Lughnasadh is the last of the four primary Celtic festivals, celebrated each year on August 1st. Since the Celtic day started with sunset, the celebration takes place on the evening before the calendar date. The Celtic celebratory cycle begins in October with the celebration of Samhain, which is the Celtic New Year. Next is Imbolc in February and Beltane in May. This festival is also known as Lammas, which has an English-Christian translation of “loaf mass”. Although they both occur on the same day, with the same importance, the rituals and ceremonies differ significantly. Lammas is solely focused on celebrating the grain harvest. History shows us that Lughnasadh was a time to celebrate the first harvest, but also had a number of other associated actions. These included a ritual dedicated to the god Lugh, athletic competitions, matchmaking, trading, and copious amounts of feasting and celebrating. Lughnasadh is an Irish-Gaelic word which translates as “Commemoration of Lugh.”
Lugh, the God of Light, is one of the most prominent Gods of the ancient Irish; he was a great warrior, a master craftsman, a king, and a savior to the people. The festival is also associated with Lugh’s foster-mother Tailtiu, who was known for introducing agriculture to the Irish people, which created the connection to the harvest. Tailtiu died of exhaustion while clearing the lands of Ireland to prepare them for planting. The athletic competitions mentioned previously were called the Tailteann Games, and were enacted as commemoration for her sacrifice. Many believe that the entire celebration was in fact a funeral feast; some say for Lugh, while others say it was for Tailtiu.
This ritual is designed for a group and needs to be held outdoors.
What items you’ll need to collect for this ritual (as written)
Four quarter candles – yellow (east), red (south), green (north), blue (west)
Yellow Altar Cloth
Freshly Harvested Herbs
Bowl with seed/grain
Spear or symbolic representation of one
Small sheaf of grain (fresh)
God Candle (Tall Gold candle)
Loaf of Harvest Bread
Any portion of the ritual that is bracketed by <> symbols should be understood as instructional notes and not to be spoken aloud.
<The ritual leader should make an announcement to the group to gather in the circle and prepare for the ritual to begin>
I cast this circle, strong and true; high and wide; from ground to blue – a sacred space where all are free; each soul who they truly be – a sphere of light in the dark of night; where good folks gather in an ancient rite
Calling the quarters
I call upon ancestors from the East, the direction of Lenster and where the power of Air originates; the first element of the alchemical tradition; the essence of intuition and learning; the element of the nature of the mind. Join us as we gather to celebrate our history and our future!
I call upon the ancestors from the South, the direction of Munster and where the power of Fire originates; the second element of the alchemical tradition; the essence of purification and change; the element of the nature of the will. Join us as we reap that which we have sown!
I call upon the ancestors from the West, the direction of Connaught and where the power of Water originates; the third element of the alchemical tradition; the essence of love and fertility; the element of the nature of emotions. Join us as we share the blessings and comfort of a unified community!
I call upon the ancestors of the North, the direction of Ulster and where the power of Earth originates; the fourth element of the alchemical tradition; earth is the essence of grounding and stability; the element of the nature of balance. Join us as our guide throughout the lands and then carry us safely home!
<Ritual leader should Raise their arms high in a great praising motion>
I invoke the God Lugh, the Great High King, the son of Cian (key-in) of the Tuatha De Danann, and Ethniu of the Fomorians. We humbly ask for your presence as we celebrate your many skills and talents, your mastery of the flame, the arts, and your creativity. We offer you high praises for this, the first of the three annual harvests, and for ensuring life shall continue! <light gold God candle>
Welcome Everyone, Thank You and Blessed Be. Tonight we have gathered to celebrate Lughnasadh, a day which marks the beginning of the descent of the blazing Sun into the cold darkness of winter. It is today that we celebrate not only the start of harvest season, but also pay homage to the great sacrifice of the God Lugh, who transfers his life-energy into that grain so that we may live to see another turn of the great wheel.
Before we begin, I’d like to share a wonderful pagan folk song by Omnia, entitled Lughnasadh.
Lughnasadh is the first of three harvest festivals celebrated each summer and the festivities included rituals that centered around the assurance of a bountiful harvest season and the annual harvest cycle itself. Our ancestors had as much closer relationship with the land than we do today, and a plentiful harvest meant the difference between life and death in some instances. The first fields of grain would be cut at this time of the year, as well as herbs, certain plants, and fruits – all dried and put into storage for later.
