Lughnasadh meaning the first of the three autumn celebrations it’s
traditions and meanings and is complete with ceremony and ritual.
The Sun god weds the Earth goddess
to cause the ripening and fertility of the crops.
Six weeks later we come to the time of Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas) on August 1st, in the Northern Hemisphere and 2nd February in the Southern Hemisphere. Lughnasadh was the wedding of the Sun god to the Earth goddess, which they believed caused the ripening of crops By August the first fruits of the harvest were ready to be picked and the community paid homage to the god Lugh – their cultural hero.
Lugh is a god of fire and light, also known as the blacksmith god and the patron of horses. He was known as the Shining One associated with agriculture and the Sun. Some associated him with the god Mercury for his association with social skills and as the inventor of the arts.
The crowd sat spellbound as they listened to the Bard recite a story of Lugh’s stepmother Tailtiu, who cleared the great forest to reveal a fertile land for the purpose of farming. He tells how she worked so hard that when she finished she collapsed and died from sheer exhaustion, and her dying request was for her descendants to perform funeral games each August in her honour. If they did, the Bard continued, she predicted that ‘there would be corn and milk in every house, peace and fair weather.’
A ritual enactment of Lugh mating with the goddess of fertility is undertaken to represent the ancient covenant between God and man – one that guaranteed the connectedness of the fertility of the land with the fertility of the people in the community. The crowd cheers and rejoice in this knowledge and the procession winds its way to the hilltops to celebrate.
As well as the funeral rites for those who had passed, the Chief Druid is kept busy performing hand-fastings, where young men and women made a commitment to live together for a year and a day to see if it worked or not. A handfasting is a marriage that will last for a year and a day – as trial time.
Their hands are symbolically tied and they jump over a broom made of Hawthorn to symbolize leaping into their new life. To reverse the commitment if it doesn’t work out, the couple simply jumps back over the broom and they are free.
Our ancestors loved a party, and this celebration lasted for an entire week where people came for miles to partake in all kinds of competitions and horse races. Many grains, seeds, herbs, and fruits were harvested and dried at this time, and some were sold at the fair. It was a time of gathering together, of contests and warrior games and mock battles. Masculine energy in contrast to its feminine counterpart Imbolc on the opposite side of the wheel.
The Lughnasadh festival was celebrated by the making and breaking of bread in honour of those who tend and harvest the grain. The wheat and the corn and the barley were reborn as loaves, transformed by the skilful hands of man into food for human consumption.
As the sun began to set the fires were lit and a flaming wheel was sent rolling down the hillside into the river to symbolize the descent of the year towards Winter. Autumn is a time of gathering wisdom and recognizing the importance of the seeds we plant. The message is that we reap what we sow. The Christian version of this festival is Lammas, which has recently been revived in some churches. The word Lammas comes from half-masse or ‘loaf mass – since bread is offered from the newly harvested grain as a sign of thanks, giving.
Make some homemade bread and share it with friends and family.
Make a list of your achievements and failures, recognizing that you reap what you sow.
If you are in the southern hemisphere – plant some corn.
Renew your commitment to your partner – but I suggest you consummate it in a little more privacy than our forebears.
Contemplate the concept of transformation, completion, and of harvesting. Recognize that in the act of letting go we also receive. Get your haircut. © Jyoti Eagles