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Lughnasadh Lammas: Harvest Celebration Ideas
Lughnasadh or Lammas - The First Harvest
The citrus fruits are ripe for the picking. The grapes are buoyant and purple on the vine. The fields of corn are plentiful in shades of bright green and yellow. It is almost August 1st, which means Lughnasadh Lammas is right around the Summery corner.
Lughnasadh or Lammas is the first of three ancient Pagan harvest festivals, and unfortunately it is one that is many times overlooked or downplayed. Occurring on August 1st of every year, it acts as one spoke on the eight-spoked Wheel of the Year. Though it is not as highly celebrated as sabbats like Samhain or Midsummer's, it is still a very important and beautiful sabbat. Modern day Witches and Pagans should look at this year's Lughnasadh Lammas as something to be honored and revived as a sign that the season is changing...that the great harvest is on its way. And that the summer is coming to a close very soon.
Lughnasadh Lammas is the first harvest, and it is the first sabbat where we must begin to think about what lies ahead...shake off the Summer carefree attitude and ground yourself a bit. But not too much, of course.
Lughnasadh Beliefs & Traditions
Lughnasadh is an ancient Celtic festival honoring the Celtic god Lugh, hence the name Lughnasadh. Lughnasadh is a festival said to have begun by the god Lugh in remembrance of his mother who had died of "exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland" for harvest. The cutting of the first of the corn is an ancient tradition and assured for a bountiful harvest that year and the year following. It was also believed that Lughnasadh was celebrated on the hilltops, closer to the ever-dying Sun and closer to the shining god Lugh. Traditional foods included bread and bilberries.
Other Irish Celtic traditions of Lughnasadh included sacred pilgrimages to holy wells and springs, as well as the traditional lighting of bonfires in honor of the Sun, the spirits of ancestors, and the gods.
In England, Lughnasadh was called Lammas which means Loaf-mass. It was traditional to bake a loaf of bread using the first crop yielded at the first harvest. Many people would take that loaf to church as an offering, while others still would use it in magic practices to ensure for a plentiful harvest over Autumn. The idea behind harvest festivals is to honor the earth - that the grain dies so that the people may live. While using the first harvest's bread in pagan practice was common, believe it or not the Church also used the first loaf of harvest bread in a type of magic too. They would split the bread into four pieces and then place each of the four pieces in the corners of a barn or field to bring about a good harvesting season.
In addition to these traditions, both the Irish at Lughnasadh and the English during Lammas celebrated their ancestors with dancing and games. The games played at Lughnasadh are theorized by some to be the beginning of the Olympic Games. It is also thought that the celebration of Lughnasadh gave way to the annual state fairs in the United States today!
The main idea behind celebrating this beautiful sabbat is that you are acknowledging your gratefulness to the earth for giving us her undying bounty this year. We are also preparing for the rest of the harvesting season and henceforth the winter. We also should be paying homage to the ever-dying Sun, who is making way for the Moon's triumphant reign of the sky.
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How to Decorate for Lughnasadh Lammas
Since Lughnasadh Lammas is the first of the harvest festivals, pumpkins and hay might be a little too much for decorations. So stick with things that still represent Summer or Summer's end, as well as representing the first harvest.
Some suggestions might be to place a vase of freshly cut sunflowers on your table or around your home. Make a wreath of dried sunflowers. Hang green vines (faux or real) around your house, especially across a mantle (if you have one) to represent the ever-present Summer green of the earth. Ears of corn or corn husks can be used as decorations for Lughnasadh Lammas, as corn is one of the first harvested crops in the United States and elsewhere. Berries, fruits, and veggies (you can use fake or real) to decorate your kitchen or centerpieces for your tables.
Place printed-out pictures of Lugh, Tailtu, or whatever gods you worship around your home and/or on your altar. Or print out pictures of the first harvest to remind you of why we celebrate Lughnasadh Lammas. I particularly like the picture at the beginning of this article, with the quote "All that falls shall rise again." That statement embodies the meaning of Lammas perfectly!
How to Celebrate Lugnasadh Lammas
So now that we've talked about how to decorate for Lughnasadh Lammas, now we'll discuss how to celebrate Lughnasadh Lammas (particularly for solitary practitioners). If you're unable to do a full ritual to celebrate Lughnasadh Lammas, or you simply just do not do elaborate rituals, there are other ways to celebrate the beautiful sabbat of Lughnasadh. If you're able to, light a small bonfire in your backyard. Dance around the fire, enjoy the fire's warmth and let it remind you of the Summer sun. If it's too hot for a bonfire, stay indoors and bake a loaf of bread from scratch. Offer the first piece of bread to the gods of the harvest.
If you have a garden or simply grow herbs in containers, do some pruning and picking. Learn how to can and preserve some of your first crops and practice on Lughnasadh Lammas! The ancient people of Ireland and England knew how to preserve foods and probably began doing so on Lughnasadh Lammas in preparation for the coming colder months.
Or you can do a very fun craft that any child will love - make corn dollies! There are some awesome instructions and patterns to be found online for this traditional Lughnasadh Lammas craft. You can even check out relache's hub to get a better idea of how to make corn dollies.
Stay safe and may the first harvest be a blessed time for you and your family!
Happy Lughnasadh Lammas!
© 2012 Nicole Canfield