Muin Light: Lughnassad, C.E. 1996

All through the night, the dance spirals on ... with joy, harmony,
beauty, truth, and meaning,

Faster and
faster the
dollies dance...

weaving in and
  out, in and out,

... weaving the fabric of existence for future generations.


Known as Lughnassad (Celtic), Cornucopia (Strega), Thingtide (Teutonic), Lammas, and Lammastide, this fire festival marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Lammas occurs 1/4 of a year after Beltane. It's true astrological point is 15 degrees Leo, but tradition has set August 2nd as the day Lammas is typically celebrat-ed. The celebration proper would begin on sundown of the previous evening, August 1st, since the Celts reckon their days from sundown to sundown. British Witches often refer to the astrological date of Aug 6th as Old Lammas, and folklorists call it Lammas O.S. ('Old Style'). This date has long been considered a 'power point' of the Zodiac, and is symbolized by the Lion, one of the 'tetramorph' figures found on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune (the other three figures being the Bull, the Eagle, and the Spirit). Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four 'fixed' signs of the Zodiac, and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of Witchcraft. Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gos-pel-writers.

Lammas was the medieval Christian name for the holiday which comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'hlaf-maes', and it means 'loaf feast or loaf mass', referring to the loaves that were baked from the first grain harvested, blessed by the Priestess and Priest (and later by a Christian priest) and then distributed to the members and/or congregation. It was a day representative of first fruits and early harvest. Lammas occurs between the hay harvest and the corn harvest. Ancient peoples viewed the grain as a manifestation of the divine force ... personified as the "green man," a resilient god figure, growing sturdy and solid through spring and summer, cut down by the Harvest's scythe, sleeping through the cold winter in the bosom of the Earth Mother, and returning once again, as a reborn infant, clothed in green with spring. Bread and brew - products of the grain harvest - represent the mystery of transformation, the metamorphosis of the grain by fire. The oven becomes a sacral, life-transforming vessel, thus playing a role in the female mysteries, for it can be compared to the womb. They honored this cycle from birth through growth, consummation, sacrifice, death, and inevitable rebirth with rituals, processions, dances, and feasts.

In Irish Gaelic, the feast was referred to as Lugnasadh, (or Lughomass) a feast to commemorate the funeral games of the Goidelic sun-god Lugh. Llew Llaw Gyffes ('the Lion with the Steady Hand') is generally identified with Lugh. Lugh may be connected with the Latin 'lux', which means "light." Llew is a different word, connected with 'Leo' (lion), which was an appellation of Lugh's. At first glance, it may seem that we are cel-ebrating the death of Lugh, but the God of Light does not really die (mythically) until the autumnal equinox. It is not Lugh's death that is being celebrated, but the funeral games which Lugh hosted to commemorate the death of his foster- mother, Tailtiu. That is why the Lugnasadh cel-ebrations in Ireland are often called the 'Tailltean Games'.

One common feature of the Games were the 'Tailltean Marriages,' a rather informal marriage that lasted for only 'a year and a day' or until next Lammas. At that time, the couple would return to the place of the ceremony and decide whether to continue the arrangement if it pleased them, or to stand back to back facing north and south and walk away from one another, thus bringing the Tailltean marriage to a formal close (or divorce). Such trial marriages (obviously related to the Wiccan 'Handfasting') were quite common even into the 1500's, although they weren't recognized by the Church. Indeed, such ceremonies were usually solemnized by a poet, bard, or shanachie (or, it may be guessed, by a priest or priestess of the Old Religion).

Lammastide was also the traditional time of year for craft festivals. The medieval guilds would create elaborate displays of their wares, decorating their shops and themselves in bright colors and ribbons, marching in parades, and performing strange, ceremonial plays and dances for theentranced onlookers. The atmosphere must have been quite similar to the modern-day Renaissance Festivals or Green Corn Dance festivals of the Native Americans.

A ceremonial highlight of such festivals was the 'Catherine wheel'. Although the Roman Catholic Church moved St. Catherine's Feast day all around the calendar with bewildering frequency, it's most popular date was Lammas. They also kept trying to expel this much-loved saint from the ranks of the blessed because She was mythical rather than historical, and because Her worship gave rise to the heretical sect known as the Cathari. During the merry making, a large wagon wheel was taken to the top of a near-by hill, covered with tar, set aflame, and ceremoniously rolled down the hill. Some mythologists see in this ritual the remnants of a Pagan rite symbolizing the end of summer, the flaming disk representing the sun-god in his decline. And just as the sun king has now reached the autumn of his years, his rival or dark self has just reached puberty.

This was the time of the Corn Maiden. The young girls of the village would secretly make a doll from the cornhusks and all natural materials in the image of the Mother Goddess. Great care was lavished on the head, face, hair and other ornaments. During the festival the old women of the village would judge the dolls and the most life-like was chosen to represent the Goddess at the ritual. Its maker was made Queen of the Festival. All the remaining dolls were burnt in the ritual fire as an offering to the god/desses.

The days now grow visibly shorter and by the time we've reached autumn's end (Oct 31st), we will have run the gamut of temperature from the heat of August to the cold and (sometimes) snow of November. Lammas is also known as a new-wine festival and a kick-off feast for the hard working harvest season, encompassing other chores such as candle making, replacing curtains, tablecloths, and rugs, and preparing and preserving food for the winter months.

Untitled by Phoenix

I was in darkness for a long time.
I heard no sounds, felt no touch, saw no sights.
For a long time I was there and then magic happened.
I heard. There was a sound. No light first, I felt it inside.
It grew louder and louder till it was everything and the darkness
was no more.
I was in the music for a long time and then magic happened.
I felt a touch. It was so soft, so light, like a whisper on my soul.
It grew and grew and grew until it became everything.
The music was no more.
I was surrounded with a touch for a long time. Then magic happened.
A light became. At first it was just a spark, but it grew and grew and grew until it was everything. I was in the light for
a long time and then magic happened.
A friend found me and the music again did sound, the touch came back and the light returned.
It all stayed.

Bread has fostered fellowship for a long time. For thousands of years, bread has been a staple of the home and a symbol of hospitality and trust.

Oatmeal Bread for Lammas

1 cup wheat flour		3 medium apples, chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda	1 cup raisins
2 teaspoons salt		1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg		1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar		1-1\2 cups rolled oats
1 cup butter			1 egg, beaten
1\2 cup nuts			1-1\2 teaspoons vanilla or orange

Mix above ingredients together completely, then place in a greased 9-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until it begins to move away from the sides of the pan. When cooled, this bread may be shaped for ritual. Also, the fruits and nuts may be changed for different seasons.

Before ritual, we will have a corn husk doll workshop. Bring dried corn husks, cobs and silk, string, glue, and adornments to make your dollie pleasing to the God/desses! Winning dollie will be hung on the Temple.

There will be camping, drumming, and chanting for Lughnassad weekend. Bring a tent, instruments, and some food for the feast.

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