IN MY NECK OF THE WOODS, THE LUGHNASADH SEASON IS NOT VERY HARVEST-LIKE.
It’s taken me years of trial and error to develop a celebration actually related to my climate and geography. Once I finally figured that out, designing a meaningful sabbat was much more intuitive and meaningful.
Lughnasadh was straight up my least observed holiday. I just didn’t get it. I almost always forgot it was even coming up unlike other sabbats where I was either giddy with anticipation all month or at the very least having peculiar urges to act out the season’s rituals (thanks for the OCD Imbolc cleaning frenzy, Brigid!).
During August in North Texas everyone’s grass is scorched and dead and the soil is like dry cement. Everything outside is too hot to touch. Swimming pools feel like hot bathwater. At all hours, the summer hums with cicadas rattling in crescendos like ocean waves. People stay cloistered indoors, trying to seal in the air conditioning against the lascivious, hot breath of the daytime sun pressing palpably s against doors and windows.
The crisp, yellow ground is more barren at this time than it is in winter. Winter isn’t really a thing here; it’s mostly like fall with less leaves. We don’t experience killing frosts, instead we have drought and relentless sun that bakes delicate vegetation and hardens the ground like clay in a kiln. The landscape burns and seemingly dies, only to spring back to life again in the fall when temperatures and rain fall just a bit.
Texas summer basically like other regions’ winter, just with fire instead of ice.
As such, I’ve come to celebrate Lughnasadh more like Yule or Imbolc are in colder climates. In those regions, the winter days get REALLY short and bitterly cold. The celebration is like, “That sucked but we made it! Let’s be thankful nice weather is coming back again!”
Similarly, Lughnasadh has a “We’re almost there, summer’s almost over and fall is coming!” kind of vibe for me. It’s about a bit of humbleness in recognition that ordeals are part of the cycle to make way for future enjoyment rather than Lughnasadh being about reveling in a present harvest.
So, the ancient, athletic, manly Lugh stuff is out. Too hot! And feasting on hearty autumn fare is not very refreshing in the oppressive heat. Nevertheless, traditional basil beer bread is a staple for me, spiked with Shiner beer and a heavy-handed serving of cooling basil. If the garden patch is especially scorched, spring’s basil preserved in olive oil is just as good or better.
Seasonal fruits like blueberries, figs, and hatch chiles are the primary late summer crops. Eating figs always makes me feel like I’m doing something decadent and ancient! Peaches and pears will only be ripe after another month of soaking up the sun. They blush on their southwestern faces like merry cherubs. The rest of us nurse our sunburns, heat rashes, poison ivy, and chigger bites.
“I am the things that are, that will be, and that have been.
No mortal has yet been able to lift the veil that covers Me.”
– Inscription on the temple of Neith at Sais. Proclus (412–485 AD).
The Egyptian goddess Neith’s day is Aug 7th, so I am including her in the sabbat this year.
Also spelled Nit, Net, or Neit, Neith is a goddess of hunting, war, weaving, and the primordial waters of creation. Her symbols include a shield with crossed two arrows or a weaving shuttle as pictured to the left in both her cartouche and her headdress.
Her vibe of physical endurance and the interplay of harsh action and force on the one hand with the restraint of planning (weaving) and dormant vitality (primordial waters) on the other speaks to me during this season.
Lughnasadh Beer Bread