Lughnasadh pronounce Loo-na-sa, marked the beginning of the harvest season. The harvest of the first fruits of the land. A festival celebrated on August 1st, some celebrated July 31st. It's one of the longest celebrations in the Sacred Wheel. In some countries and traditions it could last the whole month of August. Farmers would reaped the first ears of wheat, oats and barley. Lambs would be weaned from their mothers so that they could mate and conceive new off springs that would be born the following year at Imbolc. Lughnasadh was in honor of Lugh, the Shinning One and the warrior of the Tuatha De' Danann. He was also known as the Master of All Skills. He was a sun and agriculture deity. In Wales, he is known as Lleu. Many of the festival gatherings were held outdoors with a masculine type of atmosphere with horse racing, settling legal matters, story telling, feats of magic, commerce and trading. Their were competitions of skills in archery, weapons and etc.
Some say that Lughnasadh was originally started by Lugh in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu, the last queen of the Fir Bolg. He name came from the Old Celtic word, Talantiu, "The Great One of the Earth."
The story goes that she had cleared a great forest so the people could farm. The area according to legends puts the place as the whole county of Meath in Ireland. It is well known that this is the richest farmland in Ireland. Tailtiu collapsed from exhaustion and as she laid dying she asked her son Lugh to hold funereal games every August in her honor. So the most famous Lughnasadh festival is held at Teltown, which is said to be the burial place of Lugh's foster mom. The residence of the area believe that as long as these festivals were held, then Tailtiu would make sure that every household would have plenty of corn and mild and there would be peace. She also promised that the weather would be fair for every festival.
At this gathering, there was a special kind of trial marriage which was called a Tailtean or Teltown marriage. This kind of marriage only took place as this gathering. A couple who were seriously in love would take their vows to each other by holding hands through a hole in a standing stone. This marriage would last for a year and a day. At the next year's Lughnasadh, the marriage, if they wanted to, could be dissolved by both parties ritually walking apart from each other. One going north and the other going south. There were other marriages as well some lasting one day and one night while others lasting a week. This was in honor of the tradition that a plentiful harvest could not be won without the goddess' help. Before a new king could be inaugurated, he had to undergo a ritual marriage with the goddess of the land. Only she could give him the right to rule the land and the people; the king ( the people ) and his queen ( the goddess, the land).
In the Christian era, the festival became known as Lammas. The name was derived from hlaf-maesse ( loaf-mass). This was when a loaf was made from the first ripe grain and then taken to the church to be consencrated upon the altar. The modern day church took up a ritual of blessing the fields before the harvesting.
Lughnasadh has an older name, Bro'n Trogain, which refers to the fertile earth. In Roman Gaul, it was changed to become known as the Feast of Augustus.
The first part of the word Lugh -nasadh, was in honor of Lugh, the nasadh is a word meaning remembrance. The part of the festivals that had a mourning theme. Lughnasadh was also a remembrance of the passing of the old king, god or year which was idealized by Lugh. There were procession and celebrations of the arrival of the new king, new god or new year or the rebirth of the sun. There's a tradition of a funeral procession in the Lancashire Wakes area of England called the Lyke Wakes Walk which crossed the Yorkshire moors, groups of usually young men carries a empty coffin for 40 miles. Traditional ceremonies may have been literally funerals for sacrificial victims both human and animals, effigies and symbolic representations of the dead. These were carried in processions and led to be burial in the appointed burial grounds. Many paid tribute to the dead by casting offerings into pools or down in deep burial shafts of warriors and heroes.
Other traditions consist of bonfires into the night with drinking and dancing, with wrestling matches, activities testing the skills of the men, trading and selling the first fruits of the land, hand fasting rituals. Farmers would give their workers white gloves as presents but this served another purpose of not getting dirt into the flour. Many farmers would take the first grain and make what we call today corn dollies also another name is Kern baby or corn maidens. They would save them and then plant them in the ground for the next planting.
Today many pagans and Wiccan celebrate Lughnasadh by remembering the Sun god Lugh and his union with the Goddess, Earth. The union bringing fruits of the land. Also celebrating and showing thanks to the deities for their sacrifice. Many make bread in shape of a human, then ritually eating it. This is a time to thank the Gods and Goddesses for the harvest of not only food but also the lesson that we learned, new friends, family members and the success of achieving goals that we have set in our lives.