Happy Lammas

Happy Lugnasadh


This is probably the least known or least celebrated of the traditional Celtic cross quarter festivals, yet I think in the past it would have had great import for rural communities. The reaping of rewards for the hard work on the land, the vagaries of the weather and the dispensation of the ancient Goddesses and Gods. One of those is Lug, (or Lugh- Irish, or Llew – Welsh) a powerful character in early pagan mythology. Lugnasadh means festival of Lug and it is a fire and air festival, Lug is associated with light, also with death through the reaping of the golden corn with the sickle. It is the first day of Autumn (sorry!) and the start of the last quarter of the year. It is a time for festivals of song and poetry. Lug is associated with Odin and has the ability to see into the Underworld. He also has many associations with trees, particularly our currently withering Ash tree, and spears. In many Celtic myths Lug receives a wound from a spear, (initiation) he dies but in that process he gains in-sight and wisdom and is then brought back to life, much like the Fisher King of Arthurian legends.

Lammas is the Christian festival that celebrates the loaf-mass or in some places the lamb-mass. The first grains were made into a loaf that was brought into church to celebrate the harvest and abundance.

In many places Lugh-mass was a day of mourning, not just for the death of the corn and barley kings, but also for loved ones now passed away, and these rituals remained until relatively recent times as wake weeks.

Ian Seddons reminds us that the early fruits may taste bitter or sharp to the taste, but that we should practice gratitude for all that we have received. I have been gorging myself on so many wild foods this summer from Wild Radish to Bilberries, seaweed and Garlic, and I have been watching the hazelnuts and crab apples beginning to fill and ripen. Soon they will be joined by the Blackberries, rosehips and sloes. So let’s celebrate Lugh and give thanks for Mother Earth’s abundance, of how she provides for us all, and of how sometimes we may have a bitter pill to swallow, but let’s show gratitude for all that brings us learning and wisdom and growth, even if it means being cut down and harvested.

“John Barleycorn must Die”

There were three men came out of the West,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn must die.

They’ve ploughed, they’ve sown, they’ve harrowed him in,
Threw clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn was dead.

They’ve let him lie for a very long time,
Till the rains from heaven did fall,
And little Sir John sprung up his head,
And so amazed them all.

They’ve let him stand till midsummer’s day,
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard,
And so become a man.

They’ve hired men with the scythes so sharp,
To cut him off at the knee,
They’ve rolled him and tied him by the way,
Serving him most barbarously.

They’ve hired men with the sharp pitchforks,
Who pricked him to the heart,
And the loader he has served him worse than that,
For he’s bound him to the cart

They’ve wheeled him around and around the field,
Till they came unto a barn,
And there they made a solemn oath,
On poor John Barleycorn.

They’ve hired men with the crab-tree sticks,
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller he has served him worse than that,
For he’s ground him between two stones.

And little Sir John and the nut-brown bowl,
And he’s brandy in the glass;
And little Sir John and the nut-brown bowl,
Proved the strongest man at last.

The huntsman, he can’t hunt the fox,
Nor so loudly to blow his horn,
And the tinker he can’t mend kettle nor pot,
Without a little Barleycorn

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