August 1 (July 31 August Eve)
(loo-na-sa) Lugnasad was the beginning of the harvest and was a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest, it is decline of Summer into Winter. Many grains, seeds, herbs and fruits were harvested and dried at this time. This festival has two aspects. First, it is one of the Celtic fire festivals, honoring the Celtic culture-bringer and Solar God Lugh (Lleu to the Welsh, Lugus to the Gauls). The second aspect is ‘hlaf-maesse’ (loaf-mass), now known to us as ‘Lammas’, the Saxon Feast of Bread, at which the first of the grain harvest is consumed in riutal loaves.These aspects are not too dissimilar, as the shamanic death and transformation of Lleu can be compared to that of the Barley God, known from the folksong “John Barleycorn”. This time is also sacred to the Greek Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt, Artemis.
The most common interpretation of Lugh’s connection was that these were the funeral games for His foster-mother Tailtiu who died clearing land so that Her people could grow food . By honoring Her sacrifice the people may have been hoping to keep Lugh from neglecting or even destroying the crop. This would be in Ulster, in other locals the festival has ties to the burial places of other Goddesses or Otherworldly women, such as Carman in Lienster —their names at least appear to be old even if the stories are newer (that is Medieval). In Ireland, races and Games of athletic prowess were held in his name and that of his mother, Tailtiu (these may have been funeral games for lugh).
One common feature of the Games were the ‘Tailltean marriages’, a rather informal marriage that lasted for only ‘a year and a day’ or until next Lammas. At that time, the couple could decide to continue the arrangement if it pleased them, or to stand back to back and walk away from one another, thus bringing the Tailltean marriage to a formal close. Such trial marriages (obviously related to the Wiccan ‘Handfasting’) were quite common even into the 1500’s, although it was something one ‘didn’t bother the parish priest about’. Indeed, such ceremonies were usually solemnized by a poet, bard, or shanachie (or, it may be guessed, by a priest or priestess of the Old Religion).
Rituals typically centered around the assurance of a bountiful harvest season and the celebration of the harvest cycle. A bountiful harvest ensured the safe passage of the tribe through the upcoming winter months. The gathering of bilberries was an ancient practice that symbolized the success of the Lughnasadh rituals. If the bilberries were bountiful, it was believed that there would also be a plentiful harvest. Also Rural people believed that the harvest spirit dwelt in the fields, and as the reapers cut the corn the spirit was forced back into the ever dwindling remainder. No man wanted to be the one who destroyed her refuge, so the reapers took turns to throw their sickles at the last stand of corn. It was then plaited into a womens form – known as the Corn-dolly or Kern-baby – which represented the harvest spirit. This was set in a place of honour at the harvest feast.
A ceremonial highlight of such festivals was the ‘Catherine wheel’. Although the Roman Church moved St. Catherine’s feast day all around the calendar with bewildering frequency, it’s most popular date was Lammas. (They also kept trying to expel this much-loved saint from the ranks of the blessed because she was mythical rather than historical, and because her worship gave rise to the heretical sect known as the Cathari.) At any rate, a large wagon wheel was taken to the top of a near-by hill, covered with tar, set aflame, and ceremoniously rolled down the hill. Some mythologists see in this ritual the remnants of a Pagan rite symbolizing the end of summer, the flaming disk representing the sun-god in his decline. And just as the sun king has now reached the autumn of his years, his rival or dark self has just reached puberty.
Now is the time to teach what you have learned, to share the fruits of your achievements with the world. Wheat weaving, such as the making of corn dollies, is traditional. Bread is baked and the altar is decorated with fruits and vegetables of the harvest.
The Sun King, now the Dark Lord, gives his energy to the crops to ensure life while the Mother prepares to give way to her aspect as the Crone.
To Christians it was Festival of the First Fruits, the time when the first corn was ground and made into loaves which were dedicated to God. The day was called by the Saxons
Lugnasad (August 1) was the beginning of the harvest. To Christians it was Festival of the First Fruits, the time when the first corn was ground and made into loaves which were dedicated to God. The day was called by the Saxons ‘hlaf-maesse’ (loaf-mass), now known to us as ‘Lammas’.