Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lughnasadh. Lammas, the harvest begins

As August begins so does the harvest, in the heat of summer are the beginnings of the next season. Though the suns is still intense,it also sets earlier, a few short weeks ago one could still read outdoors at  9PM, now there is only the faintest glow.  
Now is when the crops give up the bounty for our survival, it is as true now as it was millennia ago, even thought at first glance not as apparent. 

 The first fresh grain  was a cause for celebration, in Celtic  tradition the first sheaves of grain are cut on the morning of August 1st and the first loaves made with that new grain and ready to eat by nightfall, grain that will feed everyone in the coming  months.  Lamas, literally "loaf mass"   a loaf made from the first harvested grain was often made in the shape of a man to honor the harvest and the spirit of  the  grain harvest, thus completing the cycle. 

The harvest is brought in over months, as all crops do not ripen on the same day.  A backyard farmer like me, will have  extras that need to be put-up or preserved in some way, beginning in the spring with rhubarb, asparagus, garlic and ending with sometimes as the snow is falling with potatoes, Brussels sprouts and onions.  In that long ago time, there were of course some food vendors, but a family needed to rely on their own work and resourcefulness to survive the months until the next harvest.  It is indeed difficult even for me to imagine how much effort went into making sure that there was enough grain to make a years worth of bread, it is also a good time to honor the work and ingenuity of our ancestors.  Lammas added a Christian element to a much older tradition.

It was also the custom to give gloves as a gift, not only for the obvious reasons ,  warmth in the coming cold months  and that last years were probably worn through, but also as a gesture of benevolent authority by the landowner toward a tenant.   Also possibly because during the Middle ages this was the time of year when Guilds set of fairs where there members could sell their work, there were  musicians and performers of all sorts on the village greens of cities and towns alike.  Farmers who had good harvests  and had produce to sell and extra money in their pockets to spend.

Lughnasadh, also falls on the cross quarter day between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox, it honors  Lugh of Many Skills, and was originally a funeral feast  instituted by Lugh to honor his foster mother,  Tailtiu, who died after clearing a vast plain so that the people of Ireland would have a place to grow enough grain to fend off starvation.
Lughnasadh festivities not only a celebrated of the beginning of the harvest , but encompassed sporting events and games, fairs for craftsmen and artisans, music and entertainment, and honored the ancestors,  the many skills of Lugh, were also the many skills of man, the skills needed to survive. 

~~Selena Fox
 It was also the time of year when couples would enter into a Tailtian Marriage, which were meant to last until next years festival.  

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