It's almost Lughnasadh! Quick, everybody, let's put on our wheat hats and sing our Lammas song...
..well...perhaps not. I'm not so sure I look good in grain.
What can we say about Lughnasadh that hasn't already been said. Humm...well, it is one of the four major holidays in the Irish year. For those of you who don't know, the year is divided between the Divine Male and Female. The eve of May 1 (Beltane) is the start of the Goddess season, and Samhain (Oct 31) the beginning of the God's reign. His season opens the time of Death and the hunt, while the Goddess season is one of fruitfulness and growth.
However, there is a little yin in the yang, a celebration of Goddess in the God season. That would be Imbolg – Feb 2nd. Opposite that... the yang in the yin .. is Lughnasadh (or Lammas, as the modern church calls it), the celebration of Lugh ( pronounced “Loo”, not “lug” as in “lug wrench”), the Irish god of the Sun. “Lughnasadh” translates to “Lugh's assembly”, and for good reason. The modern Irish spelling “Lunasa” is also the name for August. How convenient!
Anyway, this was a time of declared truce among any feuding clans so that folks could get there and back from the festivals in one piece. It was a celebration, founded by Lugh, in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu. So, what can we do to observe Lughnasadh? Let's do what the ancestors did. After all, everything old is new again!
Let's sacrifice a bull!
...or how about a cow? It was a sacred offering to the Gods, after which those gathered would feast on its flesh. No? OK, wimps, throw a couple burgers on the Hibachi and let one burn to a charcoal brick. There's usually one of them doing that anyway.
Let's play a game!
There were usually athletic competitions held at these festivals, with clan vs. clan in feats of daring do. However, given our suburban lifestyles, perhaps the family can get together for horseshoes, croquet, or a rousing game of lawn darts.
(I haven't given up on that sacrifice notion.)
Hike A Hill
It was traditional to make a journey up the local knock ( hill), where prayers were said, offerings left, and feasting enjoyed. In Christian times, this trek was envisioned as a pilgrimage. The most famous is the one up croagh Patrick, on “Reek Sunday”, the last Sunday in July. (Some do it on their knees or barefoot!)
Don't have a hill? No problem! Just run up and down the stairs barefoot without checking for discarded toys. If the idea is to offer up your personal pain and safety, ya got it covered.
Say a prayer at a sacred well
There are so many wells associates with healing and miracles, and they are visited as part of the Lughnasadh observances. Alas, there aren't any sacred wells in my neck of the woods. The nearest facsimile we have is this worshiped urban body of water.
Deities are still addressed here, however. After total immersion, I've often heard individuals rise to the surface chanting, “Oh, my God, that's cold!”
Get married!... a little...
Lughnasadh was a time for sealing contracts, and one such agreement was marriage. However, it wasn't a one-off deal. You could do a “hand fasting” (still the name of the Wiccan marriage ceremony) for a year and a day. By reaching and grasping hands through a naturally occurring hole in a stone (or, lacking one of those, a hole in a wooden door), you could become spouses.
If ya like it, you could renew the vows for a lifetime at the next Lughnasadh festival. If not, you get to walk away without consequences. Today, we would call that ,“signing a year lease on a flat”.
Bake some bread.
Lughnasadh, or Lammas, is all about the corn. We're not talking American maize, but wheat. A loaf of bread would be baked from the ripening wheat, and blessed. It was considered a sign of faith that the grain would grow golden and the harvest in September would be bountiful. Sharing bread at the feast represented the same. So, bake some nice braids of dough.
Not much of a baker? Here's another sacred icon of the season around my house:
And since here in the States “corn”is the yellow stuff on the stalk, I even have my aunts Jemima, Martha, and Betty to rely on.
It's market time!
At Lughnasadh, deals are made for the purchase of your crop once harvested. Perhaps you have a crop of your own to sell. I'm thinking herbal..and I'm thinking legal, you berks! If gardening isn't your thing, no worries. Have a family flea market! Once you're through eating and diving into the scared pool, gather your unwanted crap together and trade it for everyone else's unwanted crap. Recycling is good for the planet!
Go crown a goat.
Some Lughnasadh activities remain with us in the form of other celebrations. Take, for instance, the Puck Fair in county Kerry. For three days, a wild goat is brought into town and crowned “king”. A local maiden is crowned “queen”. There is music, food, craft demonstrations, after which goat meat becomes available in the local market ( at a royal price, no doubt...wink, wink...).
Quickly dig through the garage for an old Christmas cracker, snap it, and crown him with the paper tiara inside.
Have a young village maiden sit on his lap with a bottle of The Wild Geese Irish Whiskey (goat, geese,.. close enough). Have camera ready for snaps to show Auntie Bridget. Sit back and watch the fireworks. Family fun for the whole tribe!
Have a Blessed Lammas, everybody. Remember, if a Druid sees his shadow....
...it's six more weeks of disgusting heat and humidity in New Jersey.
I went to see “Mr. Holmes” this past Sunday. Don't miss this brilliant film. Also, do yourself a favor and read the book upon which it is based: Mitch Cullin's “A Slight Trick of the Mind”.
Next up, a fun YouTube offering called, “The Boys are Back in Town”. Cute and cleaver!
Now, for the adult fans and the Johnlock shippers, a Victorian NSFW parody to end the blog entry..
The best of the season to you all!