Harvest of Lughnasadh

Harvest at Lughnasadh
Sheaves of Wheat in a Field by Vincent van Gogh. 1885. From Wikiart.org.

Today is Lughnasadh (pr. Loo-nah-sah), the ancient harvest festival of Ireland and Scotland, typically celebrated July 31st through August 1st. The holiday marks the start of harvest season and is named after the Celtic god Lugh who was master of all arts – poetry, music, battle, diplomacy, and justice.

Lughnasadh occurs six months following its sister holiday, Imbolc (January 31st – February 1st). At Imbolc we are called to plant the seeds of our hopes and intentions for the coming year. It’s associated with the goddess (and saint) Brigid, who stokes the hearth fire to germinate our growth and development. Now, halfway through the year, it’s time reap what we’ve sown.

In Straw, Hay, and Rushes in Irish Folk Tradition, Anne O’Dowd details the Irish folk customs associated with Lughnasadh and the harvest season. Laborers would braid harvest knots and wear them as they worked, a symbol of their availability to harvest the crops. Games were played to see who in the village could cut the last sheaf by tossing hooks and other bladed tools. The last sheaf was called the cailleach, or “hag,” which shares its name with the Celtic ancestor goddess. The winner would take the cailleach home, blessing it with holy water and displaying it until the next harvest season.

Below, Scottish folklorist Margaret Bennett shares the labor song, Buain a’ Choirce, about reaping oats (and romance). What bounty are you harvesting in your life at this time?



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