Lammas (Lughnasadh) - the Pagan Festival for the First Harvest

Lammas (Lughnasadh) –  the Pagan Festival for the First Harvest  

In Paganism by Chris A. Parker

Lammas, which is also called Lughnasad or Lughnassadh, is a celebration of the start of the harvest. It is especially a time to honor the first wheat or corn crop.

Grain has been an important part of society since virtually the dawn of time.

Families may go hungry if harvests were left in the fields for too long or if the bread wasn’t prepared on time. People’s lives depended on how well they took care of their crops.

At Lammas or Lughnasadh, it is time to begin reaping what we have sown over the last several months and to acknowledge that the long, sunny days of summer are coming to a close.

Lughnasadh begins at sunset on July 31 and lasts until the night of August 1 (January 31–February 1 in the Southern Hemisphere). This is about halfway between the summer solstice (Litha) and the fall equinox (Mabon). It is one of the eight Wiccan sabbats and one of the four seasonal festivals of the Gaelic-Celtic people. Beltane, Samhain, and Imbolc are the other three.

Lammas encourages festivals and large meetings in which people praise God for the season’s first harvest. According to custom, a loaf of bread must be brought to mass on Lammas Day, which is why it is also known as “Loaf Mass Day.”

The term “lammas” is derived from the Old English words hlāf, which means “loaf,” and maesse, which means “mass” or “feast.” Over time, the spelling and pronunciation of “loaf-mass” were twisted to Lammas.

Despite the fact that Lammas Day is a Christian celebration, it is also observed by those who wish to thank the gods and goddesses for blessing the earth with a bountiful wheat crop in a specific year. Among these deities, the god Lugh is prominent.

So, this festival could be held either to honor the god Lugh or to celebrate the harvest.

Lughnasadh-Lammas: Origins, Similarities, and Differences

Lughnasadh and Lammas are two festivals that are similar. They are both held on the same day, but they are not the same.

In the Middle Ages, Christians called the holiday “Lammas.” Named after the Anglo-Saxon term for “loaf-mass” On this day, the first grain harvest was cooked into bread, which was then placed as an offering on the altars of the churches.

Lughnasadh is celebrated on the same day in Irish Gaelic. It was the big festival for Lugh, who was the great Sun King and God of Light in Celtic mythology. He initiated large celebrations in memory of his mother, Tailtiu, in August, which is his holy month. The name is derived from his name, and it literally means “Lugh’s Gathering.”

In the past, Lughnasadh was celebrated with games, such as the “Tailteann Games.”

Lugnasadh, like many other pagan celebrations, was Christianized and renamed Lammas, although neopaganism has also drawn attention to ancient Celtic feasts. Today, it is common to find bread and grain offerings on altars, as well as craft materials or something linked to a person’s abilities, to honor Lugh, the God of many skills.

But, let’s start from the beginning.

Lugh and the Harvest Goddess Tailtiu
Image by Miriam Müller from Pixabay
Lughnasadh-The Sun King, the Harvest Goddess

Lughnasadh goes back to the time before written history. The literal meaning of the name Lugh is “The Shining One.” The primary responsibility of Lugh, the sun god, was to maintain control over the sun so that it wouldn’t destroy the world. So, this time of year, when the sun’s light starts to fade, reminds us of him.

Lugh, however, was more than just a solar deity. All artisans, especially those who worked with metal, singers, magicians, healers, and warriors, had him as their patron.

As a god who could do many things, Lugh was very popular. He had been chosen to rule the Tuatha Dé Danann, a group of Fair Folk. Lugh was a brilliant craftsman who excelled in metalworking, harp playing, poetry, fighting, sorcery, and medicine. He was also very handsome and always looked young. It is not difficult to understand why he was loved and adored across the Celtic realm.

In order to completely comprehend how Lughnasadh came to be, it is important to relate Lugh’s fascinating history.

