Lammas (lah-muz) and Lughnasadh (loo-nah-sa) are used interchangeably among modern witches, spiritualists, and Pagans. The Sabbat is celebrated on August 1st in the Northern Hemisphere and February 1st in the Southern Hemisphere.
In this article, we’ll explore the origins and history, rituals, altar decorations, and a few basic recipes to try for the first harvest festival.
What Is Lammas / Lughnasadh?
Lammas, pronounced as “lah-muhz,” marks the start of the harvest season. After a hot, dry summer, people begin to reap the rewards of their patience and toil as they tended to their crops, farm fields, and gardens under the blazing sun.
The Wheel of the Year celebrates three harvest festivals: Lammas, Mabon, and Samhain. Lammas is the grain harvest. Other foods often harvested around this time include berries, grapes, and late-summer fruits such as peaches and plums, as well as the earliest fall vegetables like squashes and pumpkins.
(Check out our guide to shop for in-season food!)
Lammas signals the waning heat of summer and the beginning of our transition into cooler, darker days. We are entering a time of great abundance preceding a period of hardship. Apples are starting to ripen. Summer vegetables have been collected from the garden. The corn is tall, the soybeans are green and full, and the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn are just around the corner.
Certain Wiccan and Pagan cultures celebrate Lughnasadh to honor Lugh, the Celtic god of craftsmanship and light. Some religions believe that Lugh, growing old and tired as the season shifts from light to dark, transfers the last of his power into the grain at Lammas. When it’s harvested, he is sacrificed, and the seeds that come from the harvest are saved to plant next year’s crop and continue the cycle of rebirth.
History & Origins of Lammas / Lughnasadh
Lammas comes from the Old English phrase hlaf-maesse. Translation: “loaf-mass.”
Grain was an important staple crop of ancient civilizations. In Greek mythology, Demeter was the goddess of grain, fertility, agriculture, and the harvest — just as Ceres was to the Romans.
To many civilizations, grain became a symbol of the death and rebirth cycle. Evidence of harvest-themed festivals can be traced back thousands of years to many ancient cultures. The Egyptians celebrated the beginning of the harvest season with a massive feast in honor of Min, the god of vegetation and fertility, back in 3100-2686 B.C.
The Dynasties of China were known to have a feast called Chung Ch’ui during the first full moon of autumn. Women baked “moon cakes” for the feast. The Greeks celebrated Thesmophoria in honor of the goddess Demeter, and the Romans had a harvest festival called Cerelia in honor of Ceres. The list of ancient harvest festivals goes on and on.
However, it was the culture of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man (as well as some of the surrounding territories) between 1046 B.C. and 1621 A.D. that established the tradition of Lammas and Lughnasadh. The harvest festival was in honor of Lugh, the Celtic god of the arts, poetry, and craftsmanship. Lugh was a warrior god who carried an array of magical weapons, including a spear, javelin, and magical shield that he used to disguise himself from enemies and create diversions.
Although Lugh was the inspiration of Lughnasadh, many early traditions were actually in honor of Lugh’s mother, Tailtiu. As the story goes, Tailtiu was an Irish goddess who died from exhaustion while tirelessly working to clear the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Lugh buried her under sacred ground and honored her with athletic competitions known as the “Taileteann Games.” Competions such as foot races, spear throwing, archery, wrestling, long jumping, high jumping, hurling, swimming, and horse racing were common events that accompanied the Lughnasadh feast. Non-sporting competitions like poetry readings, singing, and dancing were also popular.
In early Ireland, harvesting grain before the first harvest festival was considered to be a bad omen. It meant that the previous year’s harvest had been depleted too soon, indicating that the agricultural community was failing to produce enough food to make it through the winter.
But on the first of August, the farmer would cut the first sheaves of grain, and by nightfall, his wife had baked the first loaves of bread for the new harvest season. It was even customary in early Christian times to have the Church bless the first loaves of the season. This connection to grain and bread led to the term “Lammas” becoming synonymous with the Lughnasadh celebration.
This idea of abundance followed by rest and then rebirth is symbolic of setting our intentions for the future so we can put our energy into new goals.
Tips to Decorate Your Lammas Altar
The traditional colors for Lammas and Lughnasadh are gold, yellow, green, and brown. As this is the first harvest festival, your Lammas altar would do well decorated with any fruits, seeds, berries, vegetables, grains, and flowers you can find. Apples, corn, potatoes, grapes, and pears make a splendid addition.
