Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mí Lúnasa

This morning I noticed the leaves on one of the trees in the backyard has a slight yellow tinge to it. It has been hot and somewhat dry, but not enough for this...this is the beginning of harvest.

When I was in Missouri a couple of weeks ago, I noticed  corn in the fields-though stunted due to drought-had small tassels on it, tomatoes were heavy on the vine, squash were abundant...we are on the doorstep of the First Harvest in the Northern Hemisphere. In a few weeks, the grapes will be thick on their vines, pumpkins will show a slight oranges cast, and the grain fields will be ready to mow.

"Lughnasadh"," Lughnassah", "Lughnasa"," Lammas"...The spelling varies depending on the source and the origin. Although definitely a holiday founded in Celtria, it's celebrations differ among the Irish, Scots, Manx and English. Lammas is the AngloSaxon/Christianized version, translated as " Loaf Mass", indicating the first loaves made from the new harvest.The Catholic Church has established it as a day to bless the fields.Some Pagans are increasingly uncomfortable with this name, to others it doesn't matter any more than the varied spelling.

Lughnasadh celebrations have been held in fields where the first sheave is cut by hand with a scythe to symbolize the wounding of Lugh (pronounced 'Lew', the modern spelling being 'Lu'), the dying God of the Harvest. Accounts of folklore center upon Lugh's self-sacrifice so that his blood (and seed) would fertilize the soil for the next growing season. Lugh is a solar god  associated with thunder and lightning, games of sport and crafts such as smiting. He is also associated with fire, which is why Lughnasadh celebrations in the British Isles are often held around bonfires on hilltops. Like most Celtic festivals, there is feasting, drinking and dancing. During some celebrations Tailtui- the step-mother of Lugh- is honored for clearing the fields; in ancient Ireland she is remembered for clearing the plains to make way for planting, after which she died of exhaustion. The day is thought to be especially lucky if a gentle rain falls, which is interpreted as the god bestowing his blessing on the people.

Those who came to America during the Irish Diaspora brought their agrarian festivals. Lúnasa festivals survive in part through festivities such as Harvest Home, a time when family reunions occur. The Festival of First Fruits ensures culinary bounty for these gatherings, with much homemade food and merriment. In the Northeast, where blueberries are plentiful, churches hold festivals featuring the fruit as pies or paired with shortcake and whipped cream. In the pacific Northwest, the featured fruit is blackberries. Other parts of the country celebrate with Apple Festivals or Strawberry Festivals. All are directly related to older harvest festivals.

I use cut wheat and grasses to braid into a circle. The braid is tied with a red ribbon, and the circle is hung in the kitchen as a talisman to protect the home during the year and as a visual prayer for abundance. The talisman may consist as three interlocked circles, or something a bit fancier. I use the single circle because it is simple to make, and I can make a number of them quickly to bless on my home altar and gift to friends.( The circle from the previous year is burned.)

Loaves of wheat bread are simple to make and there is a lot of personal satisfaction in making bread for Lughnasadh. Wheat bread recipes  are pretty straight forward and difficult to screw-up, even by the first time bread maker. The loaves can be formed into ovals or simple rounds, or into the shape of a man to honor Lugh. I especially like any homemade berry jam with the bread, and a good strong pot of tea or fruit juice, which is fitting for the season.

In case you missed it, here's last year's blog for Lammas: http://amethjera.blogspot.com/search?q=Harvest+home

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful celebration! Thank you for sharing this, AmethJera!


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