Not all will have noticed but up and down the length of the United Kingdom there is activity! Farmers have started the first harvest. Some pretty impressive July storms have brought torrential rain across most of the country and with them a sense of frustration for farmers who have been watching and waiting for the right moment to begin.
I have also noticed some frenzied activity on the large bramble thicket opposite my bedroom window; there is a currently a battle to get the best early ripened blackberries, who will win, the walkers with their tupperware tubs or the blackbird who lives there?
For the ancestors of this land this time was known as Lughnasadh and was one of the four important Celtic fire festivals. For people whose lives rotated around and depended upon the agricultural year, the festivals almost certainly offered a wonderful opportunity for celebration and merriment but were also likely to have been a time to give thanks to their Gods for the abundance which nature had provided since the spring.
Lughnasadh is important to Pagans today and makes up one of the eight wheel of the year festivals or sabbats, the others being the remaining three ancient Celtic fire festivals, Beltane, Samhain and Imbolc along with those relating to the movement of the sun, summer and winter solstice and spring and autumn equinox.
In Anglo Saxon times with the coming of Christianity Lughnasadh became Lammas or 'loaf mass' due to the tradition of baking a loaf from the first grain and taking it to a church to be blessed.
The name Lughnasadh originates from the Celtic God Lugh and the word nasad meaning assembly. So essentially 'gathering for the God Lugh'. Legend has it that Lugh started the festival himself in honour of his foster mother Tailtiu, an earth Goddess who died from exhaustion after clearing the land in Ireland to allow for agriculture.
Lugh is seen as a God of the sun, of the light. It is symbolic that at this time of first harvest the light is starting to wane as we head towards the darker days of autumn and winter. The heat of the sun has entered the corn and in combination with the richness of Mother Earth, allowed it to grow. It is as if Lugh himself has entered the corn. He must now be cut down and so that people may eat through through the winter, sacrificing himself for others, but sure in the knowledge that come spring he will return and his strength will be restored. Traces of this ancient symbolism, most likely familiar to our ancient ancestors, can still be seen today in folklore stories such as John Barleycorn, who gave his name to many a public house, reflecting the echoes of the past that are all around for those who see.
Perhaps Lughnasadh is a good moment to pause and be thankful for what nature provides, to wonder at the abundant result of the powerful sun and the nourishing earth, to reflect on seeds we planted in spring and how they may be coming to fruition and to consider how we will prepare and sustain ourselves for the darker months ahead.
Lughnasad Blessings to you all!
To keep up to date with all the latest blog posts as they are published please like the Windhover Ceremonies Facebook page;