Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lughnasadh and the Sacrifice of the Corn King

As Lammas, or Lughnasadh, bears down on us (where does time go?!?) I find myself thinking about the metaphor of the God as a plant. Known as the Corn King, or John Barleycorn, in British tradition, the Sun God or "Son" God (child of the Goddess) dies a sacrificial death in order to feed all of us in the web of creation. He "dies," but it is not true death, for he has already re-seeded himself in the womb of the Goddess. As he returns to the Underworld, he is already in the process of being reborn.

It is compelling to think of the God as a plant. Like the corn he is represented by, he releases his seed naturally in the course of his life-cycle. The new corn seeds are already germinating when the parent plant dies off. Yet the corn seed is, literally, a living part of that plant. So the corn is "resurrected" in the next season of growth.

Our culture tends to see the God as warlike, or at least paternalistic and "in charge." Many stereotypes placed upon him are unfair to masculinity, in general. I think it is very healing to see the God as a nurturer and a care-giver. For that is what he does when he surrenders his life to the cycles of nature and allows all other living things to eat of his body. There is enough of him to go around, and still to reseed him in the underworld of the Goddess. This system is perfectly designed to allow for life without the cost of cruelty.

As a vegan pagan, I enjoy the metaphor of the corn because it is not species-specific. The God did not sacrifice himself only for the souls of humans. He died to "feed" (physically and spiritually) all the children of the Goddess. And even in that moment, his death had no sting. He and his adepts knew the secret...his life went on, just under the mother's soil and skin.

art by Charles Vess

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