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LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS is one of the eight annual holidays, referred to as 'Sabbats', which are observed as part of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. There are four Greater Sabbats: Samhain (31st October), Imbolc (2nd February), Beltane (1st May) and Lughnasadh/Lammas (1st August); and four Lesser Sabbats: Yule/Winter Solstice (21st December), Ostara/Spring Equinox (20th March), Litha/Summer Solstice (21st June) and Mabon/Autumn Equinox (22nd September). Solstices occur when the Sun enters Capricorn and Cancer; Equinoxes when the Sun enters Aries and Libra.

The festival of LUGHNASADH marks the time of the first corn harvest - and the name literally means the 'nasad' or feast of Lugh, and is of Southern Irish origin. The Anglo Saxons named this ancient festival hlafmaesse, meaning 'loaf mass' or 'bread mass'. All these names refer to a thanksgiving feast to celebrate the first of the corn harvest - and to this day, this feast is always celebrated with bread, wheat and ale or beer. LUGHNASADH was a time for feasting and games, much like the modern Olympic Games, that took place around the time of the first harvest. Games of this form can be seen in the traditional Scottish Highland Games which take place during the Summer months.

In Irish mythology, Lugh, who symbolises the harvest, is brought to find a wife. However, none can be found, so one is fashioned for him out of flowers. However, his flower bride is lured away by another and Lugh is killed in the ensuing battle. The killing of Lugh symbolises both the harvest, and the end of Summer, which is seen at SAMHAIN.


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It is a common tradition at LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS for hand-fastings to take place. These are a form of marriage, where each party agrees to remain together for a year and a day - if after this time they are still together, they would be considered man and wife, but if they wished to part they could do so, with no ties and no ill will. It is from this ancient ceremony where hands are literally 'fasted' (fastened together with cord) that we derive the colloquial term 'to tie the knot'!

At LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS the fields stand golden-proud with ripened grain. Sunflowers turn their eager faces towards the golden orb, tomatoes and peaches ripen, fleshy and succulent on the vine, and everywhere the Goddess blesses us with her bounty. Native Americans honoured their life sustaining crop by referring to the August Full Moon as the 'Corn Moon', and ancient Romans paid tribute to two of their greatest Goddess figures in August: Diana and Venus. In modern times, this honouring of the Divine Feminine has been kept alive with the Christian feast day of the Virgin Mary in August.



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LAMMAS is a festival of rich colour, with an abundance of produce. Although the Earth is offering up the richness of her fruits, we know that Summer is ending and the countryside feels noticeably different betwixt the profusion of Her bounty. We already feel the approach of Autumn and Winter, and many wild plants have already dried up and gone into their time of rest and renewal; the weather begins to feel cooler and the nights draw in. At LUGHNASADH, the Sun God is lovingly sacrificed by the Corn Goddess, thereby ensuring plentiful crops for the next year. His blood feeds the land and ensure fertility. His role of kingship has come to its conclusion - he has finished the work he was called to do - now he must die and return to the Underworld to undergo renewal, and to care for the souls of the dead. LAMMAS marks the first harvest festival of the year, and a time to honour the beginning of the grain harvests. The hunter has now become the hunted. The God is a being of fertility. His function is to lie with the Goddess (the Earth), impregnate her, marry her, stand by her side to aid the ripening of the land, and then to die when his help is no longer necessary. He is reaped and harvested by the Goddess; just as we reap the fields of wheat and barley. She cuts him down with sickle, striking him below the knee and then upon the shoulder. (After LITHA/Summer Solstice, the Sun begins to gradually decline and grow weaker, hence the 'death' of the Sun King.)

The death of the God is just an earthly death, for life in the Underworld continues, and his soul begins further development. The death of the God promises his rebirth at YULE. The dead King/God always comes back to life!



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At LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS, it was traditional in the Scottish Highlands to sprinkle drops of menstrual blood on doorposts and around the house using a wisp of straw. The sprinkling was always done 'sunwise'. This was considered to be a potent charm against evil and ill luck! The famous English folksong 'John Barleycorn' is much more than a representation of the production of whisky or beer from the crop and the indignities he suffers in that process. It is interesting to note the correlation between the ancient Pagan ceremony of LAMAS and this 'ditty'!

