top of page

What is Lúnasa?


A golden glowing grain field is overlaid with the words: "What is Lughnasadh? & Nature's Wisdom."

Lúnasa is the Gaelic festival celebrating the beginning of harvest season and usually falls on or around August 1st, halfway between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. It is a joyful time to celebrate the fruits of abundance that ripen as the long days of summer begin to slowly fade toward Autumn Equinox.


In this blog post you will find:


Introduction


Dear friend, can you sense the shift taking place it? How much warmth the soils are holding as abundance peaks in the landscape? How the days are beginning to shorten as our journey toward the dark has begun? It is almost imperceptible, but for those who have keen senses, the signs are all around us. Here in the Piedmont the plant kingdom is pregnant with fruits, the first leaves are beginning to yellow and some have already made it to the ground; grasses are browning in some places and most fledglings have left their nests. The descending time is on its way .


It's incredible how quickly the landscape begins to change once the fruits of Summer begin to arrive. The great buildup of energy that has gone into the growing season is finally manifesting into plentiful harvest. Here in our own garden the peppers, squash and tomatoes are well on their way, and we can't seem to keep up with canning our cucumbers. Although it seems like summer stretches on - which in terms of the heat and humidity it does - the sun's light and the creative yang energy is already waning. Every day there are small signs that indicate the colder days ahead.


As time spirals through the cycles of life/death/rebirth, now is a great opportunity to think back to Imbolc and the stirrings of Spring. What hopes were you carrying then? What big plans were you beginning to build toward? Lúnasa and Imbolc are the fire festivals that sit across from one another on the Wheel of the Year, which means that they are each other's polarity and compliment. It serves us well to consider what was present for us 6 months ago. Everything is shifting and changing as old versions of self get composted and digested into the greater wholeness of who we are becoming.


As I witness the lusciousness of harvest season, I celebrate the fruits of my own inner harvest: new dimensions of self-awareness and ways of relating that are coming into form, ways of being that honor my truth and nourish who I am becoming. Thus, Lúnasa provides us with an opportunity to give thanks and to celebrate the wholeness of who we are and all that has been given and gained in this current cycle. So what are you celebrating?


Image of a garden growing fresh greens and a basket with fresh vegetables including peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.

What is Lúnasa?


Lúnasa (pronounced loo-nuh-suh) , known in Ireland as "the assembly of Lugh," is the third great fire festival of the Celtic year following Beltaine. You might note that there are two festival cycles that make up the Wheel of the Year: the agricultural fire festivals and the solar festivals. Lúnasa is one of the fire festivals. As Morgan Daimler points out, "in modern practice Lughnasa is celebrated on August 1st, however there is evidence that the date of Lughnasa would actually have represented the starting date of a series of festivals and fairs, rather than a single one day celebration..." [1]


Lúnasa marks the midpoint of sam, the light half of the year (May-November), and traditionally marked the beginning of autumn, harvest season, and a time of fruit in northwestern Europe lasting until the time of Samhain (pronounced sow-win) around Nov. 1. By the time Lúnasa rolls around, the daytime interval is getting noticeably shorter each day, and the nighttimes are lengthening, informing us of colder days ahead.


It was during this time that farmers reaped the first ears of wheat, barley, and in later centuries, dug up the first of the potatoes! It was also a time when soft fruits ripened. Of course, depending on where you are the harvest seasons may be different, so forming traditions around the seasonal cycles where you live is greatly encouraged! Here in our own landscape we have been enjoying the juicy delights of wild foraged blackberries, bright red and orange tomatoes, and the cantaloupe is soon to be ready.


In the Christian era the festival on August 1 became Lammas (pronounced laa-muhz), the name derived from hlaf-maesse, the Old English name for the feast, when a loaf made from the first ripe grain was taken to church to be blessed upon the altar. There are many other names for this festival which Morgan Daimler captures beautifully in her blog post:


"Lughnasa is also called Lughnasadh, Lunasa, Brón Trogain, Lunsadal, Laa Luanys, Calan Awst, and Gouel an Eost, and Alexei Kondratiev conjectures that the Celts of Gaul may have called this celebration Aedrinia (Kondratiev, 1998). The many names of the holiday show it's pan-Celtic character, and demonstrate that it could be found across the Celtic world. Several of the names for the holiday are references to the beginning of autumn or of the harvest." [2]



Hands covered in dirt hold fresh cherry tomatoes.

Lugh The Many Skilled


Lúnasa is named after one of the most famous and beloved gods in Celtic mythology, Lugh (pronounced loo), who is a member of the magical Tuatha Dé Danann tribe. He is the god of light and son of the sun and is portrayed as a warrior, a king, a master craftsman and a savior. He is associated with skill and mastery in myriad disciplines, including the arts.


It is during late summer, when the land is abundant with fruit and grain, when Lugh is most potent. He transfers his power into the grain, creating the bounty of the harvest, and this is honored through rituals that involve blessing the first harvest or baking the first bread of the season. As the bounty of Lugh is celebrated, a shift in energy and activity is acknowledged as active growth begins to slow as the darker days beckon.


