Lughnasadh (pronounced “LOO-nahs-ah”) aka Lammas, is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on August 1st or 2nd, although occasionally on July 31st. The Celtic festival held in honor of the Sun God Lugh (pronounced “Loo”) is traditionally held on August 7th. Some Pagans celebrate this holiday on the first Full Moon in Leo.
Other names for this Sabbat include the First Harvest Festival, the Sabbat of First Fruits, August Eve, Lammastide, Harvest Home, Ceresalia (Ancient Roman in honor of the Grain Goddess Ceres), Feast of Bread, Sabbat of First Fruits, Festival of Green Corn (Native American), Feast of Cardenas, Cornucopia (Strega), Thingtide and Elembiuos. Lughnassadh is named for the Irish Sun God Lugh (pronounced Loo), and variant spellings for the holiday are Lughnassadh, Lughnasad, Lughnassad, Lughnasa or Lunasa. The most commonly used name for this Sabbat is Lammas, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “loaf-mass”.
At Lammas, the hot days of August are upon us, much of the earth is dry and parched, but we still know that the bright reds and yellows of the harvest season are just around the corner. Apples are beginning to ripen in the trees, our summer vegetables have been picked, corn is tall and green, waiting for us to come gather the bounty of the crop fields. Now is the time to begin reaping what we have sown, and gathering up the first harvests of grain, wheat, oats, and more.
It’s the dog days of summer, the gardens are full of goodies, the fields are full of grain, and the harvest is approaching. Take a moment to relax in the heat, and reflect on the upcoming abundance of the fall months. At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh, it’s time to begin reaping what we have sown throughout the past few months, and recognize that the bright summer days will soon come to an end.
Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Lammas, but typically the focus is on either the early harvest aspect, or the celebration of the Celtic god Lugh. It’s the season when the first grains are ready to be harvested and threshed, when the apples and grapes are ripe for the plucking, and we’re grateful for the food we have on our tables.
Lammas is a time of excitement and magic. The natural world is thriving around us, and yet the knowlege that everything will soon die looms in the background. This is a good time to work some magic around the hearth and home.
This is also a time when the God mysteriously begins to weaken as the Sun rises farther in the South, each day grows shorter and the nights grow longer. The Goddess watches in sorrow as She realizes that the God is dying, and yet lives on inside Her as Her child. It is in the Celtic tradition that the Goddess, in her guise as the Queen of Abundance, is honored as the new mother who has given birth to the bounty; and the God is honored as the God of Prosperity.
Deities associated with Lughnassadh are all Grain and Agriculture Deities, Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses and Father Gods. Particular emphasis is placed on Lugh, Demeter, Ceres, the Corn Mother and John Barleycorn (the personification of malt liquor).
Activities appropriate for this time of the year are:
- Baking bread – especially bread baked in the form of a God-figure or Sun Wheel
- Wheat weaving – such as the making of Corn Dollies, or other God and Goddess symbols which may be used both as a fertility amulet and an altar centerpiece.
- Sand candles can be made to honor the Goddess and God of the sea.
- You may want to string Indian corn on black thread to make a necklace,
- Bake corn bread sticks shaped like little ears of corn
Other actions include the gathering of first fruits and the study of Astrology. Some Pagans symbolically throw pieces of bread into a fire during the Lammas ritual. Spellwork for prosperity, abundance and good fortune are especially appropriate now, as well as spells for connectedness, career, health and financial gain.
The celebration of Lammas is a pause to relax and open yourself to the change of the Season so that you may be one with its energies and accomplish what is intended. Visits to fields, orchards, lakes and wells are also traditional. It is considered taboo not to share your food with others.
Correspondences for Lughnasadh:
- Colors: red, orange, gold, and yellow. Also green, citrine and gray.
- Candles: golden yellow, orange, green, or light brown.
- Stones: yellow diamonds, aventurine, sardonyx, peridot and citrine.
- Animals: roosters and calves.
- Mythical creatures: phoenix, griffins, basilisks, centaurs and speaking skulls.
- Plants: corn, rice, wheat, rye, ginseng, ash tree.
- Herbs: vervain, acacia flowers, aloes, cornstalks, cyclamen, fenugreek, frankincense, heather, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, sunflower, and wheat.
- Incense: aloes, rose, rose hips, rosemary, chamomile, passionflower, frankincense, and sandalwood.
Traditional Pagan Foods for the Lughnassadh Festival include homemade breads (wheat, oat and especially cornbread), corn, potatoes, berry pies, barley cakes, nuts, wild berries, apples, rice, roasted lamb, acorns, crab apples, summer squash, turnips, oats, all grains and all First Harvest foods. Traditional drinks are elderberry wine, ale and meadowsweet tea.
