The shrine of knowledge.
Holidays >> Lammas
celtic fire festivals, god lugh, solar deity, tales of king arthur


Author: Half Wolf

© A. L. Folberth 1996 / HalfWolf

Permission given to reprint, copy and circulate for personal use so long as nothing whatsoever is changed. Church address and URL must remain on the copy. If this article is included as part of a book, magazine or newsletter which is intended for resale, 5 cents per word is asked to be donated to the Pagan Community Church.

Contact: write to us at
Pagan Community Church, P.O. Box 5622, Bridgeport, CT 06610

Thanks for Rev. Alicia Folberth/HalfWolf for submitting to RealMagick.

Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-nas-ah), August 1st, is the first harvest festival in the Celtic and Neo-Pagan Year. Like all Celtic Fire Festivals, it begins on the eve of the actual day. Although it later became known as Christian Lammas, it still survives in modern Gaelic as Lunasa (Irish), Luanistyn (Manx), Lunasad (Scottish) and Calan Awst (Welsh); with the exception of the Welsh, these are literally month names for August. Lammas stems from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning "loaf mass" since bread was made from the first grain and was offered at mass. Lugh was an important solar deity to the ancient Celts whose name means "shining one" and nasad is a tribal gathering for fairs and games.

Lugh is also known as a god of grain and harvest who dies annually with the reaping of the crop. He is the warrior of light inextricably bound with the Earth Goddess and must enter her dark womb to be reborn in the spring; thus conquering darkness. He is known as Lugh (Irish and Scottish), Lugus (Gaul) and Lleu (Welsh). He is Sam Ildanach, "master of all skills" and is much like the Roman Mercury. Many qualities of Lugh lived on in later tales of King Arthur as Lancelot.

Lughnassadh pays tribute primarily to Tailltui in Irish beliefs. She is Firbolg princess and
Lugh's foster mother who died after clearing all the plains of Ireland for cultivation. Tradition holds that if the faire and games are not held in her honor, Lugh would take vengeance upon the crops in his grief.

Although the day is centered around the god Lugh, Lughnassadh is heavily associated with the Goddess of Sovereignty. Sovereignty has always been linked with the horse in Celtic beliefs. In the Coligney Calendar this period falls between Equos, meaning "horse time" and Elembrios meaning "claim time". Two Goddesses who are equated with sovereignty and horses are Rhiannon and Epona; both appear to stem from the Gaulish word rigantona meaning "great queen". It was the time of the Wedding Feast of Kingship, Banais Rigi, the king's marriage to the land, and he must receive his power from the Goddess to rule. In this, it better represents the ancient meaning of the day of Lugh in his guise as King. Other goddesses are a part of Lughnassadh who represent cultivation, birth and trials by ordeal. Macha is much like Tailltui in that she died after attempting to accomplish a great feat; racing on foot against a team of horses. Also remembered this day are Carmen and Tea.

The Tailltean Games of Ireland took place on Lughnassadh. Many ancient sports and athletic contests were held such as horse races, chariot races, footraces, driving cattle, hurley, Irish football, and sword-play. The games held at Tailltean were considered to be the "Irish Olympics". The competitions, be they athletic or bardic, were often initiations. Many traditional contests of the faire later served to make the winners more attractive to potential marriage partners. There was also singing, storytelling, folk and sword dancing as part of the festivities.

Lughnassadh celebrates not only the fertility of the field; it is tied to marriage and fertility rites celebrating Lugh and his bride. Trial marriages of a year and a day, also known as Brehon Marriages, were performed. In the Orkney Isles, young men and women chose "brothers" and "sisters" to lie with them for the night alongside the grain. Mountains and hills were the place of choice for lovers. One peak called Snaefell became notoriously known for the indecent behavior of the people who climbed it during Lammas. The term Tailten marriage has survived to modern times - referring to a casual love affair.

Today the Great Irish Horse Faires are still held and the Highland Games are still played. As recently as 1850, the hills of Carmarthenshire in Wales were crowded with weepers for Llew Llaw on the first Sunday on August. The practice was denounced as Pagan and discontinued but the Welsh faire was kept. Lughnassadh still survives as Lammas with much of it's original traditions intact. However we choose to celebrate it today, it should be remembered with thanksgiving for the harvest.

Suggested Pdf Resources

Lughnasadh 2009 - Order of WhiteOak
Lughnasadh: The Journey from Summer into Autumn - The Celtic
Jul 4, 2015 Lughnasadh is the time of the barley moon. In older times, the last stalk of grain was ceremonially cut and crafted into a corn dolly, which could ...
Lammas/Lughnasadh (August) 2008 -
Lammas is commonly known by several other names: Lughnasadh (named for the Celtic sun god. Lugh), August Eve, Feast of Bread and Harvest Home.
Lammas/Lughnasadh (August) 2009 -
Lughnasadh. The Lord is bursting forth in all his glory to ripen the grains. Here in New England, this is typified by the ripening of the sweet corn, which I do dearly ...
Lughnasadh. September 21 Mabon (Fall Equinox). Holy Days.

Suggested News Resources

Lunasa and Tim O'Brien performs in Celtic nod to St. Patrick
Lunasa is named for an ancient Celtic harvest festival, Lughnasadh, in honor of the Irish god Lugh, patron of the arts. The musical group was formed in 1997. Since then, it has helped form the backbone of some of the greatest Irish groups of the decade.
Why I'm Boycotting Lughnasadh
Lughnasadh or “Lammas” is celebrated by many Pagans this weekend. Many call this day the “first harvest”.
Lughnasadh – A Solitary Ritual
Lughnasadh is the first of the three harvest festivals. It's the grain harvest, a festival that would later become the medieval Christian Lammas, or loaf mass.
The Smaller Sabbats (Or Where did Lughnasadh Go?)
Lammas is just a bit more difficult to tackle, the things going on here don't fit neatly into the classic narrative, and they didn't when I lived in Michigan either.
A Blessed Lughnasadh
Today is Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas) the first of three harvest festivals celebrated in many modern Pagan traditions.

Suggested Web Resources

Lughnasadh - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lughnasadh or Lughnasa (pronounced /ˈluːnəsə/, LOO-nə-sə; Irish: Lúnasa, / ˈl̪ˠuːn̪ˠəsˠə/; Scottish Gaelic: Lùnastal, [ˈl̪ˠu:nəsd̥əl̪ˠ]; Manx: ...
Deeper Into Lughnasadh | Order of Bards and Druids
by Eilthireach Also known as Lammas, or First Harvest, the name of this festival as Lughnasadh is Irish Gaelic for "Commemoration of Lugh". Some authors give  ...
Wiccan, Pagan and Witchcraft Holidays., July 31st. "Lughnasadh" or
At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh, it's time to celebrate the first harvest of the year, and recognize that the hot summer days will soon come to an end.
Lughnasadh - Overview by Christina - Witchvox Article
At Lughnasadh, the Wheel of the Year begins to shift from growing time to harvest time. The subtle changes of the waning sun that occurred at Summer Solstice ...
Why I'm Boycotting Lughnasadh - Patheos
Jul 31, 2015 That's kind of how I feel about Lughnasadh. Lughnasadh or “Lammas” is celebrated by many Pagans this weekend. Many call this day the “first ...