Depending on your family’s tradition, Lughnasad (pronounced “loo-na-sa") is celebrated on August 1st or 2nd. It marks the end of the major fruit harvest and the beginning of the ripening of the grain crops--wheat, barley, oats and maize. (In Ireland and the British Isles, wheat is called “corn”, while American corn is called “maze”). At the start of August (now only a few days away!), with one harvest done and the next not yet begun, there was time (in the ancient world) to set up markets, make deals for the sale of the crops to come, arrange marriages, resolve problems and debts in council, and to enjoy games and competitions.
In the spiritual world, it was a time to celebrate Lugh, the Celtic sun god. It is important to remember that there is a little goddess celebration in the God Season (which runs from Samhain to Spring Equinox – with Imbolc in the middle honoring Brigit), and a little god celebration in the Goddess Season (from Beltain to Mabon). Some believe that Lughnasad honors the “death” of Lugh, because the sun has begun its journey towards winter and shorter days. However, Lughnasad actually celebrates the death of Lugh’s foster mother Taillte, and all games, gatherings and fairs were dedicated to her.
The other name for Lughnasad is Lammas. This comes from the words “loaf mass.” In Pagan times, folks would gather a small amount of green (un-ripened) wheat, thresh it, and bake it into a small loaf of bread. Each person attending the ritual meal would consume a tiny part. It was barely edible, but by willingly taking a nibble of this awful bread, the individual was showing the gods that he or she had faith in them, and trusted that they would bless the fields and the coming harvest.
|Come back on Friday--Lammas Eve--for a printable coloring page!|
When Christianity came to Europe and the Celtic lands, the people would not give up their cherished tradition. Like so many other Pagan practices, it was adopted by the church. The loaves that were baked from the green wheat were now brought to the Christian altar and blessed during a special “loaf mass.” They were consumed at a family meal later.
The health of the crops, the land and the people were thought to be bounded together. There was a countrywide truce at Lughnasad, so folks traveling to one of the major fairs – such as the one at Telltown – could get there without fear of being attacked along the way by feuding tribes. Once there, however, they could “battle” each other in feats of strength, agility, and speed. The champion, or winning team, would bring strength to their district and land. Even the fairies of the rival districts were thought to do battle, the looser returning home to find blight on their potato crop.
Horses and cattle were forced to swim across rivers and lakes because it was believed to remove negative magic and illness. Women wove wheat stalks and heads into crowns and wore them in order to share in the fertility of the fields, and offerings were given to the gods by throwing them into running water (such as rivers).
So, this Lughnasad, celebrate the sun and its beneficial effects on our food and our lives. Eat healthy, play games in the fresh air, and send your energies to the surrounding gardens and fields. Be strong, and remember: Fall and winter are just around the corner.
by Katharine Clark
Art by Robin Ator