Lughnasad is one of those old old days that the uppity Celts kept around. It’s named for the old God Lugh, who got conveniently reassigned to the “heroes and champions” division once the new Roman Catholic leadership staged the takeover in the first millennia.
So the festival stuck around, going as Lammas in England (which means the loaf-mass) and a long list of unpronounceable names in Manx, welsh and Scotch Gaelic.
What does it mean? It’s the halfway point between Midsummer and the Fall Equinox, and at Northern latitudes it represents a substantial tipping point in the weather. The hottest days are yet to come because of seasonal lag, but the days begin to shorten perceptibly. Slowly, not as rapidly as they do during the fall months, but they shorten nonetheless. The plant life shifts from the growing cycle to full fruit production and preparing for dormancy. And depending on the crop, the season of first harvest begins.
Early summer was a starving time for our ancestors. After the first spring fruits and before the fall harvests, there is a lull in production in which things can get very hairy if you haven’t planned properly. Animals are In Reproductive mode , so if you slaughter and eat any (or hunt carelessly) you will survive but at the cost of future security. Early August is when produce begins coming in earnest. The first grain harvests are available, the berries are plentiful, and the larger fresh vegetables are ready to be brought in.
So done merrily Lughnasad was a time of celebration, of knowing you had made it. The bigger harvest festivals would be more prominent, but by now you would be able to tell if it was a good year or bad. It was time for celebrating the good and praying for miracles if it was otherwise. It was a good time for choosing a bride, so that a new household could be prepared and stocked before winter came. And it was a good time to make sure the beer barrels were empty so that they could be scrubbed out and filled through August and September.
So today is a good day to take stock. Celebrate the good that this year has brought. Mourn the bad.
And best of all, take a look at where you want to be by the end of the year. Have you taken on resolutions that you haven’t fulfilled yet? Have you reached goals and want to set new ones? What tools do you want to hone to make the next 6 to 12 weeks most productive?
Then, find some fresh bread and a bowl of berries, and enjoy summer. If you’re so inclined pour a tall one. Give gratitude where it is owed.
And by whichever name you celebrate, from Lammas to the Feast of the Ascension, have a blessed Lughnasad.