Lughnasadh (or Lunasa in Modern Irish) occurs about August 1st in the Northern Hemisphere. This festival marked the beginning of the grain harvest, and included sacrifices to petition for a bountiful season.
Falling six months opposite the winter festival of Imbolc, Lughnasadh is conversely at the middle of summer, a festival of the light half of the year, and with more masculine activities such as large regional outdoor gatherings, trade, games, law making, and forums (Freeman 2001, OBOD 2001).
Lugh was a fire and light god of Ireland, and a leader of the Tuatha De Dannan. Lugh is the patron of scholars, craftsmen, warriors and magicians. Lugh is also known as Lugh Samildánach (the Many Skilled) and Lugh Lámhfada (Lugh with the Long Arm). (Freeman, pg 234; OBOD.)
Lughnasadh ushers in the harvest season, and the people rejoiced in this bounty. While Lughnasadh shares the lighting of bonfires and visiting of holy wells with the other Gaelic festivals, ceremonies to the tops of hills or mountains were common. Often these became known for the berries picked along the way (Freeman, Pg 243).
Pilgrimages to hilltops occur in Ireland – the most well-known being Reek Sunday—the yearly Christian pilgrimage to the top of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo in late July (Lughnasadh- Wikipedia).
To learn more: Deeper Into Lughnasadh– OBOD
‘Summer’ festivals start in August, and echo the harvest festivals of days past. One example is Das Awkscht Fescht (the August Festival) a 42 acre automobile show, flea market, and weekend festival in the town of Macungie Pennsylvania. In rural agrarian areas there are still auctions and gatherings in August (before the major corn harvest gets underway) in southeast Pennsylvania.
The Carrickfergus Lughnasa Fair in Ireland is part of a grand old historical tradition with deep roots, that go back to before medieval times, straight into pre-Christian history. According to Irish mythology, the festival was initiated by the sun-god Lugh as a funeral commemoration of his foster-mother, Tailtiu (Freeman, pg. 237; OBOD).
Lammas origins inlcude the Anglo-Saxon Lughomass (‘loaf-mass’, or mass in honor of the god Lugh), and the Old English hlaf-maesse (loaf-mass) for a feast when a loaf made from the new crop of grain was taken to church for blessing. Pagan traditions include themes of the sacrifice of the corn (grains) god, and petitions for a fruitful harvest (Wigington).
To learn more: All About Lammas
At Teltown in Ireland, the Lammas fair was a time of year for handfasting or trial marriages. Young people would choose a mate without seeing them, and be married for a year and a day. At the end of this period they could dissolve the “Teltown marriage” (Freeman, pgs. 239-240; OBOD).
Ogam for August
Muin (Grape Vine or Blackberry)
In the version of the Ogam tree alphabet calendar popularized by Liz & Colin Murray (1988), the tenth lunar ‘month’ of the year is in August. This period ushers in Lughansadh, when daylight is noticably decreasing after the Summer Solstice. The Ogam tree associated with this month is the grape vine (in warmer climates) or bramble (blackberry), or as the Ogam letter Muin. It represents strong growth, the joy of new crops, and release of constraints.
The Green Man is a vegetative deity often depicted in Europe with ivy or grape leaves about or making up his face. He can represent personal transformation, or rebirth. The vine was used as a decorative design on Bronze Age items, and is still common. The picture here is of a ‘wedding basket’ from my grandmother.
Ways to Celebrate Lughnasadh
Attend a summer fair – join your community in the celebration of the season at renaissance faires, highland games, and at county or other fairs.
Bake a Lammas loaf, or similar celebratory breads to celebrate the new harvest.
Feast with your friends – using foods symbolic of the harvest.
Support your local farmers – at farmer’s markets, or at farming related events like hay rides, food festivals and the like. Buy and use locally produced food.
Meditate on the harvest – dance in a field with tall grass.
Make decorative wheat weavings – harvest knots or ‘corn dollies‘ can be made with wheat stalks.
Contemplate your ‘harvest’– reflect on how the year’s hopes and dreams are maturing, and what fruit they will bear.
Blueberry Sunday celebration at the Hawk’s Rock, Ireland (August 1, 2010)
Das Awkscht Fescht (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.awkscht.com/
Eilthireach, (November 17, 2012) Deeper into Lughnasdh. Retrieived from the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids website at http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-festivals/lughnasadh/deeper-lughnasadh
Freeman, M. (2001). Kindling the Celtic Spirit: Ancient Traditions to Illumine Your Life Through the Seasons
San Francisco: Harper Collins.
Green Man (2014) in Wikipedia, Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_man
Lammas (2014) in Wikipedia, Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lammas
Lugh (2014) in Wikipedia, Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lugh
Lughnasadh (2014) in Wikipedia, Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lughnasadh
Lughnasa Festival at Carrickfergus Castle (2011), Retrieved from http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/article/4234/lughnasa-festival-at-carrickfergus-castle
Murray, L. & C. (1988). The Celtic Tree Oracle: A System of Divination. London: Rider & Co. Ltd.
Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (2001). Lughnasadh Ceremony of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. East Sussex: Author.
Wigington, Patti (n.d.), All About Lammas (Lughnasadh) – What is Lammas? – How to Celebrate Lammas, Retrieved from http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/lammas/a/AllAboutLammas.htm