Today is the ancient celebration of Calan Awst, as it is known in Wales;
or Lughnassadh (Lammas) as it is more traditionally known throughout the Celtic World. It marked the beginning of the harvest season & the ripening of the first fruits; & so was a time of community gathering, festivals & reunions. It was said to have been started by the god, Lugh (known in Wales as Lleu Llaw Gyffes, of ‘Lugh of the Strong Hand’) as a funeral feast in honour of his foster-mother Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Lugh was a deity of storms & lightning; therefore many Celts would give thanks to spirits & deities for the beginning of the harvest & propitiate them with offerings & prayers not to harm the still-ripening crops; although gentle rain on the day was considered an auspicious sign that Lugh was bestowing his blessings on the season.
In Wiccan tradition the name ‘Lammas’ comes fro the Anglo-Saxon hlafmaesse or ‘loaf-mass’ – the Loaves Festival – an agrarian-based feast of thanksgiving for grain & bread, symbolising the first fruits of the harvest. It commemorates the sacrifice & death of the of the Wiccan Corn God, marked by baking a figure of the god in bread & then symbolically sacrificing & eating it.
It was also a time for handfasting: a trial marriage where couples would be joined for a year & a day; after which they could either separate, or formalise the contract. Not such a bad idea for modern times, perhaps….!
One year ago we too were celebrating & with good reason: the barn was at last full again with bales of sweet-smelling hay, & we could content ourselves in the knowledge that our animals’ bellies would be filled over the long, dark days of Winter. How frustrating that this year, there is no light at the end of the haymaking tunnel as yet…..
…..so, have an enjoyable Calan Awst; & please pray for nothing worse than a gentle shower today….!