Lughnasadh

We are now arriving at Lughnasadh, one of my favourite festivals of the year. This is the midway point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. It’s all about celebrating the first Harvest of the year and what a year it has been!

Things have changed massively all over the world and it is doubtful that they will ever be the same again. 

This is the time to reap what we have sown, food is harvested by farmers and we usually get together to feast and give thanks to Lugh, who is always offered the first of the corn and bread. This celebration is as old as time itself and always brings together friends and family, who may have been too busy to see each other before now. It is also a time when deals are traditionally made in the Political, Social and Economic sense. This year it may be more important than any recent years.

It is a time in here in Ireland when Puck Fair is held. People take their horses, cattle, crafts, and goods that they want to sell before winter sets in. Lots of deals are made and bargains found. Debts are settled and Friends are reunited.

This year I am not feeling the festival spirit that usually goes with all the Lughnasadh celebrations. In fact, I am finding it hard to write this piece as I am not sure what exactly we are reaping right now.

Is it humanities careless destruction of habitats and wildlife, flora and fauna that has brought us to this time and these events? Nobody can say for certain, but it is time to change. So maybe this Lughnasadh is more about change rather than celebrating. 

We still have crops to harvest and food to eat, but many of us have lost things and people that we may have taken for granted. Some are reaping pain and sorrow, while others are filled with fear and apprehension. Then there are those that refuse to change, who still carry on as if nothing has happened and believe it will not happen to them. To all of them I have to say, hang on, really look around you and take in what is happening. Look at where our selfishness has brought us. It must change, and it has to change now! I am not just talking about the Planet, but everything on it.

I remember about six weeks into lockdown, that there was news saying that the Canals in Venice were clear again, there was even a mention of dolphins being seen swimming in them. To me that seemed amazing as I never knew there were even dolphins in Venice! 

Over here in Ireland the grass verges were not being cut as normal and the hedgerows grew wild. Flowers and herbs appeared that never had the chance to grow before. All this gave nature a bit of breathing space, a small time to recover. The bees had plenty of wildflowers to feed on and the birds had lots of spaces for their young to learn to fly.

We felt the pain of not seeing friends and family as much as we wanted to. We learnt that some people were more vulnerable than others and needed more help than usual. So, people helped. They came together and started to form organisations to assist anyone that needed it. 

Even Governments realised they had to start helping where it was really needed, instead of just where it would make them the most money. They faced one crisis after another. The type of which they had never seen before. People realised that things they had taken for granted, like Healthcare, was much more important than earning the next million. Or building the biggest business. In fact, many big businesses will not be returning.

People found they had a lot of spare time on their hands and at first didn’t know what to do with it. Many took up new hobbies, things they had never had the time to do when they were working. They had more time to talk to friends and family but could only do it over the internet, not the same, but a lot of families became closer than they were before. 

As humans we do not often realise what we have until it is gone, but this virus has given us the chance to see that we have a lot and that our priorities have shifted. The things that are important to us now are things we may have put on a back burner before. Relatives we hardly saw or even contacted, other than at Birthdays or other events. We are starting to think about other humans and how they live. How they are treated. Some people are rising up in anger about the injustices in the world. Others are calling out about the world herself. The billions of tonnes of plastics that are destroying our seas and rivers, global warming etc. All these things have been around for a long time, but not a lot was done about it. Now that people have more time they are starting to wake up and really look at what is happening in the world and those that can are getting involved in ways they never thought of before.

The most important commodity we have is time, yet it is the one thing we have always taken for granted. No one thinks that their job is going to end before they are ready, their relationships may do the same and even their lives. But the reality of it all has been thrown in our faces. Nothing has been left untouched. 

While we may be terrified about losing our jobs and what that will mean, we also have the opportunity to think about what we really want to do with our lives. Are you living the dream? Are you even living where you want to live? If not, why not?