Lugh and the Harvest Goddess Tailtiu

Lugh’s birth circumstances were strange. His mother, Ethlin, was the Fomorian daughter of Balor, while his father, Cian, was a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann. It had the potential to be a fantastic match, unifying the two tribes. However, there was a serious issue: Ethlin’s father, Balor, had forbidden her from ever having children. This was due to a sorcerer’s prophecy that Balor’s own grandson would murder him.

So Balor simply keeps his daughter away from all males and locks her in a tower.

But Ethlin was already in love with Cian, who was strong and bold. He snuck inside the tower, utilizing Rapunzel’s techniques.

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The Tuatha Dé Danann foresaw problems when Ethlin became pregnant. Balor would attempt to murder the child. Therefore, Cian and Ethlin were carried away to an island nearby. When Lugh was born, his mother gave him to the harvest goddess, Tailtiu. She was responsible for raising Lugh and molding him into a wonderful young man.

But, she had to do a lot of work. As the grain goddess, she was responsible for clearing all of Ireland’s fields for sowing and reaping the crop. The weight became too much for her as she grew older. On the morning of August 1st, the poor goddess fell from fatigue and passed away.

Lugh wanted to pay tribute to his foster mother. She had begged for no mourning and simply joyous festivities in her memory. As a result, Lugh organized a large harvest feast. There were games (the Tailteann Games), drinking, and being merry.

The best athletes in Celtic society were honored at the Tailteann Games. There were also a number of non-sporting competitions going on at the same time, such as singing, dancing, poetry, and storytelling.

Trial marriages were held at the event, with couples joining hands through a hole in a slab of wood. The trial marriage would last for a year and a day. At the end of that time, the marriage could be made official or broken without any questions.

Because it was one of the few times of the year when everyone was together and not fighting, in addition to the competitions, eating, and festivities, it was also a significant trading event for nearby villages.

The celebration was named after Lugh, who organized the celebration. It literally means “Lugh’s Gathering”. It is connected with the harvest since Tailtiu was the goddess of grain and Lugh was the deity of the waning sun.

Lammas: The Evolution of a New Celebration

Emperor Constantine spread Christianity throughout Roman-dominated Europe and the British Isles somewhere in the fourth century AD. Many Pagan rites, like as those practiced by the Celts and other tribes, were prohibited. Lughnasadh was presumably outlawed, or at the very least went underground. The first harvest, however, evolved into a new celebration known as Lammas.

Lammas is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term for “loaf-mass.” On this day, loaves of bread were cooked from the first grain harvest and placed as offerings on the church altars. Lammas-tide wasn’t just a one-day celebration; it was more of a period for baking. It started on August 1 and went on for a couple of weeks.

The history and origin of the word “Lammas” is also very interesting. In medieval times, the feast was known as the “Gule of August” in England and Scotland. Although the exact meaning of “gule” is uncertain, the Welsh word ” Gŵyl Awst,” which means “feast of August,” does exist.

In the Middle Ages, Lammas was also the end of the hay harvest, which had started after the Summer Solstice. The custom was to let one sheep loose onto the meadow after the end of the harvest. The sheep belonged to whoever could capture it. This raises the possibility that “Lammas” was derived from “lamb mass,” another harvest rite.

During the Anglo-Saxon time period in Wessex, bread made from the new crop would be taken to church and blessed. The Lammas loaf would then be broken into four pieces and put in the corners of a barn to protect the grain that had been gathered.

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare famously named Lammas as Juliet’s birthday. “Even or odd, of all the days in the year, come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.”

So, the Lammas event was well-known and would have been easy for Elizabethan people to recognize.

No matter where the words and traditions came from, there’s no doubt that Lugnasadh/Lammas is a great time to celebrate.

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How to celebrate Lughnasadh/Lammas

Since ancient times, early harvests and grain threshing have been a cause for celebration. Even though many of the traditions of other holidays have died out over time, many of the Lughnasadh traditions are still celebrated today, though in a more modern way.

Here are a few of the practices and traditions associated with the Lammas/Lughnasadh season.

