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Lughnasadh: The Deeper Meaning
Article ID: 14077
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Over the years, I have celebrated Lughnasadh in several ways. However, this year, while sitting in the outdoors, ever present sauna of an Oklahoma heat wave, I was gifted with the most profound meaning of the Sabbat I’ve ever experienced. If you’ve never been in an Ozark heat wave, here’s a little background on what it feels like…Hot! Sticky! Damp! And ever present! It feels as if summer will never end and you know that you are just beginning to walk into the hot months. The only hope you feel is when you try to convince yourself that the humidity will be less present in August and September. But when you look at the amazing landscape around you…for a moment, it’s all worth it! So, that’s the setting for my revelation, let’s discuss Lughnasadh!
This Sabbat is the first harvest. It is also called Lammas. The Celts call this holiday Lughnasadh in honor of Lugh, a God of that culture that held games at this time of year. Last year, I was honored to hold the community Sabbat ritual for Sacred Well Congregation and, because of the story surrounding the “Games of Lugh” we had an amazing mothers’ day ritual. Allow me to explain.
Lugh’s’ foster mother, Tailtiu, had cleared land in Ireland so that man could cultivate crops. She died shortly after her labors and Lugh admired her so much for her sacrifice that he declared that her death should be marked, not by weeping and moaning, but by celebrations of a life that was lived to its fullest and in the service of others. Hence, we have the funerary games of Lugh in honor of Tailtiu!
Now, this holiday may seem like there is no connection to our modern lives but there is one amazing connection that most people really love and get to experience in America on an annual basis. Even in the cosmopolitan area of Seattle, people look forward every year to “doing the Puyallup”! Yup, State and county fairs are the descendants of Lughnasadh. We bring the best of what we’ve raised so far in the season and show it off! We trade, network, play and admire the bounty that has been bestowed upon all of us. Pretty amazing to think that something considered to be an American tradition is actually thousands of years old!
Our ancestors celebrated this time of the year by making corn dollies or John Barleycorns. Corn husk dolls were a common sight in most households until about 75 years ago. Corn dollies are thought to bring good luck. Dig deeper back into time, and we find that they were used, in ritual, as a symbolic sacrifice of the God and the Goddess to remind us that we only have an excess at this time of year because something has died (usually the stalks from last year’s crops) and returned its bounty back to the land so that the great circle may begin again. Most of us think of corn husk dolls as a child’s toy or as a decoration but those sweet little dollies are in our midst to teach us one of the most profound lessons in life: The fullness of life will come to pass only because of hard work and sacrifice.
What does any of the above have to do with a humid evening in North East Oklahoma?
Everything! I was sitting outside on a hot summer evening about ½ hour before sunset. It was the time of night when the air was beginning to cool down from the heat of the day. I had been outside several times that day and each time, a robin, one of this year’s babies, would light on a wire and look at me.
Now, I may be pagan, but I don’t really pay attention to animals around me unless they make it very obvious and this little guy was getting his point across loud and clear to me. I met his eye and my perception of the world around me changed. I noticed dragonflies chasing each other in that wonderful game of mating tag that they play. I saw the Killdeer parents letting their wee ones stray just a little further from mom and dad than they had before in hopes that the chicks will gain confidence to hunt on their own. The butterflies were not only abundant but every color on mom’s earth was represented by the various species flitting around. The hummingbirds were being the little warriors that they are want to be and flying perilously close to both myself and my dog! At that moment, I was not watching what was going on around me; I was participating in the amazing drama of life.
Rabbits were in and out of the tall grass, teasing the rat terrier that really wanted to chase them but, somehow, knew it was not the right moment to do so. I was connected to everything on that hot summer night. The cicada’s were droning and the crickets were singing but, using a word that I had not used during the tenure of that heat wave, they seemed to both be singing a gentle song. Then, as if the Gods and Goddess’ decided to pull out a 2X4 and beat me with it, I got it! I understood the “why” behind Lughnasadh!
At this time of year, life is so abundant and in its fullest and, yet, still freshest state of being. It is all around us and all we have to do is pay attention. We are at rest from the spring labors. We know there is work ahead but it is work that fills us with hope.
The meaning behind this Sabbat, to me, can be described by two phrases:
•Hope and Gratitude.
•The celebration of all life lived well and to its fullest.
We feel hope because we see that our first harvest is a good one. That can portend the next two harvests (Mabon and Samhain) will be bountiful as well and, thus, we will survive the winter to begin the cycle again.
Gratitude, well, that comes in many forms. It can be as simple as “thanks” or as complex as the Judaic custom of sacrificing your best, first fruits of all forms to deity. In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter what outward form gratitude takes as long as the inward realization exists so we are reminded that we are participating in life and not just observing and being critical.
Lugh honored his foster mother by deeming that her full life of service, and not her death, be celebrated by games. Playing to commemorate the fullness of life and all of the fruits that it holds seem appropriate to me! It is a time of relaxation and reflection on the sacrifices that have been made so that we will enjoy the bounty that the hard work of living our lives will bring.
Lughnasadh is but a moment in the year when we can sit back on a warm summer evening with lemonade in one hand and a fresh peach in the other, enjoy the bounty and fullness of life being well lived and enjoyed, put our heads back and, with a grateful heart, yell out “THANK YOU….LIFE IS GOOD!”
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