August 1st marks the Celtic holiday of Lughnasadh (pronounced loo-na-sa), which is the beginning of the grain harvest.
In days past, candidates for king would go to the Fayre of Tailtiu. Tailtiu was the queen of the Fir Bolg (an ancient celtic race) , the daughter of Mag Mor and the foster mother of Lugh. She died of exhaustion after the labor of clearing the lands of Ireland for cultivation, and in commemoration, Lugh held a festival for her. Two weeks prior to festival day, it was customary to climb a hill and survey the land before harvest. The festival then commenced, and lasted for four weeks – two weeks past the actual day.
The last chaff of wheat or grain to be cut was kept and crafted into a corn doll, symbolizing Lugh. At Lughnasadh, she is called the Corn Mother. In the spring, she becomes Corn Bride, the Maiden Goddess Bride.
It was Lugh who invented draughts (checkers), ballplay and horsemanship and these sacred games were important in the celebration of the festival, as they were used to show off strength and skill. In addition, this festival was used to gather news, settle arguments and arrange marriages and alliances. Mighty feasting and drinking were the underlying theme of this wonderful festival.
It is prophesied that, as long as the custom shall be maintained, there will be corn and milk in every house, peace and fine weather for the feast.
This is the season when everything seems at its richest – trees crops and long warm days. These are called the ‘dog days’ of Summer, because Sirius (The Dog Star) rises and sets with the sun between mid-July and September.
The word ‘Lammas’ comes from "loaf mass" which celebrates the bread made from the first grain to be harvested. It is in honor of the Corn Mother that we now eat fresh bread and cakes.