LUGHNASADH: TIME OF THE HARVEST
By Pat Regan
July has, in the UK at least, frequently been a time of squally weather and drizzle with little or no respite. What can we deduce though from the ancient and mysterious mythological background associated with August, the late summer month ahead?
With the feast of the great god Lugh, our ancient Celtic ancestors once celebrated the opening of August. Lughnasadh (meaning ‘Commemoration of Lugh’), was one of the four great Celtic annual festivals, the other ones being: Imbolg (February 2nd) Bealtaine/Beltane (30th April) and Samhain (31st October.)
In Gaelic mythology Lugh is portrayed as battle leader of the Tuatha De Danann (Tribe of the goddess Danu.) This deity was seen as having numerous talents. His athletic prowess and commanding skills earned him amongst other titles: Samildanach ‘God of all Arts,’ and Lugh Lamhfhada, ‘Lugh the Long-Handed’, or ‘Far-shooter.’ This subsequent epithet relates to Lugh's expertise with his rod sling, with which he was to later defeat the enormous Fomorian giant, Balor. Balor was Lugh's grandfather. This frightful cyclopean figure needed four men to lift his baleful-eye that could kill with a single glance. Lugh defeated the vast giant by piercing his evil-eye with a stone from his magickal sling-shot. This tale gives evidence to Lugh's popular ‘light-defeating dark’ aspect, that remains a primary feature of all Pagan wisdom inherent in ancient native mythology.
By the way, it is interesting to note that such poetic analogies of light overcoming dark (good versus evil) were manifest in our indigenous Pagan culture long before the Church’s theocratical machine first targeted these craggy, green shores with evangelical fanaticism!
Lugh was well respected by all the Celtic peoples that inhabited this nation, long before monotheistic totalitarianism first sought to gain spiritual domination of the native populace. The Welsh tribes knew him as Llaw Llaw Gyffes, which marks Lugh as an exact counterpart to his Gaelic/Irish namesake.
The Celts of the Continent called him Lugus and this Gaulish equivalent leaves his mark in localities such as: Lugudunum, (now Lyons) the town of Lugus, Laon, and also Leyden among others.
At various stages in time Lugh has been depicted as a deity of fire, corn, marriage or the sun, which has lead to some confusion as to his true identity and mythological status. The worship of Lugh first arrived in this land with the Goidelic (Gaelic) Celts (progenitors of the Irish people) around 600 BCE. This invasion was followed some two hundred years later by the Brythonic (Cornish/Welsh) Celts.
Lugh (Lleu or Llew as the Brythons called him) was very much a hero god of the Hercules type pedigree to the Celts. Llew or Lleu means Lion/Light respectively. Great tales of his brave adventures would be told on cold nights around the comforting warmth of the hearth, giving hope to the tribe in the harsh lonely periods of winter's chill. This god was particularly venerated by the Celts at harvest time, his powerful energy seen resplendent in the golden fields of summer.
Lugh's perceived force altered somewhat with the arrival of the Roman legions under Caesar. The Latin conquerors eventually amalgamated their own deities with those of the Celtic peoples. Lugh was no exception; his divinity was cleverly blended with the Roman/Greek Apollo, a well beloved god who exhibited solar qualities. Lugh impressed the Romans so much that his feast day was later rededicated to Augustus. The lovely month of rich harvest, that Celtic people held sacred to their corn god, eventually became known as August.
Like Apollo, the question arises to whether or not Lugh was in reality a sun god proper. I personally believe that initially he was not, yet with later and greater development of agriculture (reliant upon the sun) Lugh manifested into a deity of ever-increasing solar force. History testifies to the fact that all deities go through cycles of transmogrification with shifting developments in the social structure. Such is the force of divine evolutionary progress. Modern man would do well to remember that he/she is a vital component in this ongoing natural (earth-orientated) advancement too!
The embodiment of Lugh as a god of the ripening cornfields in August, gives us clear substantiation of our antediluvian progenitors deeply subconscious desire to (spiritually) link up with the beautiful cosmic energies inherent in nature.
Lughnasadh with its rich native Pagan heritage has now been transparently Christianised under the name, ‘Lammas Day.’ This title is gained from the old Anglo-Saxon word, ‘Hlaf-mass’ (Loaf-Mass) which relates to the older ‘Lughomass,’ (Lugh's-Mass.)
Lugh, correspondingly to other Celtic deities, was taken by later Christian Norman romancers and given a new role in mythology. Lugh's heroic Pagan deeds were skillfully intermingled and euphemised into the celebrated figure of Sir Lancelot.
Incidentally, it should be noted here that some scholars have linked the mysterious Lancelot to the Gaelic cultural hero figure, ‘Cuchulainn’ who was the result of a divine impregnation by Lugh with a maiden called ‘Dechtir’.
Old gods and goddesses of the indigenous people have been deviously converted into heroes, saints or very often demons, the latter working of course under the remit of Satan himself.
The manifestly iniquitous stronghold of the Church has always managed to penetrate native heathen faith systems, by using such conniving tactics as this. This sad fact stands as a memorial to the intolerance of man and the danger of monotheistic, spiritual intimidation against native faiths and traditions.
Lugh’s ancient resurrection associations are far older than the present day Christian account
In the dying cornfields of August, Lugh takes on the role of god of death and resurrection. A common theme throughout history, recently of course adopted by Christianity in order to associate Christ's alleged human aspect to the indigenous Pagan feast days that flow naturally through the year.
Such stealthy missionary tactics ensured that the indigenous people of these Isles would eventually abandon their original earth-orientated religions in favour of the intolerant new, man-made devotion that had seeped into Britain from the East.
It is vital to comprehend here that Christianity was a ‘foreign’ eastern cult; cleverly imported into the British Isles, via skilfully executed ecclesiastical subterfuge and thus later on into the United States, etc.
This foreign import in reality had nothing to do with love, tolerance or desire to share spiritual grace, but ‘everything’ to do with power and domination of the unsuspecting populace.
This ancient Celtic celebration of ‘First fruits,’ with its charismatic folklore, tradition and customs gives us a vital clue to the joy and reverence in nature felt by our pre-Christian forefathers.
Today, numerous contemporary Pagans are rediscovering anew the spiritual wisdoms that have slept quietly under a green veil for incalculable aeons; a discovery that links all human spiritual/psychic experience to this planet we know as earth, our true organic home.
NB. I have dealt with these and many other native British Pagan traditions more intensely within several of my recent books including...
‘The Devil God’s Best Friend’ and also ‘The New Pagan Handbook’