A Lughnasadh Miscellany Facts of the Feast by Searles O'Dubhain      Lughnasadh was the time of the first harvest and a time of games, competitions, initiations and arbitration. It was and is associated with the Goddess of Sovereignty. The God Lugh was said to have originated this festival to celebrate the efforts of his foster mother Tailtiu to clear the fields of Ireland for planting. Lughnasadh marked the beginning of the harvests, though perhaps it also marked the ending of the hay harvest. It was a festival that could last two weeks! Among its activities, couples could enter into a "trial marriage" known as a "Brehon wedding." The two would clasp hands and thrust them through a circular opening in a special stone, while announcing to the Brehons -- judges and lawyers -- that they intended to live together for a trial period of one year, after which the marriage would be formalized. Either party could break the marriage by a public announcement during the feast of Bealtaine in the Spring.

The Many Wives of Lugh
Though the festival was originally held by Lugh to commemorate the death and achievements of his foster mother, Tailtiu, there were other women in his life. These were his mother Ethlinn, daughter of Balor, and Birog, the Druidress who enabled his father Cian to woo his mother via a magical fog, much as Merlin did in the film "Excalibur". There was also Bua, or Bui, who was known as the Cailleach Bheara, who lived through seven periods of youth and is buried in the brugh of Cnogba (Knowth). Lugh was married to her sister, Nás, as well, these two being known as the daughters of Ruadri. Other wives were named Echtach, daughter of Daig, Englecc, daughter of Elcmar, and Buach, daughter of Daire Donn. Lugh was also the father of Cú Chulainn by Dectaire. Having all these wives at once may not have been unusual at that time, since there were ten different types of marriage available, ranging from marriage of a few nights, to marriage of a year and a day, or forever.

Bron Trograin Lughnasadh was celebrated from the last days of July through the first days of August, though nowadays it is considered to be on the first day of August. This period is listed in the Celtic/Gaulish Coligny calendar as "Equos" -- "Echrais" in Old Irish means "horse race" or "horse-time" -- and "Elembiuos" or "claim-time" (in Old Irish, the word ellam refers to the "bride price" paid to the father of the bride by the bridegroom). It was dedicated to Lugh Samildánach and his foster-mother Tailtu. It was also the Celebration of the Harvest, the great horse fair of Ireland, and a major festival throughout the Celtic world. It was the time of settling legal and clan matters the time for the choosing of the King, a time of games and competitions. Lughnasadh is the time when the "Dark One" (Crom Dubh) yields his harvest from out of the Earth, which is why the first Sunday of August is also known as "Domnach Chrom Dubh."
      Sometimes Lughnasadh is called "Bron Trograin," "the Sorrows of Bron". It is thought that "Bron" refers to Bran, which is another name for Lugh's totemic animal, the Raven. Trogan or Trogain was an even earlier name for the festival held during this time. I personally think it means the "Earth Festival at Sunrise" since "trogain" refers to sunrise and "bron" refers to the raven or earth.

Symbols of Lughnasadh The symbols of Lughnasadh include the Horse, the Eagle, the Raven, the Stone, the Land, and the Sheaf.

Meaning of Lughnasadh
This is the Moon of Arbitration according to the Coligny Calendar. This is the time of reckoning, of judgement and of arbitration, as well as initiation and the celebration of the Fields and Bounty. These are borne out by the tasks carried out during the festival: choosing the kin, judgements and reconings, Brehon marriages, etc.

Lughnasadh Customs This festival celebrates many different events in the Celtic year. It celebrates the wheat harvest and as such the last sheaf of wheat that is harvested from the field is sometimes made into a doll, sometimes called the Cailleach, in a similar fashion to the one made at Imbolc, which is called a Brideog. This wheat straw doll is given the position of prominence in the house, sometimes being placed on the mantel and at other times being placed on or above the dining table. It can even be returned to the soil and buried as a magical offering to promote the future harvest.
      No harsh words were allowed between wives and husbands at this time. The levying or collecting of debts was also not allowed during Lughnasadh.

