Celtic Symbols Shine at Harvest Time

By C. Austin

The symbolism of the celtic festival Lughnasadh heralds summer's end and reminds us of the rich symbolism to which we are heir.

Lughnasadh or Lammas is named for the Celtic god Lugh, but the festival also pays homage to the earlier gods Baal and Crom Dubh.

Lugh, the bright god, is a fire god and a prominent champion of the Tuatha de Danaan. In succeeding Baal, some myths place Lugh as Baal's grandson or son and in others, Lugh defeats Baal in battle. Nonetheless, Lugh is the incarnation of Baal and his influence was felt throughout the celtic world. His welsh counterpart is Llew Llaw Gyffes and reminders of his influence are found in the European town names Lyon, Leyden and Legnica.

August 1 marks the first day of the celtic autumn and the beginning of the harvest. The celebratory Fair of Lughnasadh at Tailtean drew tribes from throughout Ireland to test their mettle in horse racing and competitions of strength as well as feasting and bartering.

Another well known feature of the Lughnasadh festival were the "Teltown" marriages. Related to the greenwood marriages of Beltaine, lovers could handfast through a holed stone. Should the union prove disadvantageous, the couple could return a year and a day later to the same place and simply walk away from each other, their commitment dissolved.

While an agriculatural Fair at summer's end seems natural, the festival also honours another theme. Throughout the ancient world the existence of gods who were sacrifically mated to the Goddess was a predominant theme. Lugh is such a god: as Graves points out, "the Anglo-Saxon form of Lughomass, mass in honour of the God Lugh or Llew, was "loaf-mass", with reference to the corn-harvest and the killing of the Corn-King [Lugh]."

Lugh's dark counterpart is Crom Dubh, the "dark bent" god of the harvest. Himself evolved from the proto-Celtic god Donn, Crom Dubh is honoured on the last Sunday in July in Ireland on "Domhnach Chrom Dubh" or "Crom Dubh's Sunday." The day is marked with the annual pilgrimage upon Croagh Patrick in County Mayo.

The celebration and honouring of these themes was fundamental to the fabric of our ancestors' lives. The god and Goddess are as accessible to us today as they were to our forebears. Whether your ceremony is the harvest of a vegetable garden or a walk with friends on August 1st, Lughnasadh and Autumn have arrived, another season has turned.