Lugh, the Light of Summer Bright?
(and other seasonal folklore)

With Lughnasadh fast approaching, it seems a good time to talk about the so-called "sun god" who has so many aspects that he is known as Samildanach or Master of Every Art. Surely his multifaceted nature shines but is Lugh Lamfhota truly a sun god? From what I know of him, his light is more like the flashing of a spear, like summer lightning, swift and brilliant and to the point. His nickname "long armed" goes more with a strike of lightning than with sunbeams. Was Lugh a sun god before he evolved into his multi-tasking form or is the sun god guise a Neopagan development? He is likened to other gods, notably Mercury and Odin, putting him in a more mercurial than solar class.

~~ Fenian Niafer ~~

Ere, in the northern gale,
The summer tresses of the trees are gone,
The woods of Autumn, all around our vale,
Have put their glory on.

~~ William Cullen Bryant ~~
(Autumn Woods)

“The Dog-Days (3 July to 11 August) when Sirius rises with the Sun are known as iuchar – or the worm-month – in Scots Gaelic tradition.”

~~ From The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews ~~

Autumn is a second season when every leaf is a flower.

~~ Albert Camus ~~

“When Lugh and the Tuatha de Danann were victorious over the Fomonians, they captured the Fomorian king, Bres, and promised to spare his life if he granted his gifts of agriculture to them. First Bres offered a continual supply of milk, then a harvest in each season: these gifts were rejected because they broke the natural order of things. The Tuatha de Danann replied:

This has been our way:
Spring for ploughing and sowing;
Summer for strengthening
And encouraging of the grain;
Autumn for ripening the corn and reaping it;
Winter for enjoying it.

But they accepted his advice on ploughing, sowing and reaping, and so it is that the blessing of ‘corn and milk in your land and mast in your woods and increase in your soil’ is maintained to this day.”

~~ From The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews ~~

Heat and cold chase one another like pups playing --
yesterday ovenish, today cold storage.
Oh, perfect in the pauses when the wind forgets and the sun remembers!

~~ Emily Carr ~~

“In the Gaulish Calendrical Tablet – the Coligny Calenday – the month of July-August was called Elembiuos, or ‘Claim-time’; during the period leading up to Lugnasadh, any unfulfilled obligations were claimed or concluded among neighbors, with legal recourse to the brehon or judge if friendly requital were not forthcoming.”

~~ From The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews ~~

Corn wind in the fall, come off the black lands,
come off the whisper of the silk hangers,
the lap of the flat spear leaves.

~~ Carl Sandburg ~~

“Neldoracht was a Druidic method of divination, often involving cloud-watching or star-gazing. We know that this method was used in the creation of the Coligny Calendar, since each night is annotated with remarks about the clarity or cloudiness of the heavens and the subsequent omens which accompany each day.”

~~ From The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews ~~

She calls it "stick season," this slow disrobing of summer, leaf by leaf,
till the bores of tall trees rattle and scrape in the wind.

~~ Eric Pinder ~~

“The qualifications to enter Fionn mac Cumhail’s Fianna were exacting: good birth, poetic proficiency, the ability to run through the woods with no hair unbraided and no twig snapped, and the ability to pull a thorn from a foot and not slacken your pace while running were included.”

~~ From The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews ~~

The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes
from the summer cottons into its winter wools.

~~ Henry Beston ~~
( Northern Farm)

“Cranncur, or ‘casting the woods’ was a Druidic method of divination for judgments, which was adapted to Christian use: three lots were placed in a vessel – one for guilt, one for innocence, and one for the Trinity. The Druid Morann mac Maine used three stones to determine guilt: a black stone for falsehood, a white stone for truth, and a speckled stone for half-guilt. In each case, the accused party had to draw out one lot or stone.”

~~ From The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews ~~

It was Indian summer, a bluebird sort of day as we call it in the north, warm and sunny,
without a breath of wind; the water was sky-blue, the shores a bank of solid gold.

~~ Sigurd F. Olson ~~

“Angus Og, son of the Dagda and Boann, is the Irish God of Love, around whose head four birds forever fluttered – representing his kisses. He himself fell in love with Caer Ibormeith, who appeared to him in a dream, and his long pursuit of her became the epitome of all lovers’ quests. He was the foster-father of Diarmuid O’Duibhne, lover of Grania, and transported his body to Brugh na Boyne – Newgrange – after his death, where he was able to breath his soul back into his body.”

~~ From The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews ~~

“In the Gaulish Calendrical Tablet, the Coligny Calendar, the month of August-September was called Edrinios, or ‘arbitration time’, since the period after harvest was a suitable time of assembly when disputes could be legally settled satisfactorily.”