      The Horse Fair: Lughnasadh is also a great Irish horse fair. Many horses are traded and raced at this time. If the festival was near water then the horses were raced along the shore and through water. Horses were also purified by taking them into the waters.
The Games: Hurley, Irish football, footraces, horseraces, sword dancing, and storytelling all took place at the Lughnasadh festival. The games at Tailteann were considered to be the Irish Olympics and were held every year until 1169 CE, the year the first English invaders came to Ireland during the reign of the High King Roderick O'Connor.
The Banais Rigi: In this Wedding Feast of Kingship, there is the rite of the marriage of the king to the Goddess of Sovereignty. The fate of the king and the land were bound together. If the king was good then the land prospered. Under a bad king such as Bres, the land would be barren. Nowadays, the festival of Lughnasadh is associated with the Sacral Kingship. In olden days, this ritual was conducted at the Feast of Tara. Many different ritual acts and tests were held to choose a king. The Lia Fal would give a loud cry when touched by the rightful king. Sometimes other objects such as the royal chariot or the royal mantle would be used to identify the rightful king.
      If none of these tests proved successful in selecting a king, then the Tarbh Feiss was preformed. This ritual was a Druidic rite that involved the sacrifice of a sacred bull and the consumption of its flesh and broth by a Druid. The dreaming druid would sleep within a circle of chanting druids until he saw the face of the rightful king. Once a king had been selected, he was initiated into a marriage with the land by ritually mating with the Goddess of Sovereignty. This mating could have involved an actual mating with a woman, a symbolic mating with a totemic representation of Sovereignty such as a horse, or it could have been an actual shamanic ritual involving the Goddess of Sovereignty. Ritual bathing and feasting was also involved. Perhaps the garlanding with flowers that occurred at this time of the largest pillar stones at Rannach Chrom Dubh (near Lough Gur) symbolized this marriage.
Judgements: In addition to Brehon Marriages, at least one day was set aside for rendering judgements and for resolving disputes. This was done by the Brehons according to the Brehon Law, as set down in the Senchus Mor.
      Brehon Marriages: These are commonly thought to be marriages that last for a year and a day. The ancients were much more sensible than we are today. They believed that trial marriages, such as a Brehon marriage, should precede a more lasting union. There are actually 10 degrees of marriage. If at the end of a year and a day the couple was unhappy, either could dissolve the marriage by publicly announcing it and walking away. Likewise, the marriage could be renewed for another year and a day. A Brehon Marriage was probably a marriage of a 4th degree according to the old laws.
Initiations: Since this was a time of competitions, both athletic and poetic, it is to be expected that many young warriors, Druids, Filidh, and others would be initiated into the next rank of their order at this time. Many times the competitions WERE the initiations.

You can find more information on Lughnasadh in the Summerlands Library,
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A Place to Breathe
by Treva, Women's Lodge
     The kids are screaming, the dog just tracked mud across your clean floor, the washer's overflowing, and the phone ringing. Can you relate? It's one of those classic moments when you just need a place to go where you can breathe, take your time about things, and find kindred souls who understand. That's why Women's Lodge is here. With such a diversity of ladies here, all areas are covered.
      Our monthly chats cover a wide variety of topics, from kitchen-based skincare to how the three faces of the Goddess affects our lives. As hostess of the Women's Lodge, I would have to say that our greatest asset is the cumulative knowledge, broad shoulders and wonderful listening abilities of the women that are here.
      BTW, did I mention the "No Men allowed" rule? Well, we have that, too. So come and breathe in totally testorone free air. We'd love to have you join us.


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Will Pagans Make the World a Better Place?
by 1x2 Willows, EuroCelts
     Eschatology: - Visions of the future from both the dimensions of the individual and society. It can be understood as an extrapolation into the future of convictions about the present cosmic order. Of relating to, dealing with, or with regards to the ultimate destiny of mankind and the world. Includes both myths of cyclical return such as found in Hinduism and the more known end-of-time myths taken from Judaism and Christianity.

     Now here's a serious proposal - and I mean dead serious - don't laugh! Promise? Okay...

Fact 1 On certain occasions in the past, my friends and I needed to come up with a nice, clean cow's skull for one weird project or another. So what does a country boy do in that case? Go to the local slaughter house, of course, and get one of them real yucky thangs fresh from today's badge (you don't really want 'em older than a day for certain reasons) and take it home with you. [I asked you not to laugh] So there it sits in your living room and if you're real lucky, it even stares at you with decomposing eyeballs and all - a sight you want to avoid if you not have had dinner that day. Come to think of it - even if, or better... more so, if you did... Anyway - I know some of you folks out there are more used to big apples, oranges and other manifestations of life in the 21st century, but here's what a Tater Picker does:
      Take it to the nearest anthill, of course. Leave it right there for two, three days or longer - depending on the ant species and population - and forget it for that period. You could care less than going back every 5 hours or so to check on the progress. Done that at a tender age and lemme' tell ya' - it will not be of any interest to your appetite for the rest of those days either. Well - now - whaddaya' get by all this in the end? Riiiiiiiight - a nice and clean, bright white skull with hardly anything left on there that's worth mentioning or your sweetheart wouldn't approve of anymore.
      Ladies? - you still here?
      Laaaadies...aaadies.....aadies...adies... ... .. . ?
      Guess not...

      Fact 2 As I type here, I've got something going that some remote, disconnect-ed and imbecilic 'civilians' might call an "ant plague" on my desk and a Pavlovian habit of black flags raiding them off comes to mind. Cheer up! What it is, really, is the fact that these neat lil' guys have found a treasure of their own which seems to be buried at the bottom of the cracks and crevices between the keys of my keyboard. Amazes me every other minute just what kind of crap my friends here [oops - just squished one on the 'e' key -- that'll teach him not to use the fast lane] are transporting out of my here device to take home as food for the kids. Absolutely admirable! What the proverbial *&^%$#@! do I care, as long as they're not messing with the data on my Zip disk or with my sweetheart's negligée? All right...sorry...her Zip disk, too. I DON'T! And if there's any other reason that I don't want them where they can get to - well - it's just my darn human responsibility to make sure they can't get there, right? What was silicone putty invented for, if not to keep water or ants or any other fluids in or out? For cryin' out loud - they don't know any different (and I'm not even saying 'better' here, notice?)!

