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As one of three annual harvest celebrations marked in the Witch's sabbat cycle, Lughnasadh doesn't seem like much of a stand-out. Unless you're tending crops on a daily basis, you're not very likely to be especially filled with excitement over the thought of the first harvest, as opposed to the second or third harvest. The book Lughnasadh in Llewellyn's Sabbat Essentials series will help you find unique ways to celebrate the Lughnasadh sabbat. While we modern Pagans may struggle to find ways to celebrate and differentiate Lughnasadh, to the ancients, it was an important holiday distinct from any other. From community fairs and competitions to potluck feasts and public weddings, Pagans of the past honored the sacred day of Lughnasadh in big, bold ways that often involved the whole community. If you're looking for some ways to turn your own Lughnasadh celebration into something memorable and crowd-worthy, you can find inspiration in the older customs of Pagans past. By exploring the ancient celebrations and employing a little creative thinking, you'll be able to give your own twist to traditional elements to create a Lughnasadh sabbat that's fun for all.
If you'd like to bring some of the excitement of the traditional August country fair into your own Lughnasadh celebration, be sure to incorporate plenty of games, sports, and competitions. Consider volleyball, flag football, throwing competitions, dodge ball, foot races, tennis matches, water gun battles, tug-of-war bouts, frisbee, and other picnic favorites. Be sure to include activities suitable for the full age range of guests you plan to invite. Try shuffleboard, bingo, or card games for older guests, and consider jump rope competitions, bubble blowing contests, and sack races for the younger kids. To add to the fun and fuel the spirit of friendly competition, hand out prizes to the winners. Prizes might include ribbons, silly hats, banners, or gift baskets.
Love and (Temporary) Marriage
To add some romance to your Lughnasadh celebration, consider arranging your own sort of Telltown marriages to last not for a year and a day, but simply for the length of your party. Invite guests to fill out cards of invitation letting other guests know they might be interested in being their Telltown marriage partners for the day. Gather the cards and distribute them discreetly so that the recipients can evaluate each invitation privately. Once all the invitations have been distributed, have your guests gather and ring a bell. The guests who wish to accept the invitations they received can step forward, holding out the card so that its author will know they've been chosen. The newly formed couples can then spend a few minutes getting to know each other a little better, and if all seems amiable, seal their very temporary union more formally. Ask any couples who wish to be "married" for the course of the celebration to join hands. Already established couples can choose one another as a symbolic way of renewing their romantic vows. Tie the couples' hands together with a red ribbon, or simply brush their interwoven hands lightly with a bouquet of flowers to formalize the bond. Over the course of the celebration, incorporate activities and challenges for the new couples to conquer together, be it dancing competitions, couples card games like Bridge or Spades, or a couples scavenger hunt. At the end of the evening, invite the couples to peacefully say their goodbyes, and exchange contact information if they think they might like to continue their newly forged friendship.
In Anglo-Saxon England, a loaf of bread was baked from the first harvested grains, which were considered sacred. The bread was marked with a cross on top in order to further bless it and infuse it with special power. Such bread was believed to have magickal properties, and placing a piece of it at each corner of a dwelling or storehouse was said to confer a divine protection on the building and its contents. After the first of the bread was consecrated, large feasts were held for everyone to enjoy.
If you want your Lughnasadh sabbat to be an occasion to remember, consider including a large feast or special foods in your celebration. You might host a potluck, inviting friends, neighbors, and relatives to bring a favorite dish to share. Try a bread-making party or even a cooking contest if your guests are culinarily-minded. Outdoor feasts are also nice. Consider holding your party in a field or on a hilltop; perhaps an open-air barbeque or picnic would suit your crowd. Prepare special foods in honor of the harvest such as locally-sourced seasonal fruits, berries, and veggies, or freshly harvested grains. After the feast, put on some music so your party goers can dance the night away.
One thing that makes Lughnasadh special is its ability to bring us together. Whether it's a community-wide fair or festival or an intimate picnic with a handful of friends, our Lughnasadh celebrations offer us the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of friendship and camaraderie just as we enjoy the blessings of good food and fun. For more ways to celebrate Lughnasadh and for recipes, crafts, rituals, spells, and information on the history and lore of this sabbat, see Lughnasadh in Llewellyn's Sabbat Essentials series.
Melanie Marquis is the founder of the United Witches global coven and the organizer of Denver Pagans. She has written for Circle, Pentacle, and the American Tarot Association. Melanie's books include Llewellyn's Little Book ...