Lughnassadh Rites and Charms

Ritual Category: 
Lúghnasadh is also known as Lughnasa (Modern Irish), Lugnasad (Old Irish), Lúnasa (Reformed Modern Irish), Lúnasdain, Lúnasdal, Lunasduinn (Scots Gaelic) and Laa Luanisdyn or Laa Luanys (in Manx), Lammas Day, Garland Day, Domnash Chrom Dubh, Crom Dubh Sunday, Billberry Sunday (Domthnach na bhFraochóga in Ireland), and Fraugham Sunday.It marks the end of summer and beginning of fall, and was was traditionally up to a month long, held between July 15 and August 15. Nowadays, it is usually celebrated on or near August 1. (based on material from "The Wheel of the Year at Muin Mound Grove, ADF" by Rev. Skip Ellison).On the Nature of SovereigntyOn LughnassadhA Celtic LughnassadhWild Onion Grove Lughnassadh
Ritual Category: 
(Note, this was originally included as a preamble to the Stone Creed Grove Lughnassadh ritual published in Oak Leaves 7.) Lughnassadh—the night before August 2 or the point between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox or full moon of August. Lughnassadh marks the fourth and last of the Celtic year's great feasts. It marks the beginning of the time of ripening, the last moment of rest before Summer's balm turns to fall's labor. In Erin it marked the year's greatest gatherings and fairs, when every clan met in peace. Agriculturally, Lughnassadh is the time of ripening fruits and nuts, when the land begins to give forth its bounty. The labor of planting and tending young shoots is ended. The labor of harvesting and laying up lies ahead. The corn stands high, nearly ripe, but prey to storm and crushing hail. With the crops in fate's hands the folk gather to take their ease and pray for a good harvest. Lughnassadh translates as the "wedding feast of Lugh". The young hero is wed to the Holy Land to protect it from the perils of the storm until the harvest. Lughnassadh's mythic patterns center around the young god Lugh, whose name means "light". He is an example of the Celtic motif of the young son, born magically of a union between the gods and Giants. He is welcome into the Hall of the gods because he is the master of every skill, and he is the slayer of Balor, the sorcerer king of the Fomors, opponents of the gods. He wields the Spear of Victory, that never misses its mark. Lugh is a newcomer to the family of the god/desses and become champion of the gods, perhaps replacing Ogham, and the Tanist-heir apparent—replacing Angus Og as a protector and defender against ill he in invoked in this season to protect the growing crops from storm or blight. The modern holy day Lughnassadh is perhaps the most agricultural of the four Celtic feasts. It is celebrated as First Harvest, and offerings are made to protect the crops. It is a time for handfastings and contracts, as the god of Light is wed to the goddess of the Land. Loaves of bread are blessed and offered, along with beer, and the symbol of the Spear of Victory is honored.
Ritual Category: 
In the history of our language, the meanings of words tend to migrate. For example, when I was a young man, just about everyone politically to the left of the Klan was proud to proclaim themselves as being "feminist". Well, that was the 70's. Since then, the Reaganite conservative backlash of the 1980's and its wildfire takeover of our culture so altered popular attitudes to many so-called "liberal" topics that it actually redefined parts of the American lexicon. Persons who came of age after that period were subtly taught by this trend in our language to be made uncomfortable by words like "feminist" or "liberal", perhaps in much the same way that the previous generation was cultured to squirm when confronted with words like "patriotism" or "morality".In our Neopagan subculture we work with the power of words like witch, pagan, shaman or druid, changing and even inverting their traditional meanings, hoping to reclaim the power once stolen from them by the advent of Christianity. Such lexicon-shuffling makes sense to us as insiders but continues to baffle those on the outside in the general culture. Trends like this, along with the examples mentioned above, started out representing the politics of those who initiated the change, yet later we find the changes being propagated along in the common language, by those relatively unaware of the words' essential or traditional usage.Another linguistic trend for us to consider is the effect of using terms outside of their original contexts, in a metaphorical or even hyperbolic sense, often as a means to represent an aspect of the self or a new perspective on certain psychological issues. "Spiritual Warrior" and "(Urban) Shaman" spring forward as familiar examples. Which, brings us a little closer to our main topic....SovereigntyWhat is sovereign?Who is sovereign?Who is a sovereign?What is a sovereign?Look closely. For a start, there we have four uses: implying at least four definitions with significant distinctions between them, some of which are very different than the others. Let it suffice that they all share one primary concept: rulership.In our Druidic studies, the