A Little History – The First Harvest Festival
This first harvest festival, the festival of Lugh, was known as Lughnasadh (pronounced loo-nah-sa) to the Celts. You may see many alternate spellings, as well as different names altogether, for this sabbat, and there is also the Irish alternate spelling Lunasa. In Gaelic, Lunasa is the name for the month of August. In addition, this festival was known as Lammas to the Anglo-Saxons. Lammas is considered to be roughly translated as “loaf mass.”
Lugh is a Celtic solar god. This deity is a talented, handsome craftsman and master of myriad skills. One of his titles is Lugh Long Arm, as he holds a magick spear of thunderstorms; another is Lugh “the bright and shining one” who brings the crops to ripeness.
It is interesting to note that Lugh is aligned with the Roman Mercury, who is a trickster god. Both of the gods were considered to be multi-talented deities as they are both healers, blacksmiths, magicians, poets, and warriors. Lugh was considered the inventor of all of the arts. Artisans, bards, and crafters can call upon Lugh when they need help. Lugh’s consort is the nature goddess Rosmerta.
Legend says Lugh started the harvest festival that bears his name in honor of his foster mother, and it was traditionally held on August 1. The harvest season was vitally important during medieval times, as a successful harvest would ensure that your family survived the coming winter. If the harvest was abundant, part of it could be sold or traded for goods and other supplies. It was, in effect, currency. As a modern Witch this notion may seem a little antiquated to you, but honestly it should not. The harvest is still vital to today’s world and economy. Think about it the next time you go to the grocery store to select your fresh produce. Depending on the success of the fruit and vegetable crops, the prices may be higher or more reasonable.
According to oral history, this first harvest festival of Lugh lasted for weeks during the harvesting season, and activities included horseracing, fairs, crafts, and, of course, food. From the traditions of this old community first-harvest tradition came one of the modern eight sabbats that we celebrate today.
Occasionally you can find references to Lugnasa Sunday, or Garden Sunday linked in to this holiday. In keeping with the Anglo-Saxon loaf mass theme, in days past folks were thought to leave offerings of harvested grain, or of bread to their gods, and as Christianity took hold, they would bring in a loaf of bread to be blessed at their church that was freshly made from the newly harvested grain crop.
Lughnasadh was also a popular time for visiting sacred wells, fertility magick, marriages and divination. As the harvest season begins, we come to realize that summer is fading into autumn. The sun’s power is on its annual descent and the daylight hours are starting to decrease.
Astrologically speaking the sun has entered the “power point” of the zodiac and is in the mid-point of Leo.
Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating the Sabbats with the Garden Witch