August 1 is Lughnasadh or Lammas in the Northern Hemisphere (February 1 in the Southern Hemisphere). This is known as the first harvest (the other two being the autumn equinox and Samhain). That means we’re starting to see results from the labor of previous months, but there’s still lots of work to do. This is an important time for being thankful and visualizing abundance. It’s a time to celebrate the cycle of life. It’s also a good time to reflect on where you are and where you want to go for the remainder of the year.
Sacrifice is a major theme during this festival. Lughnasadh is the Celtic name for this holiday after the god Lugh, but it’s not really about him. According to legend, it’s a time to celebrate the sacrifice made by Lugh’s foster mother, Tailtiu. She was royalty of the Fir Bolg people. When they were defeated by the Tuatha De Dannan, they required her to clear a forest for the planting of crops. She died of exhaustion, and Lughnasadh honors her sacrifice for the well-being of her people.
Sacrifice is part of the cycle of life that’s celebrated at this time. It includes birth, life, death, and rebirth. Sacrifice in this context is voluntary death for the good of something larger. Psychologically, we can see this type of sacrifice as giving up on pleasure now so that we have something awesome later in the year. Lughnasadh is a good time to feel, as much as we can, this rhythm of life. Sacrifices are never easy, but if we’ve done the work of previous festivals by preparing a foundation and planting and tending our goals, we can’t stop now. It’s a good time to assess what sacrifices need to be made to ensure continued growth and abundance later in the year.
“Lughnasadh 2015” by Rainbow Gryphon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Christine Aubin at Witchvox wrote an article on Lughnasadh in 2001 where she stated
Lughnasadh is a time of personal reflection and harvest, of our actions and deeds, events and experiences, our gains and losses. A time when we begin the cycle of reflection of that which is our life.
The waning of summer naturally leads to more serious contemplation. What have we really accomplished this year? What haven’t we accomplished yet and why? Beating ourselves up, though, isn’t what Lughnasadh is about. Honesty is. It’s a chance for us to remove blocks and fix what’s wrong before the cycle of the year ends and winter is upon us.
According to Kathleen Jenks at Mything Links, Frances (Okelle) Donovan also wrote about Lughnasadh and reminded us that
[o]nce farmers cut down grain, they begin the process of winnowing: separating the chaff from the wheat. You can do a physic [sic] winnowing at Lughnassad as well.
That’s an empowering way of looking at it: separating the wheat from the chaff. We come out with lighter hearts and renewed energy to bring in a successful harvest.
Giving Thanks/Seeking Guidance
Many look upon Lughnasadh or Lammas as a time for celebrating what we receive. Interestingly, Kym Ni Dhoireann, who wrote an article about Lughnasadh for a publication called THiNK in 1997, disagrees with this. She writes that this is a time for asking for abundance by sacrificing to the gods, not for giving thanks.
[T]he Irish Gods seem to prefer to be given to first rather than waiting to see if They would get proper thanks after Their gifts were given.
I think both ideas work at this time of year. We’re seeing the fruits of our labors beginning to manifest and can give thanks for them, including giving to others some of what we’ve received. But there’s still work to do, and things could go very wrong if we slack off or let challenges discourage us. So seeking guidance is a good idea too, whether that’s through prayer, dreams, Tarot, or wise teachers.
I leave you with a Lughnasadh/Lammas meditation that Jenks at Mything Links found from Rita Foust, published in an online ezine called Shore Journal (which doesn’t seem to exist anymore). Although there seems to be some confusion about the Celtic goddess named in the meditation, I still think it’s a beautiful one for celebrating this festival.
In a traditional meditation during Lughnasadh, participants are encouraged to visualize themselves on the back of a crow (an important member of the Celtic fetish family), flying over fields bright with sunlight. People are singing as they rake the hay into mounds, and you are so close you can smell the fresh hay and hear the harvesters’ song. The Sun of Lugh is high in the sky, but His strength is waning. As you alight in a nearby oak tree, there is a sense of peace and security as you are wrapped in Macha’s* wings. Rest. You are in Her arms, the wings of the Mother, and basking in the warmth of the Father’s rays.
* Foust appears to regard Macha as an earth goddess or a harvest goddess. My research shows she was actually a war and horse goddess. Erin Ogden-Korus of the University of Idaho has written about Macha in a fascinating article called “Celtic Women: Myth and Symbol.” I still see an interesting symbol here, though, that fits the themes of Lughnasadh. We still need to work hard (fight) to bring our harvest in at this time. The horse is a symbol of power and progress, but at the same time, an uncontrolled horse causes real havoc. The rhythm of the Universe at this time is like a horse that we struggle to gain control of. Rich rewards await us (victory in the battle) if we exercise our personal power and persist in the struggle.