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Feast, celebrate- and give thanks to the Sun God
On the 1st of August in the northern hemisphere, we arrive at the time of Lughnasadh on The Wheel Of The Year.
At Lughnasadh, it’s time to celebrate the first harvest of the year, but this is also tinged with the sadness of knowing that the long, hot days of Summer will soon end.
Lughnasadh is a time to honour the Sun God -but also to mark and to mourn his death.
Lughnasadh is named for the Celtic god Lugh, a god of light, fire and sun. The ancient ones also passed down the traditional tale of the self sacrifice or sacrifice by others of a king- whose bloodshed would bless the Lughnasadh harvest, ensure that the land would continue to be fertile and that his people would have plenty for the Winter to come and beyond.
Origins and Legends
Many of the more ancient traditions of Lughnasadh reference sacrifice- but it has become a more modern conception that this was necessarily a literal sacrifice.
There exists archeological evidence of possible ritual sacrifice or execution- as in the discovery of the amazingly preserved Bog Bodies. There is the Tollund Man in Denmark or Lindow Man in Cheshire, England. An interesting synchronicity is that The Lindow Man’s preserved body – that of a man who may have been ritually killed- was found on August 1st!
However, we have no hard evidence that tribal kings or young males from their communities were selected to literally shed blood over the land to protect it and bless it.
Although……..I did once have a somewhat chilling and very memorable discussion. The theory was proposed that a well known medieval English King was killed on an equally famous 15th century English battlefield – as an August/Lughnasadh ‘King Sacrifi
Lughnasadh is also the time for feasting on the bounty of the land. Grains are ready to be harvested and fruits are ripe and ready for picking. At this time, we should and do give thanks for this bounty as the wheat, corn and fruits are cut and gathered for our tables and stores.
Traditional foods at this time include bread, corn, all berries, grapes, blackberries, sloe, crab apples, pears. Many of us give thanks today by decorating our altars with this colourful seasonal produce and then sitting down to break bread and share a delicious Lughnasadh harvest feast with our nearest and dearest. It’s a lovely idea to save and plant the seeds from the fruits consumed during a feast or ritual
As with all the festivals of the Wheel of the Year and the Old Religion, Christianity also adopted and incorporated this time into their calendar and re named it as their ‘Lammas’ which means ‘loaf-mass’. Newly baked loaves of bread were placed on Christian church altars to mark the festival.
Special activities and rituals for Lughnasadh
Firstly- eat, drink and be merry! It’s a wonderful time for being in the kitchen and making lovely things to share. If you can eat outside in the garden or somewhere natural, then all the better. It’s because of nature that we’re enjoying this food.
The feasting part of Lughnasadh is very important – so enjoy planning it! Typical ingredients and dishes would be things like pumpkin soup, or any soups made with seasonal vegetables like spring onions and potatoes. Blackberry pie is a great dessert ( pick your own blackberries if you can) and gorgeous served with fresh or clotted cream. There are plenty of harvest recipes out there- there’s lots of choice..
Bake your own bread- it represents the first loaf of harvest and you can use it in ritual or have it as part of your meal. Get creative with ingredient and shapes. Whilst I can’t personally produce a stunning looking wheat sheaf loaf like the one shown above, I do love to make bread and often try out new things to add to the loaves of bread that I make. At last year’s Lughnasadh it was sultana and cinnamon bread -hot, fragrant and ready to have for breakfast at dawn on August 1st! If you have children, it’s also lovely to let them help you make it along with their own ‘little loaves’
Take time to meditate and pray. Encourage everyone you break bread with to pray or meditate too. We need to give thanks for the abundance and generosity of nature. If you choose to sit in a circle while you eat, you can share this lovely spiritual energy of gratitude with each another.
A Lughnasadh Prayer
On this first day we light a candle to celebrate the harvest.
As the wheel of the year turns we honour the God and Goddess
We say thanks for the blessings and prosperity they have brought us this year.
We honour our ancestors and we honour all things living on this earth.”
A Lughnasadh Gratitude and Payback Ritual
This is more of a festival for saying thank you and being grateful rather than of trying to manifest things like love or financial abundance. Lughnasadh is about being glad for what we’re already lucky to have!
However- there are ways I like to mark this time and rituals I like to perform. I’m very grateful to the fabulous Kate West for the origin of this ritual.This is a very modern, quite pragmatic ritual that anyone can perform. It doesn’t require you to have lots of magical knowledge or specialist magical tools, except some paper, a pen and two candles!
* Take two candles- you can choose a white candle for the Goddess and black for the God if you like or you can choose to have candles to reflect the more vibrant colours of Lughnasadh/August. Respectfully invite the God and Goddess to be present with you as you light each candle and carry out your ritual
* Take 3 small pieces of paper. On one side of each piece make a note of something you’re grateful for or have been happy to receive since the last Lughnasadh
* As you go through your ‘blessings’ list, try to focus on the most significant in which you feel that you may have been especially helped by the God and Goddess. Literally ‘counting your blessings’ will also help you to focus on all the positives you actually have in your life and even doing this will greatly raise your own energy and level of positivity
* On the other side of each piece of paper, write an intent or resolution of something you can do to ‘repay’ the energy for the good thing that happened for you
* They can be directly related. For example- you passed an exam with flying colours, so now you’re going to help some else with their studies or revision. But the things don’t have to be directly related. For example you could be so grateful for finding a new home that you in turn cook someone a lovely meal or make them something pretty to have in their own home.
*As you turn to focus on each deed you’ve chosen to pay back your blessings- dedicate the performance of your kind ‘payback’ actions to the God and Goddess. You can do this out loud or in your mind. Put your ‘intentions’ in a place where you can see them and remember to perform them!
* Extinguish your candles. Bid farewell and say a final thanks to the God and Goddess
Remember- thanks and kindness will beget more thanks and kindness!