August 7th marks the festival of Lughnasadh – this is the midpoint between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox. It marks the beginning of the time of ripening, the last moment of rest as summer turns to fall. The labor of planting and tending young shoots is ended. It is a time of pause, a time for treaties and handfastings, a time to make peace.
In our modern world it is easy to forget how important a successful harvest was to our ancestors. They had cause for celebration: A good harvest meant survival in the dark, cold months ahead. A poor or bad harvest signaled the beginning of difficult times. Even though we can nip out to the supermarket whenever we need something, this is a good time to give thought to where our food originates and reverence for the cycles that produce it. Better still, tending a garden keeps us in touch with the Goddess and her bounty. Even if your garden consists only of tomatoes or herbs grown in pots on a balcony, these taste all the sweeter for having been nurtured by your own hands.
It still feels like summer. The mental/emotional indications of the changing seasons are more obvious now than the physical ones. The air is filled with anticipation of the coming fall, of the approaching return to school and of the cooler weather to come. It is also a time of sadness, as the knowledge sets in that the good times of Summer will soon be over. There is a bit of “haste to have fun” before it comes to an end.
Lughnasadh’s mythic patterns center around the young god Lugh, whose name means “light”. He is an example of the Celtic motif of the young son, born magically of a union between the gods and Giants. He is welcome into the Hall of the gods because he is the master of every skill, and he is the slayer of Balor, the sorcerer king of the Fomors, opponents of the gods. He wields the Spear of Victory, that never misses its mark.
Lammas or Lughnasadh also represents the culmination of the marriage between the Goddess and the God that took place on Beltane. The God now becomes the product of that blessed union – the bountiful fruits and grains – and must be sacrificed. He is the personification of the crops that must be harvested for the survival of the people.
Underneath the symbolism of sacrifice is the theme of rebirth. The Corn God must die, and He has to do so in order to return. Without the sacrifice, the cycle stops. Although His strength is waning, His essence is still palpable as His energies begin to merge with the harvested crops. It is at this time that the Sun King has reached the autumn of His years, and His rival (or dark self) has just reached puberty. The Sun God has reigned supreme over the ripening grain during the hot summer months. His dedication, perseverance, and action in tending the seeds sown in spring brings a ripe and fruitful bounty.
(This is an excerpt from my August newsletter)