      Can we learn a lesson from that or what? Of course not, unless we look ahead and have visions! Visions of a future that'll blow the minds of our grandchildren, visions of grandeur, visions of...visions of...visions of a mountain. An anthill as big as Mount Shasta! A huuuuge anthill and the keyboards of human civilization laying at its feet to be cleansed of the wrongdoings to PC parts worldwide! All the Pizza - all the Crackers and Burgers - all the (oooh I won't take into my mouth what other people would not even take into their hand) STUFF! that we dispose of involuntarily into the WIDE OPEN SPACESOF MOTHER NATURE'S CYCLE - or - okay - even just in our $15 keyboards...
      okay...you're right...I'll chill...it's okay...well...

***This satire is inspired by the author's [and now I am really serious...] conviction that our future will have to incorporate a lot more single problems into one solution in order to maintain the pleasure of modern amenities and standards without poisoning the whole *&^%$#@! planet or messing it up even further in any other way.***



Baking at Lughnasadh by Deborah, Kitchen Witch Inn
Ahhhh ... the first harvest is in, the berries are ripe and sweet and the clans are gathering for the annual fairs. Horse trading, Brehon adjudicating, inter- and intra-clan matchmaking , strong sweaty young men competing in the games and wonderful Celtic women cooking up a storm. Life is goooood.
      At this time of year there are several things that spring to mind that definitely belong on any good kitchen witch's (Celtic or otherwise) table -- fresh bread (preferably wheat), berry pies and fresh fruit, buttered ears of corn and wondrous meads of all kinds of fruit and honey flavorings.
      I hope you enjoy this recipe and the ideas below. May you feast long and well and in the company of your fine, your derbfine and all the friends of your heart. Thanks to the Goddess and the God for Their Bounty.

To me, nothing says abundance and fertility of the earth quite like bread. It's aroma and taste are a joy and a comfort and should be treated with due appreciation and enjoyment. There are many techniques for breadcraft, which I will be discussing this next few weeks over in the Kitchen Witch Inn, but the one I prefer for the table is a simple harvest wheat loaf. Presentation counts, and I've always been fond of serving it on a bed of wheat heads with red raspberries placed around for color. Make sure the wheatheads are going around the plate in a clockwise manner -- like setting the bread in the middle of a wheat wreath. When done with a round loaf it looks like the sun. If you have a gold charger to serve it on, all the better. (Note: Make sure your wheat heads are clean and mold/mildew free!)
      There are some wonderful rising bowls that have a spiral design on them that will stay with the loaf throughout the baking process, if you like. Of you can shape a simple football/oblong loaf with a center split, representing the fertility of the body of the Goddess.
      When baking (or any kind of cooking or crafting really), be sure to take time to center and shift into a good space. It's important to remember that what you think and feel you put into your cooking/crafting, so since this is a harvest celebration send prayers of gratitude for what has been given and prayers for continued abundance.
      In Ireland they have something called Fraughans. Apparently these are wonderful intensely flavored wild blueberries. They were traditionally picked at Lughnasadh and eaten with sugar and/or cream or made into pies, tarts and jams. If you have Fraughans, more power to you. If you're over here in America, head for the nearest farmer's market and get the biggest blueberries, blackberries and raspberries that you can find. There are all kinds of things to do with them. If nothing else, serve them fresh over vanilla ice cream or in a chilled bowl topped off by real whipped cream (none of that store-bought stuff). Here's a recipe for a wonderful berry pie.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste
5 cups fresh blueberries (or blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
Pastry for a 9-inch, 2 crust pie
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter.

Combine sugar, flour, lemon zest and salt. Add berries, tossing to thoroughly coat fruit. Pour mixture into a pie crust, drizzle with lemon juice and dab with butter. Place top crust over pie; seal and flute edges. Cover edge of pie with foil. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove foil and bake for another 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

This recipe is from the book "Celtic Folklore Cooking" by Joanne Asala (ISBN 1-56718-044-2. I highly recommend purchasing it. It has all manner of wonderful recipes and a great amount of folklore and old Celtic sayings that will both educate and amuse you. Definitely a must-have book for your collection. Check it out at the Rowan Leaf bookstore here at the Summerlands!

      I have been given the email address for a wonderful meadmaker in the NE part of the USA. He sells his art by the 'cork' and it's fame is spreading rapidly. If you would like a catalog/pricelist, please email griffinmead@hotmail.com. If you're lucky, you'll be blessed with the nectar of the Gods for your feasts now and in the future. Since this is Lughnasadh, be sure to check out his berry meads.
     BTW ... Searles says I should remember 'wildflower garlands.' Anytime is a good time for wildflower garlands. So while you're out scouring the country for wild blueberries, fraughans, raspberries, blackberries or whatever else catches your fancy, don't forget to gather a few of the flowers of the field so that they may celebrate with you and you with them.
      May you have a joyous and abundant Lughnasadh! Beannacht Leat!!

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