As is widely known, Lammas gets its name from “loaf mass” which calls to mind the mass said over the first loaves of bread made from the year’s grain harvest. I actually prefer this name, but–in keeping with the more Gaelic names I use for the other Sabbats, I call this holiday “Lughnassadh” (Loo-nah-sah), which roughly means “feast of Lugh” where Lugh is an Irish god or mythological being that has been associated with the sun since Victorian times at least, but is often more of a trickster figure in mythology and the ‘light’ aspect of his name is likely more akin to lightning, as storms were considered battles between him and another god, Balor. In mythology, the feast was begun by Lugh in commemoration of his foster-mother’s funeral–she died after clearing Ireland’s fields for agriculture.
Roderick notes that the theme of sacrifice was an important aspect of Lughnassadh, but he doesn’t mention the mythology, saying instead that this sacred harvest represented the sacrifice of the horned god as he manifests through grain to sustain human life. I find that a little problematic with some wheel of the year interpretations: if the lord dies at Lughnassadh, Yule, and Litha…well, we’ve got a lot of death to deal with. It seems a little unbalanced to me.
At any rate, celebrants of Lammas or Lughnassadh might have celebrated with circular dances performed with the intention to regenerate the earth and sustain the community or with offering harvested crops as sacrifices. That latter bit shares similarities to today’s practice.
Practice: Harvest Luck and House Protection
- Fresh produce of your choosing
- A brown taper candle about 5-6 inches in length
One magical Lughnassadh custom was bringing the prized and highly magical first sheaf of corn across the front door threshold of one’s home. The custom would ensure luck and protection from illness and poverty for the coming year. In your practice today, select a produce or grain item that as symbolic attributes that represent a quality you would like to bring into your life.
Bring the produce or grain to your home, but before you bring it inside, light a brown taper candle (a color that represents the earth and harvest) and hold it in your left hand. Stand before the front door of your house, hold the food item above the lit candle flame, and say:
Oh Holy Lugh, Lord of the Harvest
Bring [state your desire] into my home,
With this harvested fruit of the land.
Step over the threshold of your front door. Place the food item somewhere near the door through which you just entered and set the candle close by. Allow the candle to burn completely out. After the candle extinguishes, prepare and eat a portion of the food item in silence.
For this working, I was pretty set on citrus fruit for three reasons: they’re currently in season, I can’t get enough of them, and the giant orange minneola tangelos are just about the sunniest fruit I can imagine, and I need solar energy. To me, citrus equals sun, and I need the warmth, the transformative power, the fuel, and the follow through of the sun in my life right now.
So I brought them up, lit my candle, took a moment to focus on Lugh, his energy, and my own desires, and repeated the request, asking specifically for motivation and follow through.
Given the fact that I’ve basically got a 12-inch taper, I did not wait for it to extinguish, but I gave it a good few hours of burning and manifestation. And man, was that minneola good!