Lughnasad (Loo-na-sa), or Lammas, is an ancient Pagan festival celebrating the first harvest of grain and corn. The name “Lammas” comes from Anglo-Saxon origin and means “loaf mass”, a celebration of the bread made from the first harvest of grain. The hard work in the fields has ended, and the time has come to celebrate the harvest with games and feasting.
Lughnasad honors the Celtic God Lugh, whose name means “shining one”. He is often equated with the Sun God. Lugh is credited with inventing certain Celtic skills and games, such as ball games, horsemanship and fidehell (an ancient Celtic board game). Celebrants spend the day with sports and games of skill, and honor the meaning of the season with freshly baked bread and beer.
In ancient times, the success or failure of the harvest determined whether or not the winter could be survived. Nowadays, most of us do not live off the land and no longer need to fear that there will not be enough food to carry us through the winter. Instead, we plant projects and ideas rather than crops. Lughnasad is the time when we bring our projects to fruition and reap the rewards of our efforts.
In Wiccan tradition, the First Harvest starts the season of sacrifice, when the grain of the harvest must die in order to provide food. The last sheaf of corn may be kept and made into an effigy to represent the spirit of the corn and the harvest (sometimes called John Barleycorn). The effigy is placed in the center of the feasting table, and then ploughed back into the soil the following spring when the fields are prepared for the sowing of new crops, so that the spirit of the sun and the corn does not die.
After the harvest season the daylight is visibly waning, and the mature Lord of the Forest and Field becomes more the Wise Sage and his power awareness begins to pass from without to within. The pregnant Mother Goddess rules beside Him as they both bask in the bounty of Nature in this, the harvest season.