|Jul. 31-Aug. 1||Celtic Autumn||Celtic||Feminine||Eve||Lugh & Macha|
Lughnasadh (“LOO-nah-sah”) is celebrated from sunset of 31st July to sunset of 1st August, halfway between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. If working by the moon, it is the first full moon when the sun is in Leo. “Lughnasadh” is derived from Lúgnasad, an Irish Gaelic word meaning “Assembly of Lugh”. This Major Sabbat marks the beginning of the Celtic Autumn and of the harvest season. Lughnasadh is the first of the three Harvest Festivals. This is a time for acknowledging the Deities of harvest and the birth of abundance. Lughnasadh is a time of the fullness of Life, and a celebration of the bountiful Earth. In the Lord and the Lady Narrative, the God mystically lose His strength as the sun rises farther in the South each day and the night grow longer. The Goddess watches in sorrow and joy as She realizes that the God is dying, and yet lives on inside Her as Her child. Lughnasadh then has the theme of the sacrificed God of the harvest, but he is sacrificed and transformed, rather than descending into the underworld to become Lord of Death, which comes later.
Lughnasadh itself is a celebration of Lugh’s triumph over the spirits of the Other World who had tried to keep the harvest for themselves. In Irish Mythology, the Lughnasadh festival is said to have been begun by the god Lugh as a funeral feast and athletic competition in commemoration of his foster-mother Tailtiu. She was said to have died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. The funeral games in her honor were called the Óenach Tailten and were held at Tailtin, a townland in County Meath. The Óenach Tailten included ritual athletic and sporting contests. The event also involved trading, the drawing-up of contracts, and matchmaking. At Tailtin, trial marriages were conducted, whereby young couples joined hands through a hole in a wooden door. The trial marriage lasted a year and a day, at which time the marriage could be made permanent or broken without consequences. The main theme that emerges from the folklore and rituals of Lughnasadh is a struggle for the harvest between two gods. One god – usually called Crom Dubh – guards the grain as his treasure. The other god – Lugh – must seize it for mankind. Sometimes, this was portrayed as a struggle over a woman called Eithne, who represents the grain. Lugh also fights and defeats a figure representing blight. These themes can be seen in earlier Irish mythology, particularly in the tale of Lugh defeating Balor, which seems to represent the overcoming of blight, drought and the scorching summer sun. In surviving folklore, Lugh is usually replaced by Saint Patrick, while Crom Dubh is a pagan chief who owns a granary or a bull and who opposes Patrick, but is overcome and converted. Crom Dubh is likely the same figure as Crom Cruach and shares some traits with the Dagda and Donn. A custom of Lughnasadh was visiting holy wells, some specifically clootie wells. Although bonfires were lit at some of the open-air gatherings in Ireland, they were rare and incidental to the celebrations. Evidence shows that the religious rites included an offering of the first of the corn, a feast of the new food and of bilberries, the sacrifice of a bull and a ritual dance-play. Much of this would have taken place on top of hills and mountains.
Modern Celebration of Lughnasadh
From the 18th century to the mid-20th century, many accounts of Lughnasadh customs and folklore were recorded. In 1962 The Festival of Lughnasa, a study of Lughnasadh by folklorist Máire MacNeill, was published. MacNeill studied surviving Lughnasadh customs and folklore as well as the earlier accounts and medieval writings about the festival. She concluded that the evidence testified to the existence of an ancient festival around 1 August. In Ireland, some of the mountain pilgrimages have survived. By far the most popular is the Reek Sunday pilgrimage at Croagh Patrick, which attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims each year. The Puck Fair is held each year in early August in the town of Killorglin, County Kerry. It has been traced as far back as the 16th century but is believed to be a survival of a Lughnasadh festival. At the beginning of the three-day festival, a wild goat is brought into the town and crowned ‘king’, while a local girl is crowned ‘queen’. The festival includes traditional music and dancing, a parade, arts and crafts workshops, a horse and cattle fair, and a market. It draws a great number of tourists each year. In recent years, other towns in Ireland have begun holding yearly Lughnasa Festivals and Lughnasa Fairs. Like the Puck Fair, these often include traditional music and dancing, arts and crafts workshops, traditional storytelling, and markets. Such festivals have been held in Gweedore, Sligo, Brandon, Rathangan and a number of other places. Craggaunowen, an open-air museum in County Clare, hosts a yearly Lughnasa Festival at which historical re-enactors demonstrate elements of daily life in Gaelic Ireland. It includes displays of replica clothing, artefacts, weapons and jewelry. A similar event has been held each year at Carrickfergus Castle in County Antrim. In the Irish diaspora, survivals of the Lughnasadh festivities are often seen by some families still choosing August as the traditional time for family reunions and parties, though due to modern work schedules these events have sometimes been moved to adjacent secular holidays, such as the Fourth of July in the United States. In the Northeastern United States, this is often the time of the blueberry harvest, while in the Pacific Northwest the blackberries are often the festival fruit. This event being variously named Garland Sunday, Bilberry Sunday, Mountain Sunday and Crom Dubh Sunday. The custom of climbing hills and mountains at Lughnasadh has survived in some areas, although it has been re-cast as a Christian pilgrimage.
