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Wheel of The Year

Lughnasadh

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Lughnasadh…. Our first harvest of grains, wheat, corn, the beginning of Autumn, a Quarter Day, Greater Sabbat and a Fire Festival Even though it is still warm, we are aware of the Wheel slowing turning toward the dark part of the year. Most Pagans celebrate this Sabbat on August 1st, but in actually occurs when the sun is at fifteen degrees Leo.

Lughasadh is considered a time of thanksgiving and is the first of the three Pagan harvest festivals.

As the God is honored for His harvest, so the Goddess is honored for bringing forth the first fruits, much as a new mother is honored.

While it is common among Pagans to refer to this Sabbat as Lammas, the traditional name for this Sabbat is Lughnasadh, ‘The Festival of Lugh’. Lammas is actually the medieval name for the Christian holiday held on this date and it means ‘loaf-mass’, for this was the day on which loaves of bread were baked from the first grain harvest and laid on the church altars as offerings. Therefore, Lammas is actually the name of a Christian holy day.

In Irish Gaelic ‘Lugnasadh’ is a feast to commemorate the funeral games hosted by the Celtic God of Light and Fire and patron of crafts and skills, Lugh (also Lleu, Llew). Lugh hosted the games to commemorate the death of and honor his foster mother Tailtiu. This is why the Lugnasadh celebrations in Ireland are often called the ‘Tailltean Games’.

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 the precursor 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’ (a traditional Irish storyteller and historian, literally means a bearer of ‘old lore’) or, it may be guessed, by a Priest or Priestess of the Old Religion.

His Welsh form is Llew Law Gyffes, and in the Mabinogion story of Blodeuwedd and Llew, the theme of Llew as the sacrificed God can be seen (we need of course to consider the pre-Christian origins of the story).

Lleu Llaw Gyffes has been placed under three curses by his mother Arianrhod; the last of these dictates that he will never have a human wife. King Math and Lleu’s uncle Gwydion create Blodeuwedd from flowers and she marries Lleu.

Blodeuwedd has an affair with Gronw Pebr and they plot to kill Lleu. Lleu can only be killed under certain conditions, and Blodeuwedd tricks him into telling her what these conditions are. He can not be killed indoors or outdoors, on horseback or on foot; and can be killed only by a spear forged when people are attending mass. Consequently he can only be killed whilst he had one foot on a bathtub and one on a goat (the bathtub being placed on a river bank but under a roof) and by someone using a weapon created as specified.

Under pretence of “Lord, will you show me how these conditions might be fulfilled..?”, Blodeuwedd conveys him to precisely this situation, with Gronw lying in wait with the weapon. Lleu is (apparently) killed and Gronw and Blodeuwedd assume power. On hearing of this, Gwydion sets out to find and cure Lleu, who is now in the form of an eagle. Gwydion restores Lleu, who kills Gronw.

Gwydion curses Blodeuwedd, turning her into an owl:

“You are never to show your face to the light of day, rather you shall fear other birds; they will be hostile to you, and it will be their nature to maul and molest you wherever they find you. You will not lose your name but always be called Blodeuwedd.”

Gronw can be seen as the Dark God of the Waning year and Llew as the Bright Lord of the Waxing year. Blodeuwidd represents the Goddess in Her Flower Maiden aspect. Lughnasadh then has the theme of the sacrificed God of the harvest, but he is sacrificed and transformed, rather than descending into the underworld to become Lord of Death, which comes later in the year.

Lughnasadh is also the festival of the first of the harvests. The plants of spring will now drop their fruits and seeds for our use as well as to insure future crops. This is a holiday of fruition as well as of preparation for winter, and, the God’s impending death. The Goddess’ fertility has given birth and the first crops can be gathered but the summer is waning. The days are beginning to grow shorter now and as the God’s warmth grows weaker, He loses his strength as the sun rises lower in the sky each day and the nights grow longer. He becomes the aging God of sacrifice, being cut down in the fields. And as the Goddess enters her phase as Crone She watches in sorrow and joy as the God dies.

Lughnasadh is a time of the fullness of Life, and a celebration of the bountiful earth. It is a time of the sacrificial mating of Goddess and God, where the Grain King, given life by the Goddess and tasting of Her love is sacrificed and transformed into the bread and ale that feeds us. The main themes of Lughnasadh may therefore be seen as thanksgiving to the Goddess for Her bountiful harvest, stating our hopes for what we wish to harvest (for Lammas is the very beginning of the harvest season), sacrifice, transformation, and a sharing of the energy of the Grain King.

Lughnasadh is a time for giving thanks for all that we have, all that we will have, and all that others have sacrificed for us as well as for making offerings of gratitude. As summer passes, Pagans remember its warmth and bounty in the food we eat. Every meal is an act of attunement with nature, and we are reminded that nothing in the universe is constant.

This is the perfect holiday to honor the prosperity and generosity of Mother Earth. It is a season to throw away useless thoughts and habits and to form new ideas which bring renewed strength...