Oh Great Goddess, Bless us in this sacred time, as we honor the traditions of our Elder Sisters. I open a protected space for myself and for all living creatures on this planet.
So mote it be.
The Wheel of the Year is the name of the annual cycle of seasons in Wicca, which is a spiritual movement based on ancient pagan religions and redefined by Gerald Gardner.
Wicca includes elements of beliefs from shamanism, druidism, and Greco-Roman, Slavic, Celtic, and Norse mythologies.
The wheel of the year has thirteen moons and eight holidays called sabbath or festival. These festivals are inspired by pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic festivals.
The wheel of the year and these celebrations are inspired by the rhythm of nature and the solar cycle. Festivals are divided into two categories.
The major festivals are the ancient Celtic festivals that celebrate important milestones in the year. These are Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh.
The minor festivals correspond to the solstices and equinoxes Yule, Ostara, Litha and Mabon. For each of these festivals, for each of its seasons, I try to offer you a podcast with some explanations and stories that may allow you to return to the basics, to recognize and celebrate the passage of time and the seasons, to celebrate the sun, source of light and life. I would also invite you to observe the rhythms of nature and to welcome the idea that our internal and personal rhythms are the reflections of these great natural rhythms which are the cycles of the Moon, but also those of the rotation of the Earth around the Sun.
I come today to talk to you about Lughnasadh, also called Lammas, first of the Autumn Harvest festivals, transition and warning point about the beginning of the end of Summer…
The name Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-NA-sah) comes from the Celtic harvest god Lugh. This harvest festival marks the picking of the grains ripened by His rays. Also, in Irish Gaelic, the word August is lunasa.
Lammas, meaning loaf of bread (from the Saxon phrase half maesse, or "mass of bread"), is a Christian term, celebrating the time when newly baked loaves were placed on the church altar.
Both names are used for this festival.
Lughnasadh happens between the summer solstice, when the sun's strength is at its strongest, and the autumnal equinox, when day and night are of equal length. It is a festival of transition and presents an opportunity to consider how our lives have changed.
For ancient people, annual harvests reflected the human cycle of birth and death. Harvesting food crops was associated with spiritual abundance that sustained the soul. However, harvest times also heralded the cold of autumn and the severe frosts of winter. The Celtic people of centuries past recognized the first harvest of the season with the feast of Lughnasadh, the feast of the first fruits.
Celebrated on August 1, it marked the midpoint between Beltane in May and Samhain in November and symbolized a turning point in the life cycle of Mother Earth. It was both a joyful celebration of abundance and a solemn wake-up call for the waning power of the sun god Lugh, hence the name of the festival.
What we know of Lughnasadh, the "celebration of the loaves", has survived through the rituals that are still practiced to this day. It is associated with grains, fruits, flowers, water and soil, and is celebrated on the hills as well as in the depths of sacred wells.
Traditionally, people would gather on hilltops to pick berries and engage in mock battles. It was believed that the profusion of fruit picked and the results of these simulations predicted the outcome of the annual harvest.
Many people also visited ancient wells which were thought to have more powerful healing abilities during Lughnasadh.
Great fairs and feasts were held, at which some of the newly picked grain was baked into man-shaped loaves commemorating Lugh's approaching demise.
Descendants of those who first celebrated the summer harvests uphold Lughnasadh traditions at fairs and sporting events taking place on August 1st across Ireland, England, Scotland and the country of Wales, remnants of a time when the harvest was welcomed with great joy.
Lughnasadh is first and foremost a festival of transition and therefore offers a wonderful opportunity to contemplate how our lives have changed over the past few months and years.
Lughnasadh is a celebration of the first harvest of the year, a sacred moment happening in early fall (there are 3 harvest festivals, Lughnasadh, Mabon, Samhain becase Harvest was a crucial time for our ancestors).
In Wiccan tradition, Lughnasadh can be seen as an occasion to celebrate the partnership that exists between us and the Divine. The Goddess takes on the aspects of the Harvest Mother Harvest (Grain Mother, Harvest Queen). She encourages us to gather what we can by harvesting for the colder months.
