Updated: Jul 21
In Celtic tradition, Lughnasadh or Lúnasa is the festival of Lugh. God of the sun, harvest and corn, with Lugh translating as shining one. Varying personifications include: the Green Man, John Barleycorn, Hermes (Greek) or Mercury (Roman).
Lughnasadh occurs between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. It marks the beginning of harvest season; the first of three and taking place on the first of August (or the closest full moon in ancient times).
Lughnasadh follows on from Beltane, the marriage of the sun and the earth and bearing Flora the Maiden. Father Sun grows old from now and we will begin to see changes from green to yellow in nature. Father sun dies each year to feed the people enabling human life. Our Earth Mother is represented by the seeds of the harvest; once again holding the unborn child of the new Sun God within her,and appearing as new growth in the Spring. Energy is always recycled with a sense of immortality.
The history of this Sabbat has many stories. One is the story of Goddess Tailtiu, the foster mother of Lugh. It is said she gave her life for the people of Ireland, working hard to make the fields suitable for planting. At the beginning of harvest season she died of exhaustion and Lugh held a feast and sporting event in her honour, which later became the first harvest festival.
The symbolism of these harvest sabbats is one of abundance, sacrifice and transformation. With Lughnasadh we start with abundance! The warm days and nights of August were a time to celebrate the the remaining weeks of heat and light and ‘make hay while the sun shines’. A time of fun, but also hard work, as the harvest had to be collected over the next six weeks and stored for the Winter months; the children would have been rallied to help too.
Celebrations began on the eve of 31st of July. It was a time of joyous indulgence enjoying the first berries and sugary fruits! It was a time to be thankful for the marriage of the male and female. Grains would be collected and bread would be made; this tradition symbolised transformation with the seeds of intention coming into fruition. The first sheafs of corn produced the best seed so this was gathered ready for the Spring. The children would use the husks and making them into corn dollies. The corn dollies were placed inside the home to bring good luck during the harvest; it was thought the previous dollies were used to make fires or saved for the equinox and Yule in the coming weeks. Over the next day, celebrations and community gatherings were popular, including: building, crafts, market fairs, games, theatre, poetry, dancing and of course, a feasting of fruit, bread and wine! It was also a time where many handfastings took place as it was deemed a fruitful and auspicious time.
Later came Lammas, in Anglo-Saxon this literally translates into ‘loaf-mass’. It follows the tradition of baking bread at this time of year. The corn was gathered, baked and shared with the villagers; blessed to ensure a healthy harvest. It is easy to see the correspondences to nature in these themes- planting, growing, harvesting and death.
Ways to Enjoy Lammas
Decorate your altar and light candles to honour Lugh and be thankful for abundance and opportunity. The colours of green and the yellows and golds of the harvest are all suitable during this time. Sunflowers, calendulas, or poppies are good examples. I light a mix of green, yellow or even gold candles to represent both abundance and the coming harvest.
Lammas is the perfect time to walk around fields and hedgerows to witness the great harvest. Hunt out those brambles and safely forage some fruit! I used to go blackberry picking with my Mum, Grandma and Aunty Nan, and still some of my best memories as a child. If you are a real earth momma, and have super baking skills, then why not make a fruit pie with a little cream!
If foraging isn’t your thing you could simply treat yourself to an organic fruit cordial. Perfect to enjoy with picnic amongst the flower fields and enjoy the remaining sunshine. Many of my Witchy friends will be enjoying their home-made wine. If you haven't tried wine making yet, it is really good fun, I made some blackberry wine last year and I was very pleased with the result!
If you go out for a walk then be sure to bring back some fallen twigs. I use them to make a broom. Collect some twigs together and tie them with some yellow or green ribbon (in keeping with Lammas) to form a broom. I often tie on some herbs or crystals for decoration too. Simply hang above the door and considered good luck for the the harvest season. In true witchy style, you would really use the broom to do three sweeps in each room in a clockwise direction and ask the universe to bring Lammas gifts and abundance to your door!
