Lughnasadh | Introduction – I’ve never been much into conventional holidays. In fact, this past 4th of July weekend, I was already quite over fireworks after hearing them go off in the middle of the night the whole month prior, that I skipped the local fireworks show and just watched Netflix with my husband instead. We prepared a nice meal of grilled hot dogs, pie, and barbecue ribs, wished each other Happy Independence day, and that was more than enough for me to enjoy the holiday.
I’d always felt that holidays were too commercialized. Billions of dollars every year are forked over on fireworks for the 4th, elaborate costumes on Halloween, not to mention the spending fest that is Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the spirit of the holidays. When I’m passing by houses during Christmastime and seeing the beautiful light displays, or witnessing the first few flakes of snow fall…I feel the magic of the season…but it’s hard to get in the spirit when the television is showing nothing but Christmas ads while children are still making their trick-or-treat rounds.
However, after I pretty much ignored engaging in 4th of July festivities, I asked myself, what kind of holidays can I get behind? My husband and I hope to have children one day, and I want them to have a sense of tradition. I want them to be able to partake in the magic of the seasons and the various customs that come with them. I had known about Wiccan Shabbats and Pagan traditions, but never really immersed myself in the idea of celebrating them. They were all one-in the same to me – another ploy for Hallmark to make a lot of money.
But this year, rather than remain disillusioned, I decided to do a little research on Pagan holidays and traditions. I discovered that Lughnasadh, the celebration of the Grain Harvest, was only a matter of weeks away, and I wanted to learn more.
Lughnasadh – The Grain Harvest
Lughnasadh, or Lammas as it is also known (Lammas means “loaf mass”), is a Celtic tradition that celebrates the first harvest – the Grain Harvest, and is usually celebrated around the end of July to the beginning of August. There are actually three harvest holidays yet to come this year – Mabon the Fruit Harvest, and Samhain the Harvest of Nuts and Berries. I am intrigued by the idea of celebrating the gifts of the earth, because it’s something I strongly believe in, not to mention there are a plethora of harvest festivals during the latter part of the year, and I thoroughly enjoy them. Nature has so much power – the power to heal and the power to sustain us – not to mention the power of beauty that abounds in Nature and Lughnasadh coincides with that.
Lugh – The Many Skilled
According to mythology, Lughnasadh was created by the God Lugh. Lugh has been regarded as a master of all trades, and is sometimes called “The Many Skilled.” His foster mother, Tailtiu, is credited with clearing the fields of Ireland, making it suitable for agriculture, but the task took its toll on Tailtiu, and she died of exhaustion as a result. Lugh wanted to commemorate his mother, and so he held funeral feasts and festivals in her honor.
There is a deep respect of Lugh from his followers, and the mythos around him is one of much reverence. He is also known as the God of the Harvest, the Green Man, and John Barleycorn. According to tradition, during the harvest, when the grain is first cut, so is Lugh, because he is the Spirit of the Grain. Nevertheless, this is a sacrifice he makes so that grain can be used to sustain and nourish humanity. As a show of gratitude for the God of Harvest’s sacrifice, some of the grain is used to make harvest breads, but some is returned back to the earth to plant the seeds of the next Grain Harvest – ensuring that Lugh will return the following year. In this regard, Lugh is immortalized.
The first and last cuttings are held to much ceremony. The first sheaf is ritually cut at dawn and baked into harvest bread, which is shared with the community as thanks. The last sheaf is also ceremonially cut, and corn dollies are made from this grain. Some of this sheaf is ploughed back into the ground to become the seeds of the coming year. 
Fruits of the Harvest
The time of Lammas is characterized by grains like wheat, rye, barley and oats, as well as the ripening of berries for the season. Blueberries, blackberries and bilberries are gathered and made into wine and baked into pies and cakes, or just eaten as is. Mint is also revered, as it symbolizes abundance and prosperity, and sunflowers are in their glory at this time. 
The Grain Mother
Worth mentioning is Demeter, the proverbial Grain Mother, and the Goddess of the Hunt and Harvest. She is closely linked to Lammas, and is represented by ripe corn. As the corn is ripe, so too is the Earth Mother – ripe with the seeds that will lay dormant during the Winter, only to bloom again in the Spring and start a new cycle of harvests. Grain Mother figurines are made in her honor using wheat, oats barley and rye.
My husband and I have decided that this year, we will celebrate the Grain Harvest. We’re going to keep it simple, as is our preference, and perhaps bake a blueberry pie and some bread, maybe add in some blueberry wine, and simply give thanks to the earth for sustaining us. It’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted – the Earth feeds us, nourishes our souls and provides us with beauty. It’s worth taking a holiday in her honor.
…Not to mention, Hallmark isn’t trying to sell me Grain Harvest holiday cards.