The answer is simple, we realise we must make a living, to be able to live. That then becomes our slave master, and somewhere along the way we start to compromise. We live closer to work, we put up with bosses we cannot stand and jobs we hate because we have to live. But is that really living? 

A lot of jobs just won’t be there anymore and this is a cause of great distress to a lot of people. What can they do now? How will they live? How will they keep a roof over their heads and food on the table? The answers are not easy and will not happen fast. But the time we have now to think about these things might also be the answer to living a better life. 

As we cannot go out to work, and we do have spare time on our hands why not use it to move us closer to the work we really want to do? There are so many different courses that we can do online, we can retrain for just about anything these days. That is something we would never think about while we were still going on as we have for years, getting up, going to work, coming home, relaxing then doing the same thing day after day, year after year. Maybe if we are lucky flying to some exotic location for a couple of weeks each year and coming back to the same old same old. With no end in sight. If you are comfortable with that lifestyle then stick with it, it may not work for everyone but for those it does work for, they should keep doing it.

It is all about what works for you. Take time out to be selfish and think about what you really want to do. Because if you find a job you love, it no longer feels like a job. You will enjoy each day you go to work. You will be working with like minded people and be a lot happier in general. When we are happier, our health improves, and we actually find out we are capable of so much more than we thought we were. The work we do, improves consequently and everything seems so much easier.

Some of us dream of better lives, more connected, doing the things we love all day. So, if you see this time of restriction as a time to find out more about how to do that, it could just be a blessing in disguise. Something to celebrate after all.

Nothing happens without a reason and Covid 19 seems to be all about constraint. But when we are constrained, humans sometimes come out of it better than they ever could have dreamed of. Go and chase your dream, you may never get this chance again so do not waste it.

So even through the adversity and change of the last six months or so, there may be something to harvest after all, Time, one of the most valuable commodities we have. How you use it is up to you but spend it wisely.

Here is a charm to help you attract the things that you want in your life, while you are planning what to do next. They are traditional recipes that can be used every year. 

You will need either a broom or normal sweeping brush.

A piece of Green ribbon (For prosperity) a piece of Gold (For abundance) and a piece of Red (for passion.)

A sprig of Mint.

Wrap the mint around the handle of your broom, using the ribbons to hold it in place. Then go outside and stand about 3 foot away from your door.

State your intention of gathering in the harvest for winter and slowly turn clockwise 3 times.

Turn towards your door and say “By one, two, three and four, Sweep Lughnasadh gifts to my door. May abundance be my constant friend, by my hearth till winters end”. Repeat this 3 times.

Take your broom back inside and you can leave the ribbons and mint in place or if not practical return the mint to the earth and keep your ribbons in site on a worktop in your kitchen. 

Buttermilk Bread Charm for Lugnasadh

You will need:

3 mugs of strong white flour

500 ml of Buttermilk (available from the supermarket)

I teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda

Lughnasadh ribbons in your choice of colours – gold, orange, yellow

Sprouted seeds – these represent regeneration. Can even be bought in the supermarket now. Frequently found in wholefood shops – or sprout your own.

Place the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Sieve in the blended salt and soda and pour in the buttermilk. Mix well with a wooden spoon until the dough feels springy and then mix in the sprouted seeds. If it feels too sloppy just add a little more flour. Turn it onto a board and cover with a fine dusting of flour. Pat it with your hands until you have a round shape. Take a sharp knife and score lightly into eight sections, one for each festival of the year. 

Place onto a greased baking tray and pop your buttermilk bread into a moderate oven for about 20-25 minutes. Keep and eye on it. When the bread is ready it will change colour and it will sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Cool completely on a wire rack. When it is cool, tie it with Lughnasadh ribbons.

Take time to concentrate on the bread you have created and turn the loaf three times saying

“From the fields and through the stones, into fire goes the Bread, as the Wheel turns may all be fed. May the God of the harvest bless us all.”

Now take your bread and share it with your family and friends and pass on the generous blessings of this bright and bountiful festival. Eat it fresh, as soon as it is made if you can.