Pagan: Eat a-plenty with the Irish on Lughnasadh

SUNDAY, AUGUST 1: Feel the luck of the Irish today! Modern Pagans, the Irish and some Europeans celebrate Lughnasadh, an ancient Gaelic festival of the harvest. Modern society isn’t as closely tied to the land as the Celtic society once was, but we can still appreciate a time when berries are juicy and ripe and fruits and vegetables are abundant at farmers’ markets and in grocery stores. (This page from the University of Kansas site compares Lughnasadh with similar Jewish and American rituals.)

For the Celtic pagans, August was a time to reap the benefits of harvest, give thanks and joyfully reunite with friends and extended family members. This was even a time to begin temporary marriages, known as “handfasting”—when couples would commit to a marriage of one year and one day, before committing to a permanent marriage! (Wikipedia has details.) It’s still common for Europeans and people of the Irish diaspora to hold family reunions and parties around Lughnasadh. (Handfasting, on the other hand, is a tradition that has since been lost!)

According to Celtic mythology, Lughnasadh honored the god Lugh. After his foster mother, Tailtiu, died, Lugh hosted funeral feasts and games in her honor. Tailtiu said that so long as her funeral games and feasts continued, Ireland “would not be without song”—and so the Irish have marked her festival with fervor since. Hundreds of years ago, Lughnasadh was attended by the High King, and leaders took this time to discuss legal and political issues. This party wasn’t all politics, though: large-scale sporting events rallied crowds, traders journeyed in to sell their goods, artisans and entertainers wowed the crowds and music and storytelling filled the ears of all who attended.

Lughnasadh has always been a time of jubilant funeral games, and earlier this summer, modern Pagans expressed joy when America’s first national Pagan natural burial ground was opened. (Read the press release here.) Circle Cemetery is among the first “green” cemeteries established in North America.

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)

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