|Also called||Lúnasa (Modern Irish)
Lùnastal (Scottish Gaelic)
Luanistyn (Manx Gaelic)
|Observed by||Historically: Gaels
Today: Irish people, Scottish people, Manx people, Celtic neopagans
Pagan (Celtic polytheism, Celtic Neopaganism, Wicca)
|Significance||Beginning of the harvest season|
|Date||Sunset on 31 July—Sunset on 1 August (Northern Hemisphere)|
|Celebrations||Offering of First Fruits
|Related to||Calan Awst, Lammas|
Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nə-sə; Irish: Lúnasa; Scottish Gaelic: Lùnastal; Manx: Luanistyn) is a traditional Gaelic holiday celebrated on 1 August. It originated as a harvest festival, corresponding to the Welsh Calan Awst and the English Lammas.
In Modern Irish (Gaeilge), the spelling is Lúnasa, which is also the name for the month of August. The genitive case is also Lúnasa as in Mí Lúnasa (Month of August) and Lá Lúnasa (Day of Lúnasa). The word násadh means a feast, fair, assembly, or celebration, but is unstressed when used as a suffix on Lughnasadh.
In Irish mythology 
In Irish mythology, the Lughnasadh festival is said to have been begun by the god Lugh (modern spelling: Lú) as a funeral feast and sporting competition in commemoration of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. The first location of the Áenach Tailteann gathering was at Tailtin, between Navan and Kells. Historically, the Áenach Tailteann was a time for contests of strength and skill and a favoured time for contracting marriages and winter lodgings. A peace was declared at the festival, and religious celebrations were held. The festival survived as the Taillten Fair, and was revived for a period in the 20th century as the Telltown Games.
A similar Lughnasadh festival was held at Carmun (the exact location of which is under dispute). Carmun is also believed to have been a goddess of the Celts, perhaps one with a similar tale as Tailtiu.
Historic Lughnasadh customs 
In 1962 The Festival of Lughnasa, a study of Lughnasadh by folklorist Máire MacNeill, was published. MacNeill drew on medieval writings and on surveys and studies from throughout Ireland and Britain. Her conclusion was that the evidence testified to an ancient Celtic festival on 1 August that involved the following:
[A] solemn cutting of the first of the corn of which an offering would be made to the deity by bringing it up to a high place and burying it; a meal of the new food and of bilberries of which everyone must partake; a sacrifice of a sacred bull, a feast of its flesh, with some ceremony involving its hide, and its replacement by a young bull; a ritual dance-play perhaps telling of a struggle for a goddess and a ritual fight; an installation of a head on top of the hill and a triumphing over it by an actor impersonating Lugh; another play representing the confinement by Lugh of the monster blight or famine; a three-day celebration presided over by the brilliant young god or his human representative. Finally, a ceremony indicating that the interregnum was over, and the chief god in his right place again.
Lughnasadh celebrations were commonly held on hilltops. Traditionally, people would climb hills on Lughnasadh to gather bilberries, which were eaten on the spot or saved to make pies and wine. It is thought that Reek Sunday—the yearly pilgrimage to the top of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo in late July—was originally a Lughnasadh ritual. As with the other Gaelic seasonal festivals (Imbolc, Beltane and Samhain), the celebrations involved a great feast. In the Scottish Highlands, people made a special cake called the lunastain, which was also called luinean when given to a man and luineag when given to a woman. This may have originated as an offering to the gods.
Another custom that Lughnasadh shared with the other Gaelic festivals was the lighting of bonfires and visiting of holy wells. The ashes from Lughnasadh bonfires would be used to bless fields, cattle and people. Visitors to holy wells would pray for health while walking sunwise around the well. They would then leave offerings; typically coins or clooties (see clootie well).
In Gaelic Ireland, Lughnasadh was also a favored time for handfastings — trial marriages that would generally last a year and a day, with the option of ending the contract before the new year, or formalizing it as a lasting marriage.
