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All About Lughnasadh

Posted and edited by: Magickal Winds

Lughnasadh

by Christina

At Lughnasadh, the Wheel of the Year begins to shift from growing time to harvest time. The subtle changes of the waning sun that occurred at Summer Solstice becomes more evident as the balance of day and night seem to shift more dramatically. The slight seasonal changes in weather, and the declining arc of the sun, the southern movement of it rising and setting are other indicators of this shift. "After Lammas, corn ripens as much by night as by day."

Although temperatures can still be high, the mood and sensation of the year most decidedly changes. We enter the harvest time. It is the point in time when the first grains are collected and ritualistically sacrificed to ensure the continuance of the cycle of life both physically and spiritually.

In times past, fertility magic at Lughnasadh guaranteed the continued ripening of crops and bountiful harvest season. Festivities typically centered on the assurance of a plentiful harvest season and the celebration of the beginning of the harvest cycle. A bountiful harvest insured the safe passage of the tribe through the upcoming winter months. The gathering of bilberries is an ancient ritual symbolizing the success of the Lughnasadh rituals. If the bilberries were bountiful the crops would be also.

Lughnasadh celebration is associated with John Barleycorn, an anthropomorphized image of the barley grain that goes into making malt beverages that heeds us to the larger life mysteries that play out each year on the stage of the agricultural cycle from which we spin our Wheel of the Year. Although the life mysteries are deep and contemplative, John Barleycorn also reminds us that levity, joy and festivity are as much a part of the Wheel and our lives as Death and Rebirth. It is what makes life worth living and allows us to touch the Joy that is creation.

Lughnasadh is a time of personal reflection and harvest, of our actions and deeds, events and experiences, our gains and losses. A time when we begin the cycle of reflection of that which is our life. A period for personal fertility magic to ensure the bountiful harvest of life’s gifts and experiences, that which we have reaped though trial, tribulation, enjoyment, joy, love and loss. As my Elder once said to me, "We can not know what we have not experienced." Such is the truth of life ö we become not by chance but by experience. Each experience opens a window into ourselves, into who we were, who we are, and whom we are choosing to become.

The festival of Lughnasadh is named in honor of Lugh, by his Irish name. He is also know as and associated with: Lug (Continental), Llew, Lugos (Gallic), Lleu Llaw Gyffes ("The Lion of the Sure/Long Hand" Welsh), Ildanach and Lugh Lamfada ("Lugh of the Long Arm/Hand"). He is also associated with the Roman God Mercury, there are many names through many cultures. Lugh is "The God of Light", "God of All Skills", the "Bright or Shining One"; He is associated with both the Sun and agricultural fertility.

Lugh led the Tuatha De Danann to victory in the second Battle of Magh Tuireadh. His name was left throughout the Celtic lands on various places, Lug-dunum (present day Lyon, France), Luguvallum (Roman Britain), indicating the impact Lugh has had on all the Celtic peoples. Stories of his conception, birth, naming, exploits, victories and descendents fill pages of Celtic myth. Lugh is indeed a tremendous personality with considerable influence in Celtic lore. Through lore and myth we can journey aside Lugh, delving deeper to his life and journeys and our own.

The origins of the games of Lughnasadh, often referred to as: the Assembly of Lugh; Games of Lug; Games of Sovereignty, are, however, more closely associated with Lugh’s foster-mother/nurse, Tailtiu. Tailtiu is said to be daughter of the King of Spain, wife of Eochaid of the Tuatha de Danaan and is recognized as a Celtic Earth Goddess. She cleared the field at Coill Chuan in Ireland for agricultural use and died from the intensity of this labor. The area carries her name in memory; Teltown Kells, Co. Meath. The games of Lughnasadh were originally played in honor of Tailtiu, these games begun by Lugh and played by the kings who followed, as funerary tribute to his foster mother.

Lughnasadh is more popularly referred to as Lammas in many areas of the British Isles. Lammas comes from the Middle English Lammasse, from Old English hlafmæsse : hlaf, loaf + mæsse, Mass; see Mass. This illustrates the incorporation of Lughnasadh by the Church into its seasonal calendar, as many other Old Celtic and agricultural holidays were. The harvest of the early grain was baked into loaves and offered at mass. It also became a feast that the Church celebrated in commemoration of Saint Peter’s deliverance from prison.