Lughnasadh is a time to thank the God and Goddess for the food on our tables and to take time to strengthen our connection with nature. It is about celebrating the fact that the fruits are ready to be picked and the grain is ready to be harvested. It's time to be grateful for the food served on our table and recognize that summer is coming to an end.
The land is fertile and the crops are plentiful, and the cattle are fattening up for the winter. it’s the time when the first grains are threshed, the apples plump in the trees and the gardens overflowing with summer bounties. In almost all ancient cultures, it was a time to celebrate the agricultural importance of the season. Because of this, it was also a time when many gods and goddesses were honored.
In many societies, the cutting of the last sheaf of grain was indeed a cause for celebration. People celebrated by making corn dolls, which represented the spirit of the grain. Sometimes these dolls were full size, made from the last stalks of corn to be harvested, and decorated with ribbons, streamers, and even clothing.
However, the Harvest Mother knows that the cold months are approaching and so she encourages us to start gathering what we can. It's time to start reaping what we have sown over the past few months and recognize that the beautiful days of summer are soon to end.
This Sabbath also concerns the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.
To the ancients, the grain cycle represented something far more mysterious. The growth, death and rebirth of the grain reflected the human cycle of birth, death, and continuation.
It is the time of the Barley-Father, the paternal aspect of the God married in May to the pregnant Goddess and who is cut down at the harvest to feed the people. The God of grain dies but will be reborn in the spring. The harvest is also a gift from the Mother Goddess who shares her body to feed her children.
It is difficult for city dwellers, who have nutritious food at their disposal all year round, to understand the importance of the harvest for people who are entirely dependent on the food supply of the previous year.
Cereal straw engravings are visible in ancient cemeteries, signs of their spiritual as well as material significance. Our ancestors believed they had to conciliate the spirit of the wheat and attract it so that it would return to the fields. Texts from later centuries mention the custom of a couple making love in a field where grain had been harvested to stage the regeneration of crops. The mysterious but powerful spirit of wheat was attracted and captured in the straw dolls the “spirit cages” which play an important role during this festival.
Lughnasadh is a time of excitement and magic. The natural world is thriving around us and yet we know that everything will soon die. It's a good time to work some magic around the hearth and at home.
Grain took an important place in civilization almost at the beginning of time. Grain has become associated with the cycle of death and rebirth. For many cultures, the breaking of bread is a symbol of peace and hospitality. Once you've welcomed someone into your home and eaten bread together, you're much less likely to kill each other. In some parts of Norway, boys and girls who share bread from the same bread are bound to fall in love and marry. In Lughnasadh we also remember the importance of the distribution of the harvest and of sharing so that everyone benefits from a just harvest.
If you choose to celebrate the harvest by baking bread, adding ingredients that you have harvested from your own garden will strengthen your bond with the Earth. Eat your bread with your loved ones while sharing stories of the new beginnings you are celebrating and the endings you are grieving. As you honor the cyclical nature of existence, consider that just as there is joy in sowing and reaping, every phase of life is also worth celebrating.
The wisdom of the festival lies in understanding that it's the time of year when we confront our hopes and fears about our own personal harvests. We hope that the seeds we planted in our lives last spring will continue to grow and prosper this year. And yet, like the farmer in his field who fears a storm will ravage his crops before he can harvest, we may have fears about our ability to accomplish all that we have worked hard for.
Lughnasadh is an important time to pause and recognize all the beauty we are harvesting in our life. And all the hard work needed to get here. The invitation is to rest now. Recharge ourselves in the summer sun.
The death of the old contains the seeds of a new beginning. This is one of the most magical parts of Lughnasadh - when dying plants turn into seeds for next year's growth. Here again, we see one of the intrinsic contradictions of the festivals: the moment of abundance and celebration is also the moment of reaping and sacrifice. Things wither and die but they contain the seeds of new life in the spring. The mystery of renewal is contained in the dying body of the old. The invitation is to take a moment to meditate on the cycle of rebirth and how it applies to your own life – physically, emotionally, spiritually.
So much for today ...
I would be so happy to hear from you about all that.
Thank you in advance for your comment.
See you soon, for my next online adventures!
Until then I send you love, light and gratitude.