It is hot. It is muggy. Had you been native to Ireland, Scotland, or the Isle of Man, around the 16th century excitement would be in the air. A night of feasting, handfasting, and merriment lies ahead of you. The work put into the Earth during spring and summer has paid off. Now it is time to reap what you have sown. Now is the time to say goodbye to the summer season, and hello to the harvest. Lughnsadh is here.
Officially beginning August 1st the Gaelic festival of Lughnasadh lies halfway between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. Named for the sun god Lugh, Lughnasadh was said to have been formed by him to honor his mother Tailtiu. Originally athletic funerary games called The Tailteann games were performed during the festival. Not only did these games highlight the athletes of the day, it put artists to the test as well. Alongside the athletics competitions in poetry, storytelling, and dancing were also featured.
One of the most important rituals during this time was sharing the first grain. This is a harvest festival after all. Basically, everyone harvested their first corn and grains, and the community gathered together and feasted on it. It’s kinda like a potluck on steroids. This gathering of community also led this to be a good time for business deals, trading, and other commerce to happen. These festivals were a time to gather and fighting between clans and communities was forbidden after all.
Lughnasadh also was a traditional time to hold handfasting ceremonies. This ceremony has increased in popularity today. . in a way. I’ve had more than one friend incorporate handfasting in their wedding ceremonies, meaning their priest would bind their hands with a cord and then they exchange vows. Traditionally, however, handfasting was really an engagement. During the festival multiple couples would have a handfasting ceremony. They would announce their intention to become married and a priest would bind their hands together with a cord to symbolize this union. Then after one year they would return to the priest and either confirm they had made a good choice and would get married, or decide the deal looked better on paper and the couple would go their separate ways, free to marry again in the future. With divorce rates as high as they are now, this would be a good tradition to adopt in full again.
Lughasadh completes the cycle in the Celtic calendar being the final of four primary celtic festivals. The cycle will begin again in October with Samhain to mark the beginning of winter. Imbolc comes next in February to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. In May we have Beltane marking the beginning of, you guessed it, summer.
Modern day vestiges of Lughnasadh can be seen in a variety of ways, especially in Ireland. The most famous of these is Puck Fair held annually in Killorglin, county Kerry. Once the Christians adapted this festival it became a time for pilgrimage. Typically mountains were claimed as a show of devotion. To this day Reek Sunday's yearly pilgrimage to the top of Croagh Patrick is still celebrated. Today this is secular and stripped of its Chrisitan heritage. Once the attendees summit they celebrate in the traditions of Lughasadh.
Modern day neo-pagans and Wiccans celebrate the above four Celtic festivals to this day. They have also added in four festivals to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes. In total the 8 sabbats of on Wheel of the Year include:
Lughnasadh- August 1st- beginning of the year and the start of harvest season
Mabon- September 21-24- autumnal equinox
Samhain-November 1st- beginning of winter
Yule- December 20-23 is the winter solstice.
Imbolc- February 1st- beginning of spring
Ostara- March 19-22- spring equinox
Beltane- May 1st- beginning of summer
Litha- June 19-23- summer solstice
Celebrate Harvest Time!
Go out, celebrate Lughasasd, or Lammas, depending where you’re drawing your inspiration from. If you have a special someone, maybe give a handfasting a try. It’s like marriage light If it doesn't work out no harm no foul. You can also plan to gather and feast with your tribe. Many family reunions happen in August. One even more fabulous way to celebrate Lughasasd is to harvest your own plants. For some ideas on how to do that visit my harvesting article.
The best way to celebrate, however, is to take a moment to pause and reflect on what you are harvesting in your life. You reap what you sow. If you don’t like what is coming out of the ground, take some time to focus on what you would like and when spring comes, make sure to plant those seeds.