definitions we most often encounter are those used in anthropology and the study of society. The role and symbols of sovereignty are of great interest in Indo-European Studies and considered key to understanding one of the main components of the much-touted threefold division of the IE worldview and societal structure Dumezil called the Tripartite Ideology.Georges Dumezil described the IE society as having rested on the shoulders of the farmers and tradesfolk, who he referred to as the Providers (keyword: Fecundity), working in service-to and protected by the Warriors (keyword: Force), lorded over and guided by a dual top function he called Sacred Sovereignty. This was comprised of the shared rulership of a Magician-King, in concert with a powerful Jurist-Priest. To me, the clearest example of this is the one I never seem to find in the literature: the medieval kingship of England, described as a Divine Kingship with it's formalized sharing of power with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Arthur and Merlin also come to mind. The King (or Queen) as an individual, represented the embodiment of the nation of people, magically wed to the land itself. This sacred relationship was tended and sustained through the stewardship of the chief priest as interpreter of sacred law, constantly informing the actions of the ruler with the will of the gods.So is sovereignty just a matter of rulership at the top of a societal structure? Well certainly there are other uses for the term and more are being spun up all the time. The socio-political definition we just discussed has much room for exploration at the mythic level; for a thorough treatment of the subject as it appears in the Mabinogion and Arthurian lore, see Caitlin Matthews' book Arthur and the Sovereignty of Britain. Dumezil's book Mitra-Varuna is one of his most focused studies of the dual role of Sacred Sovereignty.In the psychology of personality and the mystical systems for personal self-knowledge and transformation such as Magick and Alchemy, sovereignty is seen less as a goddess or sacred role in society but rather as an element of the self, one through which we reclaim the right to the wholeness of the self and the invincibility of the self-actualized individual. The notion of becoming personally sovereign, recovering full rulership of one's self, is potentially a healing and liberating prospect for the mystic in us all.Lughnassad and SovereigntySo how does Sovereignty come to figure so prominently in our Lughnassad rites? Why Lughnassad? In previous articles I have spoken of the essential need for our rites to combine ancient tradition with a seasonal theme to assure that the rite functions in a way that makes some sense to the modern soul. Not simply cobbling together a bogus "historical reenactment" from a bunch of fragments but striving to create something that is symbolically and mythically functional at many levels, we incorporate the powerful effect of rooting it in the seasonal calendar of our lives. Thereby the seasonal connection can be used as a personal metaphor for the current cycle in one's development or life-passages.Each of the eight intervals of the year is like a step along the pathway of a lifetime, the seasons of a life. Through this pattern we can find our way at many symbolic levels, transitioning from one stage to another. The Year becomes a great emblem of all cycles great and small and we see ourselves inextricably woven into its turning.Following the living mystery in the nested metaphor: "a day is a year, is a lifetime",we can see our lives now at Lammastide, as the grain stands ready for the Harvester's return, the divine role of the long awaited responsibility for our own Dharma or sacred life-work is presented before us: an initiation for ourself, unto our Self.Of horses, fairs, and the bridled bride, the King takes a bride and the beggars approach the table of the newlywed sovereigns...To the Celts, Lughnassad, seems to have been a gathering of the tribes, a time not only for for horse-trading and various competitions but we also find a persistent theme of weddings, particularly weddings of state and investitures. One somewhat obscure citation has Lugh, the golden Lord of All Skills, wedded to Aine or Eire on this feast, hence the name: "the Wedding Games of Lugh". Through this investiture, the divine wedding of the monarch to the land, the celestial realm of the divinities is linked with the fertile, chthonic power of the Earth and those who dwell below. Symbolic of that union and of the nation as the union of the people and the land, Sovereignty, honored as a goddess, emerges from the lore of many IE cultures. The goddesses Eire, Britannia, and perhaps even our own Lady Liberty have more life to them than the metal in our pockets which has borne their images over the centuries. It is no accident that in the common language, the term "sovereigns" also referred to coinage, for whether it had the king's head upon it or the queen's, or the very symbol of the Union which their role served, the spirit for which it stood was always Her...
