Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

hayley mcdonnell life lessons the retreat Aug 13, 2021

By Hayley McDonnell.

In Christian/Western culture, Jesus teaches believers to pray that God would provide daily bread (Matthew 6:11). Obviously, Jesus was not telling His disciples to pray only for bread even though bread was a staple in the diet of the Jews and had been so for many years. Furthermore, bread was a powerful symbol of God’s provision for His people in the Old Testament and for adherents who remember how God cared for the Israelites when they were in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt. Life in the wilderness was hard, and soon the people began to complain that it would be better to be back in Egypt where they had wonderful food to eat. In response to these complaints, God promised to ‘rain bread from heaven’ (Exodus 16:4). The next morning, when the dew lifted, there remained behind on the ground ‘a small round substance, as fine as frost. …  It was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey’ (vv. 14, 31). When God miraculously fed His people from heaven, he did so by giving them bread. Acknowledgement of what we have provided for us by our farmers is just as important today.

It’s interesting to me that in the language of Western culture, we sometimes speak of one partner in a marriage. It used to be almost exclusively the husband who was the wage earner of the home, but thankfully (for female entrepreneurs and readers of the Create Evolve Overcome magazine) this is not as commonplace today. More colloquially, we call that partner ‘the breadwinner’. Even in our slang, we use the word bread as a synonym for ‘money’. Bread remains, at least in our language, a powerful symbol of the rudimentary basis of provision for our needs. So much so that there is a festival especially reserved for its celebration.

Lughnasadh (also spelled Lughnasa) is pronounced LOO-NAH-SAH. Lammas is pronounced LAH-MIS. The two festivals are similar, and although they are celebrated on the same day, they are not exactly the same. Lughnasadh, for example, dates back to prehistoric times.

Lammas is associated with harvesting grains and falls at the beginning of August each year between the summer solstice and autumn equinox. It used to always be held on August 1 but has recently switched to being held on the Sunday closest to the first. It is sometimes referred to as ‘loaf mass’ from which the name derives and is traditionally when people celebrate the first wheat harvest in the UK and is the first harvest festival of the season. ‘Loaf mass’ also hints of the grains that are harvested at Lammas time which include wheat, barley, oats and rye as well as the plants meadowsweet, mint, sunflower and Calendula.

The festival’s roots date back to Anglo Saxon times when it was referred to as the ‘feast of first fruits’. It also marks the end of the hay harvesting season and coincides with when tenant farmers would have presented the first crop harvest to their landlord.

Traditionally villagers would take a loaf of bread into church that was made with the first crop. This loaf was then blessed and, according to Anglo Saxon tradition, broken into four pieces with each of the pieces placed at the corners of a barn to protect the newly harvested grain. Lammas bread was often made in shapes including wheat, owls, figures of the ‘corn god’, and others. Other symbolic offerings include Lammas charms such as a ‘besom’ (a bundle of twigs), green Lammas ribbons and sprigs of mint.

Lughnasadh is essentially a different name for the similar event or time of year - namely a celebration of the start of the harvest. Lughnasadh is the Gaelic/Celtic name for the start of the season of autumn, with the three other Pagan seasons being Samhain (winter), Imbolc (spring) and Beltane (summer).

The name ‘Lughnasadh’ comes from a combination of the Irish god Lugh, a warrior and hero, and ‘nasad’ which means ‘assembly’. Halaefmass meanwhile is the old English name for the festival and literally translates as ‘loaf mass’ (same as Lammas).

The date is usually celebrated by countries in the Northern Hemisphere by baking Lammas bread, making corn dollies, bundling twigs together and enjoying large feasts with friends and family. Showing gratitude for what we have is important as it allows us to acknowledge the goodness in our lives. Gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve our health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. You don’t have to be grateful for bread everyday but there will still be something to feel grateful for. 

Here are some recipes for Lammas bread that was shared and eaten with the local community. I found these recipes from a recipe book gifted to me by my late Grandma, and this was from a selection of handwritten recipes I found:

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Lammas bread

Ingredients: 3 mugs of strong white flour, 500 ml of buttermilk, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, sprouted seeds (you can get these in Whole Foods), 1 Lammas ribbon in either gold, orange or yellow.

Method:

  • Pour the flour into a large bowl and make a small well in the centre.
  • Add the bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt, then pour in the buttermilk.
  • Mix with a wooden spoon and add in the sprouted seeds.
  • Add more flour if the mixture is too sloppy before turning out onto a board dusted with flour.
  • Fold the bread mix into a ball, patting it gently so it is slightly flat, and cut a pentacle into the top with a knife for decoration.
  • Put on a greased baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes on medium heat.
  • When ready it will turn a golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base.
  • Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool before tying with the Lammas ribbon, and then you are ready to share.

 

Lammas plait or wreath

Ingredients: 2 cups of whole wheat flour, 2 cups bread flour (plus more as needed), 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, 2 tbsp active dry yeast, 2 1/2 tsp salt, 2 cups of hot milk, 3 tbsp smooth peanut butter, 3 tbsp honey.

Method:

  • Add the flour, bread flour, sesame seeds, yeast and salt to a large bowl and mix.
  • Stir in the peanut butter and honey to the hot milk.
  • Pour the milk mixture in with the dry ingredients, adding more flour if needed.
  • Knead the bread mix for around 15 minutes before covering the bowl with a damp towel and leaving in a warm spot to rise. It should double in size.
  • Once it has risen you can either make one large Lammas wreath or two long Lammas plaits.
  • Bake at 190°C until golden and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Wait for it to cool on a wired rack before sharing with friends, family, and neighbours.

 

How to make a corn dolly

Using the discarded wheat shafts, children would be able to make toys and dolls to play with which would then be allowed to return to the earth when complete. With no other equipment available, the corn dolly would be made with these basic provisions and perhaps adorned with fallen petals or leaves. More elaborate corn dollies using more sophisticated techniques reveal the extent of rural craftsmanship. If you do have a go, share your pictures in the group and most importantly have fun.

Instructions:

  • This basic neck or sheaf dolly needs undamaged, hollow straw. Any straw will do (wheat is the most popular), even art straws work for practice.
  • Dampen straw to make it pliable.
  • Tie together a bundle of waste stems to make a pencil-width core.
  • Tie five straws of a similar width around the core as close to the wheat heads as possible. Bend each stem at right angles so one head points in each direction - think of compass points; the fifth straw should point just to your left.
  • Take the fifth stem and bend it up, before bending it right over the next two compass points.
  • Turn a quarter clockwise and repeat the process, using the new ‘south’ straw.
  • Repeat, turning a quarter each time to build up the circle. If a straw breaks, slide a new one over the broken end.
  • Tie the ends of the finished shape with straw or ribbon.

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Hayley McDonnell is a Personal Development/SMSC consultant and author intent on bridging the gap between countries, cultures, customs and ultimately people with “Global Collaboration” Her aim is to make our world feel smaller by connecting with our similarities and embracing our differences. She loves to travel and meet new people from different backgrounds, countries and cultures. You can find out more about Hayley here.

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