Lughnasadh is Sunday for my Northern Hemisphere friends! It’s the start of the harvest season and the first of the three festivals on the Wheel of the Year. Lughnasadh marks the first signs of summer fading into autumn, and I don’t know about you, but I’m mighty excited to see the wheel turn!
Watch to learn a bit about the sabbat and how to celebrate, or scroll down to read more.
What is the difference between Lughnasadh and Lammas?
Lughnasadh and Lammas are extremely similar, are even celebrated on the same day, and often used interchangeably by Wiccans. Their origins are different, however. Lughnasadh is a seasonal festival named for Celtic god Lugh, while Lammas is the English counterpart which was observed after Christianity invaded the British Isles.
Lughnasadh is roughly translated to “Lugh’s Gathering” because it’s said the sun god himself created the festival day. Lammas, on the other hand, quite literally translates to “loaf mass”, and is partly responsible for the heavy bread associations with the sabbat.
The symbolism of both festivals is generally so similar that, unless your tradition or culture says otherwise, there isn’t much difference in using one name over the other anymore.
What is Lughnasadh all about?
Legend says that Lugh created a day of Olympic-like games and festivities to honor the death of his mother. It was comprised of athletic competitions, trading and craftsmen shows, huge feasts, and oddly, matchmaking – young couples would undergo a “trial marriage” for a year and a day, at the end of which they could be married properly or cut ties.
It was celebrated across Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man to mark the coming autumn and harvest, and to recognize the imminent dark half of the year.
Nowadays, Lughnasadh is all about that harvest energy. Celebrations often involve an initial feast, to celebrate the toil of working the land, and lots of talk of abundance and thankfulness.
Think of Lughnasadh like an earlier version of Thanksgiving – we gather together with loved ones and eat a ton of food while reflecting on what we’re grateful for.
As a harvest holiday, Lughnasadh is all about basking in the rewards of hard work. It’s a season of “reaping what we sow” and showing acknowledgement and gratitude for all the work we’ve put into whatever it is we do – whether it be personal lives, work, or even spiritual progression. This sabbat reminds us to show gratitude for the abundant prosperity that comes with doing the work – whether it’s literal, as in crops from a garden, or metaphorical, as in personal growth and spiritual connection.
We also take this time to show reverence to the land that gives us life and supports us, and bring our attention to habits and practices that help take care of her. Everything is a cycle, and the earth is about to enter her cycle of darkness and hibernation.
In part because of this symbolism, celebrations have started making a comeback in Ireland and Scotland as cultural events, marked with fairs, festivals, and local pilgrimages.
Ideas to Celebrate
Suggested celebratory activities for Lughnasadh are often conspicuous activities like baking bread from scratch, making corn dollies, burning effigies in bonfires, and harvesting from our own gardens and local lands. These types of activities are all over the internet, but they aren’t always easy to pull off, for various reasons. And sometimes, it gets boring approaching the holiday with the same, tired activities year after year!
Or maybe you have to practice in secret. Or maybe you don’t exactly have a ton of cash to blow, or friends to practice with. Whatever your reason, there are ways to celebrate the start of the harvest that fly under the radar, or cost little to no cash.
Skip the bread ritual this year.
Lughnasadh is the day of the grain harvest, so naturally everyone’s first suggestion is to bake bread. Bread isn’t necessarily costly, but it is time consuming, and it can be tricky if you don’t know the basics.
However, there’s another crop that’s famously tied to Lughnasadh, and that’s corn. So instead of slaving all day over a loaf of bread, why not make buttered popcorn from scratch?
Ingredients: oil (grapeseed and olive are perfect, but my favorite is coconut), popping corn kernels, and butter
- Heat about 3 tablespoons of oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pot) over medium-high heat. Add a couple kernels to the pot and cover it.
- When the kernels pop, the oil is up to temperature. Remove the pot from the heat, take out the popcorn (carefully!) and add the rest of the kernels (about ⅓ a cup). Wait 30 seconds, then add back to the heat.
- The corn should start popping quickly. Make sure to shake the pot back and forth to prevent popped corn from burning. Once it slows considerably, remove from heat again and pour out into a bowl.
Now add your butter! And while you could use store bought butter, we’re already playing in the kitchen, so why not make our own butter? (You probably want to do this part BEFORE making the popcorn, because it can be a bit time consuming.)
Making butter is super easy and requires very few tools. Plus, you can add herbs and flavorings to fit your butter to any holiday or theme. It’s a simple skill that seems super impressive.
