(my raspberries, picture taken in May/June 2015)
Today, Inland Empire Guild shared a blog post on Facebook from the popular patheos.com called, Why I’m boycotting Lughnasadh, and though I left a comment, I felt the need to delve deeper into the sabbat, because why not? I am not going to sift through the post and pluck apart the bloggers argument because ultimately he has a right to celebrate or not celebrate the sabbat and he was just sharing some opinions. Rather, I would like to look closer at what I consider the main point which is whether or not the sabbat is worth celebrating because it isn’t in the right season.
On the harvest: Common knowledge indicates that Lughnasadh is the first harvest festival. I have already harvested berries back in June due to that heat wave, and another round of harvesting is on its way for my onions and tomatoes. I could harvest them now, actually, but I would like to wait until Mabon. More commonly this sabbat is associated with wheat and due to our sad winters, harvesting starts earlier and earlier in the season.
Ellen Dugan’s book, Seasons of Witchery, describes how this was once a carnival celebration and would last for weeks. Successful celebrations required successful harvests. This is the part of Celtic history that does connect us through time. Bonfires were common and so were great feasts. One thing to consider, however, is how cautious we must be in being optimistic of successful harvests. If you read this article about Palouse wheat farmers the article suggests that though they were optimistic in March when the article was written, they would not make predictions due to the list of factors to consider. As a harvest festival it would make sense to adjust its celebrations contingent on your locality and actual harvest.
Another component of the argument in the blog post is whether it is a sabbat celebrating the first of autumn. The author seems to think it is but I disagree. In Grimoire for the Green Witch by Ann Moura she includes a ritual and some information on this sabbat, referring to it mostly as a bread/wheat harvest sabbat but includes blackberry wine (often harvested around this time) and decorating the altar with summer flowers. These are elements that sound to me like a fine blend of summer and autumn. Much like the sabbat of Imbolc in Raven Grimassi’s Well Worn Path oracle deck, is represented by fire and ice because it is still winter but there are elements of spring making themselves known. Where Lugh is a bread sabbat, Imbolc is often dairy and pastries. Why did I mention Imbolc? In the Wheel of the Year these sabbats are opposite. While I eat a thick loaf of bread with some meat cuts for Lughnasadh in a summer’s afternoon, Australians maybe are enjoying fluffy pastry brunch with sweet milk. Duality doth rule the Wheel.
August is the hottest month, but why after Litha when we celebrated the return of darkness and days are getting shorter would temps get hot? I imagine for the same reason that after celebrating Yule you don’t run outside naked expecting 80 degree temps. For the actual science click here.
Basically, August is the last sabbat before the Autumn Equinox (considered the first day of Fall). It’s the heat of summer, it is the hottest, to suffer through it means the cold is coming right around the corner. Celebrate and appreciate summer before it is gone. Arin Murphy-Hiscock says something similar in Solitary Wicca for Life and mentions that, “it arrives at the time of the year when fresh vegetables and seafood begin to be inexpensive and plentiful in my area”. According to the author bio she lives in Quebec, Canada, but I have found the Perry Street farmers market to be rather explosive around this time as well.
Finally, climate change has become the undercurrent of the ecofeminist movement, of which Starhawk has been a huge influence. We in Spokane have experienced an incredible drought, several wildfires, and we will probably suffer some of the consequences for it.
There are several aspects of Lughnasadh that will keep me celebrating even if it means trying to throw cold water at a sabbat too hot for our region to handle! One thing that the author of the blog post and I agree with is that you should go outside, sync to nature. I don’t have the time to source all of the sites, books, and info I could find on how sabbats in Paganism span days and weeks, but I think there is a lot to the idea. Maybe one of the reasons for that was to ensure the celebration reflects the natural energies and physical climate. Maybe it allowed more time for crops to be harvested. And I do believe that sabbats do not necessarily have to be celebrated on a specific day for that reason. If there is a week before or after that feels the most call or beckoning to you, celebrate when you feel the time is right. When you feel like, “yes, this is the energy I have been waiting for, this is the right time to honor the gods!” Throughout time we as humans have relied on harvests for food and that is still true to this day.
Blessed be, and happy Lughnasadh, whenever you celebrate!