Next up in the pagan wheel of festivals is Lughnasadh, also know as Lammas, the festival of the first harvest. Celebrated on the 1st of August a time where we give thanks for the beginning of the harvest season and prepare ourselves for the hard work and celebrations ahead.
Is it Lughnasadh or Lammas?
A bit of background for you here. The celebrations and traditions observed at this time are similar throughout many pagan faiths as our calendar is all based around the seasons and harvests however, the names are different for the first harvest depending on the location.
Lugh is the celtic (specifically Irish) God of justice, skill and the sun. Lughnasadh means ‘the commemoration of lugh’. In honour of his foster mother Tailtiu, who gave her life clearing the plains of Ireland so the people could farm it; Lugh promised to hold games of skill every August, ensuring no house would go hungry and remembering the sacrifice given.
These games brought communities together to take part in competitions, celebrate the coming harvest and give thanks. It also gave young warriors an opportunity to demonstrate their skill and prowess. In modern times this can be seen in fete’s and fairs across the lands including (but my no means limited to) races and tug-o-war. It also reminds me of the British tradition of school sports-days, which I loathed, occurring at the end of term.
Lammas is the Anglo-Saxon name ‘hlaef mass’ meaning loaf mass. A nod to the reaping of the first wheat harvest. Traditionally, the first loaf would be offered in thanks to the Horned God for his sacrifice. In a local village near me there is also the tradition of ‘bread weighing’ where each baker presents their best loaf for judging. I assume this is then shared and eaten as part of the village games.
As with other harvest festivals Mabon and Samhain. We are focusing and celebrating more on the male aspect of the God,Goddess life, death and rebirth cycle. The Sacrifice of the Horned God given to us so as to return again next year. The Goddess and her horned consort are living in the prime of this life as are we. Our summer is in full swing, all is abundant and buzzing. It is a time to be thankful for all that is about to come and all that has come so far. We stop and reflect on our own hard work and achievements, we should take pride in ourselves and reflect upon all that brought us here and most importantly celebrate!
The times ahead will be that of gathering preparing and storing for the coming winter so this is a good time to let your hair down and rest, take time to think ahead of what you want to achieve in the coming months. whats next? what needs to be done before you can rest fully? what achievements are you celebrating small or big, spiritually and physically ?
Apart from the games mentioned, there are many other traditional crafts and activities to honour the first harvest, some of which are listed below:
- create a wheat or corn ‘dolly’ or wreath for your home.
- bake bread and share it among your community, leaving some as an offering.
- collect the seeds available and store them for next year being sure to only take a few and scattering many as you go.
- create a ‘cornucopia’ this can be as elaborate or simple as suits you, either share among your friends and loved ones, or leave as an offering.
- decorate yourself, home and alter with flowers, wheat and corn. golden yellow, red and orange are traditional at this time.
- have a picnic or pot-luck meal, where everyone brings something to share.
I recognize not all games fall exactly on August 1st. I’d love to know more about what summer games and competitions happen elsewhere. In Totnes we have: A dragon boat race, a raft race (lovingly called ‘The Dart Struggle!), an orange race down the hill, a duck race and lots of fairs and fetes. I also know of a Tug-Of-War in a close by village. Is cheese-rolling one?
Anyway. To make merry! Peace out witches.