In Earth-based traditions, Lammas is usually celebrated on August 1, honoring the first harvest of the season. Lammas is also known as Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-NAS-ah). In some Wiccan and Pagan traditions, Lammas is also a day of honoring Lugh, the Celtic god of craftmanship, grain, the Sun, and late summer storms. Lughnasadh is still celebrated in many parts of the world today. At this time of year, the nights are beginning to lengthen and we anticipate the return of fall. This is truly the beginning of shadow season. Before the Wheel turns to the darker months, we can take time to appreciate warmth and sunlight and how they support the season of growth. Gratitude in times of plenty is a powerful practice. What we reap now wasn’t always full-grown. By celebrating Lammas as a harvest holiday, we honor our ancestors and the hard work they had to do in order to survive and secure our lineage.
Like all Celtic or Pagan holidays, Lammas also honors goddesses whose associations, strengths, and myths align with the work we’re doing at this time of year. Ceres, the harvest goddess, known as Demeter by the Greeks, and Tailtiu, mother of Lugh, are great forces of agricultural abundance. We receive their blessings in the bounty of food that will feed us through the rest of the year. Metaphorically, our mental, spiritual, and emotional crops are ready for the first harvest, too. If you set intentions in the darkness of winter or early spring, this is the time to see how they’ve manifested and will support you in the months to come.
August 1 is known as Lammas, or Lughnasadh (it’s February 1, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere). This is a day to celebrate the beginnings of the harvest, when the grain and corn is gathered. It’s also a time, in some traditions, of honoring Lugh, the Celtic craftsman god. Here are some ideas for dressing up your altar for your Lammas (Lughnasadh) celebration! Setting Up Your Lammas AltarMore »
At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh, it’s time to celebrate the first harvest of the year, and recognize that the hot summer days will soon come to an end. The plants of spring wither and drop seeds to ensure future crops. Grains are ready to be harvested and the fruits are ripe for picking. We can give thanks for the food on our tables.
Lughnasadh means the funeral games of Lugh (pronounced Loo), referring to Lugh, the sun god. However, the funeral is not his own, but the funeral games he hosts in honor of his foster-mother Tailte. For that reason, the traditional Tailtean craft fairs and Tailtean marriages (which last for a year and a day) are also celebrated at this time.
It is now high summer and the union of Sun and Earth, of God and Goddess, has produced the First Harvest. Lammas is the celebration of this first, Grain Harvest, a time for gathering in and giving thanks for abundance. We work with the cycle that Mabon or the Autumn Equinox is the Second Harvest of Fruit, and Samhain is the third and Final Harvest of Nuts and Berries.
The word ‘Lammas’ is derived from ‘loaf mass’ and is indicative of how central and honoured is the first grain and the first loaf of the harvesting cycle.
It is also the great festival of Lugh, or Lug, the great Celtic Sun King and God of Light. August is His sacred month when He initiated great festivities in honour of His mother, Tailtiu. Feasting, market fairs, games and bonfire celebrations were the order of the day. Circle dancing, reflecting the movement of the sun in sympathetic magic, was popular, as were all community gatherings. August was considered an auspicious month for handfastings and weddings…
It’s the dog days of summer, the gardens are full of goodies, the fields are full of grain, and the harvest is approaching. Take a moment to relax in the heat, and reflect on the upcoming abundance of the fall months. At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh, it’s time to begin reaping what we have sown throughout the past few months, and recognize that the bright summer days will soon come to an end.
Lammas History: Welcoming the Harvest
The Beginning of the Harvest:
At Lammas, also called Lughnasadh, the hot days of August are upon us, much of the earth is dry and parched, but we still know that the bright reds and yellows of the harvest season are just around the corner. Apples are beginning to ripen in the trees, our summer vegetables have been picked, corn is tall and green, waiting for us to come gather the bounty of the crop fields.
Now is the time to begin reaping what we have sown, and gathering up the first harvests of grain, wheat, oats, and more.
This holiday can be celebrated either as a way to honor the god Lugh, or as a celebration of the harvest.
Celebrating Grain in Ancient Cultures:
Grain has held a place of importance in civilization back nearly to the beginning of time. Grain became associated with the cycle of death and rebirth. The Sumerian god Tammuz was slain and his lover Ishtar grieved so heartily that nature stopped producing. Ishtar mourned Tammuz, and followed him to the Underworld to bring him back, similar to the story of Demeter and Persephone.
In Greek legend, the grain god was Adonis. Twogoddesses, Aphrodite and Persephone, battled for his love. To end the fighting, Zeus ordered Adonis to spend six months with Persephone in the Underworld, and the rest with Aphrodite.
A Feast of Bread:
In early Ireland, it was a bad idea to harvest your grain any time before Lammas — it meant that the previous year’s harvest had run out early, and that was a serious failing in agricultural communities.
However, on August 1, the first sheaves of grain were cut by the farmer, and by nightfall his wife had made the first loaves of bread of the season.
The word Lammas derives from the Old English phrase hlaf-maesse, which translates to loaf mass. In early Christian times, the first loaves of the season were blessed by the Church.
Honoring Lugh, the Skillful God:
In some Wiccan and modern Pagan traditions, Lammas is also a day of honoring Lugh, the Celtic craftsman god. He is a god of many skills, and was honored in various aspects by societies both in the British Isles and in Europe. Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-NAS-ah) is still celebrated in many parts of the world today. Lugh’s influence appears in the names of several European towns.
Honoring the Past:
In our modern world, it’s often easy to forget the trials and tribulations our ancestors had to endure. For us, if we need a loaf of bread, we simply drive over to the local grocery store and buy a few bags of prepackaged bread. If we run out, it’s no big deal, we just go and get more. When our ancestors lived, hundreds and thousands of years ago, the harvesting and processing of grain was crucial. If crops were left in the fields too long, or the bread not baked in time, families could starve. Taking care of one’s crops meant the difference between life and death.
By celebrating Lammas as a harvest holiday, we honor our ancestors and the hard work they must have had to do in order to survive. This is a good time to give thanks for the abundance we have in our lives, and to be grateful for the food on our tables. Lammas is a time of transformation, of rebirth and new beginnings.
Symbols of the Season
The Wheel of the Year has turned once more, and you may feel like decorating your house accordingly. While you probably can’t find too many items marked as “Lammas decor” in your local discount store, there are a number of items you can use as decoration for this harvest holiday.
Crafts, Song and Celebration
Because of its association with Lugh, the skilled god, Lammas (Lughnasadh) is also a time to celebrate talents and craftsmanship. It’s a traditional time of year for craft festivals, and for skilled artisans to peddle their wares. In medieval Europe, guilds would arrange for their members to set up booths around a village green, festooned with bright ribbons and fall colors. Perhaps this is why so many modern Renaissance Festivals begin around this time of year!
Sickles and scythes, as well as other symbols of harvesting
Dried grains — sheafs of wheat, bowls of oats, etc.
Corn dolls — you can make these easily using dried husks
Early fall vegetables, such as squashes and pumpkins
Late summer fruits, like apples, plums and peaches
Lugh is also known in some traditions as the patron of bards and magicians. Now is a great time of year to work on honing your own talents. Learn a new craft, or get better at an old one. Put on a play, write a story or poem, take up a musical instrument, or sing a song. Whatever you choose to do, this is the right season for rebirth and renewal, so set August 1 as the day to share your new skill with your friends and family.