What does Harry Potter have in common with Shakespeare’s Juliet? According to their authors, they were both born on July 31st, which just so happens to be the eve of the Summer Cross Quarter Day, which is traditionally observed on August 1st (see more on Juliet below).
In old British tradition, the Cross Quarter Day was known as Lammas, for “loaf mass,” a celebration of the first wheat harvest that was brought in from the fields at the halfway point in the Summer. But because of the Earth’s wobble, which causes a precession, the halfway point in this Summer isn’t August 1st, it’s actually August 6th.
And here’s the fascinating thing, August 6th marks the Feast of Transfiguration in the Christian Calendar, when three of the Apostles witness the transfigured Christ, attended to by Moses and Elias. In chapter nine of the Luke Gospel, this event happens about eight days after the miracle of Feeding the Multitude with five loaves and two fishes. Eight days before August 6 is around July 30, which indicates that it’s probably this miracle of abundance that informed the early harvest celebrations of this season.
Also this week, Mercury has just made its superior meeting with the Sun, and will now speed around to join Venus in the evening sky. And Saturn just made its annual opposition with the Sun, which means it’s now rising in the East as the Sun sets in the West.
Mercury brings messages, Saturn takes time, so this week, we can use these elements to plan to make ceremony around the August 6 Cross Quarter Day meal, to be grateful to the farmers, and to imagine the sunlight and moonbeams and star shine that commingles with life streaming from Earth’s limitless rich depths.
This week’s episode is on Interlochen Public Radio and The Storyteller’s Night Sky podcast.
Earth endures, stars abide. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
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*It’s in Act I, scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, where we learn that Juliet was born at the eve of Lammas, which translates to July 31st in the calendar. This date is highly significant in the fate that befalls this tragic heroine, because Lammas is the festival of “first fruits,” also known as Summer’s Cross Quarter Day, when we are halfway through the season and the first wheat harvest is being brought in.
Shakespeare seems to imply that by being born before the celebration of first fruits, Juliet will suffer the fate of not reaping the benefit of the love she will sow for her Romeo.
seems to me to portray this significant moment, with the two of them looking down at the Capulet feast, where Romeo will see Juliet for the first time.
In my thinking, Shakespeare describing Juliet’s Lammas-eve birth just prior to this moment is an inspiration to pay attention to what we sow and what we reap, and to how we honor and celebrate at the season’s turning, which is now upon us.
Summer’s Cross Quarter is also significant in the New Testament miracle of Feeding the 5000, which, if calculated based on the Luke Gospel ch 9
, puts that miracle around this same time of year.
Break bread together, honor earth abundance and the good harvest of loving friendship, mark the moment with a wish under the stars!
Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.
Susan and she—God rest all Christian souls!—
Were of an age. Well, Susan is with God,
She was too good for me. But as I said,
On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen,
That shall she, marry, I remember it well.
’Tis since the earthquake now eleven years,
And she was wean’d—I never shall forget it—
Of all the days of the year, upon that day…
~”Romeo and Juliet,” act I, scene 3, Juliet’s nurse to Lady Capulet as they prepare for the feast
Pictured above: Including breads made by local bakeries from local wheat harvest is a terrific Cross Quarter Day tradition. Pictured here, Mary Stewart Adams’ annual Cross Quarter Day Cruise featuring Crooked Tree Breadworks.