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Feast, celebrate- and give thanks
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 always tinged with the sadness of knowing that the long, hot days of Summer will soon end. In this year of 2020 we may feel a much deeper and more visceral grief,just as Summer prepares to depart from the Northern Hemisphere. The Covid 19 pandemic has swept through our world and has left us still reeling.
Lughnasadh is a time to honour the Sun God -but also to mark and to mourn his death. This year we’re also mourning the departures in our own world and have to come to terms with huge changes to the way we live. However- humans are a resilient species. We endure. We can still find joy and pleasure marking and celebrating things that are important to us. The Wheel Of The Year will still turn…..
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 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 this was literal sacrifice. Archaeological evidence does exist of possible ritual sacrifice or execution- as in the discovery of the amazingly preserved Bog Bodies.
There is the Tollund Man in Jutland, 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….
As with all the festivals of the Wheel of the Year and of the Old Religion, Christianity also adopted and incorporated this time into their calendar
It was re named it as ‘Lammas’ which means ‘loaf-mass’. Newly baked loaves of bread were placed on Christian church altars to mark the festival.
Lughnasadh is a 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 particular time, we should give extra thanks for our food and our bounty to the wonderful people who have worked so hard on the farms and in the whole food supply chain to get these to our shelves and our tables. We must never, ever take them for granted!
Traditional foods at this time include bread, corn, all berries, grapes, blackberries, sloe, crab apples, pears. Many of us will give thanks today by decorating our altars with this colourful seasonal produce. It’s a lovely idea to save and plant the seeds from the fruits consumed during a feast or ritual
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. Especially at this time.
The feasting part of Lughnasadh is very important – so enjoy planning it! Even if we can’t have all our loved ones with us to share a feast or gather in a group we can still have the joy of cooking and eating.
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 so much 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. Home bread baking has seen a really huge increase during the pandemic. It’s been one of the lighter things to see people showing and sharing their results! So many people are getting creative with ingredients and types of bread….
Whilst I can’t personally produce stunning looking loaves like the ones shown above, I do love to make bake and often try out new things to add to the bread that I make. 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- literally and virtually- to pray or meditate too. We need to give extra special thanks this year for the food on our tables and the loved ones around us. If you choose to sit in a circle while you eat, you can share this lovely spiritual energy of gratitude with each other.
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 positivitity
- 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!