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Lughnasadh / Lammas: The First Harvest Festival Of The Year

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Lughnasadh is one of my favorite times of the year. Summer is turning to fall, though the hottest days are still coming. Lammas is a signal to all that we must enjoy the warmth while we have it.

Lughnasadh is the first harvest festival of the pagan Wheel of the Year. Also known as Lammas, we celebrate with delicious food and other festivities.

I love this time of year. At this point, the heat has gotten to me and I am ready for things to cool down.

At the same time, the earth is abundant with fruits, vegetables, and other goodies ready to be eaten and preserved for the winter.

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Decorative image of someone harvesting their lughnasadh fruits and vegetables

Lughasadh / Lammas basics

What is Lughnasadh? When do we celebrate it, and why? I’ll answer these questions and more in the coming sections.

The most essential information you need to know is that this is the first big harvest of the year, where we plan for the winter but still enjoy the warmth.

In many places, the next harvest festival (Mabon) will be considerably cooler.

When is Lughnasadh?

Lughnasadh Northern HemisphereAugust 1
Lughnasadh Southern HemisphereFebruary 1

According to Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses by Judika Illes, Lughnasadh used to be a festival that lasted for 4 weeks.

It took place during the last 2 weeks of July and the first 2 weeks of August.

This festival roughly corresponded to when the sun was in Leo. This is when the sun is its most powerful.

Modern neopagans like Wiccans mostly celebrate Lughnasadh solely on the evening of July 31st and on the day of August 1st.

Traditionally, this is the start of autumn. That doesn’t mean the hot days are over!

Even in Michigan, it remains hot until October. Still, the sun is beginning to cool, and the trees and plants are starting the process of preparing for winter.

So, too, are humans preparing for the cooler days ahead.

This is when the first grain is cut for the coming winter. It was a very important time for our ancestors.

It falls roughly between the summer solstice and autumn equinox.

How to pronounce Lughnasadh

In Irish, it is pronounced like LOO-nah-sah. Emphasis is put on LOO.

What does Lughnasadh mean

The meaning of this word is “The marriage of Lugh”, because this is the time to celebrate the union of Lugh, the sun god, with the Earth Mother.

Mythologically, this time of year is when they renew their wedding vows (during the full moon in August).

Decorative image of Lammas apples ready to be turned into Lamasool

How to celebrate Lughnasadh / Lammas

One of the most common ways to celebrate the first harvest festival is to bake break.

This bread is also a great offering for the gods!

Lammas actually means “loaf mass”, that is how important baking bread is on this pagan holiday.

If you can’t bake bread, or simply don’t want to, buying some bread from a local baker will do just as well.

Enjoy some with family and friends, and then offer some to the local spirits and your deities.

You can also make and enjoy alcohol from grain, since this is a celebration of grain harvest.

Lughnasadh Activities

Making Lammas Wool

An old custom for Lammas was to pick the first ripe apples and make them into a drink called Lammas Wool, Lambswool, or Lamasool.

Bulfinch’s Mythology says, “By the pagan Saxons November 1st was dedicated to a goddess who presided over fruits and seeds. This festival – which some writers trace to an Oriental source – was called La Maes Abhal, or “Day of the Apple Fruit,” a designation easily corrupted into “Lamb’s Wool,” which expressed a drink of roasted apples, sugar, and ale.”

This recipe for Lammas Wool comes from The Book of Household Management, 1861.

LAMBSWOOL, or LAMASOOL.—This old English beverage is composed of apples mixed with ale, and seasoned with sugar and spice.

It takes its name from Lamaes abhal, which, in ancient British, signifies the day of apple fruit, from being drunk on the apple feast in autumn.

In France, a beverage, called by the Parisians raisinée, is made by boiling any given quantity of new wine, skimming it as often as fresh scum rises, and, when it is boiled to half its bulk, straining it.

To this apples, pared and cut into quarters, are added; the whole is then allowed to simmer gently, stirring it all the time with a long wooden spoon, till the apples are thoroughly mixed with the liquor, and the whole forms a species of marmalade, which is extremely agreeable to the taste, having a slight flavour of acidity, like lemon mixed with honey.

Eating Seasonal Produce

Eating fruits and vegetables that are seasonal for your local area is a wonderful way to take in the power of the sun.

While the fruits and vegetables that are in season will differ based on where you live, here are some examples of what to look for:

Seasonal August FruitsApricot, blackberry, blueberry, cherries, carnelian, currants, fig, grape, gooseberry, loquat, melon, mulberry, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, prickly pear, raspberry, watermelon
Seasonal August VegetablesAsparagus, beans, carrot, chard, chicory, corn, cucumber, garlic, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, nettle, onion, pea, pepper, potato, radish, rhubarb tomato
Decorative image of wheat ready to be harvested for Lughnasadh

Poems And Songs

We celebrate the personification of the grain, John Barleycorn, at this time.

One of the many ways we celebrate him is through poems and songs.

Here is one popular poem to John Barleycorn:

There were three kings into the East,
⁠Three kings both great and high;
And they ha’e sworn a solemn oath
⁠John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plow and plowed him down,
⁠Put clods upon his head;
And they ha’e sworn a solemn oath
⁠John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful spring came kindly on,
⁠And showers began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
⁠And sore surprised them all.

The sultry suns of summer came,
⁠And he grew thick and strong;
His head well arm’d wi’ pointed spears,
⁠That no one should him wrong.

The sober autumn entered mild,
⁠And he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
⁠Showed he began to fail.

His colour sickened more and more,
⁠He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
⁠To show their deadly rage.

They took a weapon long and sharp,
⁠And cut him by the knee,
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
⁠Like a rogue for forgery.

