This holiday can be celebrated either as a way to honour the god Lugh, or as a celebration of the harvest.
At Lammas, also called Lughnasadh, the hot days of August are upon us, much of the earth is dry and parched, but we still know that the bright reds and yellows of the harvest season are just around the corner. Apples are beginning to ripen in the trees, our summer vegetables have been picked, corn is tall and green, waiting for us to come gather the bounty of the crop fields. Now is the time to begin reaping what we have sown, and gathering up the first harvests of grain, wheat, oats, and more.
Grain has held a place of importance in civilization back nearly to the beginning of time. Grain is associated with the cycle of death and rebirth.
The word Lammas derives from the Old English phrase half-maesse, which translates to loaf mass. In early Christian times, the first loaves of the season were blessed by the Church.
In some Wiccan and modern Pagan traditions, Lammas is also a day of honouring Lugh the Celtic craftsman god. He is a god of many skills, and was honoured in various aspects by societies both in the British Isles and in Europe. Similar to the Roman god Mercury, Lugh was known as a god of both skill and the distribution of talent. There are countless inscriptions and statues dedicated to Lugh, and Julius Caesar himself commented on this god's importance to the Celtic people. Although he was not a war god in the same sense as the Roman Mars , Lugh was considered a warrior because to the Celts, skill on the battlefield was a highly valued ability. In Ireland, which was never invaded by Roman troops, Lugh is called sam ildanach, meaning he was skilled in many arts simultaneously.
Much of the early history of Ireland is recorded in the Book of Invasions, which recounts the many times Ireland was conquered by foreign enemies. According to this chronicle, Lugh was the grandson of one of the Fomorians, a monstrous race that were the enemy of the Tuatha De Danann . Lugh's grandfather, Balor of the Evil Eye, had been told he would be murdered by a grandson, so he imprisoned his only daughter in a cave. One of the Tuatha seduced her, and she gave birth to
triplets. Balor drowned two of them, but Lugh survived and was raised by a smith. He later led the Tuatha in battle, and indeed killed Balor
Although not specifically a war god, Lugh was known as a skilled warrior. His weapons included a mighty magic spear, which was so bloodthirsty that it often tried to fight without its owner. According to Irish myth, in battle, the spear flashed fire and tore through the enemy ranks unchecked. In parts of Ireland, when a thunderstorm rolls in, the locals say that Lugh and Balor are sparring - thus giving Lugh one more role, as a god of storms.
The Book of Invasions tells us that Lugh came to be associated with grain in Celtic mythology after he held an harvest fair in honour of his foster mother, Tailtiu. This day became August 1, and that date ties in with the first grain harvest in agricultural societies in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, in Irish Gaelic, the word for August is lunasa. Lugh is honoured with corn, grains, bread, and other symbols of the harvest. This holiday was called Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-NAS-ah) and is still celebrated in many parts of the world today.
In our modern world, it's often easy to forget the trials and tribulations our ancestors had to endure. For us, if we need a loaf of bread, we simply drive over to the bakers or grocers and buy a few bags of prepacked bread. If we run out, it's no big deal, we just go and get more. When our ancestors lived, hundreds and thousands of years ago, the harvesting and processing of grain was crucial. If crops were left in the fields too long, or the bread not baked in time, families could starve. Taking care of one's crops meant the difference between life and death.
By celebrating Lammas, we also honour our ancestors and the hard work they must have had to do in order to survive. This is a good time to give thanks for the abundance we have in our lives, and to be grateful for the food on our tables. Lammas is a time of transformation, of rebirth and new beginnings.