Celebration of Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh (The Festival of the God Lugh) or Lammas (Loaf Mass) is celebrated on August 1. It is a celebration of the first harvest, which usually occurs on or near this date in much of the northern hemisphere, especially in Celtic lands. The theme of many Lughnasadh celebrations is the sacrifice of the Sun God at harvest time. Lugh gives his life in order to feed his people.

Lughnasadh celebrations usually include a feast of some sort. This feast consists of the first fruits of the harvest and can include apples, grapes, grains and corn. The first loaves of the new harvest were traditionally baked at this time, so breads are usually a central item in this feast. A staple at these celebrations is cakes and ale. One way to celebrate Lughnasadh is with a bread communion in which everyone attending brings a favorite item of fresh-baked bread to share with others. For those groups lucky enough to have home brewers in their midst, it is also a time to sample their wares. Many Druid groups also bring gifts from their gardens and orchards to share with each other.

Lughnasadh is a time for celebrating hearth, home, family and friends. Although the weather is still warm, this celebration is an acknowledgement that winter is on the way and that we are about to enter the dark times of the year. So in many ways, especially in the northern climes, Lughnasadh is the final big outdoor party before the cool weather arrives.

Lugh is said to be a God of many talents and skills. Because of this, some scholars believe that the origin of Scottish Highland Games may have been in celebration of these skills and feats of strength. Because of this, sometimes Lughnasadh is celebrated with games, sports and feats of strength.

Spiritual Significance of Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh symbolizes the fullness of life. At this time of year, loaves are baked in the shape of John Barleycorn and ritually eaten to remind us that sacrifice and sustenance are part of the cycle of life. After the harvest, the corn stalks wither and return to the earth, providing fodder for the next year’s crops. It is a time of thanksgiving for all of the sacrifices our friends and family have made for us, as well as for remembering that life feeds on life. At Lughnasadh we are thankful for nature’s bounty and for the sacrifices Mother Earth has made for us so that we may live another year.

In your spiritual practice at this time of year, reflect on what you have sacrificed to get where you are now on your spiritual journey. It is also a time to enjoy the first fruits of your spiritual work and to look forward to an even more bountiful spiritual harvest as the Wheel turns. You may wish to announce to your Circle your hopes and dreams for the future, and what you plan to harvest as you progress in your own growth as a human being. You may also choose at this time of year to sacrifice a habit that is no longer useful, or a way of thinking that you would like to change.

Symbols of Lughnasadh

Corn dollies (dolls made from corn husks) are common decorations at this time of year. They represent the Goddess and her abundant harvest. Sun wheels, a symbol of the Sun God Lugh, are also often used on altars and in homes. Threshing tools are used as decorations to represent the harvest, and corn stalks and sheaves also fulfill this purpose.

Gods and Goddesses of Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh is the festival of Lugh. He is the God of the Sun, and God of crafts, skills, and the bestowing of talents. In Wales he is known as Llew Law Gyffes. Blodeuwedd (‘Flower Face’), the Goddess of beauty, is also sometimes associated with this holiday due to her relationship with Llew. Likewise, Gronw Pebr (Gronw the Radiant), can be viewed as the Dark God of the waning year. In the Mabinogion, it is Gronw who kills Llew.

Colors of Lughnasadh

Colors representing the fruits of the harvest are appropriate at this time of year: Reds for ripening, oranges for the waning Sun, golds and yellows representing the Sun God Lugh, and dark greens representing fruition are all colors commonly seen for this High Day.

Traditions of Lughnasadh

Cakes and ale are often served at this time of year. Breads, especially wheat, oat and cornbreads, are baked into loaves representing John Barleycorn. There are many variations of a Cakes and Ale ceremony. The most common is to pass John Barleycorn around the table or the circle, allowing each participant to take a piece, and to pass a mug of ale around as well, allowing each participant to take a sip. Toasts, invocations and blessings may be said during this ceremony.

Meadowsweet tea, made from the leaves of the herb, is sometimes served in honor of Blodeuwedd. Cakes and pies of all types, as well as fruits, nuts and berries of the early harvest, are staples. Wines, especially elderberry wine, and homemade ales, are a special treat. Many Druids also enjoy ciders and other fruit juices with the feast.

A fun activity, especially for children, is to make Corn Dollies or other God and Goddess symbols for decorating the feast table and altars. If you have children present at your ceremony, and you have access to a garden or orchard, you may also allow them to participate in the harvest by going out and picking some fruit or vegetables. You could also make a contest of it. An activity that all can enjoy would be to have your own version of the Highland Games by organizing sporting activities before the harvest feast.

DATEHIGH DAYCOMMON PAGAN NAMEMEANING
Winter SolsticeAlban ArthanYuleRebirth
February 1ImbolcImbolcQuickening
Vernal EquinoxAlban EilerOstaraYouth
May 1BeltaneBeltaneYoung Adulthood
Summer SolsticeAlban HeruinLitha or MidsummerAdulthood
August 1LughnasadhLughnasadh or LammasMaturity
Autumnal EquinoxAlban ElvedMabonOld Age
November 1SamhainSamhainCroning