The very first sheaf

There are many traditions in Europe about cutting the grain or corn, and they apply to all cereal crops like wheat, barley, rye, and oats. The first grain cut and the last grain cut are both important.

It was customary to cut the first sheaf ceremoniously before daybreak, winnow it, grind it, and bake it into Harvest Bread, which was then distributed to the community as a form of gratitude. The first beer of the season would be made with the first barley stalks of the season.

How to celebrate Lughnasadh/Lammas
Image by MorningbirdPhoto from Pixabay
The last sheaf

The last sheaf was also cut in a special way. It was often made into a “corn dolly” and carried to the village in a celebration. The corn dolly was the main part of the harvest supper. After a successful harvest, the corn doll was made into a “Corn Maiden”, while after a bad harvest, it was made into a Cailleach (an elderly woman wearing a veil), or a Hag. She might be adorned in ribbons or even clothed.

This last sheaf would be stored in the home, usually over the fireplace or hearth, until the following harvest. It might also be planted in tree branches or combined with seed for the following year’s planting.

It was customary in some regions of Europe to weave the last sheaf into a big corn doll that would have a tiny “baby” within to symbolize the crop that would arrive the following year. The celebrations would start as soon as the harvest was finished and securely brought in. The bread was baked from the fresh grain, and gratitude was given to the Sun for reviving life-giving energy as bread.

Make Corn Dollies

Create your own Corn Dolly. Go for a walk and see what you can find. Wheat, oats, barley, and rye stalks are often left growing on the edges of fields after they have been harvested. Let your creativity flow. If you feel comfortable, you can weave your corn doll (or Grain Mother), but you can also just lace and tie her together with ribbons in the colors of Lammas. As you do this, give thanks for what Harvest has given you. Put your grain mother at the center of your altar or any other ceremony. Give the grain stalks back to the earth at Samhain since they contain seeds for a later harvest.

How to celebrate Lughnasadh/Lammas
Photo by Mountainash333 from Wikipedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Garland Sunday

In an effort to get prosperity and health from the gods, people would leave small offerings at the wells, mainly coins or strips of cloth called “clooties,” after walking around them in a route that was “sunwise” (i.e., following the course of the sun).

This custom of adorning wells with flowers is the origin of the alternate name “Garland Sunday.” Unlike Samhain, Beltane, and Imbolc, Lughnasadh celebrations don’t seem to have had much to do with fire.

Make Lammas Bread

The day is traditionally marked by the preparation and distribution of bread. Bake some bread at home to keep ancient traditions alive. Incorporate as many of your garden’s seasonal herbs as you can.

Gather the Future Harvest Seeds

If possible, involve the youngsters. Prepare them for planting the next year by gathering and drying them in the sun. You could give them as gifts at Yule or Samhain. Seeds are both magnificent and strange. It will resemble its mother plant, the plant that grew the seed and returned it to the soil using the sun’s light.

Decorate Your Home

Prepare your home for the arrival of the harvest season by adorning it with seasonal ornaments, artful pieces, and any other creative and intriguing ideas that come to mind.

Celebrate Your Talents

Lughnasadh is also an opportunity to honor skillsets and craftsmanship because of its relationship with Lugh, the skillful deity. It’s a popular season for craft fairs and talented craftsmen to sell their items.

Lugh is also revered as a patron saint of bards and magicians. This is an excellent time of year to concentrate on developing your own skills. Learn a new skill or improve an existing one. Perform in a play, write a story or poetry, learn to play an instrument, or sing a song. Whatever you decide to do, this is the right time of year for rebirth and renewal, so make August 1 the day you reveal to your friends and family your new skill.

Celebrate by Going Out

The simplest and most straightforward way to celebrate is to go out to eat with friends and family. In addition, if you like to maintain the custom, you can order a loaf of bread.

Lughnasadh Symbols
Image by Doris Dorfmeister from Pixabay

Lughnasadh Symbols

The Wheel of the Year has turned again, the harvest has arrived, and you may want to decorate your home accordingly. You may use a range of items to decorate for Lammas.