Ritual Category: 
This is intended to be performed as part of a standard ADF ritual, with those parts not mentioned performed according to the grove's usual traditions. This ritual was originally performed with more than one grove in attendance; the chieftains mentioned are the senior druids. Large gatherings are traditional at Lughnasad, so it is nice if more than one grove can get together for the ritual. It is easy enough to adapt this for a single grove, though. The ritual is meant to be performed in a clearing in the woods, or at least in an open space that verges on woods or another wild area. During the ritual, a drummer keeps a heart beat rhythm throughout, except where noted. This ritual is based almost entirely on the one suggested by Maire MacNeill (p. 426). Of course, hers involves an entire village, takes about a week, requires an agricultural community, and includes the sacrifice of an actual bull. Some adaptation was necessary. This ritual is a continuation of the Beltane ritual, in which the Outsiders are offered to so they will allow us to build our fields in their midst. At Beltane we approach them in fear; we are so young, and they are so old. By Lughnasad, we have earned the right to approach them as equals. As equals, we can form a treaty with them, with exchange of gifts and the establishment of a reciprocal relationship between us. According to MacNeil, the Lughnasad ritual involved a replacement of Crom Dubh, the original ruler, with Lugh. I combined this with some Vedic concepts, in which Varuna, originally one of the asuras, or Outsiders, becomes promoted to the status of celestial deity, where he joins with Mitra to maintain law and order. Crom Dubh is a chthonic figure, and Lugh has many parallels with Mitra. There is a possibility that the Crom Dubh/Lugh interaction may be similar to that of Mitra-Varuna. The ritual identifies Crom Dubh with the bull that is sacrificed. Through a triple death, he is elevated to the status of celestial deity. Thus the treaty is established not only by the exchange of food, but also through the promotion of one of the chthonic deities to the status of a celestial one.   Props A loaf of bread baked in the shape of a bull. A board to put it on, and a cloth to cover it with. A bowl of barley. A spear. A bowl of wild food, preferably berries picked in the wild area around the ritual space. A low table or board on which to place items (called the "clar," "table" in Irish Gaelic.) Celebrants Two Priests (D1 and D2 -- D2 is intended to be the Senior Druid of the hosting grove.) Diviner Champion Drummer Any other Senior Druids present A child of the grove The Outsiders After the space is esablished, the fire lit, and the kindred called to, the ritual continues with the offerings to the Outsiders. The Diviner goes to the west of the fire and picks up the bull bread, which is on a board and covered. D1: Since Beltane we have worked, we have cleared and we have planted, taking our fields from the unmarked lands, measuring our world out in their midst and in the midst as well of those who dwell there, those who dwell beyond the borders, those who dwell in the surrounding lands. D2: At Beltane we made offering, to assuage the Outsiders to appease them and please them to win from them their grudging consent for us to form our island world, our homes, our culture, our people, our fields, within the great surrounding sea. Diviner: All this was done on the land that had lain untilled. All this was done with the consent of that land's ruler. All this was done under the gaze of Crom Dubh! Diviner removes the cloth and lifts the bull up. All sing: Black bull, crooked one, ruler of the dark land, Black bull, crooked one, ruler of the depths. He brings the bull deosil around the circle. As he passes each person, they lift their arms in honor to him. When he has completed the round, he puts the bull again to the west of the fire and returns to his place. The others put their arms down as he puts the bull down. D1 picks up barley and sprinkles it over the bull while D2 says: D2: The fertilizing rain that falls from above honors the Old Bull, marks him out, reestablishes his place as head of the herd. D1 steps back to his place and says: D1: If the High King is Crom Dubh, Who is the king of our tribe? Who is the champion of our people? Whose strong arm has enabled our crops to grow? The champion holds up the spear and says: Lugh is our champion! The others repeat this. They sing: Strong hand, bright one, Spear tip, Lugh is our champion; Long hand, skilled one, Young bull, Lugh is our champion! The champion goes deosil around the circle with the spear held high. As each person is passed, they lift their arms in honor to him. After the circuit is competed, the champion brings the spear to D1 and holds it in front of him. The others lower their arms. D1 says: D1: Your golden spear tips in the radiant fields proclaim the work of your skillful hand. He takes the spear from the champion, who returns to her place. D1 takes a step