Tuesday, August 2, 2011
What is Lughnasa?
What is Lughnasa?
“Feed the flames and set them dancing. Hail the sun and hail to life! Spear of fire burn so brightly as the sun wheel in the sky. Spear of fire burn within me, oh hi lunosha, oh hail lughnasa!”—Omnia, Lughnasa
Lughnasa, to me at least, is of major importance. Lugh is major god of the Irish Celts and the other Celtic tribes as well, and Lughnasa, often translated to mean “the feast of Lugh” is the time of year we celebrate him, and the stories that surround him. In the Irish stories Lughnasa came about as a result of three major events. First the defeat of the Fomorians by Lugh and the Tuatha de Danan. Second the death of Lugh’s foster mother Tailtiu after she cleared the land for agricultural use. Lastly was the marriage of Lugh to the goddess of sovereignty Eiru, who’s name I believe Ireland is derived from.
The feast of Lugh, Lughnasa, is a feast that commemorates all these events. It’s a time of thanksgiving and the first celebration of the three harvest festivals in our calendar of neo-pagan high days. The harvest of Lughnasa is the grains of the land. The Barley corn and the summer wheat. Bread is of course a common and important part of Lughnasa rituals. Lugh is a god who is called the master of all skills; as such games of skill are another important part of a lughnasa ritual. As Tailtiu lie dying from the over exertion of clearing the land she said “let there be games in honor of me, and there will always be music in Ireland”. Feasting is also a part of this time of year as people come together to celebrate. The ritual also helps to mark the change in the agricultural season. The growing time is mostly over and it’s time to get to work harvesting, for all the harvests must be in by Samhain. A large bonfire was another tradition, and can often be found still today in many neo-pagan Lughnasa rites. Lughnasa was also a time to make oaths and vows, a time to do business and have weddings. One major factor that would contribute to this was that during Lughnasa all warring and fighting must cease between families and tribes. This seems to me to lend itself to a good time for marriages and business, without fear of violence. I think all of these are excellent traditions and I would love to see them continued in our reconstructed pagan rites.
On a more personal level Lughnasa is about celebrating a personal patron. Lugh inspires me to lead, to master the skills I need, and to broaden myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. So at Lughnasa I spend a few weeks before hand crafting something just for Lugh. Something that takes skill to do, and then I sacrifice that thing to him in a good fire. An example from this year would be the knife I made for him. I did not forge the blade, that was given, but I assembled it and gave it a handle from a block of oak and shaped it. At the ritual I dedicated it with a few words and placed it into the fire. I also make sure at some point to telling the Story of Lugh, of his birth, childhood, coming to Tara, his kingship and the defeat of the Fomorians, and ending with the sacrifice of his mother and marriage.