  • Sickles and scythes, among other harvest-related symbols
  • Grain sheaves, straw braids, and bread loaves 
  • Grapes and wine: At this time of year, grapevines are in plenty.
  • Make your own corn dolls by following the steps outlined above.
  • Dry grains, like wheat sheaves, bowls of oats, and so on.
  • Ears of corn: Corn is used in rituals about growth and change.
  • Early fall vegetables, like squashes and pumpkins, are used to symbolize the harvest and plenty.
  • Root vegetables, such as onions and carrots,
  • Late summer fruits, such as apples, plums, and peaches, are used to mark the end of the summer harvest as we move into the fall season.

Lughnasadh Colors

The summer is coming to a close, and the leaves will soon begin to change. Despite this, the sun continues to be a fiery source of heat. Use a mix of colors from summer and fall, like:

  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Gold and golden yellow
  • Red
  • Violet
  • Light Brown
  • Dark Purple
  • Bronze

Lughnasadh Spells & Magical Works

Here are a few spells and magical rituals you may want to think about trying this time of year.

Lammas is a fantastic opportunity to perform some magic around the hearth and home.

The harvest ritual has a prominent place in this celebration. This rite usually includes adorning an altar with seasonal symbols. Scythes and other iron agricultural tools, which are used to chop grain and are associated with protective magick, as well as corn, grapes, apples, and/or any other crops that could be gathered at this time, are some of these symbols.

Lughnasadh Spells & Magical Works
Photo by innerjourneyevents is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Some of these rites entail casting a circle and expressing gratitude to the earth for the harvest. After the rite, everyone eats bread together and may even drink some wine.

Other spells include:

  • Spells concerning justice and fairness
  • Spells for the accomplishment of goals
  • Making agreements with entities or deities
  • Gratitude Rituals
  • Spells for wealth and abundance
  • Protection Spells

Lughnasadh Sacred Plants & Herbs

Here are some plants and herbs that you may use during the Lughnasadh/Lammas festival.

  • All grains, including wheat, barley, oats, and rye, stand for both completion and potential.
  • Mead Wort. Also called Meadowsweet. One of the Druids’ most sacred plants, and a traditional herb for bridal circlets and bouquets at this time of year.
  • Mint. Mint is another sacred herb to druids. It is especially good for this time of year because it has magical powers to bring wealth and abundance.
  • Sunflower. Sunflowers were carried and worn as crowns by priestesses in Aztec sun temples. They stand for fertility.

Other herbs and plants with properties suitable for this festival are: Calendula, Rosemary, Basil, Cinnamon, Marigolds, Oak and Apple tree, Garlic, Dahlia, Daisy, Zinnias, Yarrow, Hydrangeas, and Roses.

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Incense and Scents Correspondences

Incense and scents you can use during this festival are: 

  • Rose
  • Eucalyptus
  • Apple
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Cinnamon
  • Mint
  • Chamomile
  • Frankincense
  • Sandalwood
  • Safflower
  • Coconut
  • Passionflower
  • Patchouli

Lughnasadh Deities

Aside from Lugh, numerous different deities are associated with the early grain harvest.

Goddesses:

  • Seelu (the Barley’s Mother)
  • Lugh’s queen and wife, Dana
  • Demeter (Greek)
  • Persephone (Greek)
  • Ceres (a Roman grain goddess)
  • Isis (Her birthday is celebrated about this time)
  • Luna (Roman Moon Goddess)
  • Various agricultural Goddesses, as well as the waxing Goddess.

Gods (Except Lugh):

  • John Barleycorn: The Sun God Lugh, as John Barleycorn, is the grain’s life spirit. Similarly to the grain, John Barleycorn’s time has come to an end. He gives up his life so that others can be fed by the grain and the community can keep going.
  • Lleu (Welsh Sun and Corn God),
  • Dagon (the Phoenician Grain God),
  • Tammuz (Sumerian),
  • Dionysus (Greek)
  • All sacrificial deities who voluntarily sacrifice their lives for the good of their people,
  • All the agricultural Gods, as well as the waning God.