Lughnasadh, or similar festivities based on it, is observed by some modern Pagans in general and Celtic Neopagans in particular. Despite their common name, such Lughnasadh celebrations can differ widely. While some attempt to emulate the historic festival as much as possible, others base their celebrations on many sources, the Gaelic festival being only one of them. Neopagans usually celebrate Lughnasadh on 1 August in the Northern Hemisphere and 1 February in the Southern Hemisphere, often beginning their festivities at sunset the evening before. Some Neopagans celebrate it at the astronomical midpoint between the summer solstice and autumn equinox, or the full moon nearest this point. Some Neopagans sees this festival as one of the two most auspicious times for Handfasting, the other being at Beltane. Some Pagans mark the holiday by baking a figure of the “corn god” in bread, and then symbolically sacrificing and eating it. Wiccans use the names “Lughnasadh” or “Lammas” for the first of their autumn harvest festivals. It is one of the eight yearly “Sabbats” of their Wheel of the Year, following Midsummer and preceding Mabon. It is seen as one of the two most auspicious times for handfasting, the other being at Beltane. Some Wiccans mark the holiday by baking a figure of the “corn god” in bread, and then symbolically sacrificing and eating it.
Celtic Reconstructionists who follow Gaelic traditions tend to celebrate Lughnasadh at the time of “first fruits”, or on the full moon nearest this time. In the Northeastern United States, this is often the time of the blueberry harvest, while in the Pacific Northwest the blackberries are often the festival fruit. In Celtic Reconstructionism, Lughnasadh is seen as a time to give thanks to the spirits and deities for the beginning of the harvest season, and to propitiate them with offerings and prayers not to harm the still-ripening crops. The god Lugh is honored by many at this time, and gentle rain on the day of the festival is seen as his presence and his bestowing of blessings. Many Celtic Reconstructionists also honor the goddess Tailtiu at Lughnasadh, and may seek to keep the Cailleachan from damaging the crops, much in the way appeals are made to Lugh.
Lughnasadh Reference Guide
|Pronunciation||“LOO-nuh-suh”, “LOO-nah-sah”, “LUHG-nahs-ahd” | LAHmahs (Lammas)|
|Event||Marks the beginning of the Celtic Autumn and of the harvest season|
|Time||Halfway between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox|
|Traditional Date||August 1 (Northern Hemisphere) | February 1 (Southern Hemisphere)|
|Astrological Timing||Sun at 15o of Leo (Northern) | Sun at 15o of Aquarius (Southern)|
|Connection||Lammas (August 1)|
|Alternate Names||Lammas, Freyfaxi (Ásatrú), August Eve|
|Cultural Names||Irish Gaelic (Goídelc): Lugnasad (“Assembly of Lugh”) or Brón Trogain (“Sorrow of the Earth”) Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig): Lùnastal Manx Gaelic (Gaelg): Luanistyn / Laa Luanistyn (“Day of Lughnasadh”) Welsh (Cymraeg): Gŵyl/Calan Awst (“Festival/First Day of August”) Proto-Celtic (Common Celtic): *leug- (“blackness”), *lewko-, *lewg- (“to shine”) Irish Reconstructionist: Lúgnasad, Lá Lúnasa, Lughnasa, Lughnasadh|
|Spiritual Focus||Gratitude, abundance, blessings, the necessity and inevitability of both life and death, celebration, harvest, reflection, introspection, discernment, sacrifice|
|Magickal Focus||Prosperity, gratitude, abundance, strength, growth, protection|
|Suggested Workings||Honoring the Ancestors, personal transformation, contact with the dead|
|Female Archetypes||Mother aspects of the Goddess, Earth Goddess, Water Goddess, Pregnant/Exhausted/Selfless Mother, Nurturer, Land Spirit, Established Queen|
|Male Archetypes||Father God, Earth God, Solar God, Warrior, Protector, Sacrificial God, Dying God, Spirit of Vegetation, Newly Crowned King|
|Celtic Goddesses||Danu (Irish), Macha (Irish), Tailtiu (Irish)|
|Celtic Gods||Lugh (Irish)|
