Updated: Jul 30
This post was supposed to be scheduled for August 1st, but I hit publish instead of schedule, so here is. Blessed Lughnasadh!
It is the first harvest, the exact halfway point between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox! Already! And despite it being the hottest summer on record, this day marks the first shifting of summer into fall, and relief never felt so good to so many.
Here where I live in rural Cortland County, New York State, USA, the shift is palpable. We went from stifling heat on Saturday to a brisk autumnal Sunday. Our high was 69 here on the hilltop where I live. The skies are heavy with clouds. The air is heavy with unshed rain, moisture not yet a raindrop, gathering more and growing until it is.
The cooler temperatures will last most of this week, the week of the Festival of Lugh, the Gaelic sun god.
Lugh was beloved by the people of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. In Modern Irish his feast day is called Lúnasa. In Scottish Gaelic it is Lùnastal. In Manx it's called Luanistyn. And it's one of the four Greater holy days of the Celtic Pagans, the other three being Samhain (around November 7th), Imbolc (around February 2nd,) and Beltane (May 1.)
These are the "cross quarter" dates. The Solstices, the Equinoxes, and the four points that fall halfway in between them form the 8 spokes of the Wheel of the Year.
Lugh was king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a race of pre-Christian gods and goddesses whose stories read like Marvel Comics. (That's a compliment! My ancestors are Irish and Scots.) He carried the Spear of Assall, against which no enemy could stand. It turned to lightning when he hurled it and returned to his hand at his call.
Today's Meaning of Lughnasadh
It's the first harvest! That means the grains are coming in. They have just started selling sweet corn at roadside stands where I live. Part of my personal harvest festival will be enjoying my first fresh-picked ears of sweet corn.
The leaves have not yet begun to turn. Sunday was the first day it was actually chilly, with a wind that was downright brisk. It kept coming up while I was trying to write outside, and I didn't get much done before heading back in. But the chill felt great after heat warnings for the past couple of weeks.
Gardens are giving their earliest bounty in my neighborhood. Peas and beans and zucchinis are coming in. Strawberries have been for a week now, and the briars outside are loaded in blackberries. I fear they won't be very sweet this year. Wet summers dilute their sugar, and this one was wet. They'll be tart this year, but big and juicy!
We are beginning to see the first results of our actions over the spring and summer. Or we might be seeing some indications about what those results will be.
This is a time when I like to reflect on everything I've created and done and spent time on since Imbolc. I like to go through my datebooks or journals, and I never fail to wish I had written in them more faithfully. My social media posts are more reliable sources of information and that's something I'd like to correct. But at the first harvest, I always review with careful attention to the season that's just now ending. Summer.
I also like to look back at what goals I set for the year, so I can take stock.I'm always very good about writing in my new planner at the beginning of a new year, so all the info will be there.
I'm always surprised by some of the things on that list of new year's goals. Some of them, I've forgotten all about. Some of them, I no longer want. Some of them magically happened as if on their own. Some of them, I achieved and then some.
My favorite teacher says not to take score too soon. I think that's like making a wish or casting a spell, and then looking around saying, "Well? Where is it? Where is it? Where is it?"
So I'm careful to get my head straight before I do this review part. I remind myself that I mostly do whatever I feel like doing all the time, and that there's no big race to any big finish. I always have a novel or three in progress. I write blog posts like it's my day job. I freaking LOVE writing in this format about my passions. And I have so many passions! If something didn't get done, it wasn't meant to be, or I wasn't passionate enough to spend my time on it. At 61 that's all the reason I need anymore.
I like to think about my inner life too. How was I feeling about things? Where were my thoughts and my focus? What results am I seeing, that I can link back to where my focus was during the earlier parts of the year? How am I feeling about things now, and how has that changed from the beginning of the year?
So it's a time to take stock.
And then turn the focus outward.
I am reading the most spiritual book imaginable, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The author talks about the importance of reciprocation in Native American tradition. As much as we take from the earth, we must give back to the earth. Taking and giving in equal amounts ensures both parties thrive. It's just a beautiful book Seriously, read it. I got the audiobook and the author reads it herself, and it's like vocal healing, I swear.
At First Harvest, reciprocation means thanksgiving
I don't mean Thanksgiving the holiday. I mean the act of giving thanks and showing gratitude in tangible ways.
Part of every harvest must include thanksgiving. We can express our thanks to nature in tangible, helpful ways.
Offer the first fruits back to nature by feeding them to her children, the deer, the rabbits, the wild turkeys, the birds.
If you transform your scraps into mulch, feeding that mulch to the soil is a beautiful reciprocation.
Tend to your outdoor space. Nature thrives under our attention. It craves a reciprocal relationship. In the above mentioned book, the author shows that sweetgrass is only vanishing in areas where it is not being used. It thrives wherever there is a reservation nearby with basketmakers in residence, who use it in their work.
Leave a traditional offering of pure tobacco.
Offer a song of love to the earth and dance barefoot while you sing it.
Offer water to parched plants
Create a birdbath for the birds to cool off
Spend time in appreciation, which is different from gratitude
The act of appreciation is different from feeling thankful or expressing gratitude. Appreciation means basking in the thing for which we are grateful.
For example, I love my little waterfall. I am grateful to my husband for building it for me, and I tell him so all the time. That's gratitude.
When I go outside and sit by the waterfall basking in its sound, admiring the way the light dances on the currents, and how the moss is growing over the stones; when I pluck stray weeds from the flowers and grasses around it, or just sit there in absolute awe that I have my own waterfall, that is appreciation.
Harvest requires appreciation. It's as much a part of reciprocation as gratitude.
So I'm going to take time not only to notice the first fruits ripening in my life, but to really bask in them and savor them as they mature and manifest. And then I'm going to say thank you by giving something back.
These are my thoughts on this beautiful Lughnasadh.
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