It’s the first of August. The sun beats down its golden light on the earth, bringing into fullness all the crops of the summer. Wheat, blackberries, corn, mushrooms, flowers, and plants are all in their full ripeness, ready to be harvested. This magickal time of year is the winding down of summer into what will become fall. It is a time to continue enjoying the bright sunshine and warm weather, but to begin gathering crops for the long cold months ahead.
The first harvest celebration on the Wheel of the Year is Lughnasadh (or Lammas). It is an almost overlooked celebration in modern times, but I find that each year, this is the Sabbat which renews my energies and brings me closer to the earth and nature. It’s always held some kind of special magick for me, and I hope to impart some of that to you in this post. I’ll be talking about the differences between the two names for this celebration, the symbols, themes, and correspondences, as well as ways that you can celebrate Lughnasadh at home.
History of Lughnasadh
Lughnasadh is an ancient Gaelic festival which celebrates the first harvest of the season. The festival is named after the Celtic god, Lugh, who was honored at this time. Although Lugh was long considered a sun god, the emerging belief is that he was more likely a storm/lightening god, a god of skills, and a warrior. In Irish mythology, Lugh instituted the “Assembly of Talti”, a kind of olympic games on August 1st, in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu who died tending to all the crops of the land. Some stories tell of an epic battle between Lugh and the spirits who wanted to keep the harvest for themselves. During this battle, Lugh uses his spear (which could turn into lightening) to defeat these evil spirits and thus winning the harvest for mankind. This celebratory festival is what we now know as Lughnasadha. The ancient celts came together on or around August 1st to participate in games and contests, trading, matchmaking, and feasting. They would also climb the highest hill in the area to be as close to the sun as possible, and pay tribute to Lugh who saved the crops.
History of Lammas
Lammas is an Anglo-Saxon festival that was probably influenced by the Lughnasadh celebration. The term Lammas is a derivative of “loaf mass”, referring to Loaf Mass Day, an Anglo Saxon practice during which the first wheat from the harvest was baked into a loaf of bread, carried into a mass ceremony, blessed, and shared among the townspeople. They also used the blessed bread protect the stored grain by placing four pieces of it in four corners of a barn or storehouse. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle referred to this celebration as “the feast of the first fruits”, and although it was a religious day, the practice probably predates Christianity. The figure of John Barleycorn is closely associated with this celebration, and his dying and returning mimics the dying and returning of Lugh in Irish mythology.
Themes of Lughnasadh
If we think about the mythology and festivities of Lughnasadh, we can come up with some of the themes for this Sabbat. It is helpful to meditate on these themes in your own life, and in the cycle of the Earth.
- Abundance and prosperity
- Change and transformation (a seasonal change is coming)
- Hard work paying off
Symbols of Lughnasadh
- Corn and corn dollies
- Harvesting tools (scythes, hoes, baskets)
- Berries (especially later summer berries like blackberries)
Correspondences of Lughnasadh
Some of the correspondences for Lughnasadah & Lammas are as follow:
Stones: citrine, carnelian, tiger’s eye, lodestones, obsidian, amber, adventurine
Colors: Golds, golden yellows, ambers, shimmering bronzes, tanned browns, deep greens
Herbs: Basil, calendula, rosehips, blackthorn, cornflower, poppy, sunflower, vervain, blackberry, yarrow, heather, goldenrod
Foods & Drinks: honey, jams, grapes, hearty cut of beef, beer, mead, wine, pies and cobblers, ciders, ales, berries, nuts, grains, breads, onions, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes
Magick: Rituals to honor Lugh, rituals to honor the sacrifice the Earth is making, spells that have to do with manifesting, harvesting different aspects of your life, reinforcing long-term spell work, getting spiritually ready for the darker months to come, recognizing your skills, or gathering/reaping from the works you’ve already done
Ways to Celebrate Lughnasadh
As modern witches and pagans, we have to find new ways to celebrate the Sabbats. Surprisingly, it is really fun and easy to come up with ways to celebrate that honor the original festival but fit into our busy lives. As with all magickal practices it is the intention that counts. If you are able to center in on the energies of Lughnasadh, by meditating on its themes, colors, stones, and other correspondences, you don’t need a flashy ritual (although there’s nothing wrong with it if you want to do one!) to celebrate.
Here are some celebration ideas. I’ve made them as simple as possible, so you can add on your own touches as your practice allows.
- Light yellow, green, or brown candles on an altar. Meditate on one of the themes.
- Buy sunflowers, marigolds, or wheat and keep the arrangement on a table or altar.
- Read a mythological story about Lugh
- Listen to a song that talks about harvesting (this post has a wonderful list of songs)
- Read the story of John Barleycorn
- Make corn dollies (keep these until Samhain and bury or burn)
- Have a feast to celebrate with some of the foods
- Drink Lughnasadh Tea
- Pick berries (or buy some if you don’t have access in the wild)
- Bake Bread (my rosemary bread recipe is below)
- Climb a hill
- Have a mini festival at your home (play yard games, give metals, etc.)
- Drink wine, mead, beer
- Perform a spell or ritual related to Lughnasadh themes
- Recognize your skills and set intentions for new skills you’d like to learn
Rosemary Bread Recipe
1 1/4 ounces active dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup warm water
Gently mix yeast, sugar, 1/4 cup of the water. Let sit until foamy.
Add in the olive oil, flour, 1 1/2 tbsp rosemary, salt, and rest of water and stir until dough comes together.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes Cover with a cloth and let rise for 2 hours.
Form it into desired shape, then let it sit another two hours covered.
Bake at 400 degrees until done, which should be about one hour. Brush top with a little oil (or melted butter) and sprinkle remaining rosemary on top.
Let cool and enjoy!
Witch’s Wheel of the Year: Rituals for Circles, Solitaries & Covens. Jason Mankey. Llewellen Publications. 2019.