2nd February (Southern Hemisphere)
1st August (Northern Hemisphere)Other names used for this holiday: Lughnasadh (pronounced 'Lunasa'), Lammas, August Eve, Feast of Bread, Harvest Home, DozynkiTraditional Foods: Apples, Grains, Breads and Berries
Herbs and Flowers: All Grains, Grapes, Heather, Blackberries, Sloe, Crab Apples, Pears
Incense: Aloes, Rose, Sandalwood
Sacred Gemstone: Carnelian
Ritual actions: Breads are baked and eaten, or placed in the fire. Grains are woven into corn dollies or Goddess or God symbols. Visits to fields and planting the seeds from the fruit consumed during the celebration are performed. A "fall cleaning" may be done at this time, changing the drapes and linens, preparing to store items away during the winter months. Loaves of bread, sheaves of wheat, barley, oats, and fruits are placed on the altar. The corn dollies may be places there as well.
History of Lammas
With the coming of Christianity Lughnasadh became Anglo-Saxon Lughomass ("'loaf-mass.' It's roots were in Lugh's Mass") and later 'Laminas,' meaning the corn the corn king but were (i.e. grain) harvest and the killing of "bread made from the officially" replaced by a mass in which the loaves of first sheaves harvested were taken to church and blessed. Columcille (the Ploughmen" with St.Columba) tried to change Lammas into a "Feast of no success.
It is in Irish Gaelic that the feast is referred to as 'Lugnasadh', a feast meant to commemorate the funeral games of the Irish sun-god Lugh. Though many believe it celebrates the death of Lugh, the god of light does not really die (mythically) until the autumnal equinox. If the Irish myths are read closer, it is not his death which is being honored but the funeral games which Lugh hosted to commemorate the death of his foster-mother Taillte, the daughter of the Fir Bolg king Mag Mór (Great Plain) who later became the queen of the Fir Bolg. As a favour to Lugh she cleared the Forest of Breg, making a plain for cultivation, and died of exhaustion for her trouble. Lugh decreed that a feast was to be held in her honour every August 1st at Tailtean (Telltown in County Meath). That is why the Lugnasadh celebrations in Ireland are often called the 'Tailltean Games'.
One possible derivation of the name of Lugh is from the old Celtic word "lugio", meaning "an oath." A traditional part of the celebrations surrounding Lughnasadh is the formation of oaths. From before
recorded history into the twentieth century, marriages, employment contracts and other bargains of a mundane nature were formed and renewed at this time of year. Since the agricultural year had its culmination in the harvest and the harvest festivals, oaths and contracts that had to wait until after the
corps were in could be focused on at this time. Marriages, hiring for the upcoming season and financial arrangements were often a part of the Lughnasadh activities and in many areas fairs were held specifically for the purpose of hiring or matchmaking.
Another common feature of the Games were the 'Tailltean marriages', informal marriages which lasted for only 'a year and a day' or until next Lammas. At that time, the couple could decide to continue the arrangement if it pleased them or walk their separate ways. Such trial marriages (or 'Handfastings') were common even into the 1500's, although it was something one 'didn't bother the parish priest about'. Such ceremonies were usually solemnized by a poet, bard, shanachie, or possibly a priest or priestess of the Old Religion.
Lammastide was also the traditional time of year for craft festivals. Medieval guilds would create elaborate displays of their wares, decorating their shops and themselves in bright colors and ribbons, marching in parades, and performing ceremonial plays and dances for the entranced
The 'Catherine wheel' or sun wheel was a ceremonial highlight. Though the Roman Church moved St. Catherine's feast day all over the calender, it's most popular date was Lammas. They also kept trying to expel this much-loved saint from the ranks of the blessed because she was mythical rather than historical, and because her worship gave rise to the heretical sect known as the Cathari. A large wagon wheel was taken to the top of a near-by hill, covered with tar, set aflame, and ceremoniously rolled down the hill. Some mythologists see in this ritual the remnants of a Pagan rite symbolizing the end of summer, the flaming disk representing the sun-god in his decline.
Lugh was the chief god of the Tuatha dé Danaan in their later years. He was the son of Kian and Eithlinn, daughter of Balor, the Formorian king. To escape Balor's wrath, he was fostered out to Mannanán, Goibhniu, and/or Tailltiu, depending on the myth. Later helping the Danaans defeat the
Formorians, he drive them from Ireland, killing Balor in the process, thus fulfilling the prophesy that Balor was trying to thwart. He is called Samhioldánach, "equally skilled in all the arts," and is the patron of craftsmen and artists. He took over from the elder gods Balor/Cromm/Bres, taking the fruits of their power but not the power itself and was later replaced by Cúchulain/Finn, and then St. Michael and St. Patrick. Lugh remained in folk memory as Lugh-chromain ("little stooping Lugh"), or Leprechaun.
In the Celtic nations of Europe traditions surrounding Lughnasadh still continue from pre-Christian times. Most often, celebration of the holiday occurs on the first Sunday of August or the Sunday just before the first day of August. In modern Ireland the tradition still continues that on the last Sunday of July families ascend into the hills of the countryside to pick bilberries, symbolic of the bounty of Mother Earth and of the fruits harvested when Tailltiu made a place for the grain that would feed the generations to come after her. With the coming of Christianity to the Celtic lands, the old festival of Lughnasadh took on Christian symbolism. Loaves of bread were baked from the first of the harvested grain and placed on the church altar on the first Sunday of August.