Wednesday, August 01, 2007


According to my calendar, today is the Pagan/Wiccan holiday Lughnasa.

Lughnasa is a Celtic harvest festival celebrated on August 1st. It marked the beginning of the harvest season, the ripening of first fruits.

In Celtic mythology, Lughnasa was begun by the Irish god Lugh in honor of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, the last queen of the Fir Bolg. Tailtiu cleared a great forest so the land could be cultivated, but then died of exhaustion. On her death bed, she told the men of Ireland that as long as they held funeral games in her honor, Ireland would not be without song. Since Tailtiu's name means "The Great One of the Earth," she was probably a personification of the land itself. Lugh's name refers to childbirth, which ties in with the time of year when the earth gives birth to her first fruits.

The festival was traditionally a time of community gatherings, market festivals, horse races and reunions. Among the Irish it was a favored time for handfastings - trial marriages that would generally last a year and a day, with the option of ending the contract before the new year, or later formalizing it as a more permanent marriage.

At one time the festival had evolved into a great tribal assembly, attended by the High King, where legal agreements were made, political problems discussed, and huge sporting contests were held on the scale of an early Olympic Games.

In later times, the festival was christianized as Lammas ("Loaf-Mass"). Some Wiccans and Neopagans use this name. In some rural areas, it was called "Bilberry Sunday," the day to climb the nearest "Lughnasadh Hill" and gather blackberries.

Lughnasadh is observed by Neopagans in various forms and by a variety of names. Some celebrate like the Ancient Celts, while others observe it with rituals adopted from other unrelated sources. In Wicca, Lughnasadh is one of the eight sabbats and the first of three harvest festivals.

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