At Lughnasadh many grains, seeds, herbs and fruits can be harvested and dried for later use through the remaining year. Corn is one of the vital crops harvested at this time.

Corn dollies are fashioned in the shape of Goddess and God. In some areas the sacrifice of the corn king (corn dolly) is performed. Death and rebirth are a vital part of the cycle Lugh journeys in his mating with the Earth Goddess, during the waning year.

The Goddess oversees the festival in her Triple guise as Macha. She presides in her warrior aspect, the crow that sits on the battlefields awaiting the dead. She is the Crone, Maiden and Mother, Anu, Banbha, and Macha; she conveys the dead into the realm of the deceased. For Lughnasadh, is a festival of not only life and bounty, but of harvest and death, the complete cycle of life.

In myth, Macha is forced, while heavy with child, to race against the King of Ulster’s horses. She wins the race and gives birth to twins, and cursed the men of Ulster with the pains of labor when they most need their strength. She becomes the Queen of Ulster through battle for seven years. Her fortress in Ulster is known as the Emain Macha and its otherworldly form known as Emania, the moon Goddess’ realm of death.

Without successes and a thriving personal harvest we will not have the fundamentals we need to continue our work on all levels. Our path is one of service, as a religious rite, as an active devotion to the Goddess & God, from which we receive as well as give. Our actions and deeds are the magic by which we cast the circle of our lives ö we give and we receive, which allows us to give again. This is the cycle of the Sacred Life, which we celebrate and honor at Lughnasadh.

We dance and contemplate, reap and distribute, rejoice and reflect upon on this the first harvest in the Wheel of the Year.

We, as members of the Universe and children of the Mother, trust in sharing in the benevolence of Her Love. For ours is the Mother, who nurtures and loves Her children, sharing her bounty and joy. Prosperity is not amassing and hoarding a great profusion of assets. Prosperity is having more than what is essential and never having less than we need. We, through the celebration of the Wheel, understand the abundance and magnanimity of the Universe and celebrate, recognize, and honor this.

Blessed Lughnasadh!

Some ideas for celebration include:

(unknown author)

  • Sacrifice bad habits and unwanted things from your life by throwing symbols of them into the sabbat fire.
  • Bake a loaf of bread in the shape of a man and sacrifice him in your ritual. Make him a part of your feast but save a piece to offer the gods.
  • Take time to actually harvest fruits from your garden with your family. If you don’t have a garden, visit one of the pick-your-own farms in your area.
  • Include bilberries or blueberries in your feast; these were a traditional fruit, whose abundance was seen as an indicator of the harvest to come.
  • Gather the tools of your trade and bless them in order to bring a richer harvest next year.
  • Share your harvest with others who are less fortunate.
  • Decorate with sickles, scythes, fresh vegetables & fruits, grains, berries, corn dollies, bread. Colors are orange, gold, yellow, red and bronze.

And so the wheel turns.....

Traditional Foods:

Apples, Grains, Breads and Berries.

Herbs and Flowers:

All Grains, Grapes, Heather, Blackberries, Sloe, Crab Apples, Pears.

Incense:

Aloes, Rose, Sandalwood.

Sacred Gemstone:

Carnelian.

Special Activities:

As summer passes, many Pagans celebrate this time to remember its warmth and bounty in a celebrated feast shared with family or Coven members. Save and plant the seeds from the fruits consumed during the feast or ritual. If they sprout, grow the plant or tree with love and as a symbol of your connection with the Lord and Lady. Walk through the fields and orchards or spend time along springs, creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes reflecting on the bounty and love of the Lord and Lady.

Recipes for Lughnasadh

From: Country Cookery - Recipes from Wales by Sian Llewellyn.

Because Lughnasadh is a celebration of the new harvest, people cooked special ritual and festive meals. Below you will find some traditional recipes you can make today.

