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Lughnasadh

By BellaDonna Saberhagen

The last of the Celtic fire festivals is upon us and while the heat of summer is still strong, it’s time to think of harvesting what we’ve sown before the evil Eye of Balor scorches it, leaving it useless dust. Lughnasadh was the time of the grain festival, but it was more than that, it was a time to welcome friends back home, see how the roving herds got along, take stock before winter and it was a time to play games.

Contrary to popular belief, Lughnasadh is not named for Lugh because he somehow sacrifices himself with the grain (that only becomes true in those traditions which conflate him with John Barleycorn) ; it’s named for him because He started the festival Himself. He invented it. The connections between Lughnasadh and the grain harvest are probably a later addition (though an understandable addition due to the time frame during which the festival occurred) .

So, what was the Lughnasadh that Lugh envisioned? Basically, it was the Irish Olympics. He intended there to be great sporting events held to honor, not himself, but his foster-mother Tailtiu. The Celts had a long tradition of sending their children into fosterage, and it was said that the bonds forged by fosterage were stronger than those born of blood relation. This seems to have been true, at least in Lugh’s case, as he killed his maternal grandfather, Balor; but honored his foster-mother upon her death by founding Lughnasadh.

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