Lughnasadh (“LOO-nah-sah”) is celebrated on the eve of August 1, halfway between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. “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, the birth of abundance, the fullness of Life, and also a celebration of the bountiful Earth.
Lughnasadh itself is a celebration of Lugh’s victory over the spirits of the Otherworld who had tried to keep the harvest for themselves. The Lughnasadh festival is a commemoration of Lugh’s foster-mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. After her death, Lugh organized a funeral feast and a ritual athletic and sporting competition in her honor. The funeral games were called the Óenach Tailten and were at Tailtin, which is now called County Meath in Ireland. The Óenach Tailten also involved trading, the drawing-up of contracts, and matchmaking where 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. Lughnasadh, like others Celtic festivals, involved visits to holy wells and evidence shows that the sacred 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 of Ireland.
Some modern Pagans sees this festival 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. In the Northeastern United States, this is usually 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. Around Lughnasadh, I try to go more often to the gym and to eat more fruits to reflect the old Irish traditions.
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