It is also appropriate to plant the seeds from the fruit consumed in ritual. If the seeds sprout, grow the plant with love and as a symbol of your connection to the Divine. A cake is sometimes baked, and cider is used in place of wine.
Key actions associated with Lammas are receiving and harvesting, honoring the Parent Deities, honoring the Sun Gods and Goddesses, as well as celebration of the First Harvest.
From: PaganWiccan and other sources,
Lammas and Lughnasadh are ancient Pagan festivals celebrated in many parts of the world. Typically falling on the first day of August, these festivals celebrate the fruits of the first harvest of the year with a focus upon gratitude and blessings for abundance. The names Lammas and Lughnasadh are often used interchangeably which can create some confusion but the following will help to clear things up.
Lughnasadh, which is pronounced LOO-nah-sah, traces its roots far back into Irish history. In Celtic mythology the god Lugh is said to have held a funeral feast in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu, who died after clearing the plains of Ireland for the purpose of agriculture.
The festival of Lughnasadh became a day based upon this Celtic myth and historically it was a day of contests, games, handfasting or marriage, and seeking lodging for the long winter months. It was also one of the four main festivals of the Irish medieval calendar signaling the height of summer and the approach of autumn. The word Lughnasadh means “marriage of Lugh” which again ties in with Celtic mythology, for the god Lugh was seen as married to the land, or earth, and sacrificed to the earth. This is symbolic of crops being planted and then “sacrificed” in harvest.
Many modern-day Pagans celebrate the festival of Lughnasadh in a variety of ways, depending upon the Pagan tradition that they follow and their personal preferences. In Wicca, Lughnasadh is viewed as one of the eight sabbats that make up the Wheel of the Year. In Dianic Wicca often focus primarily upon the Goddess aspect in the form of the Goddess of plenty, Kore and Ceres or Habondia.
Celtic Reconstructionists base the celebrations of Lughnasadh largely upon historical research of the polytheist beliefs of the ancient Celts and typically celebrate it on the day of the full moon that falls closest to the festival. They often recognize the day by giving thanks and asking the deities to grant them a bountiful harvest. Many Celtic Reconstructionists will also honor the goddess Tailtiu on this day.
- More about Lughnasadh can be found here: Lughnasadh aka Lammas
Lammas was the name used in medieval England for the Christian holiday that celebrated early harvest. An Anglo-Saxon word, Lammas is thought to be a combination of the words loaf mass, the reason being that in medieval times it was typical for loaves of bread baked from the grains of the first harvest to be blessed during a church ceremony at that time.
However, Lammas was originally a Pagan harvest festival that, like Lughnasadh was one of gratitude and celebrating the first grains of harvest even though, in some parts of the world, it was incorporated into the Christian church.
- More about Lammas can be found here: Lammas – A Feast of Bread
Today Lammas is viewed primarily as a Pagan festival and many modern-day Pagans view Lammas and Lughnasadh as the same thing although the history behind each of the names is slightly different.
In many cultures around the world, staple crops such as corn and rice are believed to embody a spiritual essence.
In European cultures, a corn doll was often used to represent the spirit of the harvested crops. However, Europe didn’t have a monopoly on this at all. In South American countries, some tribes took the largest portion of the crops — typically maize — and dressed it in clothing as an effigy.
In Peru, people honored different spirits of the crops. The Maize Mother was the zara mama, the spirit of quinoa was known as quinoa mama, and everything from the cocoa tree to the lowly potato had a life essence.
In North America, the native tribes grew corn, or maize, as a staple part of their diet. Some groups have stories of rebirth and regeneration, and a few have folktales that parallel the story of Demeter and Persephone. In the southwestern part of the United States, Native Americans still perform a ceremonial dance that honors the harvesting of the maize every fall.
It’s not uncommon to find spiritual connections to agriculture. The Malay people of Indonesia believe that rice plants — again, a staple crop — possess a soul or life force just as humans do. Harvesting is even done in a way that is seen as “painless” to the rice plants, so that it will not suffer. In some parts of the Malay Peninsula, there is a big ceremony at the beginning of each harvest, in which a complex ritual is performed that identifies the mother of the rice soul in the selected sheaf.
Folklorist Sir James Frazer makes mention in The Golden Bough of the global phenomenon of the honoring of the spirit of the grain. He says that the mere fact that underdeveloped, primitive cultures honor a “corn mother” archetype indicates that this has been going on for thousands of years. In other words, because these cultures are “unspoiled” by modern society, their worship of such an embodiment of the grain is probably very close to the original ritual and ceremony.
Article by: Patti Wigington
Lammas is very old indeed. It derives from the ancient English festival the Gule of August, which marked the beginning of the harvest, traditionally August 1.