Cooperation with the Earth Goddess


The great Lúnasa assemblies in early Celtic culture varied across locales though they shared in common a celebration of both the first fruits of the land and the "ripened" talents of human society, which is why these great gatherings featured races, games, athletics and were also festivals of the arts.


In Celtic tradition, it was recognized that a plentiful harvest could not be won without the cooperation of the earth goddess. According to author and storyteller Mara Freeman...


"Before a new king could be inaugurated, he had to undergo a ritual marriage with the goddess of the land in her role as Sovereignty, for only she could confer upon him the authority to rule... In early Ireland a good harvest depended upon the king being a just and worthy ruler, for he was a representative of the people. Under such a monarch, the weather was mild sheep and cattle multiplied, granaries overflowed, and orchards hung heavy with fruit. if he was... morally reprehensible, the land would not be fertile and the people would fail to thrive." [3]


The spirit behind these words ring true and strong today like never before. They serve as a reminder to never take for granted the gifts of the earth and that we are not as powerful as we think we are. There are dire consequences to our collective actions and the severed relationship we have with earth which we are bearing witness to today. And yet there is much to celebrate in our human culture as we witness the growing movement of Indigenous rematriation and the reclamation of earth-honoring traditions and cultural lifeways around the world.


Pale-tone hand softly reaches toward fern-like leaves


Wheel of the Year


The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of eight festivals (known as Sabbats) which includes four solar festivals (Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Fall Equinox) and four seasonal festivals (celebrating or marking a significant seasonal change). The symbol for the concept illustrates a circle divided into eight equal sections. Although this depiction is relatively new and was developed in the 1800's as part of the Neo-Pagan movement, it closely reflects the nature of the holy days that were celebrated by Celts thousands of years ago, even if these celebrations were known by another name now long lost.


Sadly much of the details of what took place in ancient Celtic culture has been lost, but what still remains is available to us from the source culture's of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Something that we are learning as people of the diaspora who are reclaiming our cultural heritage is that it's critically important to be learning from and in direct relationship with the source culture, otherwise we are perpetuating cultural appropriation within our own cultural lineage which perpetuates colonial violence.


Under industrial growth society, we follow the concept of linear time, however in the past, when we lived in close relationship to nature, time was perceived as cyclical. The Wheel of the Year is a calendar focused on this cyclical journey of the seasons:


Wheel of the Year Illustration depicting a circle with 8 spokes on the wheel, each representing a seasonal threshold.

Orienting to Cyclical Time


If you are in the beginning stages of disentangling yourself from the death-grip of industrial growth society, shifting from linear time to cyclical time can seem quite foreign and unfamiliar at first. We become so used to perceiving time as a never-ending accumulation of one event after the other... a building of sorts, or perhaps you might visualize it as a straight line with a starting point and an ending (life/death). Be gentle with yourself as you begin to open your mind and body to your natural biorhythmic movement. Disorientation, dislocation and disassociation are all manifestations of the trauma of separation from nature.


Beginning to make the shift toward nature's cycles will take time. The best thing you can do to support this shift is to spend more time immersed in nature. Whatever you're doing in your life now, simply add 10-15 min of intentional time in nature to your day. This time should be slow and mindful, or in stillness as you take in your surroundings while staying connected to your inner landscape.



Nature's Wisdom

The Gifts of Abundance


If the message of Summer Solstice is about celebrating the radiance of creation and embodying that love within our own life, then Lúnasa can be understood in terms of harvest, namely how light and love manifests through tangible gifts of goodness and nourishment that will feed our communities for the days, weeks, and months that lie ahead. The inner and outer work we do to cultivate soul and soil are reflections of each other. We journey through the seasons both within and without for the purpose of expansion and generating abundance to nourish and benefit all.


We arrive at Lúnasa both humbled and triumphant. We remember the joys as well as the struggles. We can laugh now and let go a little as we look back and reap the rewards of living and learning. We give thanks for the abundance of what has been gained. The energy of Lúnasa provides us with an initial sense of respite as the completion of a cycle is now within sight yet still there is work to do. Nevertheless, it is a time for community, camaraderie and coming together, for it is connection and togetherness that ultimately feeds our spirits and gives us the energy to continue on.


Lúnasa is a time to bring your friends, family, and community together, to share the abundance from your gardens and/or the learnings you've harvested from life. It's an important reminder that we are not alone and that the practice of coming together to share, commune and give thanks will provide us with what we need to embrace the descent into darkness as we look toward the promise of cooler days and longer nights.



Ways to Celebrate Lúnasa


Bake bread...and some Jam to go along with it


There is nothing quite like the wafting aroma of homemade bread fresh out of the oven. Baking your own bread is its own kind of prayer. You might shudder at the thought of turning on the oven in the heat of summer, but make an exception to honor the abundance in your life and treat yourself.


Come to think of it... let's take it one step further and imagine a sweet, warm blueberry jam to go with it!


Traditionally, collecting, eating and sharing berries was a favorite activity during this jovial time of the year since berries were bursting forth from the heatherly slopes of the hills in which people gathered. Full baskets were taken home to be made into cakes, pies and jams.


