I wrote the first version of this post last year at Lughnasadh. It’s still a few weeks off, but I’m thinking about it now.
Lughnasadh means “the promise of Lugh.” Lugh is an Irish Celtic god, but the festival of Lughnasadh isn’t all about Lugh. The promise he made was to his foster-mother, Tailtiu. Lughnasadh commemorates Tailtiu’s funeral. Tailtiu cleared the forests to create fields for agriculture. She worked so hard to clear the fields so the crops could be planted and the animals graze that she died. Lugh promised that her sacrifice would always be remembered, at Lughnasadh.
Lughnasadh is at its heart a festival about food. These days, too many people have no idea where their food comes from or how it was grown or raised. Meat and vegetables do not magically appear in supermarkets; they have to be raised and harvested. As agriculturalists, we make a pact with our food. We promise the grains and vegetables fertile fields and care and propagation of the species in return for what they provide. We promise our animals a comfortable life with good food and healthy babies, and a swift and humane death, in return for their meat and skin. I see this as part of Lugh’s promise – to never forget that the plants and the animals sacrifice for us, and to always honor and respect them. Too many people have forgotten this promise. Crops are grown with unsustainable agricultural practices and shipped great distances using fuels that pollute the air. Animals are abused and suffer in horrible conditions on industrial farms and die, frightened and in pain, in nightmarish slaughter houses. At Lughnasadh, we remember where our food comes from and we honor that sacrifice. This is Tailtiu’s sacrifice.
It’s not always possible for us in this culture to always eat local, sustainably-grown food – our food delivery systems are just not set up that way and most of us don’t have the time or the money to always seek out the best foods. We can incorporate some of it into our diets, especially at this time of year when the harvest is so abundant.
Lughnasadh is about sorrow and regrets and things unfulfilled, and it’s a time for mourning the waning of summer. It’s also a time for honoring and enjoying the gifts that the season has brought. It’s the first waning of the light after the height of the Solstice, the first festival on the dark side of the year, and a time for reflection. Now is when we honor the sacrifice the land makes to feed us.