Lughnasa The Blue Recovery Moon
The first of the three harvest seasons begins today. Lughnasa, the festival of first fruits, or Lammas, as the Catholic appropriation of this Celtic holy day came to be known. On Lammas peasants would bring loaves of bread made from the first of the corn (wheat) harvest and place them on the altar.
Here is an intriguing account of Lughnasa’s mythic origin from Kathleen Jenks’ website:
“Lugh dedicated this festival to his foster-mother, Tailtiu, the last queen of the Fir Bolg, who died from exhaustion after clearing a great forest so that the land could be cultivated. When the men of Ireland gathered at her death-bed, she told them to hold funeral games in her honor. As long as they were held, she prophesied Ireland would not be without song. Tailtiu’s name is from Old Celtic Talantiu, “The Great One of the Earth,” suggesting she may originally have been a personification of the land itself, like so many Irish goddesses. In fact, Lughnasadh has an older name, Brón Trogain, which refers to the painful labor of childbirth. For at this time of year, the earth gives birth to her first fruits so that her children might live….”
This year, my first Lughnasa in the west, I’m aware of the contrast between the humid and agriculturally focused Great Wheel holidays and the rocky, desert, arid region which I now call home. On Shadow Mountain we have no harvest, no fields retrieved from ancient forests. We have stony cliffs, lodgepole and ponderosa pine, aspen. At the base of Shadow Mountain in Shadow Creek Valley there is a stand of alfalfa that was cut last week and baled this week. But the rationale is more fire mitigation, reducing the fuel load, than an agricultural one, though I imagine some happy horses will get those bales.
This year Lughnasa still has that Midwest feel for me. The vegetable stands are full of produce, farmer’s markets tables groan with the increasing yield of gardens all round the region. In fact, the week-long market holiday that began at Lughnasa in the Celtic lands inspired our agriculturally focused county and state fairs. The Great Minnesota Get-Together starts later this month on August 27th. No better latter day Lughnasa festival.
Adapting the Great Wheel with a western inflection may take a couple of years. I have no clear idea, for example, how to talk about Lughnasa on Shadow Mountain. An intriguing piece of work that lies ahead.
Lughnasa 2013 Moon of the First Harvests
Today begins the first of the three harvest seasons, Lughnasa. This is the holiday of first fruits, the celebration of those beets, carrots, onions, garlic, chard, herbs, peas and the cherries, currants and pears already brought inside. In the Catholic tradition this was called Lammas, the feast of the first breads, baked from the first harvested wheat or other grains.
Lughnasa, Mabon (Fall Equinox) and Samhain (Summer’s End) celebrate the beginning, peak and end of the harvest. This is the time of year when the hard work of late spring and early summer produce results. In many agricultural societies these were the months that determined life or death over the fallow winter months beginning at Samhain.
There are many traditions and customs peculiar to these harvest times, not the least in our society, of course, the beginning of school. The State Fair and all the county fairs held in these months echo these traditions since the holiday itself, August 1st in this case, usually began a week long market fair where goods were exchanged, feasts held, dances and games held, new relationships begun or ended.
This year a new harvest. The first fruits of the broadening grasp of human diversity in Minnesota. Gay couples can and have already married here. Coming only days after the Pope’s who am I to judge, this may be a first harvest worthy of the history books.
Kona’s death was, too, a harvest, a life lived fully, ripened and now mature. Lughnasa 2013 will be remembered.