The Games of Lugh

This is an old Celtic name for the Perseids, the most familiar of all meteor showers, that take place at around the time called Lughnasadh by the Pagans and Lammas by their Christian successors – around August 1. The Perseids have been well documented since at least 830 CE but were surely well known long before. We can well imagine ancient Celts looking upon these wonders and associating them with other phenomena of the season between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice, including the heat of the last of the Dog Days. They attributed the celestial display of Perseid lights to games being played by their sun god, Lugh, 'the shining one'.

As is well known, most ancient cultures looked on meteor showers and other phenomena in the sky as having supernatural meaning. In pre-Zoroastrian India, the Perseids were the Pairikas, the prototypes of the Peris, the nymphs or female angels of later Persian tradition, and likewise the Parigs or witches of Manichaeism. The Pairikas, in the form of worm-stars, are said to fly between the earth and the heavens at this time. These ‘shooting stars’ fall annually at about the time when Tistrya (Sirius) is supposed to be most active.

The remarkable annual appearance of the Perseids might explain why the ancient Egyptian Lychnapsia (‘Festival of Lights’, or ‘The Lights of Isis’) at this time of year was revered in the Osirian mysteries. In Arab folklore, shooting stars are traditionally said to be firebrands hurled by the angels against the inquisitive Jinns or Genii, who are forever clambering up on the constellations to peep into heaven.

“Thomas Furley Forster of London had recorded it in 1827 in his Pocket Encyclopaedia of Natural Phenomena. ‘According to Mr. T. Forster,’ Herrick reported in October 1839, citing Quetelet, ‘a superstition has “for ages” existed among the Catholics of some parts of England and Germany that the burning tears of St. Lawrence are seen in the sky on the night of the 10th of August; this day being the anniversary of his martyrdom.’”

Discovery of the Perseids

Many years ago, a phone call came into New York’s Hayden Planetarium. The caller sounded concerned about a radio announcement of an upcoming Perseid display and wanted to know if it would be dangerous to stay outdoors on the night of the peak of the shower (perhaps assuming there was a danger of getting hit). These meteoroids, however, are no bigger than sand grains or pebbles, have the consistency of cigar ash and are consumed many miles above our heads.

The caller was passed along to the Planetarium’s chief astronomer, who commented that there are only two dangers from Perseid watching: getting drenched with dew and falling asleep.

~~ Source Unknown ~~