Lughnasadh/Lammas

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Lughnasadh - Overview by Christina
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Author: Christina Aubin [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: August 1st. 2001
Times Viewed: 42,281

At Lughnasadh, the Wheel of the Year begins to shift from growing time to harvest time.  The subtle changes of the waning sun that occurred at Summer Solstice becomes more evident as the balance of day and night seem to shift more dramatically. The slight seasonal changes in weather, and the declining arc of the sun, the southern movement of it rising and setting are other indicators of this shift. "After Lammas, corn ripens as much by night as by day."

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The name of this festival is Irish Gaelic for "Commemoration of Lugh". Some authors give the meaning as marriage, gathering or feast (in the name of) of Lugh. The meaning remains basically the same: Lugh is the Deity of Lughnasadh, and there is a feast.
Although Lugh gives his name to this festival, it is also associated with Lugh's foster mother Tailtiu, who is said to have cleared the way for the introduction of agriculture in Ireland, thus linking Lughnasadh to the land and the harvest.
The modern Irish Gaelic name for the month of August is Lúnasa. In Scottish Gaelic Lunasda means the 1st of August.
One of several historic sources for the four Celtic fire festivals Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasadh und Samhain is the early medieval Irish tale "Tochmarc Emire" (The Wooing of Emer), which is part of the Ulster Cycle. In the form we know it today it was written in the 10th or 11th century CE, but it is safe to assume that this tale - like so many others - contains a much older nucleus.
The tale narrates how the hero Cú Chulainn is courting Emer. He receives several tasks to fulfill, one of them being that he must go without sleep for one year. As Emer utters her challenge, she names the four major points of the Irish-Celtic year, as they are also mentioned in other Irish sources. Doing this, she does not use the solar festivals, nor Christian ones, which were certainly well known and established by the 10th century. Instead Emer choses the first days of each season.

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It is Lughnasadh that gave rise to the country fairs which have always traditionally been held in late August or early September in the Appalachian region of America. The early European settlers to the new land brought with them the tradition of celebrating the fruits of their summer labor and the harvest fair.
The small town country fair is the American Lughnassadh tradition. The agricultural competitions and midway games echo the ancient days when people gathered to pay homage to the land and the fruits of their labor and to take to take time for community reverie. When we as a culture shifted our focus to city living, we lost a sense of the community oriented celebration that was with our forbearers in the old days and that still exists in smaller communities. The time of Lughnasadh reminds us that we are not alone. We need this sense accomplishment in our work, of rejoicing in what we achieve as a group, of dependence on the community we live in.

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