forward. D2: Through your skill and courage you have brought us to harvest. D1 takes a step forward. D2: Through the power that shines from your head you have defeated all that opposed you. D1 takes a step forward. D2: By the might that is found in your unloosed spear you have earned the high kingship for yourself. D1 cuts the head of the bull off with the spear. The drumbeat stops with a bang. He removes the head and places it on the east side of the fire. The drumbeat starts again. He then returns to his place and hands the spear to D2, saying: D1: Chief above us, this spear is entrusted to your keeping. D2 holds the spear up and says: D2: Strong in Lugh, we have proven our right to exist, before the ones who dwell in the land about us. By bringing our plantings to the point of harvest, we have reached a point of equality with them. She lowers the spear and says: D2: Diviner of the tribe, collect the first fruits. The Diviner goes about the nemeton with the bowl and gathers the first fruits from the people. D2 says: D2: Chieftains of the tribe, we go together to the land outside, we go in strength, as equals to equals. We go with gifts, to establish the bonds. The champion goes to her and is given the spear back. D2 picks up the board with the bull's body and goes to the gateway with the champion before her. At the gateway, the diviner joins in between the champion and D2, and the other senior druids present join in behind D2. The diviner gives one of them the first fruits. The resultant order is champion (with spear), diviner (with the cloth from the bull), D2 (with bull), and the other chieftains (one with the first fruits). As they pass out of the nemeton, the drumming stops. They go to the edge of the woods, where a hole has been dug earlier. The spear, the first fruits, and the bull are raised up. The Diviner says: Diviner: To those beyond the borders whether gods or goddesses whether spirits or dead to those who were before us and dwell in the darkness of our world's shadow We come to you with offering. (The following speech is split up amongst the chieftains present.) D2: Lugh has come to you, the new high king. He has vanquished Crom Dubh, whose lordship you acknowledged. The Old Bull is dead; recognize as your new high king the Young Bull, who comes to you with shining head high. We come to you with our well-earned harvest seeking in exchange a treaty peace. Although not one people, may our tribes be at peace. D2 goes to the hole, accompanied by the champion and the Diviner. She puts the body of the bull into the hole, saying: D2: Return, return, return to the unplowed field of which you are rightly lord. The chieftain then gives her the first fruits, and she puts them on top of the bull, saying: D2: Receive your rightful share. She then fills in the dirt over the offerings, saying: D2: Honored be the mounds of those who dwell beneath. They rejoin the others, and D2 says: D2: Outsiders, and Spirits of the Land, you see here the high king and the chieftains of the people. We have offered to you as the law requires. The Diviner goes to beside the mound, where there the bowl of wild food has been placed before the ritual. He brings it to D2 and says: Diviner: The Outsiders and Nature Spirits know the law as well: A gift for a gift, and a bond of hospitality with them. A treaty peace is established. D2 takes the wild food and says: D2: A gift has been offered, a gift has been accepted. A gift has been offered, a gift has been accepted. The peace is established between us indeed. All except the Diviner returns to the nemeton. The Diviner sits at or on the mound, and covers himself with the cloth from the bull and divines. The order of the others this time is D2 (with wild food), chieftains, and champion (with spear). At the gateway they stop and a child of the grove comes to the gate and says: Child: Have the Children of Danu made peace with the Land Dwellers? D2: With gift and gift, a hospitable peace is established. They enter the nemeton and the drumming resumes. The wild food is passed around. When all have eaten some of it, the rest is placed on the clar. It must be consumed at the feast afterwards. Offerings After all the praise offerings are made, D1 goes to the champion, who gives him the spear. He takes the spear and transfixes the bull's head with it. He holds the head high for a moment, pointing it towards the top of the bile. He then puts it into the fire and says: D1: Beheaded, buried, and burnt. Crom Dubh, you have well undergone the necessary sacrifices. Go, now, to the celestial realms, to the land of sky, where dwell the shining ones. Take your place amongst them, as ruler beside Lugh. D2: Has the Diviner received the omens? The Diviner removes the cloth and returns to the nemeton. He stands at its edge and gives the omens. The ritual then continues in the normal way. References MacNeill, Maire. The Festival of Lughnasa. Oxford: The Oxford University Press, 1962. Rig Veda. ed. and tr. O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1981.