Modern Lughnasadh customs 
In Ireland, some people continue to celebrate the holiday with bonfires and dancing. The Catholic Church in Ireland has established the ritual of blessing fields on this day. In the Irish diaspora, survivals of the Lúnasa festivities are often seen by some families still choosing August as the traditional time for family reunions and parties, though due to modern work schedules these events have sometimes been moved to adjacent secular holidays, such as the Fourth of July in the United States.
'Astronomical' Lughnasadh 
In the cross-quarter reckoning of former NASA scientist Robert Gillespie, Northern Lughnasadh occurs when the Sun's ecliptic longitude/Earth's heliocentric longitude reaches 135 degrees. In 2013 this will occur at 8:21 UTC on August 7.
See also 
- Dineen, Patrick (1927). Focloir Gaeďilge agus Béarla an IRISH-ENGLISH DICTIONARY. Dublin and Cork, Ireland: The Educational Company of Ireland, Ltd. Text " initial1 S. " ignored (help)
- Grundy, Valerie; Cróinín, Breandán, Ó; O Croinin, Breandan (2000). The Oxford pocket Irish dictionary: Béarla-Gaeilge, Gaeilge-Béarla =; English-Irish, Irish-English. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press. p. 479. ISBN 0-19-860254-5.
- O'Donaill, Niall (1992). Focloir Poca English - Irish / Irish - English Dictionary - Gaeilge / Bearla (Irish Edition). French European Pubns. pp. 809, 811. ISBN 0-8288-1708-1.
- Macbain, Alexander (1998). Etymological dictionary of Scottish-Gaelic. New York, NY: Hippocrene Books. p. 236. ISBN 0-7818-0632-1.
- Kelly, Phil. "English Manx Dictionary". mannin.info. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
- MacKillop, James (1998). Dictionary of Celtic mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-19-280120-1.
- McNeill, F. Marian (1959) The Silver Bough, Vol. 2. William MacLellan, Glasgow ISBN 0-85335-162-7 pp.94-101
- MacKillop, James (1998) A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280120-1 pp.309-10, 395-6, 76, 20
- MacNeill, Máire. The Festival of Lughnasa: A Study of the Survival of the Celtic Festival of the Beginning of Harvest. Oxford University Press, 1962. p.426
- Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing, 2004. p.45
- Monaghan, p.104
- Monaghan, p.180
- Monaghan, p.299
- Monaghan, p.27
- Monaghan, p.41
- Danaher, Kevin (1972) The Year in Ireland: Irish Calendar Customs Dublin, Mercier. ISBN 1-85635-093-2 pp.167-186
- Chadwick, Nora (1970) The Celts London, Penguin. ISBN 0-14-021211-6 p. 181
- O'Donovan, J., O'Curry, E., Hancock, W. N., O'Mahony, T., Richey, A. G., Hennessy, W. M., & Atkinson, R. (eds.) (2000). Ancient laws of Ireland, published under direction of the Commissioners for Publishing the Ancient Laws and Institutes of Ireland. Buffalo, New York: W.S. Hein. ISBN 1-57588-572-7. (Originally published: Dublin: A. Thom, 1865-1901. Alternatively known as Hiberniae leges et institutiones antiquae.)
Further reading 
- Carmichael, Alexander (1992). Carmina Gadelica. Lindisfarne Press. ISBN 0-940262-50-9.
- Danaher, Kevin (1962). The Year in Ireland. Irish Books & Media. ISBN 0-937702-13-7.
- MacKillop, James (1998). Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280120-1.
- McNeill, F. Marian (1959). The Silver Bough, Vol. 1 -4. William MacLellan, Glasgow.
- MacNeill, Máire, ''The Festival of Lughnasa (Oxford University Press) 1962. Republished 2008. ISBN 0-906426-10-3.
- Melia, Daniel F., "The Grande Troménie at Locronan: A Major Breton Lughnasa Celebration" The Journal of American Folklore 91 No. 359 (January 1978), pp. 528–542.