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Neo-Pagan Handfasting - Photograph by Gordon

  • Gods and Goddesses of Lughnasadh:  Lugh, Llew, Lug, Beli, Morrigan, The Reaping Mother.
  • Lughnasadh Incense:  Ginger.
  • Candle Colours: Gold or Golden-Yellow.
  • Organic Materials: Wheat, Barley, Ale or Beer, Bread.
  • Recipe for Lughnasadh Bread Pudding:  1llb bread (stale), 1 pint milk, 4oz currants, 4oz suet, 2tsp mixed spice, 2 eggs, 4oz sugar, 2oz mixed peel, 2oz flour, grated rind of 1 lemon.  Soak bread in water until soft, squeeze out excess.  Add all ingredients - apart from eggs - and combine well.  Beat eggs and stir into pudding.  Pour into baking tin and bake for 1 hour at 180*C.  Serve hot or cold.  Praise the Goddess for Her bounty!

Lughnasadh Activities

  • Lughnasadh Corn Dolly - Traditionally made from the last sheaf of the grain, we can allow ourselves the oversight of this fact! Gather together long stems of wheat, corn husks, dried alfalfa, or if you're a city dweller, raffia will do just as nicely! Fashion either an abstract figure or a more doll-shaped figure. Decorate her with cloth, feathers and beads. Pass the dolly through the smoke of your ritual fire to bless her and protect your home.
  • Bake bread! Do it the old fashioned way by hand (never mind the bread maker today!) and get back to your roots! Amaze yourself at how easy it is to make, and astonish your friends and family as the dough rises and the wonderful smell of fresh baked bread wafts through your house!
  • Make your own home brew in honour of John Barleycorn! You may not yet be able to drink it, but it will be worth the wait!
  • For the traditionalists among you, retain a small phial of your menstrual blood (or if male, obtain from a close friend or relative) and lightly smear around house and hearth to protect your home.
  • Visit a farmers' market (even better if you grow your own!) and make a hearty meal of fresh veg and fruits; invite your friends and family for a harvest celebration feast!


Ceremonial Tools: Scarlet altar cloth, wheat, barley, golden-yellow candle, small loaf of bread, cup of beer or ale, small bunch of corn tied with red ribbon, cauldron, sickle. (Additional items if required - crowns of seasonal flowers and fruits for the female and male element).

Decorate Altar with scarlet cloth, wheat and barley, golden-yellow candle, bread and cup of ale or beer. Cauldron should be placed in the North West. (If undertaking the ritual as a couple, invoke as denoted; if working solo invoke all parts.) Circle opened and consecrated.


REPRESENTATIVE OF THE FEMALE ELEMENT: Goddess of the Grain, Harvest Mother, Join with us on this the Feast of Lugh. The corn stands ripe in the fields, We give thanks for the fruitful earth. Now is the time for the reaping of the Corn King. We sorrow for his dying, Yet rejoice in his coming again.

REPRESENTATIVE OF THE MALE ELEMENT: I call upon the Corn King To be with us this night. We honour his virility. We worship his fertility. We sorrow in his dying, Yet rejoice in his coming again.

BOTH: Blessings to the Corn King who dies yet lives again!

The Female Element lights the golden-yellow candle at the altar saying: This is the Corn King, Whose light has warmed the land. This is the Sun King Who ripens the grain.

The Male Element: On this night the Corn King departs, For rest in the Underworld. Go now with love, Go now with honour, Go now with blessings.

The Female Element (takes the sickle and swipes it as if cutting corn at knee hight, returns it to the altar, then takes the candle, snuffs out the flame and lays the candle down): The Corn King is dead!

The Male Element (takes the bunch of corn and burns it over the cauldron): The Corn King is dead! He enters the cauldron of rebirth!

Both: So mote it be! A few moments are spent in contemplation. The bread and ale are blessed and shared. Circle closed and deconsecrated.

Ritual, Jan Brodie



Picture courtesy of Eastbourne Lammas Festival www.lammasfest.org

John Barleycorn Must Die! (c. 18th century)

There were three men
Came from the west
Their fortunes for to tell,
And the life of John Barleycorn
As well
They laid him three furrows deep,
Laid clods upon his head,
Then these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn was dead.
They let him die for a very long time
Till the rain from heaven did fall,
Then little Sir John sprang up his head
And he did amaze them all.
They let him stand till the midsummer day,
Till he looked both pale and wan.
Then little Sir John he grew a long beard
And so became a man.
They have hired men with the scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee,
They rolled and they tied him around the waist,
They served him barbarously.
They have hired men with the crab-tree sticks,
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller he has served him worse than that,
For he's ground him between two stones.
They've wheeled him here,
They've wheeled him there,
They've wheeled him to a barn,
And they have served him worse than that,
They've bunged him in a vat.
They have worked their will on John Barleycorn
But he lived to tell the tale,
For they pour him out of an old brown jug
And they call him home brewed ale.

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