They laid him down upon his back,
⁠And cudgelled him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
⁠And turn’d him o’er and o’er.

They filled up then a darksome pit
⁠With water to the brim,
And heaved in poor John Barleycorn,
⁠To let him sink or swim.

They laid him out upon the floor,
⁠To work him further woe;
And still as signs of life appeared,
⁠They tossed him to and fro.

They wasted o’er a scorching flame
⁠The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all—
⁠He crushed him ‘tween two stones.

And they have taken his very heart’s blood,
⁠And drunk it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
⁠Their joy did more abound.

-Robert Burns

Another Lammas song that I love is Corn Rigs from The Wicker Man’s original soundtrack.

Spending Time In The Sun

This is the perfect time to invite friends over for a harvest celebration.

Throw a barbecue and spend time in the sun together, playing games, drinking, and enjoying the Lammas season.

Lughnasadh Rituals

Set Up Your Lammas Altar

Later in this post, I will have crystals, herbs, and other correspondences that will help you to decorate your altar for Lughnasadh.

The gist, however, is to place anything symbolic of grain, the sun, or Lugh on your altar.

Harvest Something

If you have been cultivating a garden, go outside and harvest something to enjoy.

If you haven’t, maybe look into going to a local farm or orchard to see if there is an opportunity to harvest something right from the earth.

You can also harvest crystals you have buried to cleanse, sigil manifestations by burning them, or anything else that you have been sitting on and waiting for it to grow.

Decorative image of berries being picked to be eaten to celebrate a pagan holiday

Create A Harvest Jar

Now is a great time to reflect on what you have manifested.

Take a small jar and place reminders of your success from this year.

Fill the jar with those powerful memories, and honor them with a moment of silence or prayer.

Keep this jar where it can get sunlight, and fill it with more memories and manifestations as the year begins to fade.

Light Candles

White, green or yellow candles should be lit during Lammas to pay respect to the sun and the earth.

Before lighting these candles, you can carve things you want to manifest before this year ends.

Charge Crystals In The Sun

Not every crystal can be charged in the sun, but those that can will get powerful energy during Lughnasadh. Especially crystals that are used for manifestation!

See below for more information on crystals to use for this witch holiday.

Herbs For Lughnasadh

Since this is such a fruitful time, there are many herbs that you can use in your spells at this time of year.

Anything that is blooming right now is a great choice.

If you are looking for herbs to decorate your altar, go outside. What is flowering? What has gone to seed? What looks beautiful?

Here are some more specific ideas of herbs and plants to work with during Lughnasadh:

  • goldenrod
  • peony
  • nasturtium
  • clover blossom
  • elderberry
  • yarrow
  • heliotrope
  • boneset
  • vervain
  • Queen Anne’s lace
  • myrtle
  • rose
  • sunflower
  • poppy
  • milkweed
  • Irish moss
  • mushroom
  • wheat
  • corn
  • rye
  • oat
  • barley
  • rice
  • garlic
  • onion
  • basil
  • mint
  • aloe
  • acacia
  • meadowsweet
  • apple leaf
  • raspberry leaf
  • strawberry leaf
  • bilberry leaf
  • blueberry leaf
  • mugwort
  • hops
  • holly
  • sloe
  • comfrey
  • marigold
  • grape vine
  • ivy
  • hazelnut
  • blackthorn
  • elder
  • bee pollen
Decorative image of a woman in a field with flowers celebrating a Wiccan holiday

Crystals For Lughnasadh

Sunny, brightly colored crystals will guide you at this time of year. Citrine, for instance, is a powerful sun stone useful for manifesting wealth and abundance.

Here are more perfect crystals for Lammas:

  • aventurine
  • citrine
  • peridot
  • sardonyx
  • cat’s-eye
  • golden topaz
  • obsidian
  • moss agate
  • rhodochrosite
  • clear quartz
  • marble
  • slate
  • granite
  • lodestone
  • carnelian
  • jasper
  • jade
  • malachite

Foods And Recipes For Lughnasadh

All holidays are times to dine with friends and family, bake delicious foods, and savor the gifts of the earth.

Try these recipes for Lughnasadh:

Lammas Correspondences

ThemeLughnasadh Correspondences
General themesExpress gratitude, express fertility, celebrate the first harvest, recognize the abundance in our lives, contemplate the work we have accomplished, become aware of the approaching cold months, honor the cycle of life and death, honor the earth, honor the sun
HerbsLavender, thyme, mugwort, verbena, basil, marjoram, rosemary, mint, coriander, rose, heather, wheat, hazelnut, walnut
CrystalsJasper, jade, malachite
ColorsOrange, red, yellow, brown, green
SymbolsThe sun, grain, corn, sickles, scythes, agricultural tools, fresh fruit and vegetables
AnimalsBees, polinating insects, butterflies, birds
Deities and entitiesLugh, the earth goddess, John Barleycorn, Tailtiu, Rosemerta, Demeter, Ceres, Odin
ElementsFire and water
ActivitiesBaking bread, farming, reaping from your garden, sunbathing (safely), spending time outside, planning next year’s garden, gratitude journaling, crafts
MagickManifestation, self love, protection, fertility, sex
DirectionSouth west
Time of dayLate afternoon
Candle colorsWhite, green, yellow
IncenseRose, Jasmine, Lavender, cedar
Tarot cardStrength

Need to read this blog post offline? Download a PDF copy HERE. You can read it on your Kindle, ereader, or when you don’t have internet access. It’s also an easy way to add the info to your Book of Shadows! It also is a great way to support this blog so that I can keep writing more content for witches and pagans.

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