Now in the Northern Hemisphere, we are at the height of summer. Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nuh-suh; also referred to as Lammas) occurs on the first of August in the Northern Hemisphere. In the pagan Wheel of the Year Lughnasadh is the first of the three major harvest festivals that are part of the eight sabbats of the year. Mabon (Autumn Equinox) is the second harvest, and Samhain is the third. Lughnasadh is held halfway between Litha (Summer Solstice) and Mabon (Autumn Equinox). This first harvest festival is the time when we gather together and give thanks for what we have in abundance.
While Mabon’s focus is on fruit, and Samhain celebrates berries and nuts, at Lammas fruits and grains take center stage. Grain has long been a vital crop for most civilizations. In ancient Ireland, harvesting grain before Lughnasdah could mean that the previous year’s harvest could run out before the next one was ready, resulting in potential starvation and the inability to not provide for the community. The first grain was cut on Lammas, and that evening, the first loaves of the season were baked. When Christianity colonized Celtic civilization, the first loaves of the season were blessed by the church during mass in what was referred to in Old English translates as “loaf mass.”
A Celtic holiday in origin, Lughnasadh is named after the Celtic god Lugh. In her Encyclopedia of Spirits, Judika Illes describes Lugh as “Lord of Craftmanship, Light, Victory, and War is a master builder, harper, poet, warrior, sorcerer, metalworker, cupbearer, and physician. It’s hard to imagine anything at which Lugh does not excel.’” According to legend, August is the sacred month of Lugh. During August, he was said to hold big bonfire celebrations, feasts, games and fairs in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu. After she died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland to allow for agriculture to be possible, Lugh began honoring her with yearly harvest festivals and funeral games.
Greek goddess Demeter and her Roman counterpart Ceres both represent harvest time. Demeter (Ceres) presides over grains, crops, food and the fertile earth. She is the goddess of agriculture and the harvest. Not only is she a grain goddess – she also is a goddess of birth, health and marriage. Her shadow has deep ties to the Underworld. While Demeter/Ceres represents the ripe corn of the first harvest, daughter Persephone/Kore represents grain. Persephone was abducted by Hades, king of the Underworld, while picking fresh spring flowers. When Persephone was eventually returned to Demeter, it was discovered that because she’d eaten food from the Underworld, she would always have to return to it. This forced her to divide the year between her mother and husband in the spring and summer, and the Underworld in the autumn and fall. While Persephone is gone, Demeter doesn’t allow plants to grow until she returns.
Seeds of grain drop back into the earth, obscured by winter, reappearing as new growth in the spring. This echoes the seasonal cycle found in Persephone’s departure and eventual return. At Lughnasadh, the completeness attained from the current harvest holds at its core the seed for all future harvests.
Symbols of Lughnasadh
- Colors: green, gold, orange, mauve
- Crystals: carnelian, obsidian, native copper with malachite, aventurine
Sunflowers – in Aztec sun temples priestesses carried and wore them as crowns, represent fertility of the Solar Logos
- Animals: horses, oxen, donkeys
- Plants: all grains, wheat, barley, oats, rye, all represent potential and fulfilment
Meadowsweet (Queen-Of-The-Meadow, Bridewort, Bride of the Meadow) – one of the 3 most sacred Druidic herbs, worn as a garland at Lammas, wedding bouquets, love spells, used to promote peace
Mint – one of the 3 most sacred Druidic herbs (the third is Vervain), protection, healing, prosperity
- Food: breads, berries, nuts
This is a day for sharing wealth, which doesn’t necessarily have to be linked to money. Coming together with friends for a potluck featuring fresh produce and food made with love is an excellent way of marking this day. Mindfully preparing a delicious meal while taking stock of the blessings Earth has bestowed can be a profound experience. If it’s possible to share and eat outside with loved ones, eat barefoot with your feet touching the earth, keeping in mind the magic and power of our planet passing through your body as you sample the earth’s bounty.
Along with the Earth and the Sun, Lughnasadh is related to green, growing things. Magical workings centered around financial security and professional blessings is ideal at this time. If you have the financial means to spare a bit, consider making a donation to a local charity, food bank, or any other organization that helps those in need. Shopping at a locally owned business, especially one owned and operated by BIPOC/LGBTQ+ people is a great way of paying it forward to help lift up those in your community.
Practicing skills that you may have put on the back burner is a great way to reaffirm and get back into your craft. Getting back into what makes your soul sing, but hasn’t been shown the proper amount of attention lately is an excellent way of taking part in the energy of this holiday. Making corn dollies is a Lughnasadh tradition, and is a fun activity if you’re celebrating the day with kids (both big and small alike).
However you choose to honor this time of the first harvest, take a moment to reflect on intentions you set earlier in the year and have been working towards throughout the seasons. Now is a time for acknowledging how you’ve grown and what this work is bringing your way. Take stock of any intentions you set at Imbolc and how they have grown and ripened into abundance.