Moreover, it was a time to celebrate and honor the Great God Lugh, also known as the God of All Skills, or the Bright or Shining One. Lugh is closely associated with agricultural fertility and the Sun, but also with death and rebirth.
Celebrating the Harvest
<the ritual leader should hold up the bundle of grain, dried herbs, and any other freshly harvested items for everyone to see>
The Wheel of the Year turns yet again, and the harvesting season is upon us. From this day forward, our energy will be spent on cutting grains, herbs, and other plants before drying them for the cold months ahead. By the blessings of Lugh, the gifts we are about to receive are plentiful. We again have food for our tables; bread to feed our physical bodies, beer to quench our thirst, and hope to feed our souls.
<hold up the bowl of seeds>
We place significance on the grain, for it is now that we collect the seeds for replanting next year. The lessons of the great wheel have taught us that even in death, we can find life and as the grain is cut, those seeds hold the spirit of the plant and it will rise again once planted in the spring next year.
<sprinkle seeds on the ground symbolically>
<hold up the loaf of fresh bread>
This loaf symbolizes the first loaf baked from the first grain brought in from the fields. Our ancestors saw this as a great sign of prosperity in the coming months. The entire community would enjoy an equal fate that depended on the harvest, and by sharing this first loaf, it demonstrated the willingness of everyone to move forward as one. Each man, woman, and child provided their individual energy in the fields, the kitchens, and the grinding mills, so in turn each shall be rewarded with life.
<Take a piece and pass the loaf until everyone has some.>
“We, who call ourselves the ancestors of the Celtic tribes, humbly stand in this circle on the eve of this great festival day, to honor the God Lugh for providing this first loaf. We look to one another as an extended family of brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, maidens, crones, warriors, and spirits. Let none gathered be without food, shelter, and companionship and let none be void of spiritual health and grounding. With this bread we pledge our love to the God, our love to the land, and our love to one another!”
<consume the bread>
The Spear of Lugh
The Great King Lugh was a hero among the Celts, and held the title of High King of Ireland at one point in his earthly life. He is also known as Lamhfhada, which means ‘long hand’, because of his exemplary skill with a spear. He led his people to victory in battle after battle and was said to have killed the Fomori Giant-King Balor, during the Second Battle of Moytura, by casting his spear into Balor’s poison eye. Lugh’s Spear was made from dark bronze, tapering gracefully into a fine, fearfully sharp point. It was fastened to a rowan haft by thirty rivets of gold, and powerful magic was said to have been woven into its making in the magical northern city of Findias. It was thought to be brought to Ireland by the Danann, a race of Gods; yet who brought it and gave it to Lugh is not known. His accomplishments ultimately led to a free Ireland.
<have someone assist for this portion – place the apple near the fire and have the helper hold the spear high above their head in a mock attacking stance>
“Great God Lugh, we, the children of your children’s children gather tonight to commemorate your victories and great reward of freedom for all of our people. With a mighty spear and mighty courage, you faced the enemy and emerged triumphant. We ask that you share that courage with each soul gathered here so that we too may overcome our enemies until we are completely free!”
<spear person should approach and pierce the apple which represents the poison eye of Balor>
Closing the Lughnasadh Circle
Great God, we thank you for your abundance, your strength, your commitment to your people, your valor and courage to free each of us to choose our own path in life, your wisdom and the unconditional love shared with us this night in our sacred space. <extinguish God candle>
We turn our eyes to the unending power of the North, the stone, and soil, and all living things on Earth; the great circle of life unfolds each and every day. Thank you for your presence in this circle and the protections you provide for us all. <extinguish green candle>
Look to the direction of the setting sun in the West; where the cleansing waters wash away the unwanted feelings and negative energies of our daily lives. We humbly thank you for joining us this evening. <extinguish green candle>
The great fires of the South draw our gaze; where the flames burning high on the hilltops serve as guiding beacons of light in the darkest of nights. Our eternal gratitude for your warmth and comfort, and for joining us this eve <extinguish red candle>
And finally to the East we give our final sight; where the swirling winds whisper the secrets of the ancients, but only to those who choose to listen. Our appreciation is genuine and our thanks everlasting for your presence this night. <extinguish yellow candle>
This Lughnasadh Circle is open but never broken
Chiming of the Bell <leader should ring the bell thrice>
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