Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nah-sah) – Lammas – usually celebrated August 1st or 1st Full Moon of Leo or when the Sun reaches 15 degrees relative in Leo in the Northern Hemisphere or February 1st or 1st Full Moon in Aquarius or when the Sun reaches 15 degrees relative in Aquarius in the Southern Hemisphere. Agricultural timing is also an option, as it might be celebrated as the first fruits of the harvest begin to ripen in the local fields or gardens. It is sometimes celebrated from sundown of July 31st through sundown of August 1st in the Northern Hemisphere or from sundown of January 31st through sundown of February 1st in the Southern Hemisphere. In Ireland the first of August was celebrated as Lugnasad, in Scotland it was called Lunasda or Lunasdal. On the Isle of Man, it was called Luanistyn, and in Wales it was celebrated as Gwyl Awst or the Feast of August.
Lughnasadh got its’ name from the Celtic god Lugh, sometimes spelled Lug. In modern times, He is sometimes considered a solar deity. In ancient times, it is believed that He was the god of human skill, kings, and a patron of heroes. He was the king of the Tuatha de Dannan, a race of divine beings and their name translates to “people of the goddess Danu.” Danu is the mother goddess of water, the earth, fertility and victory.
This is the first of the Fall Harvest Sabbats and represents the beginning of the harvest cycle and the coming of autumn. It is the turning point in Mother Earth’s year; the waning of the God and the waxing of the Goddess. It is thought that the ancients originally celebrated this festival with a mixture of ceremony, feasting, and ritual theatrics, usually held on hilltops or riversides. It is believed that the first fruits of the grain harvest were taken to the hilltops and buried as an offering. The ritual play is believed to be a retelling of Lugh’s triumph over blight and famine. There was much feasting on bilberries, the sacrificial bull flesh and the new food which was the predominant crop, which was grains and then in later times became potatoes.
Sometimes Lughnasadh is referred to as Lugh’s wedding feast. There are references to Lugh’s kingship wedding, though there are no references to His actually mating with anyone. Thus, the long tradition of the kingship often was being legitimized with the marriage to a goddess figure. The kingship was thus legitimized by marrying a woman of royal birth. Such women were believed to be priestesses of the Goddess and as such the embodiment of said Goddess. Lugh’s kingship wedding feast is thus believed to be symbolic of a coronation. He is thus united to the Goddess and the land and thus he is the legitimate king.
However, Lughnasadh is also referred to not as a wedding feast but as Lugh’s funeral games that were held in honor of His stepmother Tailtiu (pronounced TAL-chi-uh) who was the wife of the last king of the Fir Bolg. When the Fir Bolg were finally defeated then Tailtiu married one of the new ruling class, the Tuatha de Danna. She, however, died after an exhaustive feat of clearing the fields of Ireland for agriculture. Thus, Lugh started the Fair of Tailteann in Her honor which includes feasting, games and sports. This fair was historically held annually on August 1st in a location midway between Navan and Kells in what is now called County Meath, Ireland, where Tailtiu was reputed to have been buried. This was also a time of romance, when partnerships were arranged between the available youth. Ceremonies were performed to formalize them at that time. Similar fairs were held in other parts of Ireland.
For those that couldn’t attend the fairs, there were other ways to celebrate. Protection magic was widely practiced at this time. Cattle and horses were driven through a stream and other natural bodies of water for both protection and blessings. In Ireland, rivers and such were considered sacred, especially at this time. Other activities that were performed involved the first fruits of the harvest which was either offered up to the divine spirits or eaten ceremonially. Potluck-type of events were quite popular.
Another name for Lughnasadh is Bon-trogain. Bon meaning to bring forth and trogain meant the earth or ground. Thus, it meant to bring forth the harvest which comes from the earth. It is also known as Lammas which is from the Anglo-Saxon. One tradition was to bake a loaf of hallowed bread and then break it into four pieces and then crumble each piece in each of the four corners of the barn as a charm to invite blessings and ensure magical protection.
Lughnasadh is also a popular time to form trial marriages, sometimes called handfasts that traditionally last a year and a day. At the end of that time the couple may choose to end the partnership or continue it, sometimes making it permanent. The couple would sometimes exchange gifts which could be as simple as rings, gold coins, colored ribbons and gloves to name a few.
Surveys of all over the UK have shown that the August harvest celebrations held elements of both the Celtic Lughnasadh and the Anglo-Saxon Lammas meshed together. Just as modern Pagans have blended traditions from many places, times and people.
Other cultures have festivals at this time, most celebrating the first harvest. In Israel they celebrate Shavout, which not only celebrates the harvest but when Moses received the Torah. In India they celebrate Onam, which was in honor of King Mahabali who, when approached by Vishnu, dressed as a beggar, asked for some land and the King granted it to him. The King was buried in the earth but Vishnu granted that he would return once a year. This symbolized the planting of the seed and then the harvest. And in some countries, this is the time for mock battles and warrior games.
Today it is hard for most modern pagans to appreciate the significance of the first harvest. Most of us can enjoy most any food at any time of the year and there are rarely any shortages in the supermarket. Modern Pagans need to make a special effort to remember this is a significant time as without any harvest there will be no food in the stores. We need to remember to thank the Deities for the food we eat.
