Monday, August 1, 2011
Happy Lughnasa! Also spelled Lughnasadh, which falls today, August 1st. Today is a Celtic holiday celebrating the first harvest. In many ways a celebration of thanksgiving. There are diary accounts of Lughnasa being celebrated in Ireland as long ago as 1000 years. To understand this much anticipated celebration of Thanksgiving, we need to look a bit at the life lived by the ancient Celts.
As I understand it, the Druidic thinking was, as to the association of placing major and minor emphasis to the Sabbats, was that since the average person could tell when the Solstices and Equinoxes were upon us they needed no announcement as it were. The ancient peoples lived as a part of nature, not as we do today, in spite of nature. As such, everyone could tell when the longest day of the year was upon us, or the day and evening was of equal length. Remember, these people were living outside all day, working by the light of the sun, waking before sun-up and bedding down long after dark. They knew the length of each day much better than we do today with clocks!
The ancient Druids found mushrooms to be magickal and sacred. You see they knew of the three world concept. They saw three's in many, many things in nature. They knew of the worlds of animal, vegetable and mineral but they knew that fungus didn't fall into any of these worlds so it was of a world in-between and they revered mushrooms and fungus for their magickal properties. They also found ice to be sacred as it was water but in a solid or earth form as well as steam or vapor which is water in an air form. See what I mean? Well in regards to the Sabbats, the greater Sabbats are the ones in-between the Solstices and Equinoxes and the ancients gave these celebrations the greatest notice. Many scholars of ancient Celtic history agree that the Solstices and Equinoxes most likely were never celebrated by the ancient Celts.
For Lughnasa, which translates from ancient Gaelic to "The assembly of Lugh" which in modern language translation could be called "The games of Lugh" is a celebration that included ritual, feasting and games being played. The early celebration were held much as the Olympic games were held in ancient Greece, as 'war-games' designed to keep the men who were home from battle working in the fields harvesting, in battle-ready shape.
You see, all across Europe when the first harvest beckoned, soldiers from every land, regardless of the intensity of the battle or the war being waged, stopped fighting and went home. Why? Because if they didn't, there would be not enough strong people to bring in the harvest and the harvest was in many cases solely responsible for each tribe, village and culture of people surviving the winter. When the harvests went bad, were lost to the elements in the fields, became moldy, infested with vermin and became inedible the majority of the tribe would suffer and many would die from malnourishment before spring. So, the soldiers came home and turned their swords into plowshares. Sound familiar? This was only done, not as a spiritual quest or enlightenment, but by sheer necessity for self and family survival.
So except for smoked and pickled meats or if a cold spell came early, frozen meats which would continue to be eaten through out the first part of winter, there was precious little meat unless one hunter rabbit, deer or other animals. Wait! That sounds like plenty of food doesn't it? Why the King's forests were always bursting with abundant wildlife. But for thousands of years (remember we're just 1,000 years ago here) many a monarch kept a stingy and selfish hold on forested lands and many countries had laws forbidding the average man from hunting or living off the forests. Many times the penalty for 'poaching' on the King's land was death, dismemberment or imprisonment.
How was one to get a good meal? Really! Well one patiently survived and waited, if one could, for the first harvest. Talk about a celebration!! Fresh baked breads, cheeses made from the milk from the cattle in the field, who would be slaughtered by the last harvest, Samhain November 1st. Many times a white bull or two were driven between two bonfires by the Druid Priests at Lughnasa, and then they were slaughtered and their entrails viewed for divinatory purposes and then the rest of the great beasts were consumed by the people. They felt that by eating a scared beast such as the white bull or the swine (also considered sacred and highly desired by the ancient Celts) would in a way bring that sacredness within the person who consumed the meat. Yet, without modern refrigeration, there were simply no leftovers because they would spoil. Ancients did not have any secret against food poisoning and suffered of it much more than we do today, and often died of eating toxic foodstuffs. Most food, with a few exceptions, which was consumed was by necessity fresh and recently prepared.
Many people today, though not religious, perhaps not even what they would call spiritual look for ways to give thanks when things go well. Like 'knocking on wood' when you say something good or fortuitous, or take notice of good things in your life, the same is true for the way of the witch. We celebrate eight Sabbats a year where our entire focus, for many who celebrate, maybe not all, is of giving thanks to God, Goddess, the Universe, hey . . . name your Deity! It's all good!
Well, back to ancient times when foodstuffs were plentiful at this time of year, the earth was warm and life as difficult as it was, was nonetheless easier now, than at other times of the year.
Many times the Maypole which was hoisted and decorated during Beltane, May 1st, is now decorated with one glove in honor of the harvest. The glove is a scared symbol of the harvest because until the glove was invented, for protection of soft human hands against harsh, sharp blades of grasses or other grain crops, harvesting was a difficult and dangerous process which could lead to infected hands. For an ancient who relied on their hands for their very survival, this was a crucial invention that without, in my opinion, such things as the wheel, the automobile and the light bulb would never have been invented because human kind would again not have survived. My research into early human survival on this planet leads me to credit the glove as one of, if not the greatest invention ever. The invention of agricultural science for sustained cultural survival and the glove which made it possible for humans to benefit greatly from harvesting their foodstuffs, whereas before they subsisted on hunting and gathering.
We celebrate Lughnasa with a traditional American Thanksgiving feast, eaten outdoors on long tables. We first hold a Lughnasa ritual, and Sabbats are a time to focus gratitude on God/Goddess for the abundance we have in our life. I always thank the Goddess for life and for love. Seems to cover the gamut for me! Afterwards we feast and then follow up the feasting with a modern version of the ancient Celtic games. No! We do not do stone throwing, caber tossing or log cutting!
We're more cerebral and fun oriented. We have games such as "Race to be High Priestess' which is a race between two marks and each person wears a robe, with cords (not easy to maneuver in on a good day!) while balancing a small plastic cauldron half filled with water on their head. They are holding a wand and that's all their allowed to use to keep the cauldron on top of their head! About what it feels like to be a high priestess sometimes!
We have a game where each participant takes a piece of paper out of a cauldron and on each piece is a magickal word. They then have 60 seconds to create an effective incantation using the word, that follows the rules of writing a good incantation. This is called 'Flying Incantations'. In addition we have sidewalk chalk design, spell juggling (keeping several balloons aloft without dropping one) as well as others. The idea in this day and age is not so much about survival as it is about having fun, sharing community with other like minded people and giving thanks to Goddess/God for all life has to offer us today. There are small prizes for the winners of each contest and fun and camaraderie is enjoyed by all this day.
No worries, my dear, if you want to celebrate and just found out about this fun holiday today. We're celebrating next weekend and so can you or anytime this month. For I believe that truly the Gods care not what we mere human do in their playground, as long as we live and love. So plan a harvest celebration for sometime this August, find a stray glove to honor as a special token of the day, plan a feast, set up tables outside surrounded by nature and invite your friends. Celebrate and give thanks for the abundance in your life while surrounded by the abundance in nature. It feels so right!
And that my dear witchling, is how I describe Lughnasa! I hope you have a happy and blessed harvest season. Happy Lughnasa to you and yours!
Peace and Happiness
© 2010-2011 Enchantments, LLC Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see www.enchantmentsschool.com or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website. If you know someone who would like my work, please send them this link. If you or they would like to be included on our daily email distribution list send me an e mail with your email address to be included. If you ever wish to unsubscribe to this blog, please contact me and you will be immediately removed from our list.
at Monday, August 01, 2011