Lughnasadh Crystals and Metals

Crystals and Metals you can use during this festival are: 

  • Amber
  • Peridot
  • Citrine
  • Clear Quartz
  • Yellow Diamonds
  • Malachite
  • Sardonyx
  • Carnelian
  • Ruby
  • Aventurine
  • Garnet
  • Cat’s Eye
  • Tiger’s Eye
  • Brass
  • Gold
  • Lodestone
  • Aventurine
  • Marble
  • Hematite
  • Granite

Lughnasadh Runes

JERA

Jera

Jera symbolizes the “harvest.” It indicates the time when you will be able to enjoy the results of your labor. It serves as a reminder that everything has a cycle or process.

EIHWAZ

Eihwaz means “ash or yew tree,” but it is meant to represent Yggradsil, the major holy tree of Norse mythology. For numerous civilizations, the tree has symbolized death, but it may also represent the death of obsolete ideas, as well as the healing and transformation that may result from knowledge.

FEHU

Fehu
Fehu

Fehu means “cattle,” but it also denotes abundance, riches, security, and fertility.

INGUZ

Inguz represents the deity Ing. It means fertility, sexuality, passion, and the door that leads home. It can help people heal emotionally or spiritually. It could also stand for a seed that is buried and cared for before it can grow.

FAQ about Lughnasadh

How do you pronounce lughnasadh?

The pronunciation of Lughnasadh is LOO-NAH-SAH. Lammas’s pronunciation is LAH-MIS.

Is Lammas the same day every year?

Yes, Lammas (also known as Lughnasadh) always happens on August 1. Approximately midway between the autumnal equinox and the summer solstice. But the traditional Celtic pagan celebration lasted a month, and August 1 marked the halfway point.

How old is Lammas?

One of the first times the holiday was mentioned was in a version of Tochmarc Emire (“The Wooing of Emer”), an Irish story from the Middle Ages, from the 15th century.

What is Lammas fair?

The Lammas harvest celebration is related to the Lammas Fair. The Ould Lammas Fair (as it is known) is one of the oldest fairs in Ireland, stretching back over 400 years to the 17th century.
It takes place on the last Monday and Tuesday of August in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland.
Usually, a lot of different things are sold at the fair. These include livestock as well as traditional dishes like Yellowman, a local variation of honeycomb, and dulse, a form of edible seaweed.

Who celebrates Lammas Day?

The holiday celebrates Lugh, the Celtic god of light, and his mythical foster mother, Tailtiu. Tailtiu is said to have cleared the land in Ireland so that crops could be planted.

What is another name for Lughnasadh?

Lughnasadh is also known as:
Lammas (Christian), Lúnasa (modern Irish, meaning August), Lùnastal (Scottish Gaelic), Luanistyn (Manx Gaelic), Festival of Green Corn (Native American), Ceresalia (Ancient Roman), Thingtide (Teutonic), Tailltean Games (Irish), Teltain Cornucopia (Strega), First Harvest, Feast of Bread, Feast of Cardenas.

What Are the Quarter Days?

The solar year was further divided to mark the halfway points between the major solar events. The cross quarter days are Imbolc (Candlemas, February 2), Beltane (May Day, May 1), Lughnasadh (Lammas, August 1), and Samhain (All Saints’ Day, November 1). The cross-quarter festivals rose in popularity throughout the Celtic period.

What are the three pagan harvest festivals?

The first harvest of grain is called Lammas or Lughnasadh. The second harvest of fruit is called Mabon, or the Autumn Equinox. The third and final harvest of nuts and berries is called Samhain.

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Image by Peggychoucair from Pixabay

Chris A. Parker

Since 1998, researcher and blogger in practical occultism and Mind-science, who believes that the best way to predict the future is to create it…