Lughnasa is perhaps the most obscure of all the eight festivals of the neo-Pagan year. Unlike Halloween for example, the average person outside of the Pagan community has probably never heard of it – even in Ireland where it survives as Lúnasa, the month of August. It takes its name from Gaelic and means the násad (games or an assembly) of Lugh, a Celtic deity. Lughnasa was recorded in Mediaeval times as one of the four festivals of the old Celtic year (the others being Samhain on November 1st, Imbolc on February 1st and Beltane on May 1st). In modern Pagan literature, Lughnasa is usually described as the festival that marks the start of the harvest. While it is clear that Lughnasa coincides with the first cutting of the corn, the legends of the god Lugh seem to have no immediately obvious harvest connections apart from the fact he is said to have instituted funeral games in honour of his foster mother Tailtiu, who died clearing a great plain. The cult of Lugh was a latecomer into Ireland, introduced by Gaulish or British refugees fleeing from the advancing Roman armies. The name Tailtiu is not Irish in origin but from the Welsh telediw, which means ‘well-formed’. Lugh is often described as a pan-Celtic deity and identified with the continental Lugus, Lud in England and Llew in Wales. His name is probably related to the Proto-Celtic *lug- meaning ‘oath’, and all the indications are that he was neither a god of agriculture nor the sun, as is often claimed.
Mason, Paul; Franklin, Anna . Lughnasa (The Eight Festivals Book 2) (Kindle Locations 304-310). Lear Books. Kindle Edition.
The central part of Lugh’s story is the rivalry between him and his grandfather Balor and the battle for supremacy and kingship between the Tuatha de Danaan and the Formorians. The pattern of Lugh’s tale is a common mythic theme and begins with a prophecy that the grandson (or son) of the king will overthrow him. The king takes the precaution of locking his daughter up in a tower, but she manages to meet a lover and gives birth to a son. The king then sets his daughter and grandson adrift in a basket or chest in a river or on the sea, expecting both to die. However, the two are saved and after some time in exile the young prince returns to overthrow the old king. There could be various explanations as to what the story means: the old grandfather may be the setting sun, or the dying sun of winter or autumn, while the young man represents the dawn sun or spring-summer sun; the old king may be the old year and the young
prince the new; they may represent seasonal gods – when one season grows old a new season succeeds it; the old god may represent the forces of blight and winter that have to be overcome by the spring, or a fresh force may have to supplant a corrupt regime.
Mason, Paul; Franklin, Anna . Lughnasa (The Eight Festivals Book 2) (Kindle Locations 317-319). Lear Books. Kindle Edition.
In England, the first day of August was known as Lammas, probably from the Anglo-Saxon hlaef-mass meaning ‘loaf-mass’. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 921 CE mentions it as ‘the feast of first fruits’, as does the Red Book of Derby. It was a popular ceremony during the Middle Ages but died out after the Reformation, though the custom is being revived in places. It marked the time when the first of the grain crop was gathered in, ground in a mill and baked into a loaf.
Mason, Paul; Franklin, Anna . Lughnasa (The Eight Festivals Book 2) (Kindle Locations 332-336). Lear Books. Kindle Edition.