Friday, August 1, 2014
Lughnasadh (LOO-nuh-suh) celebrates the death of Summer as it gives birth to the Harvest. The death of plants gives food which sustains humankind. It's celebrated on August 1.
Lughnasadh was usually celebrated by climbing a hill, and enjoying a communal meal of harvest fruits and meat dedicated to the god Lugh, whose birth is being celebrated. Berries (in particular, bilberries) were consumed. In Gaelic culture, there'd be a ritual dance-play involving a near-naked muscular youth depicting Lugh's defense of his mother against evil (usually depicted as a giant head). Another play would depict Lugh imprisoning a monster which represented famine. In these plays, the young man playing Lugh is usually painted in bright yellow, indicating his brilliant appearance. The rituals would end with Lugh being celebrated, taking his rightful place as Chief God.
Lughnasadh is also a time for "temporary weddings". Historically, two people would join hands through a hole in a board. They would then spend the next 365 days being married. If they liked it, they were properly married. If not, they could separate -- with no punishment, social ostracism, or anything. (A more modern wiccan or pagan term is "handfasting".)
Christians have tried to take over Lughnasadh. The Church of Ireland does its traditional "blessing of the fields" on August 1, while Reek Sunday is a Christian tradition throughout the British Isles. Visiting wells which have been blessed was also a part of the Christian take-over of Lughnasadh.
Today, Lughnasadh is generally celebrated in Scotland, Ireland, and parts of England with "Puck Fairs". A goat is crowned "King of the Fair" while a local girl is crowned "Queen". Music, public dancing, a parade, arts and crafts workshops, a horse and cattle fair, and a market usually accompany the fair.