Lughnasadh is upon us! It’s really not that epic, but as a pagan woman, I figured I should make known that it is, in fact, Lughnasadh (Lammas to some). I scribbled out a short synopsis of the holiday for a class I took recently, and thought I might share. So, for everyone unfamiliar with Lughnasadh and its roots, please enjoy. =]
Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas and August Eve, is celebrated on August 1st to mark the arrival of the beginning of autumn and the first of the three harvests. The three harvests, Lughnasadh, Mabon, and Samhain, are observed now to celebrate and give thanks for the abundance of the God and Goddess, and mourn the death of the God. “The Goddess watches in sorrow and in joy as she realizes that the God is dying, and yet lives on inside her as her child.” (Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, p. 70. Cunningham.)
One of the Greater Sabbats of Witchcraft, Lughnasadh is a cross-quarter day on the Wheel of the Year. Though August 1st is
the date it is typically celebrated, August 6th is referred to as Old Lammas; Lammas being the medieval Christian word for ‘loaf-mass’ when loaves of bread were baked from the first grain harvest of the season, though, regardless of date, it originally coincided with the first reaping. In Irish Gaelic, Lughnasadh was observed to celebrate the funeral games of Taillte, the foster-mother of Lugh, the god of light and the sun. Many people believe it to be an observance of Lugh’s funeral games, but Lugh does not die until the Autumnal Equinox (our Mabon).
Coinciding with Irish beliefs during the Tailltean Games, Lammas is one of the most appropriate times to perform a handfasting. Much like the Tailltean Marriages, a handfasting is traditionally observed for a year and a day, or until the following Lughnasadh, when the couple would be given the option to continue the marriage for another year and a day, or part ways. They were not performed by a parish priest, but of priests or priestesses of the Old Religion, bards, or poets, and were very common into the 1500s.
Lughnasadh was also the most popular date for Saint Catherine’s feast day, when they would cover a wagon wheel in tar, set it on fire, and roll it down a hill. One of the speculations is that this was done to symbolize the sun god’s decline in power, and carried over from the pagan traditions into Christianity.
During Lughnasadh, it is common to weave corn dollies, visit fields, orchards, and lakes, and plant the seeds from any fruit consumed in the Lughnasadh ritual. Should the seeds grow into plants, they should be tended with love, since they symbolize the connection with the divine. The sorts of foods that should be eaten include bread (which can also be baked into the figure of the God and used in The Simple Feast), any sort of berry, acorns after the poisons have been removed, crab apples, and any sort of produce or grain due to the fact that Lughnasadh is the grain harvest.
Eight Sabbats of Witchcraft by Mike Nichols
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham
Firefly: Wiccan Advancement by Iris Firemoon