(Lammas) Festival of August, Southwind Sabbat:
FACTS AND MISINFORMATION
The Lughnasadh season of July 31-August 1 each year is
unique. It includes:
- A Pagan Sabbat: Lammas, usually celebrated on or near the
evening of July 31-August 1, mainly celebrated by Neo-Pagans
- Two Christian holy days:
- A secular celebration
- A Welsh festival: Nos Gwyl Awst, Lughnasadh, Lammas, Festival of August, Southwind Sabbat, begins
sundown, July 31. These are the Funeral Games of Lugh and the Festival of Early
harvest. The death of the sacred king, that life might continue; he is symbolically eaten.
The new king weds the Goddess.
- Georgia Pagans -Witches & Druids celebrate Lammas in different ways.
- See a Basic Sabbat Ritual
- Visit Other Sabbat Festivals
- Go to Books about Welsh Faerie
There is a great deal of misinformation being circulated
about this festival. Read the following information and then go to the links to arm
yourself with true information researched by Witches and Christians.
The following contains
elements of a work authored by Mike Nichols, a Welsh Witch from K.C., Missouri.
Go to: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos013.htm
for the original text. Lady Cerridwen Gawr, June, 2002
NOS GWYL AWST - LAMMAS
Nos Gwyl Awst, Lughnassadh: (pronounced
Loo-gnah-sahd, the 'g' is not all that hard, it's almost swallowed. The emphasis is on the
first syllable. Also known as Lammas etc.), July 30 - August 1. This sabbat marks the
sacred marriage of the Sun and the Land. In Celtic mythology the sun god Lugh is married
to the land, Nass (an earth aspect of the Morrigan), and is sacrificed to the land. The
sun is at it's hottest, but his light is fading. This also marks the beginning of the
harvest. Corn (or wheat in Ireland) was generally harvested at this time. Colours for this
sabbat: Red (orange) and gold.
The festival of Lammas (Aug 1st) marks the end of
summer and the beginning of fall. The days now grow visibly shorter and by the time
we've reached the end of Fall (Oct 31st), we will have experienced a range of temperature
from the heat of August to the cold and (sometimes) snow of November. And in the
midst of it, a perfect Georgia Autumn.
The history of Lammas is as convoluted as all the rest of the old folk holidays. It is of
course a cross-quarter day, one of the four High Holidays or Greater Sabbats of
Witchcraft, occurring 1/4 of a year after Beltane. It's true astrological point is 15
degrees Leo, which occurs at 1:18 am CDT, Aug 6th this year (1988), but tradition has set
August 1st as the day Lammas is typically celebrated. The celebration proper would begin
on sundown of the previous evening, our July 31st, since the Celts reckon their days from
sundown to sundown.
However, British Witches often refer to the
astrological date of Aug 6th as Old Lammas, and folklorists call it Lammas O.S. ('Old
Style'). This date has long been considered a 'power point' of the Zodiac, and is
symbolized by the Lion, one of the 'tetramorph' figures found on the Tarot cards, the
World and the Wheel of Fortune (the other three figures being the Bull, the Eagle, and the
Spirit). Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four 'fixed' signs of
the Zodiac, and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of Witchcraft.
Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four
'Lammas' was the medieval Christian name for the holiday and it means 'loaf-mass', for
this was the day on which loaves of bread were baked from the first grain harvest and laid
on the church altars as offerings. It was a day representative of 'first fruits' and early
In Irish Gaelic, the feast was referred to as
'Lugnasadh', a feast to commemorate the funeral games of the Irish sun-god Lugh.
However, there is some confusion on this point. Although at first glance, it may seem that
we are celebrating the death of the Lugh, the god of light does not really die
(mythically) until the autumnal equinox. And indeed, if we read the Irish myths closer, we
discover that it is not Lugh's death that is being celebrated, but the funeral games which
Lugh hosted to commemorate the death of his foster- mother, Taillte. That is why the
Lugnasadh celebrations in Ireland are often called the 'Tailltean Games'.
The time went by with careless heed
Between the late and early,
With small persuasion she agreed
To see me through the barley...
One common feature of the Games were the 'Tailltean
marriages', a rather informal marriage that lasted for only 'a year and a day' or until
next Lammas. At that time, the couple could decide to continue the arrangement if it
pleased them, or to stand
back to back and walk away from one another, thus bringing the Tailltean marriage to a
formal close. Such trial marriages (obviously related to the Wiccan 'Handfasting') were
quite common even into the 1500's, although it was something one 'didn't bother the parish
priest about'. Indeed, such ceremonies were usually solemnized by a poet, bard, or
shanachie (or, it may be guessed, by a priest or priestess of the Old Religion).
Lammastide was also the traditional time of year for craft festivals. The medieval guilds
would create elaborate displays of their wares, decorating their shops and themselves in
bright colors and ribbons, marching in parades, and performing strange, ceremonial plays
and dances for the entranced onlookers. The atmosphere must have been quite similar to our
modern-day Renaissance Festivals, such as the one celebrated in near-by Bonner Springs,
Kansas, each fall.
A ceremonial highlight of such festivals was the
'Catherine wheel'. Although the Roman Church moved St. Catherine's feast day all around
the calender with bewildering frequency, it's most popular date was Lammas. (They also
kept trying to expel this much-loved saint from the ranks of the blessed because she was
mythical rather than historical, and because her worship gave rise to the heretical sect
known as the Cathari.) At any rate, a large wagon wheel was taken to the top of a near-by
hill, covered with tar, set aflame, and ceremoniously rolled down the hill. Some
mythologists see in this ritual the remnants of a Pagan rite symbolizing the end of
summer, the flaming disk representing the sun-god in his decline. And just as the sun king
has now reached the autumn of his years, his rival or dark self has just reached puberty.
Many commentators have bewailed the fact that traditional Gardnerian and Alexandrian Books
of Shadows say very little about the holiday of Lammas, stating only that poles should be
ridden and a circle dance performed. This seems strange, for Lammas is a holiday of rich
mythic and cultural associations, providing endless resources for liturgical celebration.
Corn rigs and barley rigs,
Corn rigs are bonny!
I'll not forget that happy night
Among the rigs with Annie!
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Y Dynion Mwyn - Welsh Tradition in America
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