LUGHNASA and Lammas
The reaping of grains, the ripening of fruits, and the shortening of days are all signs of August in our Northern Hemisphere. To the Ancients of Celtic Lands, it was time to celebrate the Sun God, Luth. In their minds, he had brought the bounty and now his power was waning as the wheel of the year began turning to autumn.
While few of us are actually involved in bringing in the harvest, I think all of us sense the subtle changes that tell us summer is winding down. A few days ago, I drove across Ohio farmland, along the shores of Lake Erie orchards and stopped to admire a field of sunflowers along a New York highway. Lughnasa, one of the four Celtic Fire Festivals came to mind. The Celts were wise to take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the changing of the seasons. I was reminded of my vow to honor Nature in this way today.
I have quoted from one of my favorite songs “Lady of the Seasons Laughter” before and now for this time:
Lady of the seasons’ laughter, in the summer’s warmth be near;
when the winter follows after, teach our spirits not to fear.
Hold us in your steady mercy, Lady of the turning year.
Hear the song in its entirety: https://www.riseupandsing.org/songs/lady-seasons-laughter
The early Celtic Christians may not have celebrated Luth, the Sun god, but they kept the fire festival alive. They, too, celebrated this first of three harvests, calling it Lammas, a name derived from the ritual of baking a loaf of bread with the first grain of the season. The words below are from a classic liturgy on Lammas:
For the promise of harvest
contained within a seed
we thank you.
For the oak tree
within an acorn
within a grain
within a pip
The mystery of nature
for us to sow
we thank you.
This year Lughnasa was officially celebrated August 7, but we can still acknowledge the turning of the seasons and give thanks for the harvest with a summer bonfire, the baking of bread or perhaps even crafting a grain doll out of chaffs of wheat.
Of course, you also might want to curl up on the couch some rainy evening to watch “Dancing at Lughnasa” the 1998 movie of five sisters living together in the fictional town of Ballybeg, Donegal in the mid-1930s. Meryl Streep plays the oldest sister and leads the family as they prepare to celebrate the festival of Lughnasa. Brian Friel’s play is even more powerful on stage. If you get the chance, do see it there as well. In spite of their hardships, these women dance at Lughnasa.
May we all dance in celebration of the sun.