~~ From The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews ~~

The Goddess Habondia

Many neo-Pagans give praise at Lammastide to Habondia, the generous one, the Goddess of the Harvest, for the abundance and prosperity that she brings. At Lammas she is seen in her pregnant and birthing aspects as she ripens and swells with the life that she now brings forth, and the earth reflects this growing fruitfulness. The Great Mother is seen as having moved through the seasons from the promise of new life in February (Imbolc) to the fulfilment of that promise with the harvest beginning in August.

“The Celts traditionally made offerings and prayers at wells – a custom which continues to this day, especially at those wells which have healing properties. ‘Clooties’, or strips of cloth, are dipped in the well, prayed over and hung in the thorn tree which invariably grows over the well – there to hang and fade until the prayer, blessing or healing is achieved. All ‘wishing wells’ started life as primary accesses of healing power. The Struthill Well in Scotland is remembered in this wishing spell – a remnant of earlier incantations:

Three white stones,
And three black pins,
Three yellow gowans (daisies)
Off the green.
Into the well
With a one, two, three,
And a fortune, a fortune
Come to me.”

~~Ed Montgomery ~~
( From The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews)

Lothian, Scotland: Before Lammas, Lothian cow-boys, (as 'cowboys' used to be spelt in Britain) used to build a tower of stones and sods in a conspicuous place. On Lammas morning they assembled there, bearing flags and blowing cow horns. They breakfasted on bread and cheese, then had a procession and foot races. Each group would try to demolish the tower of a neighbouring group and sometimes bloody fights would ensue.

It was on a Lammas night,
When corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon's unclouded light,
I held away to Annie:
The time flew by, wi tentless heed,
Till 'tween the late and early;
Wi' sma' persuasion she agreed
To see me thro' the barley.

Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonnie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Among the rigs wi' Annie.

The sky was blue, the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly;
I set her down, wi' right good will,
Amang the rigs o'barley
I ken't her heart was a' my ain;
I lov'd her most sincerely;
I kissed her owre and owre again,
Among the rig o' barley.

Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonnie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Among the rigs wi' Annie.

I locked her in my fond embrace;
Her heart was beating rarely:
My blessings on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o'barley.
But by the moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She ay shall bless that happy night,
Amang the rigs o'barley.

Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonnie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Among the rigs wi' Annie.

I hae been blythe wi' Comrades dear;
I hae been merry drinking;
I hae been joyfu' gath'rin gear;
I hae been happy thinking:
But a' the pleasures e'er I saw,
Tho three times doubl'd fairley
That happy night was worth then a'.
Among the rig's o' barley.

Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonnie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Among the rigs wi' Annie.

~~ Robert Burns ~~

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From Wilson's Almanac

Old Lammas Day – August 12 – Scotland

In old Scotland, today was the day for handfast (or hand-in-fist) marriages, in which men and women could choose the person with whom they would live for a year. If the year worked out well, they could stay together; if it didn’t, they were free to make another choice. Handfasting is a common ceremony among Neopagan adherents today, not necessarily with the same connotations, as it might sometimes refer to an intended lifetime marriage.

Celtic Handfasting Ritual

Bride and Groom repeat the following together:

"You cannot possess me for I belong to myself. But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give. You cannot command me for I am a free person. But I shall serve you in those ways you require and the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand. I pledge to you that yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night, and the eyes into which I smile in the morning. I pledge to you the first bite from my meat and the first drink from my cup. I pledge to you my living and my dying, each equally in your care. I shall be a shield for your back, and you for mine. I shall not slander you, nor you me. I shall honor you above all others, and when we quarrel, we shall do so in private and tell no strangers our grievances. This is my wedding vow to you. This is the marriage of equals."

The Priest or Priestess says:

"These promises you make by the sun and the moon, by fire and water, by day and night, by land and sea. With these vows you swear, by the God and Goddess, to be full partners, each to the other. If one drops the load, the other will pick it up. If one is a discredit to the other, his own honor will be forfeit, generation upon generation, until he repairs that which was damaged and finds that which was lost. Should you fail to keep the oath you pledge today, the elements themselves will reach out and destroy you."

~~ From Finn MacCool by Morgan Llywelyn ~~

Ladybird prognostication

Folklorist Charles Kightly (Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson, 1987) says that Lammas is a time at which spirits walk abroad, and hence a good time to divine the future.

He says that to learn the whereabouts of your lover's home, take a ladybird and address her thus before releasing her:

Lady, Lady, Lanners [Lammas? - PW]
Tak your cloak about your heid
And fly away to Flanders
Fly ower moor and fly ower mead
Fly ower living, fly ower dead
Fly ye east or fly ye west
Fly to her that loves me best.

From Wilson's Almanac

A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the
crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made.
The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds,
no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.

~~ Eric Sloane ~~