|Colors||Yellow, Brown, Gold, Green|
|Herbs||Blackberry, Bilberry, Allspice, Basil, Rosemary, Garlic, Bay, Fennel|
|Trees||Apple, Hazel, Holly, Oak|
|Flowers||Marigold, Sunflower, Poppy, Rose, Aster, Cornflower|
|Incense & Oil Scents||Cinnamon, Apple, Blackberry, Marigold, Patchouli|
|Crystals & Stones||Citrine, Topaz, Carnelian, Onyx, Quartz, Diamond, Peridot, Sugilite|
|Animals||Lion, Stag, Eagle, Dog, Squirrel|
|Tarot Keys||Strength, The Sun, 7th and 10th Pentacles, 4th Wands, Justice, Wheel of Fortune|
|Symbols & Tools||Corn Dolly, Rowan Cross, Cornucopia, Pentacle|
|Food||Apples, Corn, Bread, Squash, Grains, Nuts, Berries, Potatoes|
|Drinks||Wine, Mead, Apple Cider|
|Activities||Making bread, community fairs, reunions, gatherings, feastings, harvesting crops or wild herbs, making offerings to Gods and Ancestors, communicating with the dead, reflection and introspection, abundance magick, protection magick, sacrifice, games, competitions, expressing gratitude, celebrating success|
|Acts of Service||Sharing food and other necessities with those in need, sprucing up neglected cemeteries, offering your time and energy to help another person ease their burdens or lighten their workload, helping out at a community garden, doing yard work for elderly neighbors, providing social opportunities for those who are lonely or isolated|
Rite of Lughnasadh
This seasonal rite is part of the Step 11 of the Druidcraft Ritual order. You’ll need these additional items:
• 2 Candles (Yellow and Orange)
Declare the Statement of Purpose:
I am doing a rite today to celebrate Lughnasadh
The Wheel of the Year turns on and on
Bringing us all to and from each Season
And from and to another
What will be is, What was will be
All time is here and now in this Sacred Space
I now pause to watch the Wheel turn
And cast this Circle on this blessed eve
To celebrate the First Harvest
When the bounties of Nature give of themselves
So that we may survive
I come here now to praise
The bountiful Goddess
And the benevolent God
I wish to give thanks
For the bounty of the fertile Earth
And to feel myself as a part of
The relentlessly turning wheel
Of life, death and rebirth
O Great God of the Ripening Fields
Who has been known as Lugh
Grant me the understanding of sacrifice
As you prepare to deliver yourself
To the lands of Eternal Summer
O Great Goddess of the Corn and Grain
Who has been known as Brighid
Teach me the secrets of rebirth
As the Sun wanes in its strength
And the nights grow cold
Light the yellow and the orange candles, and say:
Blessed be the bounty of the harvest
Fruit of the womb of the Goddess
Blessed be Mother Earth
Today I honor the deities in their aspects
As the Grain God and the Corn Mother
Witch Recipe: Lugh’s Quick Bread
The Sun God, Lugh, as John Barleycorn, is the living Spirit of the corn, or grain. As the corn is cut so John Barleycorn is cut down also. He surrenders his life so that others may be sustained by the grain, so that the life of the community can continue. He is both eaten as the bread and is then reborn as the seed returns to the earth. The first sheaf of corn is supremely important, produces the first (and best) seed and assurance of future harvest. Death and rebirth. Everything dies in its season. Everything is reborn. This is our whisper of immortality. And the wonderful bittersweet of Lughnasadh. The Lughnasadh Sabbat is a time to celebrate the first of three harvest celebrations (Mabon and Samhain being the other two) in the Craft. It marks the start of the harvest cycle and relies on the early crops of ripening grain, and also any fruits and vegetables that are ready to be harvested. It is therefore greatly associated with bread as grain is one of the first crops to be harvested. Pagans give thanks and honor to all Gods and Goddesses of the Harvest, as well as those who represent Death and Resurrection.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total Time: 1 hr. 20 min (Preparation: 20 min. | Cooking Time: 60 min).
