Lughnasadh: The Festival of Carbs

Posted July 26 2012

Lughnasadh Altar

By: Thomas Howe

Once upon a time, there was a god named Lugh (or Lú), who decided to hold a funeral for his foster mother, named Tailtiu. She apparently cleared Ireland’s fields to prepare farmlands, and died of exhaustion. This funeral was highlighted by a huge feast, which eventually turned into an annual festival, according to Irish lore.


Lughnasadh falls on August 1st in the Northern Hemisphere, and 1 February in the Southern Hemisphere, and is one of the eight Sabbats of the pagan wheel of the year. Some of the traditions of this festival besides eating nature’s bounty also included marriages, or handfasting, and contracts for winter lodging. These “trial marriages” would last a year and a day, with the option of dissolving them at the end of the year.


A key ritual focus of this particular rite is the blessing brought forth from the earth in the form of growing crops. Another tradition for this day is the ceremonial first harvest or cutting of corn or grain, which would then be set aside and sacrificed to deity.


Lughnasadh was traditionally held on a hilltop, as the god Lugh (or Lú) would triumph over a season of struggle with the Goddess and stand victorious on high ground. Another reasoning in the choice of this location is because a common practice would be harvesting bilberries, which resemble blueberries (but are not, but a different species of fruit).

corn dolly lammas lughnasaadh

There is also a long lost tradition at this time, at least in the Scottish highland tradition, was the gift of special cakes known as the lunastain, or luinean if given to a man, or luineag if given to a woman, which would signify or imbue the recipient with good luck, blessing, and protection.


Today’s festival is celebrated still by pagans and Gaelic practitioners, with a heavy emphasis on bonfires, the fruit of the harvest (traditionally in the form of bread or cakes), and dancing in celebration of nature’s gift of crops to prepare for the long winter of lack ahead.


Here’s some activities or ritual aspects that you can include in your Lughnasadh this year:


Bake some bread, make a cake: This is the simplest way to honor the bounty that deity has brought forth, and a way to celebrate the harvest that is coming. 

Start a bonfire: I realize that for some parts of the world, a large hot burning pile of wood seems like the worst idea, but as this is primarily a festival celebrating the God, or Lord of the Harvest, light and fire will certainly honor his contributions.

Dance! This is a celebration! Use this opportunity to create some energy of your own, and enjoy nature before the darkness begins to take over. Remember: “Use it or lose it” isn’t just a nice cliché; it’s a metaphysical tenet. Dancing, moving your body, expelling energy now will ensure that it will come back to you in the form of calories, i.e. a full pantry, and a winter of abundance, not lack.

Small ritual at home: Eclectic Artisans has great sabbat and altar kits for sale, perfect for a small ritual at home. In fact they sabbat specific ritual kits like this Lughnasadh ritual kit.

 

Blueberries! Okay, so the tradition says bilberries, and if you can find them, I suppose it would be awesome to keep with the ancient ways. Since they’re not native to my area, and because the more common kind are my favorite fruit, I’ll take those nice, sweet blue fruits any day. In fact, you can go a step further and make this:

                   

 

Yield: Makes 9 servings

2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter, melted 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed


In a bowl, beat eggs, buttermilk, and butter to blend. In another bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.


Stir flour mixture into egg mixture just until evenly moistened. Gently stir in berries. Grab your 10" cast iron skillet and heat over medium heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, coating the pan with it. Note: If you don't have a cast iron skillet you could also use an 8 inch square pan.


Bake in a 375° oven until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then cut into 9 squares.


 

YUM! Plus, you’re covering ALL your correspondence and traditions in one delicious pan! It’s BREAD! It’s CAKE! It’s BERRIES! It’s cooked with FIRE! It will make you DANCE (maybe)!


Another option--which we are considering instituting this year--is a pizza party! Have some friends over, get some of that easy pizza dough from the store, and let folks load up their toppings any way they want. What could say “harvest” better than a nice, fresh baked pizza covered in tomato sauce and veggies (and maybe a sacrificed pig or cow in the form of pepperoni or sausage, if you’re into that)!


These are a few of the traditions that you can mix into your observance of this little- celebrated Sabbat. If you have any more, please feel free to share them in the comments.


(PS: Lammas, whose term is sometimes used interchangeably with Lughnasadh, is similar in spirit, but was an Anglo-Saxon form of the festival. It was also--as many of our holidays--co-opted by the Church in order to win over the Pagans, and therefore generally referring to the Christian traditions.)


(PPS: I want to thank Eclectic Artisans for the opportunity to share this post; now I know how to spell Lughnasadh without looking!)


Happy Lughnasadh!



Recipe From: Kozy Kitchen
Altar Image From: The Examiner
Corn Dolly From: Examiner
Pizza Image From: We Heart It