The early English church kept this pagan dedication of the first fruits but converted it to Christian usage. The word Lammas derives from the Old English phrase hlaf-maesse, which translates to loaf mass. In early Christian times, the first loaves of the season were blessed by the Church.
Through the centuries, “loaf-mass” became corrupted in spelling and pronunciation to Lammas. On Lammas Day, loaves of bread were baked from the first-ripened grain and brought to the churches to be consecrated.
To the Celts, this was Lughnasaid, the feast of the wedding of the Sun god and the Earth goddess, and also a harvest festival. In Ireland, baskets of blueberries are still offered to a sweetheart in commemoration of the original fertility festival. In Scotland, the Lammastide fairs became famous for trial marriages that could be ended without question after a year.
“After Lammas Day, corn ripens as much by night as by day.”
In early Ireland, it was a bad idea to harvest your grain any time before Lammas – it meant that the previous year’s harvest had run out early, and that was a serious failing in agricultural communities. However, on August 1, the first sheaves of grain were cut by the farmer, and by nightfall his wife had made the first loaves of bread of the season.
Bread is the ultimate symbol of the Lammas season. After all, once the grain is harvested, it is milled and baked into bread, which is then consumed. It is the cycle of the harvest come full circle. The spirit of the grain god lives on through us in the eating of the bread. In many traditions, a loaf of special bread is baked in the shape of a man, to symbolize the god of the harvest.
You can easily make a loaf of Lammas bread by using a pre-made loaf of bread dough, found in the frozen food section in your grocery store. Certainly, you can make your own dough, but if you’re not much of a baker, this is an easy alternative. Or, if you prefer to make your own, here’s a recipe: Lammas Bread
Bread is a central feature in Lammas and Lughnasadh celebrations. Here’s a great recipe for whole grain bread:
In a large mixing bowl combine:
- 2 cups milk (warm to the touch)
- 2 packages of dry baking yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Cover this mixture and set aside in a warm place until it has doubled (about half an hour). Add to this mixture:
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of unbleached white flour
Stir until bubbly. Now mix in:
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 cup of rolled oats
- 2 cups stone ground wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons sesame seed
With floured hands, turn this dough out onto a floured board and gradually knead in more unbleached white flour until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your fingers.
Place this dough in a greased bowl, turning it so that the dough is greased. Then cover it with a clean cloth and keep it in a warm place to rise until it is doubled (about an hour).Then punch it down and divide it into two or more elongated loaves, roughly sculpted into mummiform shapes, and placed on greased cookie sheets.
Cover these and return them to a warm place until they double again. Bake the loaves in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until they are done and sound hollow when tapped.
Fritters are a nice variation on pancakes, and the bonus for this particular recipe is that they are sweet without any additions, requiring no syrup, sugar or jam. Many people have had fritters of various types, especially the popular apple variety. But . . . “elder flower” fritters? Yes, these actually contain elder flowers!
Flowers were a common ingredient in cooking during medieval times, which is where this recipe comes from (England, specifically). In this recipe’s case, the flowers mixed into the batter help add a kick and a minty taste.
Because of the elder flowers, these sweeties have been associated with faeries in folk myths. Because of that, they have been used at Pagan celebrations of Beltane, Litha, and Lughnasadh to help as a protection against the malevolent and mischievous fair folk, and sometimes these are even made at Samhain season as a symbol of keeping away bad spirits.
If you’ve never made a recipe incorporating flowers before, you might start with this one–you’ll be pleasantly surprised! (Read on after the directions for variations and notes.)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 cups elder flowers, freshly picked and cleaned
Mix egg, rose water, honey, and brandy in a bowl, then stir in flour and cinnamon. Should be thick like pancake batter. (Add flour if it’s too thin, and add more brandy if it’s too thick.) Fold in the flowers. Fry like pancakes, OR drop by the teaspoonful into a deep-fat fryer until golden brown. Serve with orange water sprinkle and fresh lemon, or dip in sweet cream.
Yield: Fried like pancakes: About 10. Deep fat fryer: About 2 dozen.
Use for: Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Samhain, The Floralia
Source: A Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook
Note: In many areas it may be tough to find fresh elder flowers. If you order from somewhere or pick them yourself, make sure they are the Nigra variety because there is a kind you shouldn’t use due to high toxicity.
IF YOU CANNOT FIND ELDER FLOWERS or you are squeamish about eating flowers, there is a variation:
You can make this recipe by substituting very finely diced apples–about a cup’s worth–for the flowers, and adding a little fresh mint. If you do do this substitution I urge you to not neglect the mint, because with either elder flowers or with apple-and-mint, the minty taste is really what makes it so good.