Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nə-sə) is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals; the others being Samhain, Imbolc and Beltane. It is said to originate as a celebration of the onset of the period of harvest.
This festival, also known as Lammas, was originally held each year on the 1st August—a date which equates to a point on the solar calendar roughly between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.
Over time the day chosen for the celebration has shifted and now tends to fall on the Sunday that is nearest to that original date of 1st August.
Today, the festival has become a cultural landmark and is universally celebrated by many earth-based religions; such as those of the Pagan and Wiccan faiths.
In Lughnasadh: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Lammas , writer and practicing Witch Melanie Marquis explains how Lughnasadh derives its name from the Celtic deity Lugh (pronounced LOO).
Whilst Lugh is thought of mainly as a solar deity in this modern age she also explains how he seems to have originally been understood as a god of human skill and a patron of heroes.
Either way it appears that the original basis for the Lughnasadh festival has changed over time and that today it is interpreted as a point in the late summer months when the fertility of the earth gives rise to the first wave of abundant crop harvesting.
In her book—which incidentally forms part of a series of publications by the author on the eight sabbats, or festivals of the Pagan Wheel of the Year, Melanie Marquis reveals some of the historical and mythological legends that are connected to Lughnasadh.
Her book opens with a look at the old ways in which Lughnasadh was celebrated before moving on to look at the modern approach to the festival.
In many ways the two approaches are very similar but, as the writer points out, today’s essentially urban society will not have the same level of access to the core features of this day of celebration in the same way that their fore-fathers would have had.
However, Melanie does highlight the fact that many occult groups practice within a city setting and hold their own celebrations in open spaces and parks.
So what exactly are the dynamics that underpin Lughnasadh?
In her book, Melanie explains that
Lughnasadh is a time of both waning and waxing energies, a time of culmination and commencement marking the end of one era, and the beginning of a new one….
How should we celebrate this important point in the year?
Melanie offers a number of spells based around the use of candles. herbs, talismans and even potatoes—that most symbolic of earth-centric vegetables!
She also investigates divination, scrying and pendulum work specifically tailored for this time of the year
Lughnasadh is effectively a festival that celebrates the summer harvest and so Melanie offers a number of cooking recipes that are based upon the vegetables and fruits that ripen around this period. These include summer squashes, beans, corn and leafy greens.
Corn dollies, still a popular feature of the Lughnasadh celebrations in parts of the United Kingdom, are symbolic of the annual harvest and as well as being iconic as fertility figures they have also been used in the past as magickal charms and used as protection to ward off negative influences.
Melanie explains in her book how these and a similar item known as ‘Hanging Sunbursts’ can be made easily by anyone from corn husks.
For those who would like to become more magically connected to the festival Melanie explores the world of prayers, meditations and invocations that can be used at this time of the year.
Some of these can be used in a ritual setting and ceremonies based around gratitude for the bounties of the earth.
Lughnasadh so evidently offers a rich assortment of spiritual associations. By way of grouping all of these connections together Melanie has added a set of correspondences for Lughnasadh—one that includes associated deities, key descriptive words, astrological terms and related Tarot keys.
The book ends with a bibliography, further reading and index.
Lughnasadh is the second in the Llewellyn Sabbat Series that we have reviewed recently and I must say that it is equally—if not even better—than Melanie’s exploration of Beltane.
A reader can instinctively know when an author resonates to the information that they offer and this book is an excellent case in point for as a publication Lughnasadh is extremely well researched, beautifully structured and engaging well-written.
It also contains some really insightful and practical advice for solo as well as ritual practitioners of the Pagan arts.
It will, I am sure be a manual that many will enjoy returning to and referencing every time Lughnasadh comes around in the great Wheel of the Year.
Lughnasadh is a book on practical occultism that aches with humility, recognizes the important role of the modern Pagan movement and offers genuine appreciation for the abundant gifts of Gaia.