Lughnasad: an ancient pagan festival
Lughnasad (Loo-na-sa), or Lammas, is an ancient pagan festival celebrating the first harvest of grain and corn. The name “Lammas” comes from Anglo-Saxon origin and means “bread dough”, a celebration of the bread made with the first grain harvest. The hard work in the fields is over and the time has come to celebrate the harvest with games and banquets.
Lughnasad honors the Celtic god Lugh, whose name means “the shining one.” He is often equated with the Sun God. Lugh is credited with inventing certain Celtic skills and games, such as ball games, horse riding, and fidehell (an ancient Celtic board game). Celebrants spend the day with sports and games of skill, honoring the significance of the season with freshly baked bread and beer.
In ancient times, the success or failure of the harvest determined whether you could survive the winter or not. Today, most of us do not live off the land and we no longer have to fear that there is not enough food to get through the winter. Instead, we plant projects and ideas instead of crops. Lughnasad is the time when we make our projects come true and reap the rewards of our efforts.
In the Wiccan tradition, the First Harvest initiates the sacrificial season, when the grain of the harvest must die to provide food. The last sheaf of corn can be saved and made into an effigy to represent the spirit of the corn and the harvest (sometimes called John Barleycorn). The effigy is placed in the center of the banquet table and then plowed back into the ground the following spring, when the fields are prepared for the sowing of new crops, so that the spirit of the sun and the corn do not perish.
After the harvest season, the daylight is visibly waning, and the mature Lord of the forest and field becomes wiser and his consciousness of power begins to shift from the outside to the inside. The pregnant mother goddess rules by their side as they both enjoy the bounty of nature this harvest season.