by Margie McArthur
Lughnasahd is the feast of Lugh. Lugh, who is known as "Lugh of the Long Arms" and as "Lugh equally skilled in all the arts," was a Celtic god of fire and light, associated with the sun and also with the grain. He was such an important god to the Celts that traces of himin the form of versions of his nameare found all over the parts of Europe in which the Celts lived, including the British Isles. Lyons, France is named after him, as is London, England, which was originally Lugudunum, Lugh's fort. It was said the Lugh instituted the feast of Lughnasahd in honor of his foster mother, Tailtui, though some hold that the feast was actually a wake for Lugh, a commemoration of his death.
In the old Pagan Religions, the God was typically seen as having the two aspects of light and dark; though this was often seen as two Godsa God of Light and a God of Dark. These two aspects represent the light and dark halves of the year. The Irish stories of Lugh show his radiance, brilliance, skill and capabilities: he was "equally skilled in all the arts." He was a poet, a bard, yet a maker of swords and a warrior. The stories of his Welsh counterpart Llew Llaw Gyffes (the Lion of the Steady Hand) also emphasize this radiant aspect, and though Llew is eventually treacherously slain by his rival, who was perhaps his dark half, he is later magically revived to live once again. An interesting astrological aside to all this is to note that this feast of the "Lion of the Steady Hand, the one equally skilled in all the arts" falls during the astrological month of Leo, whose symbol is the Lion.
In ancient Ireland, Lughnasahd was a festive and important event. It was a time of tribal gatherings and games. It was a time when families visited, goods were bought and sold, games of strength and skill were held, and marriage partners were selected. The festivities lasted about a monthtwo weeks before and after the actual date of August 1st.
In more agrarian lands this time of the year was associated with the first harvest. In England, it became known by the Christian Anglo-Saxon name of Lammas, meaning Loaf-massthe Catholic Mass held in honor of the loaf of bread baked from the grains of the first harvest.
But preceding the English Christian harvest feast of Lammas was the pagan Anglo Saxon celebration of the harvest, and this revolved around the mysteries of the grain as personified by John Barleycorn, whose life, death, transformation, and rebirth were commemorated at this time. More on John Barleycorn here.
Nigel Pennick in Practical Magic in the Northern Tradition, says:
"Lammas is a time of ingathering, of summation of the harvest. It is a time of completion, when the seed, still present in the mother plant, reaches maturity. Sacred to Lugh, Celtic god of illumination, it signifies regeneration at the place of original creation.
Though at Lughnasahd the sun continues its decline in powermarked by days that began to shorten at the Summer Solsticethe grain has just been harvested. We give thanks for the grain and the spirit of the god represented by this grain.
Corn Dollies are made this time of year from the ripened sheaves, which were thought to represent the spirit of the grain. Interestingly, even when John Barleycorn is honored as the god of the grain, the corn dolly is most frequently referred to as "She." The last sheaf harvested was thought to embody the spirit of the Cailleach, or Crone Goddess.
Margie McArthur is the author of WiccaCraft for Families: The Path of the Hearthfire, which was published in 1994 and Wisdom of the Elements: The Sacred Wheel of Earth, Air, Fire and Water published in 1998. Her third book on Faery Healing is due out in the Fall. Her website can be found here.