British postage stamp.
Harvest at La Crau, with Montmajour in the Background by Vincent Van Gogh
Blessed Lughnasadh to those who celebrate it! Before I get to the massive name round up, let's get into what this holiday means.
This holiday is also known as Lammas, but I think Lughnasadh is more beautiful to say. I mean, now that I've figured out how to say it. It's "loo-NAH-sah," right? Irish words are tricky. It's the first of a long string of harvest holidays and the earth is full of delicious goodies. Traditionally, this is the time in which farmers would begin the work of harvesting. So this is a time of excitement. But even though we're still in the dog days of summer, the sun's power is beginning to wane. I'm feeling very conscious of the fact that winter will be here before I know it. This is why this holiday is also associated with regrets, and the need to let them go.
The main deity of the season is, obviously, Lugh. Lugh (pronounced "Loo") is an Irish god that was honored almost universally by the Celts. He is a heroic king known for having mastered many skill sets, and he is the patron god of craftsmen and the distribution of talent. Musicians, bards, poets, and artisans can call upon him when they need a boost of creativity. And while he is not necessarily a war god per se, he definitely knows how to fight. In an old Irish text called The Book of Invasions it states that Lugh instituted Lughnasadh in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu. Tailtiu died of exhaustion after clearing the land for agriculture. So we have them to thank for this holiday.
So how do Modern Pagan celebrate the holiday? Most people don't live on farmlands, after all. Here are some ideas.
- Typically celebrating this festival involves lots of baking. There are all sorts of tutorials online for how to bake bread into fun shapes like suns and dragons, but any type of bread works great. You can also count on a Lughnasadh feast. The traditional foods are bread, corn, root vegetables, pasta, berries, sunflower seeds, and honey, but eating what is in season at the location you're currently living in is encouraged.
- Making corn husk dolls (or, really, anything out of corn husks) is a very popular activity, and you can find plenty of tutorials for that as well.
- The Lughnasadh festival used to be very similar to the Olympic games, so it is common to celebrate Lughnasadh with some sort of competition. Traditional summer games like relay races and water balloon fights are lots of fun, but if the weather's bad you could also invite your friends to a chess match or a video game competition.
- Lughnasadh is a time to honor mentors, teachers, and coaches. So find a way to show that you appreciate the skills they taught you.
- It's also ideal to burn a bonfire or a wicker man because it's not a Pagan holiday unless we're burning something!
Mythical beings associated with the season:
John Barleycorn (English folkloric. Barleycorn doesn't really work, but Barley does).
Theresa ("summer" or "to harvest")
Hotaka ("tall grain")
Arista ("ear of corn")
Juliet (A strange Pagan-y specific that I like from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is that Juliet was born on Lughnasadh: "Come Lammas Eve at night she shall be fourteen.")
Capulet (See above.)
Catherine (Catholic saint associated with the season.)
Jera (The harvest rune.)
Fun combo time: