The ancient Celtic festival of Lughnasa or Lughnasadh marks the end of Summer and the coming of the harvest. It is a joyful occasion the pagan Celts celebrated with feasting, fire, dance, song and games. Historically, it was celebrated throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The festival lasted a month with August 1st falling in the middle, but when the Gregorian system was adopted in Ireland in 1782, 11 days had to be dropped to make the calendar astronomically correct. This led to the festival being celebrated on either the 1st or the 12th of August, called respectively New Style and Old Style Lughnasa
The word Lughnasa itself is derived from "Lugh", with modern Irish "Lunasá" being the name for the month of August. Name sake Lugh was one of the most important Celtic gods, representing the Sun and light. Originating as an all-seeing deity, Lugh was later thought of as a historical figure, great warrior, and Irish cultural hero.
Altar depicting the celtic God Lugh.
Originating as a funeral feast and exhibition of craft, skill and sportsmanship, Lughnasadh was held to commemorate the death of Lugh's stepmother Tailtiu, the last Queen of the Fir Bolg, who died from exhaustion after clearing the land of Ireland for agriculture.
Goddess of the Earth
When all her people gathered at her death-bed, Tailitiú told them to hold funeral games in her honor. She prophesied that for as long as they celebrated in this way, Ireland would not be without harvest and song. Her name comes from the old Celtic Talantiu, "The Great One of the Earth", cognate of the Irish word for land; Talam. From this many believe she may originate from the personification of the Land itself.
One of the great Irish earth Goddesses, Tailitiú lived on the magical hill of Tara. According to a Teltown/Meath tourism site: “The hill of Tailtiu is one of the most celebrated spots in Ireland, for it was here that the celebrated Aonach Tailteann, the Lughnasa Festival was first held. The Tailtean games that were held were much like the Olympics.
In another pool of thought, the Celts would make offerings to appease son of Tailitiú, Lugh, and if successful the harvest would be a bountiful one. Prized bulls were slaughtered and early ripened fruits would be offered. They would hold competitions of strength and skill, bonfires, fairs and festivities often taking place on hills and mountains. Visits to holy Wells, along with rituals and the swim racing of horses in a nearby body of water, lake or river.
“Lughnasadh” by NicoleSamlinski
Ways to Celebrate
If you don't have a bull to sacrifice, horse to swim or early ripened berries to offer to a deity, you can mark the occasion in other ways.
To this day, Lughnasadh is still linked to hill climbing, though now indoctrinated by the Catholic Church, such as the climbing of Croagh Patrick. Reek Sunday is the last Sunday in July on which the journey is traditionally made. This year over 5000 people made the trek.
The traditional baking of bread is still a common way to celebrate, honoring the scarifice of the land to provide for us through winter. Mixing the ingredients with intention and sharing the baked loaf with family and loved ones. Here in the workshop we are mixing this week's bathing blends with intention and paying grateful respect to the Irish grass fed Cow's Milk and harvest of Irish organic oats that make your Milk Baths so special and transformative.
Dancing is a wonderful way to celebrate the festival, with song, joy and laughter suppressing the lament of an ending Summer. Turn on your favourite playlist and dance with a grateful heart for the summer days gone by and bountiful harvest to come.
Bathing, either forest bathing or in waters infused with natural elements pays hommage to Tailtiú and reconnects you with nature itself. We are loving Sea Soak today, created with natural ingredients sourced from both the land and sea of Ireland.
Trading and crafts played a big part in the Lughnasadh festivities, with the modern day Puck Fair still taking place in County Kerry. The festival or fair at Puck lasts three days, the 10th, 11th and 12th of August each year. The first day of Puck is known as “the gathering”. On this day the Puck goat, a sign of pagan fertility, is enthroned on a stand in the town square and the horse fair is held. The second day of Puck is known as the “Fair day” with music, partying an market stalls. A normally quiet time for traders and farmers before the harvests were ready, Lughnasadh gave the ancient celtic economy a boost. So now is the perfect time to show off your creative talents, seek out local artisans, crafts people and creators to support.
Fruit. Partaking in mindful eating of early ripened fruit such as the apple is a very simple way to echo the feasting of Lughnasadh. Try making a wish, casting an intention or setting a goal before taking a bite.
Being mindful of the blessing you have in your life, of our sustenance from the earth and all that brings you happiness is a poignant way to recant the festivities of your ancestors.
Do you celebrate Lughnasadh? Maybe this year you could do something to mark the occasion. Any excuse to reconnect with feminine strength and nature is welcome here! Let me know if you plan on joining in. X