People are always asking me about the holidays I celebrate.*
Tomorrow is one of our Sabbats (pagan holidays). Lughnasadh (pronounced in a number of ways, but we pronounce it Loogh-na-sah, but it’s also pronounced Loo-na-sah). My coven will be celebrating.
The seventh holiday in the Pagan year (which starts on November 1st, with Samhain), Lughnasadh is celebrated on August first.
There are a number of stories about the origin of the holiday, but in the modern era, a number of the pagan celebrations focus on the holiday as the First Harvest—the harvest of grains.
It’s the time when the spirit/God of the grain is sacrificed so that the people might live through the coming winter months. This spirit is personified by the name John Barleycorn. In Lammas, the Christianized version of Lughnasadh, we see a strong connection to the sacrifice of the grain god, for Lammas means loaf mass.
In our tradition, we also see it as the time when the Oak King, who fell to the Holly King at midsummer, journeys deep into the underworld where he will rest until Yule when they will battle once again and the Holly will fall. The Holly King increases his grasp over the season as the days grow shorter. As the fruits of the Lady ripen, she becomes the Dark Goddess, the Crone, who sacrifices the God of grain so that the people might live.
Blackberries are intricately linked with Lughnasadh, as is the berry known as bilberry (a dwarf blueberry). Both ripen at this time of year and both have been important food staples in history. With berries, one could make jam which would keep for long periods, or ferment them into wines.
On a personal level, we focus on our individual sacrifices—making adjustments to our behaviors and goals, in order to harvest what we’ve started earlier this year, and in order to grow stronger and more focused in our lives.
We honor the grain spirit (we personally honor the Corn spirit aspect of the Grain Gods, because corn is such an intricate part of the United States). We also make our corn dollies at this time of year—or a variant of them (I like using cinnamon brooms to make them because of their smell and their shape), which represent the Corn Mother, who watches over the household with prosperity and abundance until the next holiday season.
So that’s what Lughnasadh is. J And to my fellow Pagans: whether you are solitary (as I was for many years—by choice) or in a group, I hope that your celebrations go well, as the Wheel of the Year turns once again.
*some of this info comes from my book Dancing With the Sun