What is Lughnasadh?
Lughnasadh (pronounced “Loo-na-sah”), also called Lammas, is the first of three harvest festivals in the traditional Celtic calendar. It is the time when we begin to see the fruits of our labor – efforts we almost gave up on are finally paying off. It’s a time of celebration and community, to take a break and bask in all the good you’ve created over the past few months. Traditional Lughnasadh celebrations include games and feasts, and any activity that brings fun and silliness into your life. Don’t be afraid to let loose – you’ve earned it!
Lughnasadh is also a time of giving thanks. Although the work isn’t over (there are two more harvest festivals coming up), we can still take stock and appreciate what we have. In the Celtic Pagan traditions, offerings of “first fruits” from the harvest were made to local deities. If you’re a Pagan of any tradition, now is a good time to make an offering to the deities you worship or work with. If deity work isn’t your thing, consider making an offering to the land, or preparing a meal for someone you’re thankful for.
Traditions and Beliefs of Lughnasadh
The name Lughnasadh means “gathering of/for Lugh,” a Gaelic deity. This Sabbat’s other name, Lammas, comes from the Christian tradition of “Loaf-Mass,” when a loaf of bread made from the first grain harvest of the year would be offered at the church. Although the two holidays began as separate institutions, the names are nowadays more or less interchangeable.
The god Lugh is a traditional Irish god who oversees anything related to art or skilled crafts. He is said to have invented ball games which he taught the Irish people, and that’s why his festival is celebrated with games as part of the festivities. Lugh is associated with the truth, oaths, laws, and authority. He represents the power of the collective as well as strong leadership.
In the Wiccan tradition, the literal harvest of food intermingles with the symbolic harvest of your accomplishments since the start of the year. Wiccan customs often involve eating bread and making symbolic figures called “corn dollies.” Lughnasadh is also considered an auspicious time for handfasting, the Wiccan/Pagan marriage ritual that symbolically binds two lovers together.
I am filled with gratitude for the fruits of my labor! I appreciate the gifts of the Earth and I invite the spirit of joy and generosity into my life!
- Invite friends over for a game of pickup basketball or cornhole
- Bake bread and share it with loved ones
- Take time for gratitude
- Write a list of your accomplishments and take a moment to congratulate yourself – look at what you’ve done!
- Host a bonfire and feast with friends! Put on your best party playlist and dance under the setting sun.
Lughnasadh Recipe: Sun Tea and Harvest Bread
One of the best parts about harvest festivals is that it’s all about the food! This recipe acknowledges the bright power of the sun, whose light is still strongest at this time of year, and the grain that was traditionally harvested in early August. If you’re a baker, you can use your favorite bread recipe. We chose one that is simple in case you didn’t get on the 2020 pandemic breadmaking train.
PS: This recipe is best enjoyed with friends and loved ones.
For Sun Tea:
- Clear jug or jar with tight lid (preferably glass, since plastic can often contain harsh chemicals that may leech into your tea)
- Water to fill the jug or jar
- Herbs of your choice: choose herbs to match your intention, if you plan to set one for this recipe, or otherwise select ones that you like the taste of
- Strainer and/or cheesecloth
For Harvest Bread:
- Kitchen scale (seriously, this is the best way!)
- 500 grams bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 10 grams fine salt (pro tip: use Himalayan sea salt for a boost of cleansing and protection!)
- 7 grams dried yeast
- 325 grams lukewarm/room temperature water
- Optional: any add-ins you want for your harvest bread! You can add seeds, herbs, whatever you like.
For Sun Tea:
- Decide whether you want to strain your herbs while the tea brews or afterwards. It doesn’t matter either way, so choose whatever method is most convenient. If you want to strain your tea while it brews, place all the herbs inside your strainer or cheesecloth (if using cheesecloth, tie securely with undyed string, preferably kitchen twine) and place it in the jar. If you want to strain it afterwards, just place the herbs directly in the jar.
- Pour enough water over the herbs to fill the jar and secure tightly with the lid.
- Place the jar outside for 45min-1hr, or until the water changes color. You can let it sit for more or less time depending on how strong you like your tea.
- If you opted to strain at the end, prepare a cheesecloth and/or mesh strainer and pour the tea over it into another container.
- You’re ready to enjoy! Drink the tea right away or let it chill in the fridge for iced tea. Refrigerate and consume within two days.
For Harvest Bread:
- In a small bowl, combine all of your yeast and about 10-20 grams of water. Mix well and let rest for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, weigh out the flour and salt and combine thoroughly. If you’re choosing to add any herbs or small seeds (like poppy or flax), you can do that at this point.
- After a few minutes, the yeast and water mixture should have expanded and you should be able to see bubbles on the surface. Add this mixture and the rest of your water to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. If you’re choosing to add larger seeds like sunflower, you can add those now. The dough will be very sticky – that’s okay! Make sure all the flour is incorporated and there are no dry spots. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest for 1 hour.
- After an hour, the dough should have expanded in size. Wet your hand to avoid sticking. Now we’re going to stretch and fold the dough. Grab the dough at one edge and lift it up, taking care not to go too far and rip it. Fold the lifted section of dough back towards the center of the loaf. Now turn the bowl and repeat until you’ve gone all the way around the edge of the dough. This process will strengthen the dough and help it bake. Cover the dough with the towel and let rest another 45 minutes.
- Repeat the stretch and fold process two more times at 45-minute intervals. Before the last stretch and fold, set the oven to 450°.
- After the last stretch and fold, your dough should be very strong and resistant. Take it out of the bowl and place it into a greased loaf pan, with the folded side down.
- When the oven is fully pre-heated, take a very sharp knife and score the top of the bread.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 450°, then lower the temperature to 375° and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the crust reaches your desired color. Optionally, when you bake the bread you can add a small pan of water to create steam – this will help the crust get extra crunchy.
- Allow the bread to cool completely before cutting.