To our Native European ancestors and specifically in Ireland, Lughnasa marks a time of community-gathering, competitions, and trading. Lughnasa includes the months of August, September and October, and begins at a time of abundant gifts from the Earth, as blossom has transformed to harvest.
Through the mists of time, we would have brought our wares, whether it be honey from hives we tended to, herbal remedies from wildcrafted herbs, grains we grew, a hide we may have tanned, a scarf we may have weaved. We would have traded what we had for what we needed for the encroaching winter. Lughnasa was and is a time of coming together to celebrate the fruits of hard work co-created with nature and now, to bask in the joy of community, to play games and to feast.
Lughnasa is named for the Irish god Lugh, of the Tuatha de Dannan, who is considered the “many skilled one”. Lugh began this celebration to honor his foster-mother Tailtu who died of exhaustion from clearing plains in eastern Ireland for farmland. This myth reminds us of the importance of slowing down, balancing work and play, re-nourishing and re-connecting, of honoring the work of our ancestors. It also reminds us to honor, like Lugh did when he visited the gates of Tara, the gifts and skills that we offer to the world.
As the wheel turns and we move into the season of Lughnasa, we enter a traditional time of pilgrimage, which is still practiced in Ireland today. Crough Patrick, a conical hill in County Mayo is a pilgrim trail climbed during the last weeks of July or early weeks of August to honor the saint. And this majestic hill, known as the Reek, has been venerated for thousands of years.
Prior to Patrick’s time, the Druids would process via a pilgrim path built of bog oak (a part of which still is in existence today) to honor astrological occurrences and alignments of this place, one of the most western points of Europe, overlooking the stunning Clew Bay, dotted with thousands of islands.
One of my favorite Brighid holy wells/ sacred springs in the west of Ireland at Liscannor in County Clare is also a place that still receives pilgrims at this time. They walk “the rounds” and receive healing water from the spring; the water here is known to heal eye and foot conditions and in the grotto candles are lit for those who have passed.
As the season shifts, maybe you will align with these ancient rhythms and plan a pilgrimage. This can be an afternoon, a day, or a few days. Consider where you live and what places of reverence are close by that you could journey to with intention. This could be a site that has reverence for you (ie a woodland, a mountaintop, a river) although may not necessarily be considered a pilgrimage site by others. What is important is that you approach this land and place with reverence and intention. Do be mindful if it is a sacred site for other cultures and traditions and ensure you are respectful, ever so.
Celebrate Lughnasa as it fits into your schedule, where you can plan intentional time with friends or family or solo in Nature to connect to the rhythms. If possible, it is lovely to begin your celebrations at dusk and hold the energy through sunset the following day as that brings us into alignment with ancestral traditions as well.
Ways to Celebrate Lughnasa:
- Bake a loaf of bread and leave an offering on your altar and to the Ancestors
- Visit a local farmer’s market and enjoy the “first fruits” and bounty
- Host a Lughnasa fair within your community to trade what you have for what you may need
- Hold a community ritual for Lughnasa and ask everyone to share a gift of how they have blossomed in this season.
- Give to a cause you believe in that will bring you one step closer to the future you imagine.
- Invoke Brighid, Irish goddess and saint, who is an advocate for social justice and listen to her wisdom on how you can do the same.
- Go on a pilgrimage.
- Call in Lugh and journey with his wisdom, receiving the courage to claim your own gifts, skills and light
- Consider who has tended to the land where you reside: learn more about their history, offer reparations and leave gifts of gratitude on the land.
- Share your bounty and your gifts in new and radical ways.