Lughnasa Celtic Harvest Festival
Lughnasa is one of four traditional Celtic harvest festivals. It happens at the end of summer when the grains are ripening, but have not yet been harvested. Usually celebrated on the 1st of August, it marks the end of summer and the beginning of the second half of the year. It occurs halfway between the summer solstice and autumn equinox.
A History of Lughnasa
Lughnasa is an ancient Gaelic holiday, said to be in honour of the pagan god Lugh, and his mother Tailtiu. As well as the usual traditions of feasting and gathering, it is believed that this was when the Tailteann Games were held. Games included “the long jump, high jump, running, hurling, spear throwing, boxing, contests in swordfighting, archery, wrestling, swimming, and chariot and horse racing. They also included competitions in strategy, singing, dancing and story-telling, along with crafts competitions for goldsmiths, jewellers, weavers and armourers.”[Source]
Lughnasa is still celebrated today in Ireland as a holiday. It includes music, dancing, stories and crafts. Furthermore, One modern-day legacy of Lughnasa is “Reek Sunday”. This involves climbing up a mountain or hill. In Ireland, many people climb up Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo., also known as “the Reek” hence the name “Reek Sunday.”
The myth that Lughnasa is based on according to Máire MacNeill who wrote on it back in1962 is the following:
“[it involves] a struggle for the harvest between Lugh and Crom Dubh, another mythical god who stores the grain, which Lugh seizes for humanity. Often, this is portrayed as a struggle for ‘Eithne,’ a woman who symbolizes the grain. Also, Lugh combats and destroys another figure representing blight. ‘Óenach Tailten’ or ‘Aonach Tailteann’ was a ceremony held during Lughnasadh in commemoration of Tailtiu [Lugh’s mother].” Source
The four feast days
As well as Lughnasa, there is Samhain, Imbolg and Beltane. These are all based on the harvest periods and seasons. Samhain is celebrated on the 31st of October and is linked to Halloween celebrations. People leave gifts for the dead to appease their spirits and festivities and bonfires are often lit. Imbolc or Imbolg is celebrated on the 1st of February and is a lesser know celebration. It marks the beginning of spring and rebirth of the land. The final festival, and a very big one for Edinburgh is Beltane. It happens on the first of May and involves a lot of dancing and bonfires. Why not visit Edinburgh this year and attend our Beltain event on the top of Carlton Hill.
Read more on Scottish history at librarysearch.napier.ac.uk
By Juliet Kinsey
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