Lammas or Lughnasadh
The Festival of the First Harvest
The Flourishing Season
North American Goddesses: Goddess Selu and Butterfly Maiden/Woman
Goddesses of the Season: Goddesses of horses and cattle. All grain Goddesses, Goddesses of abundance, Goddesses of corn, fruits, and the harvest.
Animal Spirits: We honor the animals such as the deer, otters, owls, bats, snakes, hawks, crows, eagles, and horses.
Musical Instruments: Drums
Colors: Yellow and Gold
Our Focus: Awareness and gratitude for the abundance and generosity around us.
Elements: Water and Earth
Phase of the Year
In the Northern Hemisphere, the astronomically correct time to celebrate Lammas is when the sun is 15 degrees in Leo, sometime around August 1. This is the midpoint between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox. In the Southern Hemisphere, Lammas is celebrated when the sun is 15 degrees in Aquarius sometime around February 2.
In North America
Lammas is our hottest time of the year. Many people faithfully celebrate Lammas on the first of August. But you can celebrate the festival any time that works with your schedule. Celebrate over a series of day or all week long.
Historical Information about Lammas or Lughnasadh
Unlike the Summer and Winter Solstice not every culture celebrated Lammas or Lughnasadh. For our ancestors who did, it was a time of horseracing, games, competitions, fairs, marriages, and coronations of Kings. Gratitude was expressed, and bountiful feasts were enjoyed.
Throughout the British Isles, Lammas/Lughnasadh was celebrated slightly differently. Some regions had different names for the festival. Still they celebrated it around the same time on the year. Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, called their celebrations Lughnasadh or Lughnasa. In England, it was called Lammas.
The Gaelic festival Lughnasa marked the beginning of the harvest season. It was celebrated on August 1st or sometime around the midpoint between the Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox. However, over time the celebrations shifted to the Sunday nearest this date. For the Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, Lughnasa was one of the four Gaelic season festivals. The others included, Samhain, Imbolc and Beltane. All spelled slightly different from what you see here.
Some rituals included ritual dance and plays, feasts, baking first bread, collecting the first corn, and giving offerings of the first fruits were given to the gods.
The origins of Lughnasadh are found with the Gaels, native people of Northwestern Europe. They were a pagan people who honored the Tuatha Dé Danann, adored their ancestors and believed in an “Otherworld.” The otherworld was not like the Christian concept of heaven or hell. The Otherworld was a place that exists along-side and within all parts of the physical universe. Their festival included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic contests, such as the Tailteann Games, a mourning ceremony, feasting, marriages, divorces, visiting sacred wells, and trading.
Lughnasadh got its name from the Celtic deity Lugh (pronounced Loo). It is said that Lughnasadh was created in honor of his foster mother, the Goddess Tailtiu, (a Fir Bolg Queen), who died on that day clearing the land for what would become the county Meath. Other sources say, the festival was established to honor his two wives, Bui, (a cow Goddess) and Nas (Goddess of assembly). The combination might present us with a picture of a cattle fair. Lughnasadha is translated "Assembly of Lugh" Lugh was believed to be a god of humans, kings, a patron of heroes. Lugh was a King of divine beings, faery folk called the Tuatha de Dannan. Tuatha de Dannan translates to “the people of the Goddess Danu.” Goddess of water, rivers, earth, fertility, and mother Goddess of abundance. She represents the power and sovereignty of the land.
The Celtic custom at Lughnasadh was the ritual of taking the first fruits of the harvest to the top of a hill and burying it there as an offering to the gods. Festivals were typically held near a burial ground. Foods, clothing, livestock, produce and exotic goods were sold for gold and silver. Sacrifice, story-telling and drama were all part of the celebrations. Legal matters were often settled at this time.
Kingship was also legitimized through the marriage to a woman of royal lineage. These women where consider to be the embodiment of the Goddess. Without the blessings of the Goddess, a man may not be King. He is King as he is united with the Goddess and the Land. Wedding festivals involved the elements of sexuality, special drinks from the Goddess, games and feasting.
Trial marriages called a Teltown marriage took place. These partnerships or handfastings lasted for only a year and a day. This gave the couple time to decide whether they wanted to make the partnership permanent or they could dissolve the marriage a year later at the next festival.
First harvests were given to the Goddess, to spirits, or ceremonially eaten. They also participated in potlucks, dramatic performances, and combat. They decorated doorways with flowers and celebrated the fertility of the land.
Horse-races and horse-rituals were extremely popular during this season. Horses were led to swim through lakes and streams during the festival. It was thought that no animal would survive the year unless they were soaked in the healing waters. This would ensure the good health of the animals. To this day horse racing is still associated with this time of the year in Ireland.
If you could not attend a festival, you could celebrate in other ways such as practicing protective magic, driving cattle through rivers or water sources, to purify, and bless the animals.
Through migration of the different culture Anglo-Saxon and Celtic traditions began to blend together; absorbing one into another or often replacing older traditions with new ones.
Bringing the Festival into Modern Day Living
Pagan history of rituals and celebrations are often very similar to our current day state and county fairs. These fairs are often held around the same time of the year as pagan fairs, sometime around July and August. Modern day fairs include some of the same elements of games, competitions, foods and goods for sales, showing and selling of livestock, impressive performance from dancer, musicians, and animals etc. We never really stopped celebration this ancient pagan holiday we just stop calling it Lammas.
The making of corn dollies
This tradition goes back many thousands of years. It was a Pagan custom and evolved from the beliefs of the corn growing people who believed in the Corn Spirit.
What were corn dollies traditionally made from?
Corn dollies were made at Harvest time from the last sheaf of corn cut.
The Corn Spirit was supposed to live or be reborn in the plaited straw ornament or corn doll and was kept until the following spring to ensure a good harvest. The corn dolly often had a place of honor at the harvest banquet table.
The craft was brought to a halt by the advent of mechanization in the 1800s, but is now being revived as a fascinating hobby.
Other harvest rituals and ceremonies
In the past...
Celebrate Lammas with Your Own Cornucopia