Making a corn dolly is a very traditional activity and super fun for children. Go for a walk and see what you can find in the fields and woodland. Simply get creative and weave them into a doll (there are loads of webpages showing you how to make them too). Place her in your home somewhere and ready then burn the doll at Samhain (or a year later), as a way of giving thanks for all that you have received and letting go of the old.
If you hit the woodland, look out for Brideswort. This plant is perhaps better known as Filipendula ulmaria or Meadowsweet. It is used medicinally, but also used to make garlands which were placed on doors for the celebration or worn on the head. Meadowsweet has a unique calming, antiseptic-like smell which was considered to bring peace to the heart and household. And let’s not forget, it was also used in love spells by the maidens! ;)
Collecting seeds is a fun job to do. If you are collecting seeds it is important to be organised and label/package them correctly and watch our for toxic ones. Seeds are a way of securing a future harvest. It is a great activity for children as it teaches them about the nature cycle and develops their connection with the earth, and we really need the next generation to care for our world... Many of my witchy friends will swap seeds or give little presents out during Sahmain in October; they can be a nice reminder of light within the darkness, as the darkness gets longer.
If all of that sounds too much, why not simply spend some time with a tree. Tree guardians are said to inhabit trees in celtic folklore; some have been around for hundreds of years and have listened to many a person in their long lives... I love to simply sit by a tree and take time to ground. The Hazel tree is the sacred tree for the month of August (with the Holly tree just coming to an end). The Hazel tree is associated with wisdom and inspiration. It is said to be cloaked in powerful magic. I think it is the perfect energy for manifestation, what do you think?
Alternatively, Holly symbolises peace and goodwill. Associated with the God of Thunder these trees was planted near dwellings to protect them from the lightening… perhaps not so shrouded it science,but, metaphorically, thunder is a great transformer. Tap into the energy of the tree to transform your problems with peace and goodwill. Maybe write a wish on a fallen leaf, bury it and ask the Green Man to transform it at this magical time. You can leave a biological offering of some kind to say thank you for the wisdom you receive.
You can't beat a good feast with lovely friends during the warm evenings. Community is central to all sabbats, but very much during this social and abundant time. Decorate the garden and the table in yellows and greens. Make a day of it, eat, drink, play games, or camp out and enjoy some stargazing late into the night.
If you built a fairy home or an altar in your garden during the previous sabbats then once again, leave a little gift. Earth/garden spirits that are around at this time I am sure they would love a piece of cake, bread or fruit. Here at LR we add them to our list, making sure we feed our fish, birdies and hedgehog too ;)
It is also a great time to rally the community if there is a project that needs doing - maybe at the some gardens, allotments, or some old land that needs reinventing. Or even something as simple as donating old items to someone who needs them. Or, you could do something for the environment, make one small, consistent, change for the next six weeks at least - what could you do personally to reduce damage to the planet?
I usually take some time to do meditation, crystal work or journalling. Journalling can be great for keeping you on track. Check your journal. What seeds did you plant last sabbat? Did you meet all your goals? Get excited and be proud of yourself for getting to this point of the year. If you didn't made any goals yet, what new goals will you set? I stop and visualise my life and I am grateful for and in my mind (for the good and bad, and finding a resolve for the bad). I then build what I want to achieve in my mind for the next six weeks. I leave a token gift. “I am here on the first harvest of Lugh and Gaia. Help me to understand the process of rebirth in all lessons.I thank you for your harvest, as the waning energy still warms me, I remain heartfelt and grounded, in all that I do, in grace and ease"
For the crystal fans out there, consider...
Shades of yellow to represent the harvest, such as: Amber, Tiger’s eye, Citrine. Or continue on with lush Summer energy, and may prefer to work with Moss Agate or Bloodstone. What answers to you find?
We hope you like our ideas. Happy Lughandasa! Tune in for the next harvest period which is Autumn Equinox, Mabon and Samhain. If you’ve been following our page since we started, this is the forth holiday we’ve covered together so far, if you missed our blogs you can check them out here: https://www.leafretreat.com/blog/categories/leaf-love