Ritual Category: 
Pre-Ritual Activities (A) Pre-Ritual Briefing (B) Individual Meditations and Prayers 1st Phase: Starting the Rite and Establishing the Group mind Clear-cut Beginning: Consecration of Time (1) Musical Signal (2) Opening Prayer Consecration of Space & of Participants (3) The Processional/Sigil Marking "We Approach the Sacred Grove" We approach the Sacred Grove, with hearts and minds and flesh and bone. Join us now in ways of old, we have come home. (4) Honoring the Earth-Mother ”O Earth Mother” Centering, Grounding & Merging (5) Grove Meditation (6) Unity Chant/Song "Mothers and Fathers of Old" From far beyond this mortal plain, Mothers and Fathers of old. We pray that you return again, Mothers and Fathers of old. To share with us the mysteries, and secrets long untold. And the ancient ways we seek to reclaim, Mothers and Fathers of old. (7) Specification of Ritual Purpose & Historical Precedent (8) Naming the Deity of the Occasion & Reasons for Choice 2nd Phase: Recreating the Cosmos & Preliminaries Creating the Vertical Axis (9) Planting the Cosmic Tree/Honoring the Sacred Pole By Fire and by Water, Beneath the Earth and Sky We stand like the World Tree, rooted deep, crowned high. (10) Evoking the GateKeeper "Siúil Linn A Mhannannan" Shu-lin o wananan, Walk with us Mannannan. Shu-lin o wananan, Walk with us Mannannan. Shu-lin o wananan, Walk with us Mannannan. Gaining Assistance & Preventing Interference (11) Invoking the Bardic Deity(ies) (12) Acknowledgment of the Outsiders O Outsiders, You who dwell outside our kith and ken, Beyond that which we know, that which we believe, and beyond even that which we can conceive. We offer this token on this joyous Lughnasadh, Though it may not be your way, it is ours. Filling Out the Cosmic Picture by Invoking... (13a) Nature Spirits, Ancestors, Deities O Nature Spirits, You who dwell in wooded glens and shining lakes, windswept deserts and majestic oceans, Join us on this joyous Lunasa, Bring us your passion, your joy of life and your love. O Ancestors, Progenitors of our Clan and our thoughts, Join us on this joyous Lunasa, Bring us your experience, your wisdom and your love. O Mighty Ones, Gods and Goddesses of many names and faces, Join us on this joyous Lunasa, Bring us your power, your awesome aspect and your love. (13b) Helpful Beings by Province/Function Spirits and Beings of the Warriors, Producers and Scholars, Join us on this joyous Lunasa, Bring us your strength, your support and your knowledge. (13c) Helpful Beings of the Three Worlds Spirits and Beings of the Land, Sea and Sky, Joins us on this joyous Lunasa, Lend us your all encompassing grace. 3rd Phase: Major Sending to Deity of the Occasion (14) Descriptive Invocation of Lugh Invocation of Lugh Offering of Ale Thou Lugh the Victorious, we make our Grove under your shield, O Lugh of the White Horse and the Brilliant Blades. You of the Perfect Form, Child of Light and Shadow, Slayer of Balor, be in our midst. Accept this ale in welcome thou Champion, King of All (ale poured) Offering of Bread We make our offerings in the joy of the Samildanach The Clever One, the Sure Hand, the Bard and the Smith. May we be at peace under the hand of the Chieftain of Danu, We offer this bread, that the harvest may flourish by the plough wielding hand. (bread offered) Offering of Fruit By the Sacred Three of Glory hear now Your people's call By the Spear and by the Raven come, we pray, among Your folk O Lugh the Victorious - our Light and our Guide O Lugh the Victorious - accept this offering of fruit and be present in Your strength. (fruit offered) Light of the Sky, come into the Grove! May the strength of Lugh be over us, May the beauty of Lugh delight us, May the skill of Lugh be upon us. Be welcome, Shining One, and behold Your bride Be welcome, White-Silver One, and succor the Earth Be welcome, Hand of Striking, and drive away the hail. In the Grove of the Old Ways In the ring of Your people In the hearts of all who honor the Earth. Primary Power Raising (15) Praise Offerings, Dance, Libations, etc. Hail the Sun of Summer - Golden One, Brightest, Warmth of the Green Earth. Hail