Danu Forest on the traditional Celtic festival of Lughnasadh that is marked on August 1st.
As July turns to August, summer takes on a lazier, richer air, as natures abundance overflows along the hedgerows and in the fields, the gardens and the farms. The first berries, strawberries raspberries and blackcurrants adorn the garden like tiny jewels, and the apples swell upon the bough. In the fields the crops come to harvest, turning from green to gold beneath the sun.
The first of August is the traditional Celtic festival of Lughnasadh, honouring the great earth goddess Taltiu, foster mother of the god sun god Lugh. Tailtiu died clearing the plains of Ireland for farming, and said as she passed that ‘there would be corn and milk in every house’ so long as she was remembered. Another name for Lughnasadh is Bron Trogain, meaning the sorrows of the earth, referring to this ancient sacrifice as the wild of nature gives way to the needs of mankind.
Now is the time to honour the earth and her abundance, her kindness, as she gives so much to her mortal children. Once, this was a time when the wild gifts of the earth were honoured, berries and nuts, venison and game. Later as Christianity came the festival became known as Lammas or loaf mass, honouring instead the gifts of farming crops, and human toil, yet the old magic remained, as the corn spirit, the spirit of the harvest lingered on, together with honouring the sun and its life giving forces, even through a Christian veil.
This can be seen in the many old Scots Gaelic reaping blessings, such as this one recorded in the Carmina Gadelica.
DI-MAIRT feille ri eirigh greine,
Is cul na deise ’s an aird an ear,
Theid mi mach le m’ chorran fo m’ sgeith,
Is buainidh mi am beum an ceud char.
Leigidh mi mo chorran sios
’S an dias biadhchar fo mo ghlac,
Togam suas mo shuil an aird,
Tionndam air mo shail gu grad,
Deiseil mar thriallas a ghrian
Bho ’n airde ’n ear gu ruig an iar,
Bho ’n airde tuath le gluasadh reidh,
Gu fior chre na h-airde deas.
Bheir mi cliu do Righ nan gras
Airson cinneas barr na h-uir,
Bheir e lon dhuinn fein ’s dh’ an al
Mar a bhairigeas e dhuinn.
ON Tuesday of the feast at the rise of the sun,
And the back of the ear of corn to the east,
I will go forth with my sickle under my arm,
And I will reap the cut the first act.
I will let my sickle down
While the fruitful ear is in my grasp,
I will raise mine eye upwards,
I will turn me on my heel quickly,
Rightway as travels the sun
From the air of the east to the west,
From the air of the north with motion calm
To the very core of the air of the south.
I will give thanks to the King of grace
For the growing crops of the ground,
He will give food to ourselves and to the flocks
According as He disposes to us.
This Lughnasadh, honour the wild earth, and the gifts of nature in all their forms, be it in the hedgerow or the field, the city park or the motorway embankment. Nature always finds a way to thrive, given the slightest chance, so give thanks for our full bellies, the food in the fridge and the dandelions on the path, and remember her still. Make a place for her if you can, sow seeds, leave her space to grow, and long may her blessings continue!
Learn more from Danu Forest and her book The Magical Year by listening to Danu’s interview by Steve Nobel.
About the author: Danu Forest has been a practising druid witch and Celtic shaman for over twenty years, has been teaching Celtic shamanism and witchcraft for over a decade, and runs a shamanic consultation and healing practice. She is the author of Nature Spirits: wyrd lore and wild fey magic (Wooden Books), The Druid Shaman (Moon Books) and Celtic Tree Magic (Llewellyn), creates and teaches email correspondence courses, writes a “Danu’s Cauldron” blog for witchesandpagans.com, and has been published in magazines such as Kindred Spirit, Soul and Spirit, and Pagan Dawn. She is also an Ard BanDrui in the Irish Druid Clan of Dana, an ordained priestess, a druid grade member of OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates (healers/seers) and Druids) and a member of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners.