The great wheel of the year turns again on the evening of July 31st to August 1st, with the Celtic festival of Lughnasadh, “the binding duty of Lugh ” as the last in the cycle of the four seasons of the Celtic world.
This feast marks the beginning of Autumn or Fall, and the harvesting season – crops were harvested in August, fruit in September around the Autumn equinox and meat in October before Samhain/Halloween. The ‘first fruits’ of the harvest were crops.
Lughnasadh is named after the Celtic Sun God Lugh, ‘The Bright or Shining One’, God of the Harvest. He also presides over the arts and sciences, and as such he was called Lugh the Il-Dana, ‘Master of All Crafts’, or Samildanach, ‘he of the many gifts’. He was expert smith, craftsman, harpist, poet, sorcerer, physician, chess player and warrior.
He was also called Lugh Lámhfhada, ‘the long-handed’, as tradition has it that he carried the magical Spear of Goirias (the Gáe Assail or Lightning Spear), one of the four treasures of the Tuatha De Danann – flaming in Lugh’s hand, and channeling lightning. Thunderstorms provided respite from the fierce summer heat that threatened the crops under Lugh’s care.
Celtic tribes across Europe revered this deity also known as Lug, Lugo, Lugaidh, Lleu, Llew Llaw Gyffes ‘of the skillful hand’, and Llud – many places and tribes bare version of his name. Lugh’s mother was Eithne, the Fomorian daughter of Balor the One eyed giant, and his father was Cian of the Tuatha De Danann.
Lughnasadh has been translated as ‘the binding duty of Lugh’, referring to funeral games, Áenach Tailteann, that he held in honor of his foster-mother Tailtiu, a goddess of agriculture. From this tradition come the many summer fairs, festivals and highland games that are held worldwide at this time of year.
Lughnasadh has another translation – the ‘wedding of Lugh’. He was said to have married the beautiful Goddess Eriu, from whom Éirinn/Ireland recieved it’s name. Eriu was the daughter of Ernmas of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The ancient Celtic Kings were expected to ceremoniously marry the land, and look after Her and Her people.
Manannán Mac Lir
Lugh’s foster father, Manannán Mac Lir, the Celtic Sea God, over saw the wedding from the waves, wearing his ‘cloak of mists’, and on his horse ‘Aonbharr of the Flowing Mane’, who could travel over water as easily as on land. He loaned Lugh his impenetrable coat and breastplate, a helmet with stones that flashed when he moved, his corrbolg or ‘crane bag’ filled with magical treasures. and his all-powerful sword Freagartach “the Answerer”, that caused a wound from which no enemy could survive. The Answerer, called such because no one could ever tell a lie if it was held against one’s throat, could penetrate any shield or obstacle as well thereby making it a highly valuable item.
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