The first harvest is a significant indicator that all is well and that we can expect more treasures as the year progresses and each harvest is brought in. With a successful harvest our winter will be comfortable with plenty to eat. Who hasn’t seen the rise of the cost of meat after a drought that caused a failure of grain crops in much of the country? So, the success of the crops and thus the harvest is very important to us, the modern Pagan.
Even as modern Pagans we are dependent on the Earth for our survival; not only for our food but for all the other things that we need. Shelter, water and the clothing that we wear is all dependent on our Mother Earth. So, it is appropriate for the modern Pagan to celebrate and give thanks for the first and all of the three harvest Sabbats.
There are many ways we can celebrate this Sabbat. Potlucks, picnics and other forms of feasting are quite popular and appropriate, as well as the gathering of wild herbs (though I suggest that you be very knowledgeable of the herbs that you wish to harvest in the wild as there are many look-alike plants of the ones that are safe but are actually poisonous). And never take more than one quarter of a plant. Of course, most magic and rituals usually focus on abundance, protection and fertility, though some will use the theme of death and the shedding away of the old. Offerings are also common to the various Deities and nature spirits as well as to the dead. It all boils down to saying thanks.
The rural Pagan will many times have their own gardens and so will be especially thankful for that first harvest. For them they can see right there before their eyes the magic of growing their own food and harvesting it. Cooking and feasting on the food you have grown yourself is quite enjoyable. Most rural Pagans will make offerings from the first and best of their harvest as an expression of thanks to the Deities that they worship and the spirits that abound in their area. This is also a favorite time for county fairs. The rural Pagan can also celebrate the season.
The urban Pagan has both advantages and disadvantages to being in the city. In the city, there are no woods to search through for wild berries or an area to have a bonfire. On the other hand, there are a lot more Pagans in which to celebrate with. Large cities tend to have a more open Pagan community. The gatherings that city Pagans can enjoy can have attendances from a few to hundreds. Feasting, dancing, drumming and ritual are quite common at such events. It is very usual to be at these celebrations with family, friends and neighbors. However, many urban Pagans will seek out celebrations in the nearby rural areas. Or they will simply acknowledge what beauty of nature that they can find within their city, in parks and such.
The altar is often decorated with the best of the first of the harvest as your offering. Seasonal flowers are used as well as ivy and leaves. This is a time to bake the Sacred Bread and harvest herbs for the coming months. If you do make a figure of the God from bread, it may be used for the “Simple Feast” or Offering. Other traditional foods are: berries, crab apples, all grains, acorns (leached first of their poisons), and locally grown produce. A cake is sometimes baked and cider or other fruit juices can be used in place of wine or ale. You may want to plant the seeds from the fruit consumed in ritual. If they sprout, grow the plants with love and as a symbol of your connection to the Goddess and God.
Lughnasadh is a time for reflection, introspection and reconnection with the earth, us and the other inhabitants of our planet. Hold get-togethers to help you to reconnect with family and friends. Do volunteer work or just get out and about among people to reconnect with humanity. Socialize and have fun. Don’t forget your loved ones that have passed on. Hold rituals and meditations that are focused on honoring them. Also, hold rituals to celebrate the harvest. Another great ritual honoring the harvest is one where you do the Ritual of the Bread Sacrifice. Of course, you can also do a ritual that honors Lugh and his many skills. A warrior meditation is also appropriate.
Spellwork for good fortune and abundance is especially appropriate. So are spells for prosperity, generosity and continued success, as well as protection spells and divination. This is a good time to practice magic that you normally wouldn’t do as a challenge to your limitations, so suspend any doubts long enough to give it a try; though of course you wouldn’t want to do any magic that would be harmful.
Wheat weaving, making corn dollies, etc…, are appropriate activities. Visits to fields, orchards, lakes and wells are also traditional. There are many pick-it-yourself farms where you can pick your own beans or berries. This can be a lot of fun for the family to pick their food then take it home and prepare it for a feast. Of course, bread is a major part of this Sabbat. However, if you are on a gluten free diet then you can still celebrate this sabbat with gluten free breads or other products that are harvested at this time. This is also a great time to go into the woods and hunt for things of nature that can become a magical tool. Just remember that there are places where you cannot collect so much as a pebble from, so know the laws of your area.
Any of these crafts can be very appropriate with children. Include them also in your rituals and celebrations so that they can learn a deeper meaning for this sabbat.
Herbs and fruits of the Sabbat: grapes, heather, blackberries, sloe, crab apples, grains and pears. Colors are: orange, yellow, brown and green.
A Lughnasadh Incense you can use is:
2 parts Frankincense
2 parts Benzoin or Gum of Arabic
3 drops of Pine Essential Oil or 1 part Juniper Berries or Pine Needles
1 part Oak Wood or Poppy Seed
1/2 part Borage or Thyme
1/2 part Gorse Flower or Bladderwack
1/2 part Basil
Another incense you can use is:
2 parts Frankincense
1 part Heather or Rose or Lavender
1 part Apple Blossoms or Rose
1 pinch Blackberry leaves
1 few drops of Ambergris Bouquet Oil
Ambergris Bouquet Oil
Cypress Oil or Juniper or Pine Oils
a few drops Patchouli Oil
Rituals, or at that time to attune with the coming harvest.