Lughnasa (Lúnasa, modern Irish) is an Irish festival marking the beginning of the harvest season and is one of four seasons, along with Samhain, Imbolc and Beltaine. Lughnasa (mí na Lúnasa) is Irish for the month of August and the first month of Autumn (“Fόmhar”- Harvest) followed by the month of September (mí mean Fόmhair) and the month of October (mí Deireadh Fόmhair) which translates as “middle of harvest” and “end of harvest.”
When I was child I was told by my Grandfather that thunderstorms (which are common at autumn time in Ireland) were battles between Lugh and Balor and that Lugh was called Lugh Lámhfhada (“long-armed”) and that he was also known as Lugh Lonnbeimnech (“fierce striker”). Some scholars suggest that both these name maybe an indication that Lugh was originally a thunder/lightning god. In Irish mythology Lughnasa festivals were begun by Lugh in commemoration of his foster-mother Tailtiu as a funeral feast. Tailtiu was said to have died of exhaustion after she had cleared the plains of Ireland making it suitable for farming. It has been suggested that Tailtiu may have been an earth goddess, who represented the harvest.
Originally Lughnasa ritual celebrations were commonly held on 31st July – 1st August on mountains and hills. With the coming of Christianity this custom in some places became Christian pilgrimages. The most well-known is “Reek Sunday,” a yearly pilgrimage done now in sunlight hours to the top of Croagh Patrick here in County Mayo generally on the last Sunday in July (the local people climb Croagh Patrick the Friday before, which is known as Garland Friday). When I was a young teenager I made the climb in the old traditional way in the dark with a torch and a few friends on the Saturday night. I must admit, religion was far from our minds however it was a magical experience to be part of lighted procession windings its way to the top of the mountain and then watching the dawn over Clew Bay. This candle or torch light procession in the dark of night winding its way up the mountainside could be seen for miles around and that to, was a wonderful sight. When the night time pilgrimage was stopped and why I do not know. It was 1970 I think when I made my last torch light climb at night.
Now-a-days, though I don’t climb mountains, I still take myself to some high place to watch the sun go down in the month of August and I still feel that magical wonder of our world.
“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.”