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Lughnasadh (or Lammas)

By Sandy Anderson
(Written for Ecclasia)

Lughnasadh, or Lammas as it is also known, occurs at the height of summer. This is the time of year when the earth abounds with fruit and grain ready for harvesting. The sun is beginning to drop in the sky, but the searing heat shows no evidence of the shortening days. This is the first harvest. Humanity celebrates the bounty of the crops with which they have been blessed. Bread is traditionally baked for this holiday, and the altar is decorated with the first fruits of garden labor. Canning goes into full swing and magickal cabinets are stocked with herbs before the onset of autumn. Herbs for magickal use should be harvested this day. This is a good day to empower some of them in your ritual.

The history of Lammas is as convoluted as the rest of the old folk holidays. It is a cross-quarter day, one of the four High Holidays or Greater Sabbats of Wicca, occurring 1/4 of a year after Beltane. It’s true astrological point is 15 degrees Leo, which will occur at 3:27 am Pacific Standard Time on August 7th of this year. Tradition has set August 1st as the day Lammas is typically celebrated. The celebration proper would begin at sundown of the previous evening as the Celts reckon their days from sundown to sundown.

“Lammas” was the medieval Christian name for the holiday and it means “loaf-mass.” This was the day on which loaves of bread were baked from the first grain harvest and laid on the church altars as offerings. It was a day representative of “first fruits” and early harvest.

In Irish Gaelic, the feast was referred to as “Lughnasadh,” a feast to commemorate the funeral games of the Irish sun-god Lugh. However, there is some confusion on this point. Although at first glance it may appear that we are celebrating the death of Lugh, the god of light does not really die (mythically) until the autumnal equinox. If we read the Irish myths closer, we discover that 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, Taillte. That is why the Lughnasadh celebrations in Ireland are often called the “Tailltean Games.”

Lammas, as a fire and harvest festival, takes on many sacrificial themes. Our ancestors knew that in order to receive more of something, you first had to give. In light of the first harvest, our ancestors sacrificed the best of the first crop to ensure that the later crops would be bountiful. This sacrificial cemony became the pivotal Lammas Fire Ritual. In this ritual, an effigy of the Corn God was fashioned out of wicker and other materials. The “wicker man” was then filled with all of the sacrifices of which the village desired more. Fruits, grains, riches, mead, wine and more were put into the wicker man. A huge bonfire was then built, consecrated and made sacred. During the ceremony, the wicker man is tossed into the fire and sacrificed unto the deities, along with the people’s wishes.

Lammas is a time to give gratitude for what you have received and to sacrifice what you can to receive more of your heart’s desire.

Prayer for Peace

By the Southern California Local Council of COG

Gracious Lady, Mother of all that lives,
We call out to you to guide your children:
Bless our eyes, that we may see each other with love.
Bless our ears, that we may hear each other with understanding.
Bless our mouths, that we may speak to each other with compassion.
Bless our hands, that they may heal, not harm.
Bless our feet, that we may walk beside each other in friendship.
Great Goddess, Mother of birth and death and rebirth,
Goddess of the green Earth that feeds us,
Of the creatures that roam upon it, and the tides that lap its shores,
Lady of the Cauldron, let all your children drink of its wisdom
And know that all names of the Divine are but one Name,
And all worship but a dance to the singular music of Life.


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This page last updated March 10, 2004