Lughnasagh, like Imbolc, is celebrated as an important halfway point between a solstice and an equinox. Imbolc marks the emergence from winter on the way to spring and Lughnasagh is when we start thinking about the autumn. Don’t worry, summer lovers, there’s still plenty of time left to enjoy being outside. But we can enjoy it even more if we go into August more aware of the subtle changes taking place and the opportunities that arise in late summer.
In fact, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a Fifth Season called Late Summer that starts in August and goes through the last quarter of September. I think of it the way I think of the Black Moon phase: the Black Moon is a distinct phase but also is a sub-phase of the New Moon, and the Fifth Season is a distinct season but also a sub-season within summer. It’s a liminal period where we aren’t really in summer and aren’t really in autumn, but we’re somewhere … that lasts several weeks. It’s considered to be an especially challenging time because the transition from summer to autumn is harder for us than moving from autumn to winter, winter to spring, or spring to summer. If you feel just kind of off this time of year, that’s why.
Another thing that happens this time of year – and another event that I only recently became aware of – is the Lion’s Gate that happens around August 8th. It’s a new name, but an observation that’s been around for a very long time. This time of year, the earth and the bright star Sirius are aligned. Sirius is associated with Osiris and therefore rebirth, renewal, and liberation, and so offers us the opportunity to access this energy in a very clear, magical way. It’s opening a door to Universal blessings – specifically, the chance to purify our karma and any negativity or mistakes so that we have an open road heading into the autumn. Let all those things you regret and are sorry for just float up and away. It’s interesting to bring this event into the conversation with Lughnasagh, as perhaps we can consider Lughnasagh as the chance to prepare for the Lion’s Gate.
Lughnasagh corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon Lammas, which is usually translated as “loaf mass”, i.e. a day when the Church would bless the first harvest, wheat, made into loaves of bread. I’m not entirely convinced this is the origin of Lammas, though, since we know that the Church’s approach was to appropriate and assimilate pagan traditions. The Germanic groups that moved into the British Isles in the 5th century were not Christian. I’m not a linguist, but this is interesting: the Old English mæsse relates to the Danish mæt meaning full of food, so I wonder if originally Lammas referred to a feast day – the day you harvest wheat, make some lovely fresh bread, and stuff yourself. Makes sense to me.
Lughnasadh is the second of four annual fire festivals in the pagan calendar and the first of four annual harvest festivals. Late summer gives us wheat for bread, wild bilberries, and honey for the bread … or for mead.
Check in with yourself! Gather what you’ve accomplished. Also, be sure to re-invest a bit of what you’ve gained to make sure the next harvest is even richer. Express gratitude and appreciation, acknowledging your success and good fortune by giving some away. You grow your food, you eat some, put some away for later, give some to others whose crops failed, and you replant some seeds for the future. That’s what we’re doing in Lughnasagh. And we can make a spiritual connection now too, via the Lion’s Gate: Appreciate, enjoy, share, invest.
For this Lughnasagh, I’ve created a spread for your Lammas loaf. On August 1st, celebrate by sharing something warm and rich, straight from the oven, with loved ones!
Breaking Bread Spread
- Taking stock and looking to the future at this first harvest festival, how can I best prepare for the rest of summer and coming of the autumn?
- What new idea or approach can I bring into my life at this time?
- As I emerge fully into the height of summer, what about me has changed since Beltane?
- How can I celebrate my family’s/friends’/community’s successes?
 There is debate now about whether there was any kind of ‘Anglo-Saxon invasion’, as we’ve all been taught. Historians are just not finding evidence of an invasion – but a settlement, an emigration, yes. Just goes to show you what happens when you let – cough – certain people – cough – make assumptions about history. I believe there is also now a conversation about whether they should actually be called Anglo-Saxons … but that’s for another post.
 I’m counting Beltane as the first fire festival of the year. I’ve seen people choose Samhain as the new year, and Imbolc, and Beltane, so it’s a little confusing and I’ve just reasoned it out for myself: Samhain is in the dark depths of the autumn and I like it being there, in the middle of things not at the end, and here in Scotland there is really no point in pretending that it’s spring on February 1st. Maybe it was different 2,000 years ago.