Here's a simple recipe (from Kindling the Celtic Spirit) to try for yourself:


Ingredients:

  • 8 cups blueberries, bilberries or huckleberries

  • 4 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 teaspoon lemon rind, grated

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 cup water

  • 4 cups granulated sugar

Directions

  1. In a large heavy saucepan. combine blueberries, rhubarb, lemon rind and juice, and water.

  2. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently; reduce heat and simmer, very gently, for 10 minutes.

  3. Add sugar; increase heat to high and boil vigorously, stirring often.

  4. After about 20 minutes, test jam for setting by putting a small amount on a cold plate and pushing it gently with your thumb. If it wrinkles, it's ready.

  5. Remove from the heat, skim off foam, and stir for 3-5 minutes to suspend fruit evenly throughout the jam.

  6. Fill sterilized jars and seal.


Feast with your community


Start a family or neighborhood tradition by organizing your own Lúnasa event, like a potluck picnic in the park, by a river or stream, at the beach, or on a nearby hill. Alternatively, you can hold it in your own backyard, where you can pay more attention to decorating the table with flowers, ears of grain, fruit, and other seasonal produce.


More than anything, Lúnasa is a celebration of the bounty of the harvest, and celebrations just aren’t as fun on your own. In an age where many of us feel all too disconnected from one another, the high days of August are an ideal time to come together with friends and neighbors to foster a sense of community.


Ask people to bring food and drink made from the new harvest of fruits, vegetables, and grains, such as fruit drinks and salads, homemade bread, cakes and scones. Pluck some tomatoes from your garden, make a big pot of squash soup, forage for wild berries, and try to sweet-talk your favorite baker into whipping up a loaf of bread. Oh, and don't forget the sweet blueberry jam to go with it!


Before you get down to the feast, give thanks for the blessings of the first fruits with a grace, such as this modern Irish one:


In the presence of my people

back to the beginning of life,

In the witness of the gods and the ungods,

In homage to the immense generosity if the universe,

We give thank before this food.

Let's feast!


- Dennis King


Dance and have some fun!


It’s just not a celebration if there isn’t a little bit of fun and dancing! Traditionally, our Celtic ancestors would gather on top of a hill where they would sing and dance barefoot to music of melodeons, fiddles, and flutes; played leapfrog and rounders; wrestled and raced, and competed in other contests of skill; and listened to the stories from the elders.


If you have a large group, organize team games such as volleyball, tug of war, swimming races, or whatever is appropriate to the space. Make crafts together like harvest knots or corn dollies (see below). Encourage folks to bring musical instruments, songs, and stories to share.



Enjoy a Forest Walk


If you're not able to plan a get together, consider taking some personal time to spend a few hours with Mama Earth to honor this shift in the season.


Take a meandering walk through the woods. Go slowly, and with great curiosity, stop to observe things that you would otherwise overlook. Notice the subtle movement of leaves as the breeze slips through the canopy above. Trace the cracks in a tree. Follow an insect. See if you can find a fairy or two while you soak all the goodness nature has to offer.


The point is to awaken all of your senses as you come into deep presence with the natural world. Presence fosters gratitude for what is, and this is a time to reflect upon all you have been given. Taking a slow and mindful forest walk is a great way to do this.



Practice craftsmanship


As mentioned earlier, Lugh is also a god of craftsmanship and skill so practicing your craft is a great way to honor and celebrate this holiday. It could be as simple as making corn dollies (see below), painting, singing, woodworking, baking, knitting, or anything really. You could also take up a new hobby or craft, or revisit an old one. I’m going to try to pick up crocheting again myself, see if I can make a scarf or two for this cool weather around the corner.


When I was a kid, I remember making corn dollies in school, usually around November as part of all the Thanksgiving crafting. As I got older and read a little more about the history of corn dollies, I started making them for myself in early August, honoring the midpoint between summer and fall.


You can also check out this guide from Earth Witchery to make your own corn dollies at home. We'd love to see your photos on Instagram - tag @wayofbelonging in all your Lúnasa celebrations!


There are many ways to honor Lúnasa and to celebrate the harvests of the season. Choose what resonates with you. Whatever you choose, take a moment to send Mama Earth a little thank-you for the abundance she shares with all of us.




Closing


Through the turning of the wheel, nature teaches us that the basic pattern of life is one of oscillation and contrast; a pulsating dance and tension between polarities. The rhythm of creation throbs with erotic life force energy and when we arrive at Lúnasa we experience the fullness and bounty that comes with maturation, toiling and persevering through the growing pains of spring and summer.


Embracing the seasonal energy of Lúnasa is a powerful way to reclaim your ancestral connection to radical acceptance and embodied aliveness. Leaning into the invitations that nature brings will help you to THRIVE during this time.



Did you like this post?


We'd love to hear from you!

  • How are you celebrating Lúnasa?

  • What miracles are you bearing witness to?

  • How is nature guiding or teaching you?

Leave a comment below :)



You might enjoy reading...



Get a Taste of Somatic Healing


References




59 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page