Dancing at Lughnasadh


Ok, so I stole the title from the movie (which I actually haven’t seen, but keep meaning to get around to).

So Blessed Lughnasadh to all the Celts and Celtic pagans out there! Although most of us probably can’t tell the difference yet, the days are gradually getting shorter, and we’re now midway between the summer solstice, longest day of the year, and the fall equinox, when the day and night are equal. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, a short explanation seems in order.

Lughnasadh is the first of the harvest festivals in the pagan wheel of the year, the other two being the fall equinox (known to some as Mabon), and the ever-popular Samhain (Halloween). The day is named for the Irish god Lugh, who has a somewhat tragic parentage. Suffice to say he descends from the Tuatha Dé, more commonly referred to as the Tuatha Dé Danann, or Peoples of the Goddess Danu. He is considered the god of blacksmiths and artisans, as well as being a grain god.

The story goes that Lugh established the harvest festival on August 1 in honor of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, for whom Teltown in County Meath is named. As Tailtiu lay on her deathbed, dying of exhaustion after clearing the plains in Ireland so they could be planted, she prophesied that as long the men of Ireland held these funeral games in her honor, Ireland would not be without song. The festival included such activities as horse racing, something the Irish are well-known for, and various displays of martial arts (no, not the kung fu style). It is also remembered for Lugh’s victory over the Other World, when he spares the life of Bres, a former king of the Fomorians, by extracting from Bres his promise to teach the Tuatha Dé when to plant, sow and reap their harvests. The harvesting is well underway in my area, where the farmers are beginning to harvest the wheat and hay, blueberries are ripening (along with the ever-invasive blackberries here in the Pacific Northwest).

Many Celtic Reconstructionists and Wiccans who celebrate the day do so with freshly baked breads, fresh berries, sheafs of wheat and other seasonal foods and harvest symbols. It’s a good time to get together with family and friends, have a party. The Anglo-Saxons called it hlaf maesse, or “loaf mass,” which became Lammas, another name for the day which also indicates the grain harvest. The day also gave its name to the Irish name for the month of August, Lunasa. Among the Irish it was a popular time for handfasting, trial marriages that lasted a year and a day. At the end of that time the couple could choose to go their separate ways, or make a more permanent marriage. Not a half bad idea, I say.

Many pagans like to decorate their altars with seasonal foods, flowers, colored cloth and other items. You can be as elaborate or as simple as you care to be. Personally I lean toward something simpler. If you’d like to celebrate the season and need a little inspiration, there are tons of sites online with suggestions for rituals and observances. Here are a couple sites to give you some ideas if you like:

Lughnasadh Ritual by Sandra Kynes at Llewellyn.com

The Wiccan / Pagan Times Lughnasadh Ritual by Boudica (nice one for solitaries)

All About Lammas

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14 thoughts on “Dancing at Lughnasadh

  1. Thanks! Happy Lughnasadh to you, too 🙂

    I’m dying to make some good wheat bread, so I’ll probably do that on Saturday. That, and I picked up some blueberries yesterday that will probably end up in a blueberry buckle! Yummy 🙂 I’m going to have blackberries coming out of my ears shortly, and my apple tree is already dropping fruit, I should go gather some of those and make something.

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  2. What a charming excuse for a party, especially one that involves baked goods and blueberries! I’m sure that since it’s a harvest festival, you Irish wouldn’t mind the addition of some yeasty beverages, maybe a nice glass of lager?

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    1. hi Chazz – I got the invite to your book club(thanx!) and will respond before the end of the week. We went “off the grid” for the weekend, and I’m just a little swamped w/the last week of summer school.

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  3. p.s. I think the idea of handfasting is mighty clever. I could draft a quick little standard contract that sez each party agrees to walk away with any assets s/he walked in with, plus fifty percent of anything acquired over the 366 days, and that they both agree to joint custody/financial responsibility of/for any kids conceived during that time, subject to renegotiation on the 367th day. Basically, if they can’t agree on those 3 elements, they’re living together at their own risk.

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  4. I wonder how much of that was included in the original contract way back when? I’ll have to dig around, see if there are any known records surviving of what the agreement consisted of. It might have been something very similar.

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