What a weird summer it’s been. Ordinarily we would have spent these months since Beltane communing with our friends, telling stories around bonfires, and voyaging into the Scottish countryside to root ourselves in nature. This should have been a time of revelry and connectedness – a feeling we know some of you have struggled to hold on to during lockdown.
That’s why we’re trying out a new digital festival. Our next fire festival is still some time away, so we wanted to find a way for us to come together and do something creative in the meantime.
Starting this Saturday, you can join us here on our website and across our social media channels to celebrate Lughnasadh, a Celtic holiday traditionally held at the beginning of August.
Read more about the festival and what our virtual version will look like below.
What is Lughnasadh?
Traditionally it’s a harvest festival, marking the petering off of Summer’s growing season and the emergence of Autumn. It’s a time to enjoy the fruits of our labour and to prepare ourselves for the harsh Winter ahead.
Lughnasadh is said to have been started by the god Lugh, also known as the Master of All Skills or The Shining One. Lugh created Lughnasadh in honour of his foster mother Tailtiu, an earth goddess whose role it was to clear the land in Ireland to make way for fields of crops. She died of exhaustion from the task.
The funeral feast that her foster son created for her is a celebration of Tailtiu’s life, as well as a way of making peace with endings – something we reflect on more and more as we approach our Winter festival, Samhuinn.
How do you celebrate Lughnasadh?
There are lots of ways to take part. Lugh was something of what we’d call a jack-of-all-trades, being the master of skills, crafts, a warrior, and a poet. In a way, his festival is about showing off your prowess, being the best at your discipline and sharing your knowledge with others.
You might do this by hosting your own Games of Lugh, an Olympics-style competition where participants demonstrate their athleticism. You could run races, perfect your somersaults, or even try an egg-and-spoon race!
Maybe you want to forego the athletics altogether and try a different sort of competition – perhaps a poetry slam or a storytelling contest. Bards are a huge part of Lughnasadh, so a clash of words would make a great fit for this festival.
And let’s not forget the harvest aspect of Lughnasadh. Another word for this Celtic holiday is Lammas, meaning “loaf mass”, which tells us how important that first loaf of bread made from the harvested grains is to the celebrations. There are lots of recipes around that tell you how to make your own Lammas bread, but you can get into the spirit of things by baking just about anything.
How you can join us for our digital Lughnasadh
Unlike the much bigger Beltane Online Fire Festival, our Lughnasadh is going to be relatively low key – there’s no specific time that you need to tune in with us, and the stuff that we share will be a lot shorter. We want this to be an easy way for us all to check in with each other as Summer draws to a close.
From Saturday 1st August, we’ll share one or two pieces of content every day for a week that will help you get into the spirit of Lughnasadh. These include craft tutorials, stories, and games, all created by our volunteers over the past month.
Everything will be posted across our social media and then rounded up on this Lughnasadh page on our website. We’ll keep it all online for you to come back to after the festival as well.
How are you celebrating Lughnasadh?
If you’ve been inspired to take part in Lughnasadh, let us know! Many of the things our volunteers are creating can be tried by yourselves at home, and there’s also lots of scope to dream up your own rituals that you think Lugh would approve of.
If digital isn’t for you…
That’s okay! We know the internet isn’t everyone’s favourite, so we’ve created some materials that will help you take part in real life. We’ll publish a printable PDF on our website over the next few days, so you have everything you need before we begin on Saturday 1st August.
Donating to our community
Everything we have planned for next week is free to access, so you won’t need to buy any tickets to join in the fun. What we are asking for though a small donation to our community if you like what you see during the festival.
We’re a not-for-profit organisation that relies almost entirely on ticket sales to sustain our community and festivals. We receive no public money right now, so it’s thanks to our audiences that we’ve been able to keep our festivals going for more than thirty years.
No audience means no income, and so our future is a little more shaky since coronavirus made large gatherings impossible. Any and all donations that can help us weather the storm a little longer would mean the world to us.
Featured image by Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.