• 3 Cups Self-Rising Flour (If you do not have self-rising flour, make your own. To make 1 cup of self-rising flour, mix 1 cup of all-purpose white or unbleached flour with 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt.)
• ½ Cup Sugar
• 12 oz Beer (room temperature)
• 2 Teaspoon Melted Butter
- Preheat the oven to 375o F.
- Grease and flour large 9″×4″x4″ loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Slowly stir in the beer and mix just until combined.
- Mix well the ingredients. The mixture should be sticky.
- Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes.
- At the last 3 minutes of baking, remove from oven, brush the top of the loaf with butter and return to oven.
• Dill & Chive – Add 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons dried dill) and 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives to the basic mix.
• Dill & Cheese – Add 2 teaspoons dill, 1 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese to the basic mix.
• Garlic & Herb – Add 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and 2 minced garlic cloves (or 1 teaspoon garlic flakes) to the basic mix. For fresh herbs, use 1 chopped Tablespoon of each.
• Rosemary & Feta – Add 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary and 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces) to the basic mix.
• Other Additions – Any dried or fresh herbs; 1/2 cup freshly grated asiago (or other hard cheese); 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped scallions; 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or 1/2 cup oats in place of 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour.
Witch Craft: Making a Corn Dolly
In ancient Europe it was customary around Lughnasadh, at harvest time, to leave a small portion of the grain in the field, often twisted or tied into the shape of a man or the symbol of a god or goddess. Sometimes, it was even dressed in men’s or women’s clothes, kept in a cradle, or hung atop a pole. This bundle or effigy (immortalized in Burns’ ballad of John Barleycorn) was believed to contain the essence of the spirit of the grains – a representation of the solar deity who would be burned and ‘reborn’ as the spring grain. Today, corn dollies are seen as emblems of abundance. At the end of the season (at Yule), the bundle would be ritually sacrificed, burnt, or plowed under to ensure the year’s crops.
• 5-10 Dried Corn Husks (makes 1 doll)
• String for Tying the Husks (like Raffia)
• Yarn or other Natural Material for Hair (like Corn Tassels or Shredded Husks)
• Bucket for Soaking Corn Husks
- Simply remove the green husks from the dried corn and cut the bottom, wrinkled part off so that they will lay flat. Place them between 2 sheets of paper towels and then place them between the pages of an old book or dictionary. Allow them to dry for about 5 days to 1 week.
- Soak the corn husks in water for about 20 minutes to make them pliable.
- Take four corn husks, set two aside, and place two flat on a table, one on top of the other.
- Place the pieces of yarn or other material that will be the hair down the length of the corn husks with just a bit extending over the narrow ends of the husks. If you plan on painting the hair you can skip this step.
- For an optional fancy hat use a dried flower. Face the dried flower toward the wide ends of the husks with just a little bit of stem hanging over the narrow ends, same as the yarn. What you are aiming for is a little length of yarn and stem that you can secure in the husks with twine so that when it comes time to flip the corn husks over the “hair” and “hat” will stay in place.
- Now, cover the bottom husks, yarn and dried flower with the two husks that you set aside. The narrow ends of the husks should match up.
- Tie the narrow ends of the corn husk, yarn and stem of the dried flower together with a piece of string. I used raffia because the color blended right in with the corn husks. Tie it nice and tight so that everything is secure.
- Holding the knot in your hand, with the open end of the husks pointing up, turn the husks down over the knot, like you are peeling a banana. So what you have now is all the husks pointing down and the yarn hair and dried flower hat sitting on top. You may need to adjust the hat a little at this point.
- To create a head, tie a piece of string just below where you can feel the knot under the husks.
- Make the arms by taking a single husk, rolling it tightly and placing it between the two sets of husks that comprise the skirt, and just under the string that forms the head.
- Tie another piece of string under the rolled husk to hold the arms in place and create a waist.
- This just leaves the hands. You can make these by tying a piece of string at the end of each arm.
- For a finishing touch, snip into the ends of the corn husks at the bottom of the skirt with your scissors. As the husks dry, they will curl giving your corn husk doll a fancy hem line.
- To dress your corn husk doll in pants cut the skirt in half with scissors and then tie a little string around each “ankle”
Further Reading: Lughnasadh by Melanie Marquis (2015)