Sunday, August 1, 2010
Dancing at Lughnasa (Lughnasadh)
Blessed be! The wheel of the year turns to Lughnasa, the first of the major harvest days that conclude with Samhain/Halloween (the harvest of winter meat). It marks the first festival of the waning year, the first major festival since Midsummer Night. In astronomical terms, this is the halfway point between Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox.
In Scotland, the name of this festival is Lunasdal, and in Wales it's simply Gwyl Awst, "the August feast." The Christianized name for Lughnasa is Lammas, or "Loaf Mass." The name recalls the Pagan tradition of honoring the first grain harvest of the year, with the added ritual of attending a Christian mass or church service.
The Irish consider it the feast of the god Lugh, who consecrated it in honor of his foster-mother's death. Lugh's foster-mother Tailtiu, "The Great One of the Earth," represents the land of Ireland itself. Thus, her death is symbolic of the harvest: the crops sacrifice themselves so human beings and animals can live. Tailtiu's death was celebrated with feasting, Olympic-style games, bonfires and handfasting ceremonies. Where corn is harvested, the goddess is often visually represented by making corn dolls.
This is the grain harvest, so baking breads and other baked goods is a long-standing Lughnasa tradition. The blueberries are also in season (now through Labor Day) and are also a common ingredient in Lughnasa treats.
Whatever you do today, enjoy!
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