Celebrating Lammas/ Lughnasadh 2014

Happy Lammas Everyone. Lughnasadh/ Lammas is one of the four ancient Celtic Fire Festivals mentioned in the Irish tale of Tochmarc Emire and is held on 1st August each year. It celebrated the beginning of Autumn, a time that ushers in the end of hunger and a bountiful abundance of crops. It is the first of three harvest festivals – that of the grains and potatoes (since they have come over from America). On this day we celebrate the first fruits of the season.

For the ancient Irish, Lughnasadh was named after the god Lugh, the Fair One, and is the only festival to be named after a deity. However, he is not a god of the harvest, but rather “a patron of all human skills with a special interest in kings and heroes.” It was said to have been started by him as a funeral feast and sporting competition in commemoration of his foster mother, the goddess Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Historian Peter Berresford-Ellis says it was “an agrarian feast in honour of the harvesting of crops.” The festival evolved into a great tribal assembly where legal agreements were made, political problems were discussed and huge Olympic-style sporting contests were held. It was a time of peace and was also one of two festivals where hand-fastings have been traditionally held.

Anglo Saxons also held their feast of Lammas at this time. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle refers to it as “first fruits” and historian Ronald Hutton says that it was customary at this time to reap the first of the ripe cereals and bake it into bread. This is why the festival was known as Lammas or Loaf-mass. Hutton states that “it would seem very likely, therefore, that a pre-Christian festival had existed among the Anglo-Saxons on that date” and “the same feast was…celebrated in different ways and under different names all over Celtic, Saxon, or Norse Britain.” He goes on to say that in the middle ages this was an important time for holding fairs, paying rents, electing local officials and opening up common lands. For Anglo-Saxon and Norse pagans, it is a time to honour Thunor for the summer rains or Freyr as a god of peace and plenty.

Following historical practices, Celtic reconstructionists celebrate this day with games and races, visiting fairs, giving offerings to the gods and spirits and generally being thankful for the harvest. The first fruits of the harvest are taken home and pilgrimages are made to sacred sites, hilltops and water sources where bonnachs, flowers and garden produce are left. Cheese is made, bilberries are picked and the first potatoes are pulled up. It is a time to feast on potatoes, bread and berries. Traditional foods include colcannon made with onions, garlic, potatoes, butter and shredded cabbage. This is the Feast of the Warrior and it is a time for warrior games, martial prowess and equestrian activities. It is also the time when the Thing was held in Iceland.

Lughnasadh or Lammas is a time to be grateful for the food on our table and to remember that the hot days of summer are coming to an end as we approach the cold part of the year. It is the time to briefly rest before the hard work of reaping what has been sown begins. It’s traditional to celebrate this time by making corn dollies, baking bread, holding sports competitions, selling your crafts at summer fairs and having bonfires on hilltops. It is also a good time to pray for or work for peace. Offerings are given to Lugh, Thunor or Freyr in the hopes of a good harvest. I will be celebrating this festival by doing an ADF ritual, making some bread, having a party of seasonal foods, spending time in nature and going to Dartmoor to pick bilberries/ whortleberries.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.

Ellis, Peter Berresford. A Brief History of the Druids. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2002.

http://www.tairis.co.uk

http://www.gaolnaofa.com/festivals/

http://gaelicfolkway.webs.com/feiseannaomh.htm

Lammas and Ritual 2014

On Thursday evenin, the great feast of Lammas or Lughnasadh begins. I am again using a ritual from ADF Solitary Druid Fellowship. A Naturalistic Pantheist ritual can be found on my ritual page here. I will be using the following in the “explanation” part of the ADF ritual but this can also be used for the Naturalistic Pantheist one too.

Say: “As I stand here on this celebration of Lammas, the sacred wheel of the year continues to turn. As my ancestors did in times before and my descendants may do in times to come, I honour the old ways. The seeds have been sown and the crops have grown, now is the time of harvest. Today is the feast of first fruits and I celebrate the ripening of the grains. The sun has begun to wane but I enjoy still the long hot days of early autumn. I give thanks for the abundant gifts of the Earth Mother.

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Celebrating the New Moon – July 2014

Ancient people’s considered the Moon to be a deity. For the Romans, she was the goddess Luna, while for the Norse and Anglo Saxons, he was the god Mani or Mona. Today is the New Moon. There are eight phases in the lunar cycle – from the new moon to the full moon and back again. The moon is very important for life on earth – especially for controlling the tides (natures recycling plan).

In ancient times, many cultures planned their calendars by the moon and there are still farming communities today who plant according to it. The metonic cycle of 19 years is the time it takes for the lunar and solar calendars to come together in sync and that might be why 19 years is mentioned in Druidry.

I think the best times to celebrate the lunar cycle are at the full moon and the new moon. The new moon is a great time for going stargazing and focusing on our relationship with the universe. It’s also a time for meditation and inner reflection. It is a time to look back over the past month to evaluate it and to make plans and goals for the next. Its also a time for cleaning your house or altar. Pouring a libation to the Moon at this time can also be a good practice.

In Hellenic Reconstructionism, the new moon is a very important time and three days of celebration are often held. The first day (the day before) is Hekates Deipnon, when one honours Hekate as bringer of life. Homes are prepared for the transition and it is a time of purification of self, home and one’s affairs. A meal offering is given to Hekate either on an altar or at a crossroads. Something is also given to those less fortunate. Meanwhile, the fridge and altar are also cleaned. Day two is Noumenia, the first day of the visible new moon, when Selene and Hestia are honoured. It is the start of the month so they ask for blessings on the household. The home is decorated with seasonal flowers and there is a big feast. It is also the time to create a list of goals for the month. Finally, the third day is Agathos Daimon when there is a libation to the personal household or family spirit (often personified as a snake) and prayers for continued blessings on the family. As it is also associated with Dionysus, the celebrations are finished with a small glass of wine.

There are many ways to celebrate the New Moon as Naturalistic Pantheists. Do you celebrate it in your practice? What do you do?