Today marks the beginning of Lughnasa, the harvest month. In Old Gaelic, the name was Lugnasad, a combination of Lug (the god Lugh) and násad (an assembly). The festival is said to be in commemoration of the mother (or foster-mother) of Lugh, named Tailtu. She was said to have died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture.
The Gaelic calendar is a system of timekeeping that is still in popular use in modern Ireland. It does not observe the equinoxes or solstices, rather it observes the beginning of the seasons. Lughnasa in August, marks the beginning of the Gaelic season of the harvest, originally held at the time of “first fruits”, or on the full moon nearest the 1 August. The season is also marked in the month names in the Irish calendar: Autumn is “Fómhar” (Harvest). The months marking this being (Lunasa (August), Meán Fómhair (September), Deireadh Fómhair (October).
In the past, Lughnasa involved great gatherings that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic contests, feasting, matchmaking and trading. Many of the sacred sites in Ireland were places where these gatherings took place. There were visits to holy wells, or the top of hills and mountains. Over time, this custom was Christianised, and some of the journeys or season marking were re-cast as Christian pilgrimages – the best known being Reek Sunday at Croagh Patrick, taking place the last Sunday in July.
On Sunday, I’ll be marking Lughnasa by going to some of my favourite high places; sacred sites locally. I’ll be reflecting on my work completed, giving thanks for abundance, and looking forward to the new season of the harvest.
“Happiness is the harvest of a quiet eye”
Austin O’Malley (Irish Footballer)