As a part of the Wheel of the Year, Lughnasadh is the time when the God, in His aspect as King, watches as the Goddess continues to grow with his child. He watches this with sorrow, sensing that his death will not be long in coming. And yet, Lughnasadh is the season of transformation, when grain becomes bread, and so he knows that he will only be changing form, not vanishing forever.
Themes and Practices of Lughnasadh
Lughnasadh celebrates the death and rebirth of Lugh. It is a time of sacrifice and thanksgiving, and in ancient times true sacrifice often happened at this festival. Today, Wiccans celebrate by sacrificing those things that are inappropriate in life, such as hatred, fear, or illness. Lughnasadh is also about making sure we have given enough for what we have received. It is often easier to think about what we have and what we can get than it is to think about what we have given. Therefore, many Wiccans make it a point to give back on this day in whatever manner they feel is appropriate for them.
There are many symbols that are associated with Lughnasadh. Some of these include:
- Corn dollies
- Gingerbread men representing the Sacrificial King
- Sheaves of grain
- Dark green plants such as ferns
The central part of your meal should revolve around grains. Breads, pastries, cookies, and pies are all good ideas. Breads in the shape of men that can be sacrificed (eaten or even thrown into the fire) are especially appropriate.
Any game meat can be served at Lughnasadh. Rabbit is traditional, as rabbits would be chased from the fields as the harvest began, but you can use anything you like. Chicken and pork both work well. Vegetables and fruits of the season can be served alongside your meat and bread for a full meal.
There are many options for creating a full Lughnasadh feast, including:
- Meat pies
- Cornish-style pasties
- Salads made with dark green vegetables and light olive oil dressing
When choosing beverages for this Sabbat, keep in mind the colors of the harvest and the various grains, fruits, and vegetables naturally available. Yellow ales and ciders are popular, as are fruit juices and lemonade. If you want to get a little more festive, consider making Harvest Mead. You’ll have to plan for this in advance, since a good Harvest Mead can’t be made in an hour. If you’re hosting games or other physical activities, have sparkling water on hand to quench thirst.
One of the most traditional ways to celebrate Lughnasadh is to make your own Sacrificial King out of cornhusks, straw, or sheaves of grain. Take your straw (or whatever you happen to be using) and gather it together. Fold the entire thing in half and tie off the top so you have a head. Add another tie about midway down the body for a waist. Divide the straw below the waist into two and tie off for legs. Use another bundle of straw to make arms and tie this to the body. To be really traditional, you should use straw to tie the bundle, but I use thread in a matching color. It’s easier to work with and thin enough that you don’t even see it.
Once you have your Sacrificial King, use him to decorate your ritual space. Later, make a game out of slaying the Sacrificial King. Stand him up or tie him to a tree and fire arrows at him. Whoever gets closest to the head or heart wins. Or assign points to certain areas of the body and give everyone three tries. If you can’t fire an arrow, use darts. Just make sure you’re careful with this. You don’t want one of your guests or family members to be hit with an arrow or dart!
This Sacrificial King can be used again when the bonfire is lit. Throw him into the fire and see your negative emotions or bad habits burning with him. Keep watching him until he is reduced to ash.
Games that honor Lugh are common for a Lughnasadh celebration. Anything that tests a skill can be used as a game. Try archery contests, wrestling, games of chess, poetry readings, or anything else that’s fun and inspires competition. Award prizes for the winners.
You will probably also celebrate Lughnasadh with a ritual or ceremony. However, magick not in keeping with the themes of the Sabbat should be avoided. Try to use the Sabbats as a way to honor the Goddess and the God, not practicing magick for your own ends.
Dressing for Lughnasadh
Get into the spirit of the season by dressing for Lughnasadh. Pick clothing in the traditional colors of yellow and dark green. You might wish to wear ritual robes or something even fancier. Whatever you choose should be comfortable, functional, and possibly even decorated with the symbols of Lughnasadh. You could also choose the colors of the Goddess and the God. The God is often associated with gold, yellow, and orange during this festival while dark green or even red is for the Goddess.
Lughnasadh represents the beginning of the harvest season. It is a time to be thankful for what we have and an acknowledgement that everything we are given must be paid for.