Jul. 17th, 2013

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It's that time again - another High Day. I don't know how they come around so fast. Anyway, I'm leading a ritual with my OBOD grove and I need to do my ADF rite and write the Lá Lúnasa/Lughnasadh essay, so I've been doing a bit of reading. Decided to draft my Lá Lúnasa essay here, before I improve it a bit for the ADF DP documents. 

There's some interesting research about Lughnasadh. One of the best books on the subject of Irish festivals, from a reconstructionist perspective, is 'The Year in Ireland' (1972), which talks about the folk traditions of hill gatherings, harvest fairs, games of agility, strength and skill, and some wonderfully fun references to dunking cattle and sheep in water. Ronald Hutton (1991, p.??)* argues that Lughnasadh is the only Irish festival where a pre-Christian survival is fairly likely, thanks to Máire MacNeill's comprehensive study 'The Festival of Lughnasa', (Hutton 1991, MacNeill 1962). MacNeill argues that pre-Christian customs may have included meals of harvest fare, bull sacrifices, renditions of the story of Lugh's triumph over Balor, and bonfires and visits to holy wells (MacNeill, 1962, p.426). Cunliffe (1997, p.185) also asserts that a celebration of Lugh was central to Lughnasadh, but Hutton (1991, p.??) focuses more closely on the harvest and first-fruits aspects of the festival.

Of course, while interesting, not all of this relates to the way that modern neo-Pagans celebrate Lughnasadh, which is part of what ADF wants us to write about. Drawing from the scholarship, it's possible to see the inspiration that modern Pagans, polytheists and reconstructionists have taken from earlier reports of Lughnasadh celebrations: common modern themes are harvest, celebrations of Lugh's triumph over Balor (and/or the myth of his foster mother Tailtiu), and sometimes games of skill. At this point, Wiccans are celebrating Lammas, sometimes including the stage in the god-cycle where the god begins to decline, while revivalist druids tend to be focusing on the harvest cycle and the cutting down of the corn, which probably has echoes in British folklore. [NB: Referencing of these points will happen when I can find the books that I read that said these things...!] However, the diversity of the neo-Pagan movement, with its many paths (e.g. Adler, 1979), means that there is a wide variety of ways in which each of these festivals is celebrated by neo-Pagans today (where it is at all). I personally like to focus on harvest and on the stories of Lugh (both the myth of Tailtiu and the story of his defeat of Balor). I'll be organizing the Lughnasadh ritual for my OBOD grove, which will focus on the metaphorical harvest of crafts, stories and triumphs that members of the grove will bring to the event. In my personal celebration of Lá Lúnasa, along with my own COoR rite, I will honour Lugh with an offering of my skills.


References
Adler, Margot (1979), Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America. New York City: Viking Press.
Danaher, Kevin (1972), The Year in Ireland: Irish Calendar Customs. Dublin and Cork: Mercia Press.
Hutton, Ronald (1991), The Pagan Religions of the British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford: Blackwell.
MacNeill, Máire (1962), The Festival of Lughnasa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


*I have lent this book to a friend, so I won't be able to verify this or give a page number until I write the final essay. I'm fairly sure that's what he says, though!

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Naomi J./Leithin Cluan/Sophia Catherine

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