Lughnasadh (July 31)

The name of this Sabbat has several meanings depending on how it is written and where you are. If it is spelled Lúnasa, then this refers to the Irish Gaelic word for the month of August. If written Lunasda/Lunasdal, it is the Scottish Gaelic name for the holiday of Lammas which has today become equated with Lughnasadh even though Lammas falls on the first day of August, while Lughnasadh is celebrated on the last day of July. In addition to this, Lammas is the Christianized version of this Sabbat. In Wicca, both names are accepted but the name "Lughnasadh" remains more pagan in its nature since, in translation, it means "the commemoration of Lugh".

Since we've already mentioned Lugh, it would be fair to explain who he is. His name is connected to the Latin word lux (light). It is obvious that this is a light/fire deity. He is usually identified with another fire deity called Baal/Balor who I mentioned in my previous post on Beltane. But it can be said for Lugh that he is a later and more profound version of this god. In Irish mythology, Balor was one of the main gods until Lugh showed up as the leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann and defeated him. This is typical of any mythology in a period of change in the mentality of a nation (due to war, falling under another's rule etc.). A new, "enhanced" version of a god simply appears in mythology and defeats, blinds or in any other way gets rid of the previous deity. Of course, the new god has to be legitimized and this is usually done by proclaiming him the son of the former one. But, in the case of goddesses, they replace a previous deity by entering the family via marriage. In this situation, it is usually thought that Balor was Lugh's grandfather and not his father. According to some, Lugh was Dana's lover who made love to her on this day thus making a connection between Beltane and Lughnasadh. But if we were to take the previous myth to be correct, then this would make Dana Lugh's grandmother since she was also Balor's wife. Looking at the second myth, it is worth noting that it is common for the lover god to begin his decline towards death on the mating day since this day marks the peak of his power. Because of this, Lugh's death is also marked on Lughnasadh.

It is important to remember that the Goddess is already pregnant in this time of year. In Wicca, this is the last time the God makes love to the Goddess, which is a symbol of the final fertilization of the ground to help it give as many fruits as possible in the remaining few months before winter. His strength withers from this point on and he knows that death awaits him, but he sacrifices himself in a way, so the natural cycles may continue undisturbed.

Lugh is connected with the first harvest, that is the grain harvest. There are three harvest festivals altogether in Wicca: Lughnasadh, Mabon (September 21) and Samhain (October 31). According to Irish mythology, Lugh spared the life of one of the leaders of the enemy army so, in return, he gave Lugh the secrets to plowing, sowing and harvesting. Another harvest association would be the Anglo-Saxon name for this holiday - Lughomass. Literally translated, this would be "loaf mass" but they were usually conducted in honor of Lugh.

Remember that I mentioned a connection between Beltane and Lughnasadh a while ago. When it comes to sexuality, this holiday is the autumn equivalent of Beltane. Proof of this is all the love-making that used to go on in the forests, or in this case the cornfields. There was also an equivalent of the Beltane greenwood marriages which were held in a place called Teltown on Lughnasadh. In my previous post on Ostara, I mentioned the sacrificial mating theme which occurs both on Beltane and Lughnasadh too (for further explanations, follow the link).

When the people of the British Isles were Christianized, the holiday of Lughnasadh became Lammas. Some translated this into "loaf mass" and this would be much more Christian since a mass really did occur to which everyone would bring a loaf of bread made form the first grain harvests. Lugh soon became St. Michael who later became and archangel and is connected with light (just as Lugh is). Festivals connected with this holiday, at least in Great Britain, used to be restricted only to the Sunday before and after the first day of August. This wasn't only because Sunday became the holy day when Christianity came, but also because it was the day of rest from Christianization onward. This enabled more people to gather for the celebration. These celebrations were usually held on elevated ground which was usually isolated. It just so happens that many of these places used to be pagan sacred grounds (often dedicated to Lugh).

Typical colors for this festival include golden-yellow, orange and brown which are all very appropriate since this is the time for gathering the grain for bread. It is traditional to place a small, preferably soft, loaf of bread on the altar. The High Priestess will usually wear a crown made of holly with entwined fruits of the harvest. Reefs made of the fruits of the season and entwined poppy are also common. The altar can be decorated with poppies, blueberries and seasonal fruits. The cauldron is placed in the east (usually filled with wheat stalks) because that cardinal point is the symbol of rebirth. Other traditions include baking bread and bread plaits as well as making corn dollies.

A plant which is often connected with Lughnasadh is the blueberry since it used to be the symbol of the fertility of the land and also of a successful ritual. Fertility and the earth's yield was of great importance. We already mentioned that this was the time of the first harvest, but this is also the period just before the beginning of autumn. The weather is getting colder and you can feel winter coming. This makes it the perfect time to gather everything possible because what you gathered would keep you alive throughout the winter. Rituals were there to encourage the land to give equally as much (or more) next year but also to show thanks for the food on the table. If you remember the previously mentioned Balor's defeat by Lugh, you can conclude that, because of this, rituals often included reenactments of certain deaths and rebirths of gods or perhaps the many stories in which one god was defeated by another.

Sabbat: Lughnasadh / Lammas
/'loo-nə-sə/, /'la-məs/
Date: July 31/August 1
Other names: The first harvest, grain harvest,
bread harvest, Lammas, the festival
of the first fruit
Phase of the God: Withering strength (Holly King)
Phase of the
Mother (she feels the child in her
which will succeed the God on Yule)
Symbolism: Emphasizing the importance of the
harvest, encouraging the fertility of
the land for next year, giving thanks
for the food you have
Eating bread, making corn dollies (of
the God/Goddess), filling the cauldron
with wheat, making reeds from seasonal
plants and fruits
Symbols and
Yellow-golden, orange, red, green,
brown, corn dollies, bread
Traditional food: Bread, apples, blackberries, cornbread,
Lammas loaf and spiced apple cider,
herb fritters...
Until I fill up my witch's cookbook, you
can try to find a nice recipe on one of the
following web sites:
My Moonlit Path
The Druid's Egg

I wish you all a happy Lughnasadh a few days in advance as well as a merry old time and a very tasty feast so you can celebrate all the hard work you did throughout the year in order to earn the food on the table or perhaps the labor you did in the fields yourselves to achieve this. 

Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

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