1st August marks Lá Lúghnasa (pronounced Lou-na-sa.), traditionally the beginning of the harvest month.
In Celtic mythology the god Lugh one of the chief gods of the Tuatha De Danann, established the Lúghnasadh festival as a funeral feast and games commemorating his foster-mother Tailtiú. She died on August 1st of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for farming (not an easy task!).
At this time of year you will notice fields of golden yellow corn, bales of haying drying in the Summer Sun, meadows of light green pasture with drowsy cows lazily having a munch. If you live in the Countryside or have been lucky enough to have stayed at one of our Irish Landmarks you will hear the noise of tractors and combine harvesters busy at work. To ancient people Lúghnasa symbolised a turning point in the lifecycle of Mother Earth and it was a reflection of the human cycle of birth and death. It was both a joyous celebration of plenty and a solemn wake for the decline of the potency of the sun god Lugh, from which the festival takes its name.
Traditionally, people assembled on hilltops to pick berries and engage in mock battles, the results of which were believed to predict the outcome of the yearly harvest. Many visited ancient wells whose healing abilities were thought to be most potent on Lúghnasa.
The descendants of those who first celebrated the summer harvest keep the traditions of Lúghnasa alive in the fairs and sporting events that take place in August and September throughout Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. Probably the best known of these is “Reek Sunday” a day on which hundreds of people from all across the country make their way to county Mayo to climb (often on their hands and knees) to the summit of steep Croagh Patrick. The Killorglin Puck Fair in Kerry is also said to have its origins in Lúghnasa festival celebrations. Towns and villages across the country hold annual harvest festivals throughout August and September as a nod to these ancient traditions.
Lúghnasa is primarily a festival of transition and presents a wonderful opportunity to consider how our lives have changed in the recent past.
Irish Landmarks have all born witness to many changing seasons. As each season changes the buildings (thanks to your help) remain. Perhaps now might be a good time to go visit an Irish Landmark and spend time catching up with friends and family. It could be a good time to reconnect and share stories of endings that you are mourning and new beginnings you are celebrating. As you honour the cyclical nature of existence, reflect upon the fact that just as there is joy to be found in the sowing and reaping, each of life’s phases is worthy of celebration too.
“Dancing as if language had surrendered to movement – as if this ritual, this wordless ceremony, was now the way to speak, to whisper private and sacred things, to be in touch with some otherness. Dancing as if the very heart of life and all its hopes might be found in those assuaging notes and those hushed rhythms and in those silent and hypnotic movements. Dancing as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary…”
― Brian Friel, Dancing at Lúghnasa