A Little History – The First Harvest Festival

summer fantasy

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
Ellen Dugan


Now is the time of the First Harvest…..


“Now is the time of the First Harvest,
when bounties of nature give of themselves
so that we may survive.
O God of the ripening fields, Lord of the Grain,
grant me the understanding of sacrifice as you
prepare to deliver yourself under the sickle of the
goddess and journey to the lands of eternal summer.
O Goddess of the Dark Moon,
teach me the secrets of rebirth
as the Sun loses its strength and the nights grow cold.

I partake of the first harvest, mixing its energies
with mine that I may continue my quest for the starry
wisdom of perfection.
O Lady of the Moon and Lord of the Sun,
gracious ones before Whom the stars halt their courses,
I offer my thanks for the continuing fertility of the Earth.
May the nodding grain loose its seeds to be buried in
the Mothers breast, ensuring rebirth in the warmth

of the coming Spring.”

–   Scott Cunningham, Lammas Ritual

The First Wheat or Barley Harvest of the Year – Lammas


“Lammas celebrates the first wheat or barley harvest of the year and the skills of those who tend them. Baking and sharing bread, feasting with neighbor, and honoring the still-powerful forces of the summer sun’s light, and are key elements of this cooperative, community-based sabbat.   Corn and wheat dollies made from the last sheaves and stalks of harvested grain are kept through winter to be planted with the first seeds of spring. These organic Goddess figures powerfully affirm the reverence for the Earth’s cycles of birth, death, and renewal. The celebrations, which feature a break from toil, contests of skill, laughter feasting, and dancing, are tempered by the knowledge that most crops are still growing in the fields with no guarantee of adequate abundance for the long winter.   Lughnasadh’s energy of cautious optimism and feeling of well-being bring out the best in all people. The sabbat mingles the expansion of vibrant summer energy with the gathering energy of the upcoming season. The result is a unique time for solidly expanding toward focused goals, such as perfecting and challenging your skills.”


–   Damias Vine Yahoo Group, 7/29/07

Celebrating the Seasons of Life: Litha to Lammas


“The grain to harvest’s cutting falls
to make the bread for banquet halls.
We’ll save some seeds where life’s waiting,
and plant a new field come next Spring.
We shared the work we needed to do,
and now we’ll share the eating too!
Thank you, fruit, and thank you bread,
for making sure that we are fed.”


–  Asleen O’Gaea, Celebrating the Seasons of Life: Litha to Lammas

Lammas Things to Do #13



Thoroughly clean, dust, tidy up, refreshen, improve, and add appropriate seasonal decorations to your home altar.  This should normally be clean and tidy, however an extra cleaning before the Lughnasadh celebration is a way to express your reverence, create a visible reminder of your thoughts and devotional practices, and to offer hospitality to the nature spirits, ancestors, and Shining Ones. If you don’t have a home altar, read some books and webpages about setting one up in your home or garden, and then establish one this holiday season. 

Lammas Things to Do #9


Add some appropriate Lammas, Lughnasadh, or Mid-Summer songs, chants, prayers, reflections, invocations, or poems to your Neo-Pagan Craft Journal, Book of Shadows, blog, website, or Ritual Handbook.  Write in your personal journal.  Most spiritual seekers keep a notebook, journal or log as part of their experimental, creative, magical and experiential work. 

Lammas Things to Do #8


Working and meditating in the garden is an important facet of any spiritual path.  We need to regularly reconnect with the earth and the autumn season outdoors. Tend your garden daily.  Water your garden each day.  Weed your vegetable garden.  Harvest squash, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables from your garden each day.  Review your own lists of chores for July and August, and act accordingly.