First thoughts on Lughnasadh: Count your Blessings

Lughnasadh (pronouced loo’nass’ah) is usually celebrated between 31st July-August 2nd in the northern hemisphere.  It is the first of the Harvest Festivals (Mabon, Autumn Equinox is the Second Harvest of Fruit and Samhain is the Third and final Harvest of Game).  Lughnasadh is the harvest of Grains, a time when crops have, or are being, gathered in for the winter to feed both humans and domestic animals.  It’ is the midway point between a solstice (Midsummer) and an equinox (Mabon) and is known as a cross-quarter day.

Lughnasadh, is named after Lugh (prounced loo), meaning bright.  He is an Irish solar God of Justice and Skills, a judge and a warrior. 

Lugh, the Irish God of Skills and Justice after whom Lughnasadh is named.
Lugh, the Irish God of Skills and Justice

Lughnasadh is also known as Lammas, from the Anglo/Saxon hlaef-masse, meaning loaf-mass, from the abundance of grain for making bread.  Therefore, this festival is a celebration of life, as its bounty enables life to continue through the harsh conditions of winter.  If the harvest was good is was a time of joyous merry-making as the hard work of gathering it in was over and it seemed the people in the tribe would survive the ravishes of winter. 

How has your harvest been this year – has it been a good year?  What do you have in your life to celebrate?  Who will you celebrate with?

Second thoughts on Lughnasadh: Gods and Goddesses of the land and Death and Rebirth

Lughnasadh may thought of as both the ending and beginning of a cycle of life experiences, as it is a celebration of life and death. The power of the sun (the God) gives life to the grain until it ripens. Then the grain is harvested, and the God is sacrificed so that life will return in the spring. The summer and light half of the year descends into winter and the dark half. The God from his zenith at Midsummer has slowly lost his energy and power and gives his life in order for life to continue.  He now begins his descent into the underworld, until his rebirth at Yule. 

Scything the grain in the early 20th centuary
Men using scythes to cut the grain
A Harvest Bread made in the shape of a sheaf of wheat.

The cutting of both the first and the last sheaf of grain was done with great ceremony.  The first sheaf, often cut at dawn, was ground and baked into the Harvest Bread and thanks given for the Sun’s life-giving energy reborn as life-giving bread which was then shared by the community.  The first barley stalks would go to make the first beer of the season.

An example of a Corn Dolly made from the last sheaf of wheat

The last sheaf was ceremoniously cut and made into one or several corn dollies, where the spirit of the God and Goddess lived, to be kept until the following spring to ensure a good harvest.  If the harvest had been good, the corn dolly was made into a Corn Maiden (see left) or if it had been a poor harvest it was made into a Cailleach. In some parts of Europe, the last sheaf was made into a large Corn Mother with a small baby inside it, representing the harvest of the following year.  The corn dollies would have an honoured place at the harvest banquet table and then live in the home above the fireplace until the following year. 

The Dagda the father God of Ireland, with his magic club which kills with one end and brings to life with the other and  his cauldron which never runs empty.

Other Gods associated with Lughnasadh are those with agricultural, solar and sacrificial aspects including Belenus, Cernunnos, the Dagda (see image on the left), Green Man and John Barleycorn.

The Goddess Tailtiu tending the crops

Tailtiu, Great One of the Earth, is part of one of the Irish triads alongside Anu, Danu.  These Goddesses represent three different aspects of the birth, death and rebirth cycle.  Anu is the source, Danu is the movement and Tailtiu is the endurance essential in this cycle.  She represents vigour, strength and endurance.  She cleared the trees from large areas of Ireland so it could be tilled, planted grains and harvested.  She is mostly associated with the Plain of Brega, lying between the Boyne and the Liffey rivers, which has many sacred sites including Newgrange.  Tailtiu is a Sovereignty Goddess associated with the grain harvest and with crab apples, a symbol of rebirth.  Therefore, she represents the death of the growing season and the seeds of regeneration.

Men attending the Tailtean games with their fierce hounds.

Also, she was the Foster mother of Lugh who created the Tailtean games to honour her, which took place at this time.

Other Goddesses related with Lughnasadh are associated with grain, agriculture, harvest, abundance include Aine, Ceres, Cerridwen, Danu, Demeter, Epona, Freya, Nantosuelta, Persephone, and Rosemarta.

Suggested words for your celebration of Lughnasadh;
‘I call upon the goddess Tailtui, the great one of the earth, goddess of the wild fruits and the harvest fields, come to me here on your sacred day.  Bless me and let me feel your presence. Blessed be!’
‘Lugh lord of many skills, lord of justice and wisdom, I call you to my circle here on this sacred day, named in your honour.  Come to me here, with your wisdom enlighten my heart and mind, and bless me.  So mote it be!  (Danu Forest, The Magical Year p. 185)
Call on Lugh, as a master of skills and a fierce warrior, to overcome challenges, improve your chances of success
‘Lugh of the long arm, lord of many skills, honour and praise to you.  Please come to my aid.  I ask your assistance to learn all that I need to grow and overcome my difficulties honourably and with pride.  So mote it be!’  (Danu Forest, The Magical Year p. 162)

What will you reap at this time?  What will you put aside to last you through the winter?  How much are you willing to sacrifice for the greater good?  What will you allow to die, in order for there to be growth in the spring?  How can you increase your endurance?

Third thoughts on Lughnasdh – Thing to Do

Here is a list of suggestions of things to do and make to celebrate Lughnasadh

  • Bake bread
  • Gather Grains, Fruit, Berries, Flowers etc. to represent the harvest for your sacred space
  • Gather Seeds to sow next year
  • Gather things in celebration of abundance and joy e.g. Photos of family/friends, Leaves (garden/nature), Feathers (birds/creatures) etc for your sacred space
  • Make a Corn Dolly or Grain Mother
  • Make Garland/Headband of leaves, grains and the last of the flowers
  • Make Salt Dough goddess
  • Smudge your home giving thanks to each direction, to Cleanse and Protect it for the coming darker months; Juniper, Lavender, Meadowsweet, Mugwort, Rosemary are ideal
  • Use a Besom to sweep in Abundance
  • Work with Crystals to release outdated beliefs, thoughts, behaviours etc.
Goddess of the Harvest made form salt dough
Salt Dough Goddess

You might like to use Lughnasadh to achieve any of these to improve your life  

  • A time to look back in remembrance and forward with optimism
  • Accomplish something
  • Bring to fruition your intentions that you set in winter/early spring
  • Make a personal sacrifice
  • Overcome challenges
  • Prepare for the coming darkness
  • Prepare for the death of something to allow it to be reborn
  • Release that which did not survive to maturity
  • To find more enjoyment in life
  • Transform that which is not working well into something more beneficial

You might like to add these, or their representations to your seasonal sacred space

  • Animal: Bee, Bull, Cow, Goose
  • Colours: Gold, Orange, Yellows (God); Red (Goddess as mother); all Greens
  • Element: Fire
  • Flowers: Marigold, Meadowsweet, Mint, Sunflower
  • Moon Phase: Waning
  • Planet: Moon, Sun
  • Plants: Grains e.g. barley, oats, rye, wheat
  • Trees: Apple, Bramble, Gorse, Hazel, Rowan
A sacred space packed with the bounty of Lughnasadh and the colours of the season
A Celebration of the Grains Harvest of Lughnasadh
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