Lughnassadh or Lammas
Named for the Irish Celtic god Lugh (Lew in Wales), this holiday is celebrated either on August 1 or around August 5, when the sun reaches 15 degrees of Leo. According to Celtic mythology, Lugh is an older and wiser personification of the god Baal or Bel (for whom Beltane is named).
Lughnassadh (pronounced LOO-na-saad) is the first of the harvest festivals. The early Christians dubbed the holiday Lammas, meaning “loaf-mass,” because the grain was cut at this time of the year and made into bread.
The Holiday's Significance
Corn, wheat, and other grains are typically harvested around Lughnassadh. In agrarian cultures, this was the time to begin preparing for the barren winter months that lay ahead. Our ancestors cut, ground, and stored grain, canned fruit and vegetables, and brewed wine and beer in late summer. The old English song “John Barleycorn Must Die” describes the seasonal ritual of rendering grain into ale.
Early pagans sold their wares at harvest fairs and held athletic competitions at this time of the year. You can see this age-old tradition carried on today at country fairs throughout rural parts of the United States.
“Threshing of the harvest was considered a sacred act and the threshing barn a sacred place. An old fertility custom is still practiced when a new bride is carried over the threshold.”
— Debbie Michaud, The Healing Traditions & Spiritual Practices of Wicca
Ways to Celebrate
Today, witches enjoy sharing bread and beer with friends on Lughnassadh, just as they've done for millennia. You might like to bake fresh bread from scratch or even brew your own beer as part of the celebration. While you're kneading the bread, add a dried bean to the dough. When you serve the bread, whoever gets the bean in his piece will be granted a wish.
If you like, you can fashion a doll from corn, wheat, or straw to represent the Sun King. To symbolize the time of year when his powers are waning, burn the effigy in a ritual fire as an offering to Mother Earth. The custom of decorating your home with dried corncobs, gourds, nuts, and other fruits of the harvest is also connected to Lughnassadh.