Slowly but surely, the year is waning. It will become more evident very soon as the days are getting shorter and shorter.. the autumn looms.
Lammas (Lughnasadh), the first harvest festival, is just a week away. It is also known as Loaf Mass Day, a Christian holiday celebrated in some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere on 1 August. Lughnasadh is the name used for one of the eight sabbats in the pagan Wheel of the Year. It is the first of the three autumn harvest festivals, the other two being the autumn equinox (Mabon) and Samhain (Halloween).
Lughnasadh is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and has pagan origins. The festival itself is named after the god Lugh. It inspired great gatherings that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic contests, feasting, matchmaking, and trading. Traditionally there were also visits to holy wells. According to folklorist Máire MacNeill (Irish journalist, folklorist and translator. She is best known for her magisterial study of the Irish harvest festival, The Festival of Lughnasa). Evidence shows that the religious rites included an offering of the ‘First Fruits’, a feast of the new food and of bilberries, the sacrifice of a bull and a ritual dance-play in which Lugh seizes the harvest for mankind and defeats the powers of blight. Many of the activities would have taken place atop hills and mountains.
Depending on your spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Lammas, but typically the focus is on either the early harvest aspect or the celebration of the Celtic god, Lugh. It’s the season when the first grains are ready to be harvested and threshed, when the apples and grapes are ripe for the plucking and we are grateful for the food we have on our tables.
Lammas is a time of excitement and magic. The natural world is thriving around us, and yet the knowledge that everything will soon die looms in the background. This is a good time to work some magic around the hearth and home.
In our modern world, it’s often easy to forget the trials and tribulations our ancestors had to endure. For us, if we need a loaf of bread, we simply drive over to the local grocery store and buy a few bags of prepackaged bread. If we run out, it’s no big deal, we just go and get more. When our ancestors lived, hundreds and thousands of years ago, the harvesting and processing of grain was crucial. If crops were left in the fields too long or the bread not baked in time, families could starve. Taking care of one’s crops meant the difference between life and death.
By celebrating Lammas as a harvest holiday, we honor our ancestors and the hard work they must have had to do in order to survive. This is a good time to give thanks for the abundance we have in our lives, and to be grateful for the food on our tables. Lammas is a time of transformation, of rebirth and new beginnings.