"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Lammas ~ Lughnasa


August 1st is the cross-quarter holiday halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox, called Lughnasa (from the ancient Irish god Lugh) or Lammas Day (from the Anglo-Saxon term hlaf [meaning loaf] - mas. Sometimes called The Feast of the First Corn, it is the first harvest festival of the year -- the cutting of the first corn, the first wheat, the "first fruits." One time - honored custom was to celebrate Lughnasa not necessarily on the 1st day of August, but on the evening of the nearest full moon. Another was to extend the celebration from August 1st through September 1st, giving us not merely Lammas but Lammastide, and making this Fortnightly post the perfect occasion for observing the midway point of the season.

Although some Americans may be familiar with -- fans even -- of the Meryl Streep movie: Dancing at Lughnasa, for the most part this holiday goes unobserved in the United States. It simply doesn't draw the kind of attention to itself that the other cross - quarter days do: Groundhog Day (halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox); May Day (halfway between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice); Halloween / All Saints Day / Dia de los Muertos (halfway between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice).

In England, back in 1981 anyway,
Lammastide retained enough currency
to feature on a postage stamp,
along with several other folk celebrations:

Thanks to my friend Steven for reminding me that Shakespeare's tragic heroine Juliet (like Harry Potter and his creator J. K. Rowling) was born on July 31st -- Lammas - Eve. We learn this fun fact from Juliet's devoted Nurse, as she recollects Juliet's toddler - hood:

"On Lammas - Eve at night shall she be fourteen.
That shall she. Marry, I remember it well. . . ."
Romeo & Juliet
, I, iii, 23 - 24

Color illustration of Juliet and Her Nurse
by British artist ~ Gertrude Demain Hammond (1862 - 1952)
for an 1878 illustrated edition of Charles and Mary Lamb's
Tales from Shakspeare

I like to think that Carole King had Lughnasa in mind when she wrote these lovely lyrics about the seamless transition from July to August, along with the subtlest hint that before long, Summer will soon give way to Fall:
The First Day in August

On the first day in August
I want to wake up by your side
After sleeping with you
On the last night in July
In the morning
We'll catch the sun rising
And we'll chase it from the mountains
To the bottom of the sea

When the day is over
And the night air comes to chill us
You'll build a fire
And we'll watch the flames dancing

You'll fall asleep
With your arm around my shoulder
And nothing will come between us
On the first night in August
The first day in August
Noon, Rest from Work (1890)
Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890)
~ after Millet ~

Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, August 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

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