plant patterns of life in my new town, and at this point I’ve published many of them: Goshen Yule, Goshen Oimelc, Goshen Ostara, Goshen Maying, Goshen Litha, and now Goshen Lammas.
You’re welcome to sing these songs privately, either with or without friends, but if you’d like to record them or add instrumentation, please let’s talk first. Additionally, if you intend to perform them publicly as part of a set of music, I’d like to know.
The original tune appears in an English handwritten text called the Skene Manuscript dating from the first half of the 17th century (1600-1650); the first known lyrics tell the tale of a woman Peggy who leaves her husband to follow a handsome soldier, but returns and is forgiven; the version collected by George Kinloch in Ancient Scottish Ballads in 1827 makes Peggy into a tavern-maid eager for commitment from a soldier seeking a one-night-stand; she follows him town-to-town for several days; the version recorded by Francis Childs (Childs #299) has their tryst interrupted by drumbeats as he gets dressed again and marches off, double-time, to his regiment. It seemed an appropriate tune for a late summer song about life in Goshen, where harvest-time seems to arrive unexpectedly but then lingers a long time, only to march off suddenly with the first frost.
composed August 2021, using a traditional tune, The Maiden and the Trooper
I feast with all my kith and kin, And revel in the bounty Of Sun’s bright rays and summer days That clothe the earth with plenty. I searched my vines both high and low For two big ripe tomatoes; I dug up all my garden beds For three small green potatoes. I feast with all my kith and kin, etc. Lettuces and celery And bountiful zucchini Long pole beans and collard greens And one limp broccolini I feast with all my kith and kin, etc. I dig and weed and fertilize And spread the mulch quite deeply But garden voles still dig their holes And cut the roots quite neatly I feast with all my kith and kin, etc. The apples bend their branches down The color’s on the peaches It takes green thumbs to grow good plums, Or learn what nature teaches. I feast with all my kith and kin, etc. The burdock has gone all to seed And the woodland ferns are bending; The mugwort and the mullein speed On to their autumn ending. I feast with all my kith and kin, etc. The flies are on the horsetail now, A feast for finch and sparrow; And lady’s mantle folds her cloak While blooms are on the yarrow. I feast with all my kith and kin, etc. Now roses open white and pink; The yard is white with clover And every squash is on the brink Of spilling seeds all over! I feast with all my kith and kin, etc.
There’s two more songs in this series, Goshen Mabon in mid-September, and Goshen Samhain (pronounced SA-wann) at the end of October. And then the series will be complete. I’m thinking I’d like to write another sequence of eight, but I may move on to other projects after this. What’s your thinking? And of course, if you perform them in your neck of the woods, I’d love to know about it.