As July ends, numerous Pagans are mentally, spiritually, and in some cases physically preparing for Lughnasadh. On or around August first, many of us stop to remember the bounty of the summer and give thanks. Some of us stop and remember the holiday’s namesake – Lugh.
Lughnasadh is a feast in honor of Lugh and his foster mother, Tailtiu (Freeman 237). She cleared forests in what is now County Meath so that the land could be cultivated. Tailtiu died doing so, thus Lugh promised to honor her memory with a celebration of games and trade (237). Lughnasadh festivals were therefore characterized by competitive games (Myers 44). It is also the traditional end of summer and beginning of autumn (Ellison 145) and was thus the festival of the first harvest (148). At this time of the year, Irish tribes would gather to compete in games, sell their crops, and sell and display their crafts (149). Lughnasadh is a time of revelry, socialization, and community. It was important for busy families to take a break from what was otherwise a season of hard work to laugh and enjoy their bounty.
Lughnasadh, while it is a holiday I celebrate, has never been something I look forward to with vast anticipation like Samhain, Yule, or Beltaine. It is an important day to me, however, and I always put aside time to honor Lugh and his foster mother. This year I am planning to attend the local Irish and Renaissance Festivals. In various places, I have read that festivals of their nature are akin to what Lughnasadh festivals would have been like. I find it as no coincidence that such huge gatherings of trade, athletics, and celebration occur at this time of year. Attending such things around Lughnasadh has become an annual tradition for me and is likely to continue for the rest of my healthy life.
In the future, I would like for Lughnasadh to become a bigger holiday to me – perhaps one I look forward to with the excitement I associate with Samhain and the like. If I have a family, I would like Lughnasadh to be a full-day celebration of summer’s end and autumn’s beginning. I would want us to decorate our family altars and tables with local crops such as beans, summer squash, and blueberries. I would like us to attend local rituals as well as do something intimate as a family. I would like us to visit Renaissance or Irish festivals to really feel the community involved in such a feast.
The holiday celebrated in this ritual was Lughnasadh. The ritual was lead by myself and the only other person attending was my boyfriend, Ron. We performed the ritual in my back yard by the oak tree we planted in April. It was not so deep into the forest that we would be eaten alive by mosquitoes, and wasn’t close enough to the house to distract us. We decided to celebrate Lughnasadh on the traditional day of August 1, 2007, a Wednesday, in the evening at about 8 pm.
Ron and I honored the deities Lugh and his foster-mother Tailtiu. I felt it was right and made sense considering the history and mythology surrounding Lughnasadh. I called on Manannan Mac Lir as the Gatekeeper.
I felt that the ritual went well for the most part. I have been studying the structure of ADF rituals for awhile now and felt that I had a handle on what I was doing for the most part. I had to focus myself before the ritual and organize my thoughts beforehand, so performing these rites is not yet second nature. I was also a bit nervous because I was performing the rite in front of Ron and, even though he is my understanding boyfriend, I didn’t want to look silly or clumsy in front of him. I’m confident that the more I do them, the more comfortable I’ll feel.
There was one glitch but luckily it happened at the very beginning of the ritual rather than in the midst of it. I was trying to open a bottle of Guinness to prepare some offerings, and realized that I’d need a bottle opener to do it. I had to run back to the house to get the utensil before the rite could continue. It was certainly a lesson well learned! I was prepared in every other way, so one little set back didn’t hurt too much, I’m sure.
In terms of what I felt, I was pretty nervous about leading the ritual. I think that muffled any other feelings I would have had. It also didn’t help that Ron was visibly and audibly uncomfortable with the bugs during the ritual. I certainly felt the weight of the ceremony, and felt that Lugh was happy with my honoring him, but I didn’t feel the buzz I usually experience at a ritual at the Grove or in my own daily devotionals. Again, I feel that it will come with practice. I just need to become more comfortable doing it on my own and in front of others.
I regret to say no omens were taken. I thought a lot about including that in my rite, as it’s such a traditional part of ADF, and it feels right in terms of what ancient Pagans would have done. However, in the end, I felt that I was too out of practice with the tarot cards to use them that night. I know next to nothing about the rune set I own. It would have been hard to see the results anyway. We weren’t using a bonfire, but a little candle, after all. Perhaps down the road at my next ritual. I would greatly like to learn the ogham.
In many ways, my Lughnasadh ritual was more of a learning experience and less of a spiritual one. There are ups and downs to that, of course, but in the long run it will serve as an essential stepping stone in my spiritual life. The more confident I can become performing these rites, the more natural I will feel, and thus the more open to spirit I will be.