Lughnasadh, also called Lammas, is the First Harvest festival in the Wheel of the Year celebrations that many Pagans follow to honour the seasonal shifts. This festival falls towards the end of Summer, usually on or about February 1st. It’s a time when the days are long and hot and often punctuated by fierce summer storms in the evenings. To the west of Brisbane, our Darling Downs farmlands are full of fields ripening at this time of year.
As the name suggests, this is also a time when the Celtic god Lugh may be honoured. Although many now consider Lugh a sun god, His primary aspects have been more about skill, crafts and arts, as well as kingship (oaths and the law). In fact one of His names means “skilled in many arts.” In the modern world, Lugh is more approachable than ever, with our increased access to recreational time and ability to invest it in learning new skills and abilities.
In an agrarian society, one would be very aware of the ripening crops and know that the harvest means securing food to help sustain you through winter. But most modern Pagans live in an industrialised society, so what significance does this festival have for us? What does the harvest mean when our food arrives year long in grocery stores, canned and tinned and wrapped in plastic?
Whether we consciously recognise it or not, we each move through the cycle of sowing, growing and reaping in our everyday lives.
We lay our intent (sowing) – we want a new job, to move house, to start a new hobby.
We put in the effort to make it happen (the growing season) – we apply for new jobs, look at new houses, and practice the hobby we want to learn.
We reap the benefit of our efforts (the harvest) – we find the new job or house, we see our skill improve with the new hobby.
In this manner, we naturally follow the patterns of the sow-grow-harvest cycle and it’s simply a case of recognising it and engaging with it in a magical or ritual way. At Lughnasadh, whether we in our high rise apartments or urban lifestyles realise it or not, the land around us continues to follow these patterns of nature and this is a beautiful, potent energy to access at this time of year. This is a time to stop, consider what we are growing in our lives right now and what we want to harvest from it.
There is no better time to access Lugh, calling on His aspect as god of many skills, to support you in your ventures!
Creating an altar dedicated to the first harvest can really help with connecting to the energy of the season. The list below is a starting point with suggestions of what you might add to your Lughnasadh altar.
- Use browns and greens to represent the earth and the crops being harvested
- Symbols of harvesting (sickle or scythe, knife)
- Harvest grains and fruits (wheat, corn, apples, bread, vegetables and honey are all great options)
- A corn doll representing the Grain Mother (Demeter)
- Fresh made bread
- Seasonal flowers
- Statues or images of harvest deities
- Seeds (you could keep these to plant later in the year)
- Cornucopia baskets – you can fill them with produce or with representations of what you’re harvesting in your own life
- Items that represent your personal harvest (however this is manifesting in your world)
Harvest, grain and vegetative deities are very approachable during this season. Below are a few examples of some that you may be interested in honouring or calling on during your harvest celebrations. You could also honour any deity that resonates with whatever it is you’re harvesting in your life right now, or any skills/arts you’re pursuing.
- Demeter / Ceres
- John Barleycorn
- Mercury (the fleet-foot god races over the land announcing the harvest)
- Isis and Osiris
- Tammuz / Dumuzi
In addition to creating a harvest altar, there are a few ways to celebrate Lughnasadh. You don’t need to belong to a magical working group or participate in a full ritual to honour the first harvest. Below are a few ideas to help get you started.
- Attend a harvest festival (Stanthorpe hosts the “Apple and Grape” harvest festival every second year)
- Bake your own bread – if you feel like challenging yourself, try a new bread recipe including seasonal herbs or dried fruit
- Visit an organic farmers market to stock up on fresh seasonal produce (Northey St City Farm holds one every weekend, and there are heaps of these held weekly around Brisbane)
- Meditate on what you’re harvesting in your life. What benefits are you reaping from your recent efforts? If your harvest is intangible, make a physical object to represent it to help you stay focussed
- Harvest your garden! Dry bundles of herbs and flowers for future magical use or put them in vases to bring beauty into your home
- Create a Lughnasadh smudge stick (try mugwort, rosemary or lavender)
- Mix up some seasonal incense – you could use cinnamon bark, basil, rosemary, coriander)
These are simply suggestions to help stir your own inspiration. Follow your instincts, listen to that quiet inner voice of your guides, gods or awakened self, and be open to creating new traditions for this festival!