Attributes & Correspondences
August originally contained 29 days and was called Sextilis in Latin, as it was the sixth month of the earliest Roman calendar. Two more days were added by Julius Caesar, and in 8 BCE, it was renamed to honour Augustus Caesar, who had celebrated several triumphs, including the conquest of Egypt, during this month. The Anglo-Saxons called it Weodmonath (“vegetation month”), referring to the vigorous growth of plants during this time.
In Gaelic and neo-pagan cultures, the first of three harvest festivals begins on August 1 with Lughnasadh (LOO nuh suh), which honours the Sun god, Lugh – the “Shining One”. Also called Lammas (from the Anglo-Saxon for “loaf-mass”), it is a time of golden grain, scythes and ripe, heavy fruit – a time to be thankful for long, warm summer days and the bounty reaped from hard work. It was also when young couples could enter into trial marriages lasting a year and a day, after which the marriage could either become permanent or be dissolved with no strings attached. Rather than being handfasted to a stranger for a year, you might instead want to celebrate Lughnasadh by baking some bread or making wheat sheaf wreaths or traditional corn dollies!
August’s colours are yellow, gold and orange.
Sardonyx was used as the August birthstone as early as the 15th century, and is thought to promote mental discipline. However, the peridot was officially adopted in 1912. This pale yellow-green stone is a symbol of vitality, said to ward off nightmares. Cat’s eye, fire agate, jasper and red spinel are other stones associated with August.
In the Celtic tree calendar, the hazel rules the month from August 5 to September 1. Hazel was sacred to the druids, symbolizing knowledge, wisdom and poetic inspiration. Wands of hazel wood are used for white magick and healing, and dowsing rods are made from forked hazel sticks.
August’s flowers are the poppy and gladiolus. In the Victorian language of flowers, the red poppy represents pleasure, white means consolation, and the yellow variety symbolizes wealth and success. The gladiolus bestows strength of character. Other August flowers are the sunflower and marigold. Herbalists should work with angelica, bay, chamomile, fennel, rue and St. Johnswort during August.
This year, the full Moon peaks on August 15 at 8:29 a.m. EDT. Its many cultural names include:
Dispute Moon (Celtic) – transition of seasons; anxiety about coming winter
Corn Moon (medieval England)
Fruit Moon (Cherokee)
Sturgeon Moon (Algonquin) – when lake fish are most abundant
Grain Moon (English) – beginning of harvest season
Lightning Moon (neo-pagan)
The full Moon isn’t the only reason to look up in August! The Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak on the 13th; try counting how many meteors you see streaking across the night sky – which will, sadly, be washed out this year by the near-full Moon. You should still be able to see some Perseids, however.
Elementally speaking, August is a fire month. It’s interesting how fire and smoke make very notable appearances on the following days in history:
• August 24, 79 CE – Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
• August 24, 1814 – During the War of 1812, the Capitol Building, White House (then known as the Presidential Mansion) and other U.S. government buildings were burned down by the British.
• August 9, 1944 – Smokey Bear chosen as the fire prevention symbol of the U.S. Forest Service.
• August 6 & 9, 1945 – During the final stage of WWII, the U.S. deployed two atomic bombs, destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
• August 29, 1959 – Astronaut Chris Hadfield born. Colonel Hadfield has flown two Space Shuttle Missions, commanded the International Space Station, and was the first Canadian to walk in space.
• August 15-18, 1969 – Woodstock music festival held in Bethel, N.Y.
Cat Nights Begin August 17:
An Irish legend says that a witch could turn herself into a cat, and back again, eight times. But the ninth time – traditionally on August 17, when cats on the neighbourhood prowl become noticeably “yowly” – she could no longer revert to human form, thus remaining a cat forever. This is the origin of the saying A cat has nine lives.
“After Lammas Day, corn ripens as much by night as by day.” But beware this month’s foul weather: “For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall in Winter” and “If cold August follows hot July, it foretells a Winter hard and dry.”
There are tons of “official” observances for August, but I think my favourite is Happiness Happens Month. This was started by the Secret Society of Happy People (SOHP, founded August 1998), which encourages members worldwide to recognize their happy moments and think about happiness in their daily life. One of their mottos is “Don’t Even Think of Raining on My Parade.”
May August bring you sunny skies, ripe corn and heaps of happiness!