History of Lughnasadh
Halfway between the summer solstice and autumn equinox, a Celtic festival occurs on August 1st called Lughnasadh (pronounced “Loo-nah-sah”) . This festival marks the beginning of the harvest season, and is observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man. Lughnasadh is also commonly known as Lammas, and is one of the eight Wiccan holidays. These wiccan holidays are called Sabbats. Traditionally, this holiday represents the deity, Lugh, who is one of the most prominent gods in Irish mythology. He is the lord of the sun, light, victory, craftsmanship, and war. During my research, I found three different interpretations on why Lugh is honored. The first describes that, due to him being a sun god, this time of year represents his death when the bright days begin to shorten, moving away from the summer solstice (Lovely). Before he dies, he infuses the crops with his power, and thus sacrifices himself so that others will be plenty with food.
In contrast, a happier interpretation of Lughnasadh signifies the marriage of Lugh. Due to him being a sun god, he renews his vows to mother earth each year and celebrates the consummation of their sacred relationship by bringing crops to her (Bhagat).
Others believe that the festival originated with Lugh himself, when he held a funeral feast and sporting competition to honor his foster mother, Tailtiu. She had died from exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland so the people could grow crops. Lugh was also a great warrior, and many Pagan groups celebrate this holiday with competitive games in addition to harvest-related festivities (Chamberlain). Wiccans and other Pagans who follow Celtic traditions may focus their celebrations on giving thanks for their skills and talents as well as for the grain harvest, but the emphasis is on gratitude all the same.
In earlier remembrance of this holiday, the grain would be used to make the villages first bread in which it would then be taken to a church to be laid on an altar and blessed. The name “Lammas” actually comes from this tradition, taken from an old Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning “loaf mass” (Chamberlain).
All in all, Lughnasadh is a time for gratitude, abundance, and recognizing the manifestations of our intentions that have unfolded so far during the course of the year.
To help you celebrate the First Harvest, we put together a handy little guide for you! Download the guide for ideas on how to celebrate, decorate your altar, and more.
Bhagat, Dhruti. “The Origins and Practices of Lammas/Lughnasad.” Boston Public Library, 2017, www.bpl.org/blogs/post/the-origins-and-practices-of-lammas-lughnasad/.
Chamberlain, Lisa. “Lammas (Lughnasadh) – The Wiccan Calendar.” Wicca Living, 6 Nov. 2017, wiccaliving.com/wiccan-calendar-lammas-lughnasadh/.
Lovely, Kajora. “Lughnasadh: History & Traditions of the First Harvest Festival.” Kajora Lovely, 2 Aug. 2019, www.kajoralovely.com/lovely-blog/2019/7/28/lughnasadh.