  • Colcannon
  • Boxty
  • Blaeberry jam
  • Lammas Curds (Crowdie)
  • The Lammas Bannock
  • Cawl Cynhaeaf

1. – Colcannon (cally, poundy)

In some parts of Ireland, the Feast of Lughnasadh came to be called Colcannon Sunday, after a dish made from the first digging of potatoes. The cook put on a special white apron kept for the occasion, boiled a huge pot of potatoes over the fire, and mashed them with a wooden mallet. Often, they were seasoned with onions, garlic or cabbage. The cooked vegetables were then turned out onto a platter, and a well hollowed out in the middle for plenty of butter and hot milk. The family sat round and ate, while the cook ate hers from the pot itself–a special privilege. In more well-to-do households, the meal would be accompanied by meat: a flitch of bacon, newly-slaughtered sheep or roast chicken, and followed by seasonal fruits such as gooseberries and blackcurrants.

It was thought to be unlucky not to eat Colcannon on this day, so people often made sure to share theirs with less fortunate neighors.

Here’s a more modern recipe for you to try.

  • Colcannon
  • 6 servings:
  • 1 medium cabbage, quartered and core removed
  • 2 lb potatoes, scrubbed and sliced with skins left on
  • 2 medium leeks, thoroughly washed and sliced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoons each mace, salt, pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and boil the cabbage until tender, about 12-15 minutes. Drain off the water and chop the cabbage. Set aside.

Bring another pot of water to a boil and boil the potatoes until tender. Drain off the water and set aside.

Put the leeks in a saucepan, cover with the milk, bring close to boiling and then turn down to a simmer until tender. Set aside.

Add the mace, salt and pepper, and garlic to the pot with the potatoes and mash well with a hand masher. Now add the leeks and their milk and mix in with the potatoes, taking care not to break down the leeks too much. Add a little more milk if necessary to make it smooth. Now mash in the cabbage and lastly the butter. The texture that you want to achieve is smooth-buttery-potato with interesting pieces of leek and cabbage well distributed in it.

Transfer the whole mixture to an ovenproof dish, make a pattern on the surface and place under the broiler to brown.

After the first mouthful, Irish families might call out, "Destruction to the Red-haired Hag!" The red-haired hag is a personification of hunger.

2. – Boxty

If you have mashed potatoes left over, you can turn them into another traditional Irish dish.

  • Boxty (Potato Griddle Cakes) - makes12 x 3-inch pancakes (4 to 6 servings)
  • 1 cup hot unseasoned mashed potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated unpeeled raw potatoes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Butter or margarine, for frying

In large bowl mix together mashed potatoes and 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in eggs and grated potatoes, then the flour, baking powder, salt, caraway seeds and pepper. Blend in milk. Heat 1 tablespoon butter to sizzling in large nonstick skillet. Drop potato mixture, about 2 1/2 tablespoons at a time, into skillet to form pa tties. Flatten slightly. Fry over medium-high heat until crisp and browned, turning once. Repeat with remaining potato mixture, adding butter to skillet as needed.Serve hot.

An old rhyme goes:

Boxty on the griddle,
boxty in the pan,
if you can’t make boxty,
you’ll never get a man.

3. – Bilberries

Bilberries, ( fraocháin, blaeberries, blueberries, whortleberries,) the first wild fruits, were a sign of the earth’s covenant with her children, so it was very important to gather and share them with the community. In early Ireland, bilberries were sent as tribute to the High King, according to the medieval Book of Rights:

On the calends of August to the king
Were brought from each respective district,
the heath-fruit of Brigh-Leithe;

Quantities were eaten on the way up to the Lughnasadh hill of assembly, but the ones that managed to make it down might be made into jam or "fraughan cakes" or simply mashed with cream. A special treat was bilberry wine, which was most enjoyed by lovers, and had the reputation for hastening on the wedding! As was typical in a more neighborly society, some were set aside for those who could not make the climb. And some were also left behind on a special cairn or rock as an offering to an old, almost-forgotten god who first brought the harvest to Ireland.

Here’s a recipe for traditional blaeberry jam that comes from Scotland. Wild blaeberries (vaccinium myrtillus) are much smaller and tarter than the commercial blueberry, but the rhubarb in this recipe adds sharpness and texture.

  • Blaeberry Jam
  • 2 lb blaeberries
  • 1/2lb rhubarb
  • 2 lb preserving sugar
  • (Makes 3lb.)