the Sun of Summer - Crown of Striving, Gem of the Heavens, First among Lights Hail the Sun of Summer - Father of Earth, Eye of Burning, Fire of Noontide. Yet now is the Season of Darkening, the Time of Ripening, when the night and the moon call the Earth to fruit. It is the time of the tender Goddess, the Maker of heroes, the Old One's Daughter. Who can tell of the fate of the Earth? If the Sun does not die, the green turns to gray! If the Sun does not die, red turns to black! If the Sun does not die, the earth will burn dry! So the Gods' man mated with a woman of the Giants, in magic and courage. And of Their union was born the Child of Light and Shadow - Lugh, whose name means light. Fostered in the Isle of Apples, he learned every skill - thus is he called Samildanach - Master of All Arts. How like a Spear is the Ray of Dawning How like the dawn is the Rising Light of Victory How like Victory is the Joy of Wisdom So it was that in the last battle of the Gods and Demons it was Lugh who struck down the Baleful Eye of Burning. When the Sun's Fire becomes poison to the earth, when the Maiden of Bounty is imprisoned in the Tower of Day, it is Lugh of the Long Arm who strikes the blow. It is Lugh who struck down the Poison Eye, who defended the Holy Earth against hail and flood and drought and blight. The Sun must die That the earth may live The Darkness rise - The Land freely give Milk and Honey, Ale and Corn Thus do we join the Shining Ones' Prince to the Lady of the Earth. By this joining may Lugh be the Ward and Guardian of the earth. By this joining may the Earth be the Throne of Joy and Delight. May the grain, and our lives, grow green and golden as the hair of the Goddess. May the ray of the westering sun be as the Spear of the Champion. Lugh hear us Your children! (16) The Sacrifice (17) Seeking the Omen of Return 4th Phase: Receiving and Using the Returned Blessings Preparation for the Return (18) Consecration Agreement Reception of Power from the Deity of the Occasion (19) Consecration and Sharing (20) Acceptance of Individual Blessings 5th Phase: Unwinding and Ending the Ceremony (21) Magickal Work (22) Thanking of Entities Invited, in Reverse Order Deity Three Worlds Provinces Helpful Beings Outsiders Bardic (23) Thanking the GateKeeper & Closing the Gates (24) Affirmation of Past/Future Continuity and Success (25) Un-merging, Regrouping & Re-centering - Meditation Clear-cut Ending: De-consecration of Time & Space (26) Final Benediction (27) Musical Signal "Walk With Wisdom" Walk with Wisdom, from this hallowed place. Walk not with Sorrow, our roots shall 'ere embrace. May Strength be your brother, and Honor be your friend, And Luck be your lover, until we meet again. Lughnassadh Dance Lugh, the light of summer bright, Clothed all in green; Tailtiu, his Mother true, rise up and be seen. Chorus: At your festival, sound the horn, Calling the people again. Child of barley corn, newly summer born, Ripening like the grain. Lugh grew tall from spring to fall, then sought to find a wife; But Balor came and made his claim, and swore to take Lugh's life. Chorus: At your festival, sound the horn, Calling the people again. Child of barley corn, newly summer born, Ripening like the grain. The two did fight from morn 'til night, when Lugh did strike him one: Balor's eye flew in the sky and there became the sun. Chorus: At your festival, sound the horn, Calling the people again. Child of barley corn, newly summer born, Ripening like the grain. Lugh was wed and made his bed with Erinn in the north. And there they lay thru many a day, and soon a child came forth. Chorus: At your festival, sound the horn, Calling the people again. Child of barley corn, newly summer born, Ripening like the grain. The child grew tall from spring to fall, Setanta was His name; But then at length, by honor's strength, Cuchulain He became. Chorus: At your festival, sound the horn, Calling the people again. Child of barley corn, newly summer born, Ripening like the grain. Words and music by Gwydion


Request Update or Rate this page ~ Flag for Archive ~ Highlight for Featuring

 

Ritual and Practice Categories