27 January 2012

Thoughts on the Southern Lughnasadh

As the sacred Wheel of the Year is constantly turning, this week will mark the Celtic festival of Lughnasadh for those of us south of the Equator, a word from Old Irish origins that referred to the first of the three harvest festivals, that being of the wheat and grain. The Irish origins of Lughnasadh are believed to be a funeral feast and games that Lugh held in commemoration of his foster mother, Tailtiu. She apparently died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland to enable to people to farm.

On County Meath, there is a small town called Telltown which is said to have been the first location of this commemoration, √Āenach Tailteann (as it was called). Not only where contests to determine the strongest and most skilled were held, but also marriage contracts were drawn up.

Across the Irish Sea in England, the Anglo-Saxons also celebrated at this time of the year with their festival called Lammas (hlaf-mass, "loaf-mas"). In an ancient book of Anglo-Saxon charms and magic, it was mentioned that the Lammas bread (that which was baked from the first harvested grains) was to be broken into four pieces, each of which were to be placed in oine of the corners of a barn to protect the grain.

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, as opposed to being a festival honouring the grain harvest, Lammas was actually referred to being "the feast of first fruits".  So some confusion appears to have arisen during the various translations as to whether the two festivals are indeed the same.

In our modern world, the underlying message of Lughnasadh is holds true. Whilst the harvest may have been completed (here in South Australia that occurs around December), we can still take time out to take stock of the year that has passed, as well as consider what plans we wish to make in the year that is ahead of us. In doing so, give thanks for what we have received, the bounty, the lessons, the knowledge (even if it has not quite been to our liking). Once we have shown our gratitude, time should be take to reassess our direction, our goals, and even our abilities in being able to ascertain all the things we desire.

In doing this process, no doubt it will be realised that there will be things that we need to release and remove from our lives ... now is also a great time to sort the wheat from the chaff (so to speak - referring back to the wheat association), freeing ourselves from what is restricting us in order to allow ourselves to move onwards.

Whilst a harvest festival, this is hard to see from my own garden that is now appears to have been almost been destroyed by recent bouts of scorching Summer heat, with the corn cobs have dried on the stalk and everything else gone to seed.  However my lack of being able to prevent my garden from our severe  southern Australian sun does not amiss. 

The dried immature cobs hold a psychological meaning in that at Lughnasadh when we are look at our own individual harvest as well as what is preventing it to be bountiful. Sometimes it is our own aspirations, which may be unrealistic, that contributes our harvest to "fail" - other times, like this unseasonal heat wave we have experienced, external influences are the cause.  To me, this is what the dried immature cobs of corn represent.  After all, nothing that Mother Nature provides is unwanted or wasted .. we just need to learn to appreciate what she provides on all levels.

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