Wash, trim and roughly chop the rhubarb, put it into a pan and cook gently until it starts to soften. Stir in the sugar and when it has dissolved add the blaeberries and bring the jam to the boil. Boil it rapidly for up to 20 minutes to setting point. Cool slightly then pour into clean warm jars, cover, label and store.

(Test for setting point: test the jam by placing a spoonful on a plate, letting it cool and then pushing the surface with your finger: if it wrinkles the jam is ready)

From: Janet Warren, A feast of Scotland, Lomond Books,1990, ISBN 1-85051-112-8.

5. – Lammas Curds

In the Scottish Highlands, when the cattle were brought down to the strath, (valley) from their summer pastures on the hills, mothers gave their children and all others returned from the sheilings a small cheese of curds made from that day’s milk, for luck and good-will. More curds and butter were specially prepared for the high feast later that day. The Lammas cheese was probably a kind of crowdie. Caraway seeds can be added to the recipe below to give it the authentic flavoring.

Crowdie

Put two pints (40 fl. oz.) of freshly sour or thick milk into a pan and place on a slow heat and watch until it curdles. Do not allow the milk to simmer or boil otherwise the curds will harden. When the curd sets let it cool before you attempt draining the whey.

Line a colander with a clean muslin cloth and transfer the curds into it and leave until most of the whey has drained before squeezing the last of the whey out by hand. Mix the crowdie with a little salt until it has a smooth texture. Now blend the crowdie with a little cream and place the mixture in a dish and allow to rest in a refrigerator.

6. – The Lammas Bannock

In Scotland, the first fruits were celebrated by the making of a ’bonnach lunastain’ or Lunasdál bannock, or cake. In later times, the bannock was dedicated to Mary, whose feastday, La Feill Moire, falls on August 15th, two days later than the date of Lammas according to the old reckoning. A beautiful ceremony, which, no doubt, had pagan origins, attended the cutting of the grain (usually oats or bere.) In the early morning, the whole family, dressed in their best, went out to the fields to gather the grain for the ’Moilean Moire’, the ’fatling of Mary.’ They laid the ears on a sunny rock to dry, husked them by hand, winnowed them in a fan, ground them in a quern, kneaded them on a sheepskin, and formed them into a bannock. A fire was kindled of rowan or another sacred wood to toast the bannock, then it was divided amongst the family, who sang a beautiful paean to Mother Mary while they circled the fire in a sunwise direction.

Here is a modern recipe you can try:

  • Pitcaithly Bannock
  • 8 oz flour
  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 oz caster sugar
  • 1oz chopped almonds
  • 1oz mixed candied peel

Set oven to 325F/Gas 3. Grease a baking sheet. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the sugar and butter and rub in to form a dough. Add the almonds and mix in the peel, making sure they are evenly distributed. Form into a thick round on a lightly floured surface and prick all over with a fork. Place on the sheet and bake for about 45-60 minutes. Allow to cool and serve sliced thinly and buttered.

7. – Cawl Cynhaeaf

In Wales, harvest celebrations were not for the weak-stomached. An 18thc account describes a feast of ’the contents of a brewing pan of beef and mutton, with arage and potatoes and pottage, and pudding of wheaten flour, about twenty gallons of light ale and over twenty gallons of beer.’ After this, the guests were expected to drink more beer and dance to the music of the fiddle.

Well, harvesting was very hard work, but for our more sedentary modern lifestyle, here is a low-fat version:

  • Cawl Cynhaeaf - Harvest Broth
  • 2 1/2lbs. Welsh neck of lamb
  • 1/2lb peas
  • 1/2lb broad beans
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small turnip
  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 5 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 qt. water
  • salt and pepper

Remove as much fat as possible from the meat. Place the meat in a large saucepan and cover with the water.Bring to the boil and skim any fat from the surface of the liquid.

Shell the peas and beans. Peel and dice the carrot, onion and turnip. Add the vegetables, except the cauliflower, to the meat. Season. Cover the saucepan and simmer slowly for 3 hours. 30 minutes before serving the broth, cut the cauliflower into sprigs and add to the saucepan. Serve hot decorated with sprigs of parsley.

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