Ingredients: heavy whipping cream (yes, that’s it!)
Optional ingredients: flavorings like herbs, garlic, dried fruits, sea salt, etc
You’ll also need either A) a stand mixer, B) a handheld mixer or immersion blender, or C) a mason jar
- Add the butter to the mixing implement and mix until you get whipped cream – and then keep mixing
- In a stand mixer or with a hand blender, this should only take about 5 minutes
- If you’re opting for the mason jar method, you need to shake that jar like your life depends on it for about 20 minutes – the more vigorous you shake the jar, the less time it’ll take
- Whether you’re mixing or shaking, this is a great time to imbue or enchant the butter with blessings of abundance, prosperity, and gratitude.
- The cream will reach a whipped cream consistency, and then start to split. It’s splitting into butter and buttermilk, so keep going until you clearly have a clump of butter and creamy yellow liquid sloshing about around it.
- Save the buttermilk if you want – it’s great for baking but you can also pour it out into the earth as an offering
- Fold in flavorings, and you’re done!
Enjoy your fancy ass butter on your from scratch popcorn.
Clean up green spaces
Harvest time isn’t just about collecting the fruits of our labor. We also need to begin the process of preparing the earth for winter. Even if you don’t have your own green space – and maybe especially if you don’t have your own space – this is the perfect time of year to start thinking about how the earth begins her hibernation and how you can help along that winterization.
In your own garden space, this would mean cutting back plants that need to be cut back to ensure their roots survive the winter. It can also look like cleaning up trash, debris, and dead growth from the summer months before the snow comes in to cover it all.
Take a walk around your neighborhood or local public spaces and notice any areas that need to be tended. You can take this on yourself or reach out to public officials to make sure a plan is in place already.
Create an offering for the earth
Harvest season is a time to focus on the earth; all that she provides, and what we can do to provide for her as well.
Offerings can be simple, symbolic, grand, or action-oriented. The point is to give back to the earth that literally gives us life.
Some ideas: make some food and leave some out for local wildlife or to decompose; bury a crystal or some herbs; adopt a local space and tend to it regularly; bury a portion of the first harvest from your local garden; supplement the local earth with enriched soil from the local garden center; create a small shrine or sanctified area for ritual and prayer – or pour out the buttermilk from earlier!
Please be sure to ONLY bury or toss biodegradable items when giving offerings! Things like processed metals, salt, glass, and dyes from paper and fabrics can cause damage to the microorganisms in the soil and damage the ecosystem. If you wouldn’t put it in a compost bin, don’t bury it in the ground. (And yes, this applies to your spell jars, too)
Have a beer
Beer is made from grain. That’s… that’s it. It’s the grain harvest. Go drink a beer. Bonus points if it’s from a local brewery!
Alternatively, if you don’t drink, you can leave the beer out as an offering to Lugh, Vesta, or other gods of the grain and harvest.
(Please follow your local laws for the age of alcohol consumption and always drink responsibly.)
Visit your local farmer’s market
Many people don’t have the time, space, or skill to grow their own food. Support your local farmers – which supports your local economy AND ecosystem – by shopping from your farmers markets.
Try to create a Lughnasadh meal solely from ingredients you can purchase at the market.
Learn a new skill
Lugh is the god of craftsmen, and it’s said that he knew a number of trades and useful skills. Honor Lugh and your own personal growth by learning something new.
There are plenty of websites that offer free or inexpensive learning courses. Pick something you’ve always had an interest in and do some research! Sites like Skillshare, Udemy, and even Patreon can provide excellent learning opportunities. (Shameless plug: you can unlock great witchy learning opportunities from me by pledging your support to my own Patreon!)
You don’t have to become an expert, and you don’t even need to make use of the skill. Learning for learning’s sake is it’s own reward.
Partake in games or physical activity
Legend says that Lugh created the Olympic-like games played at Lughnasadh to honor the death of his mother. You can honor the dying of the summer with your own physical exertion – get friends together to play a game of kickball, go for a hike, learn how to log toss – the possibilities are endless.
Pair the gathering with a potluck feast and you’ve got yourself something that resembles a traditional Lughnasadh festival!
Celebrating Lughnasadh doesn’t have to be involved or obvious. It’s more about recognizing and honoring the turning of the seasons, bringing our awareness back to the earth, and gathering in abundance and gratitude with friends and loved ones.
How do you plan to celebrate Lughnasadh? Add to my list with your own ideas in the comments! And don’t forget to follow @aradiadarling on TikTok for more Lughnasadh and Lammas tips and ideas all week!