This Saturday, August 1, is Lughnasadh (also referred to as Lammas in some traditions). Lughnasadh is the marking of the calendar year of the beginning of the harvest season. It occurs approximately halfway between the summer solstice (Litha) and the autumnal equinox.
Traditionally, Lughnasadh is the term applied to this festival/calendar occurrence in Celtic lands. Lammas was the name applied in English-speaking lands, but is the same festival or concept/observance, in practicality.
In Gaelic speaking lands, Lughnasadh comes from the name of the pagan god Lugh, a nature god associated with metal smithing, warriors, and the first grain harvest (hence the association with the beginning of August). He is also associated with artisans and skilled workers of all sorts.
Usually, this festival was a celebration of the beginning of the harvest, athletic contests, matchmaking, and hoping for a bountiful harvest the rest of the season.
Depending on which spiritual path(s) you follow, you may have varying views or degrees of observance. Neo-pagan vs Celtic reconstructionist vs Wicca all have slightly or even very different practices or preferences. Lughnasadh is also one of the 8 sabbats observed by Wiccan practitioners.
But, what about when there’s a pandemic and you need to social distance? How might we still honor the harvest gods and goddesses without contributing to even more cases of a contagious viral pandemic?
- Enjoy a variety of berries. One of the historically relevant practices associated with Lughnasadh was to pick and eat bilberries and other late summer berries (blackberries are ripening now!).
- Make a garland of dried summer harvest wheat and flowers to hang on your door.
- Dance! Even if you can’t celebrate with others, you can still do your own dance and let loose and be grateful.
- Challenge yourself physically. Obviously use your best judgment and do not attempt to do anything risky, but if there’s an athletic or fitness-related feat you have always wanted to do, create a plan to achieve it, consulting with a professional when needed.
- Take up or continue an art or craft.
- Hike in the mountains (or even just smaller hills if you’ve got no mountains nearby!), as this was a common tradition to leave food offerings at the top of mountains for the god Lugh.
These are things you can celebrate with your immediate family or those with whom you live, or even host a virtual Lughnasadh with friends from around the world.