Lughnasadh is one of the eight high day celebrations in the modern Pagan Wheel of the Year. It’s celebrated on or near on August 1, roughly halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox. It’s the first of three harvest festivals: Lughnasadh, the Fall Equinox, and Samhain.
Although the temperatures are still very high, particularly here in Texas, the days have been growing shorter since Midsummer. Crops are beginning to ripen and the work of the harvest is about to begin. This is the time when the grain harvest is celebrated and the first portion is offered to the Gods, out of gratitude for what has been given and to help insure a bountiful harvest.
The festival of Lughnasadh is named in honor of Lugh. He is known as Lugh Samildánach – the Master of All Arts, for he is skilled in every craft. He is also known as Lugh Lámhfhada – Lugh of the Long Arm, for his is the Spear of Lugh, which never misses its target when thrown in battle.
The name Lughnasadh means “the games of Lugh.” However, they were not held in celebration of Lugh, but rather for his foster mother Tailtiu, who cleared the fields of Ireland for agricultural use and died from the intensity of her labor.
The four paragraphs above are a slight update from the first Lughnasadh ritual I led in 2004. I reviewed it as I was preparing this post. It’s far too wordy, but it has a very good invocation of Lugh and an equally good invocation of Morrigan. I’m pretty sure I borrowed them straight from an ADF ritual I found online, so I won’t publish them here. That was 12 years ago, but while I don’t remember much about how the ritual went, I clearly remember that things took a major turn for the better after we presented it. It’s no surprise we reused much of the material from that ritual over the following years.
I’ve had a long but irregular relationship with Lugh. When I first became a Druid, I assumed Lugh would be my patron. I’m no master of all arts, but I do have a wide variety of interests – it seemed like a good match. My early meditations went well, but then a certain Forest God made Himself known and that was that. Still, whenever I performed a ritual (whether formal or extemporaneous) to honor or invoke all the deities in my life, Lugh was there.
Beginning in 2007, Denton CUUPS celebrated Lughnasadh with a Harvest Feast. We condensed the ritual down to about 30 minutes, then opened the circle and reconvened for a large potluck dinner. We turned the Denton UU fellowship hall into a “King’s Hall” with wall hangings and table decorations. One year one of our members brought a roast pig, head and all. In later years, we added Bardic offerings – during and after dinner, everyone had a chance to get up and sing, play an instrument, tell a story, or just offer a toast to a God or ancestor of their choosing.
In 2013 we made a major change – we stopped celebrating Lughnasadh. I had a clear message that we needed to do a major ritual to honor Cernunnos and the August 1 circle seemed like the best time to do it. Plus, after six years, the people who came up with the Harvest Feast idea were getting a little tired of it – they were also some of the most prominent cooks for the event as well. We didn’t think Lugh would mind, and the Cernunnos Ritual was a tremendous success.
The next year we had a Hellenic member who wanted to lead a Greek ritual. Again, the August 1 circle seemed like the best time to do it. Our Rite of Herakles went well enough that we planned another Hellenic ritual for 2015. But in early July our Hellenic member informed us he would be unable to lead the ritual. Cynthia and I did some divination and came to the conclusion we should do it anyway. We performed a Rite of Hermes and again, it went well.
When we began planning our 2016 calendar, I got a polite but firm message from an old Voice I hadn’t heard in a while: “I want my festival back.” There could be only one response: “of course.” Our first Lughnasadh in four years will be held on July 30. It will honor Danu as well as Lugh, because the circle coordinators were listening to the Gods the same as I was and there is room for more than One.
However, this will not be our first work with Lugh in four years. I have had occasion to honor or invoke Him on an irregular but not infrequent basis – though He was not to be my patron nor I His priest, the connections we formed so long ago remain. And last November, a small group gathered privately to honor Lugh. The ritual included this invocation:
Lugh Lámhfhada, Lugh of the Long Arm, we ask you to join our circle and bless us with your presence. Great Champion and King, Slayer of Balor, be welcome here. Grant us the gift of your invincible spear, we ask, that we may be victorious in our fight to protect our community, our world, and all the creatures who share it with us.
Lugh Samildánach, Master of All Arts, hear us as we call to you. We thank you for the many skills represented here in our midst. Teach us what we must learn, we ask, so we can join you in the Great Work of this time and place.
Accept this offering, we ask, given in hospitality, and in love.
One of the challenges of an eclectic Pagan group with polytheist leanings is that there are more Gods in our company than rituals on the Wheel of the Year. It is simply not possible to give each of Them a public ritual every year. We have established that Imbolc is for Brighid and Summer Solstice is for the Gods of Egypt, but beyond that, each year brings something slightly different. I do not know what we will do on August 1 in future years.
But for this year, I’m very happy to be returning to Lughnasadh.