Lughnasadh, the First Harvest

Today marks the first harvest in our Sabbat cycle with the welcoming of Lughnasadh, or to some folks, Lammas.  This is the time of year when we start to notice plants dying, the first leaves of some trees turning, and small changes begin to start to be noticed as the seasons start to turn.  With the dying of these flowers, trees, and plants we see some seeds fall into the soft soil and slowly begin the process of naturally “planting seeds”, literally. They will begin their journey into the earth, gathering Underworld energy to start it’s growth process underground in winter only to burst forth with life in the spring.  It’s powerful to think that this growth process starts now!  It’s amazing the things that the earth is capable of.

In the myth cycle of the Gods we see the Goddess begin to experience the first pains and sorrows of the dying season as the God loses his power.  We see this in the earth around us; the sun is moving farther off into the south of the skies and we see the days starting to get a little shorter each day.  The Goddess knows that her Lord is dying yet she carries the seed of his rebirth inside her. She is there seeing his passing and his journey toward the Underworld but she knows he will return, just like the plants will return.

And we also see the beginnings of one of my favorite Goddess stories, the story of Demeter and Persephone.  It’s time for Persephone to go and spend her six months in the Underworld with Hades during which Demeter walks the earth in sadness.  Her sorrow causes the life in the earth to be taken away, essentially going underground with Persephone, but it returns in the spring when Persephone comes back to her mother.  Again, it’s that idea of seeds and life going underground but still living, still growing.

Lughnasadh is the grain harvest and a time for baking breads and seeing joy in the abundance of earth and knowing that this growth and harvest is only just starting.  Today we celebrate this holiday on the set date (in many traditions) as August 1st, but in truth this festival was celebrated whenever the first harvest was able to gathered and is one of the possible sources for an alternate name of the festival, First Fruits.

Another date when Lughnasadh is sometimes celebrated is August 6th.  This is often called “Lughnasadh Old Style”.  It’s a date that is chosen for it’s astrological connections more than anything.  This O.S. date come when the Sun reaches 15 degrees Leo and it’s truly only tradition and the attempt to create conformity that has set the date as August 1st.  When the Sun reaches 15 degrees of any of the fixed signs (Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius, or Taurus) we hit a cross-quarter date in our Sabbat calendar (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain); these are the dates between the solstices and equinoxes.

There are several name for this holiday but the two that are most common among many Wiccans and Pagans is either Lughnasadh or Lammas.  Lammas is the name for the medieval Christian holiday that took place at this time of year and means “loaf mass”.  This was a day when all the loaves of sacred bread for the coming months would be baked from the first grains harvested from the land.  The breads were then brought to the church altars and blessed to be used as offerings.

Lughnasadh is a name that come from the Irish myth of the sun God Lugh.  It was a feast that celebrated the funeral games held in honor of the death of the God’s foster mother Taillte.  It’s a day where we both honor the strength of this mighty God it is also a celebration of his light.  We know that his strength is waning but he doesn’t truly die until the next harvest festival at Mabon.

Celebrating Lughnasadh
Celebrating this holiday can be as simple or as elaborate as you feel it needs to be for you.  A part of my rituals that I’ve often utilized is crafting a figure of the God out of bread dough, baking it, and then offering a portion of it as a sacrifice in ritual.  Since at this time we see the God cut down with the grain we can take a bread man and cutting off an arm, a leg, or his head and then burying it or leaving it out as an offering is a way of offering up some of our own energy and resources to the earth in thanks.

Celebrate by creating corn husk dolls, braiding grasses while weaving wishes into them, meditate on the power of the Sun and it’s places in the cycle of life, and take time to meditate on the harvests you have been able to gather so far this year and consider any next steps to take before the next harvest.

Here are some correspondences to help in planning your rituals.

  • Stones – Aventurine, Citrine, Peridot
  • Colors – yellow, gold, green, red, brown, orange
  • Incense and Oils – rose, sandalwood, frankincense, chamomile, rosemary
  • Herbs – oak leaves, wheat, rosemary, cornstalks, grains, heather, frankincense, sunflower
  • Symbols  – corn, bread, sheaves of wheat, red and yellow flowers, scythe, cauldrons, baskets
  • Energies – abundance, harvest, reaping, purification, transformation
  • Gods – Lugh, John Barley Corn, Dionysus
  • Goddesses – Dana, Demeter, Seelu, Ceres, Taillte

color bar by Magic Art

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