Another month, another celtic ritual! Welcome, lads and lassies, to today’s Celtic history lesson. This month of August marks the pagan holiday Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-NAS-ah), also known as Lammas. This feast day is in and of itself a feast of history, folklore, and rituals. Lammas is derived from an Old-English word that means “loaf mass”. That is your first hint as to what this holiday honors…
In the pagan religion, Lammas is one of eight Wiccan sabbats. A sabbat marks the turning point of a season. As you may or may not know, the early Celts practiced an earth centered religion, so the seasons were the driving force of life. So what turning point did Lammas mark?
The Grain Harvest
In early Ireland, Lammas was called “Lughnasadh”, and celebrated the grain harvest! It was a bad sign if grain had to be harvested before August 1st (Lughnasadh). That meant that the harvest of the previous year had run out early, before the next harvest was ready to go. On the day of Lughnasadh, the first sheaves of grain were cut, and the first loaves of bread were baked. It wasn’t until Christianity came to the British Isles that Lughnasadh became known as “Lammas”.
In early Ireland, this day also celebrated the Celtic god, Lugh. The “nasad” part comes from the Gaelic word, násad , which means games or assembly. Lughnasadh: the games or assemblies for Lugh! Lugh was the god of craftsmanship and a jack of all trades. Blacksmithing, fighting, wheel making, you know, all the usual activities of the early Celts. He could do it all. To this day there is no clear answer as to why Lugh was honored on the same day as Lammas/Lughnasadh, but there are some conjectures. Some tales say that Lugh held a harvest fair for his stepmother, Tailtiu, on this date. Others say it is because Lugh’s wedding feast coincided with Lammas.
Traditions and Spells
In early Ireland as well as in parts of the world that celebrate this feast today, people make crafts and decorations to honor Lugh and his craftsmanship. Other rituals of course include feasting, with emphasis on the bread, baked with ingredients straight from the fresh crops. Songs and games were sung and played, and spells were cast over the new fruit of the harvest. Here are a few spells from the past that you could incorporate into your own Lughnasadh, if you so choose! These are fun activities for family members of all ages, but particularly fun for the little ones. Spellcraft never gets old!
The Lammas Bread Wish Spell: before you place your loaf of bread in the oven, dip a paintbrush in milk and write on the loaf your wish. If you eat the bread then while it is still warm, your wish may come true!
The Lammas Bread Protection Spell: after you bake a Lammas loaf, wait for it to cool. Then break it into four pieces with your hands, and take one to each corner of your home or property as you recite these words:
I call on the spirits
Of north, and south, east and west
Protect this place
Now, at the time of the Blessing.
Leave the bread for the birds, squirrels, or dear to eat! Now your home is protected by this ancient spellcraft.
I hope you enjoyed learning about this celebration of the harvest, known to the Irish as Lughnasadh. Perhaps you will bake yourself a loaf of bread, or take a moment of peace and quiet to make a wee craft. Happy Lughnasadh, everyone!