Common herbs and flowers for Lammas include mugwort, basil, frankincense, and vervain. Sunflowers will be in season, and they’re a beautiful way to decorate the home for the first harvest festival.
The best crystals to represent Lammas are citrine, tigers eye, carnelian, and obsidian (or rainbow obsidian).
Other symbols often associated with Lammas include sickles and scythes, grapevines, corn dolls, dried grains, and bucks.
My Garden Box - $39.00
Celebrations & Rituals for Lammas
Baking bread has been an important Lammas ritual for hundreds and even thousands of years. If baking bread is your thing, create a special homemade meal for Lammas.
If you’re not much of a baker, that’s okay. You can still incorporate bread into your meal, even if you didn’t bake it yourself, and take a moment to appreciate how important bread was to our ancestors.
Like most other Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, fire is an important element. It’s historically been used to ward off evil spirits, honor deities, and represent life-bringing light and warmth.
In the old days, Sabbats were often celebrated with a community bonfire where people would gather to eat, drink, dance, laugh, and give thanks.
If you can’t have a bonfire, you can bring this same energy into your home with candles instead. I’ve recently fallen in love with the wood-wick candles from Hemlock Park. They’re made with organic coconut oil, and a tree is planted for every purchase. Another longtime favorite of mine is the 100% vegan soy candles from Old Soul Artisan inspired by folktales, literature, and the dark psyche. $1 from every online order is donated to wolf conservation, and Old Soul Artisan has a wonderful Samhain fragrance for the third harvest festival.
Another sacred Lammas activity was picking berries. People used to climb up to a mountaintop in order to collect the wild berries, and the trek represented Lugh’s ascent as a sun god so his sacrifice to the harvest could be properly appreciated. While you don’t need to climb a mountain, you can still make a local berry harvest part of your celebration.
Feasting is a major aspect of every harvest festival. Consider inviting friends for a picnic or potluck. Visit your local farmers market if you can.
Another fun Lammas activity that’s also great for kids is making a cornhusk doll. This tradition goes back through the centuries when people harvested corn and used leftover husks to make dolls. You can make a simple doll or decorate it with paint, ribbons, cloth, shells, stones, flowers, and anything else you can find.
The association with Lugh makes this celebration a wonderful time for all sorts of crafts. Make music and art, even if you’re not very good at it. Attend craft festivals. Write poetry. Feel the power of the muses all around you. Be creative in whatever way best suits you.
When you’re doing your meditation, be mindful of the changing season. The harvest is a time of positive energy when we reap the benefits of our hard work, but it’s also the time to be saving seeds to plant later, thinking about the future, and preparing to slow down and rest once the work is done so we can be recharged for spring.
(If you’re already planning your garden for next year, check out Seeds Now for heirloom, non-GMO, raw, untreated seeds.)
Tamed Wild Box - $60.00
Simple Lammas Recipes
Below are a few recipes to celebrate Lammas:
1 c flour
1/2 c cornmeal
1/4 c sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 beaten eggs
1 c milk
1/4 c shortening
- Preheat the oven to 430°F.
- Add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl, then blend in the eggs, milk, and shortening. Beat into a combined mixture.
- Pour the mixture into a square pan or a lined or greased cupcake pan.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top of the bread is firm enough that it no longer leaves an indent when it’s touched.
2 c buttermilk
3 tbsp melted shortening
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 c cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Beat the eggs, then add the buttermilk and melted shortening. Mix well.
- Add the salt, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda to the mixture and beat until it’s smooth, then pour the combined mixture into a greased pan.
- Bake about 25 minutes. Best served hot.
1 c sugar
1/3 softened stick of butter
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c milk
1 tsp salt
4 c fresh blackberries (thawed from frozen is okay but fresh is preferred)
2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 c water
- Boil the water and preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Mix the butter and most of the sugar together, then add the flour, baking powder, milk, and salt. Blend until creamy.
- Spread the mixture into a greased baking pan.
- Pour the blackberries over the batter and sprinkle the cinnamon and what’s left of the sugar, then pour the boiling water across the top.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Best served warm with fresh cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
However you choose to celebrate Lammas, there truly is no “right way” or “wrong way.” Choose the practices that work best for you and make them your new tradition with your own personal spin.
Award-winning fantasy author, freelance writer, spiritual explorer, and sole founder of Green Witch Lunar Witch. She created her first website in 2016 and published her first novel two years later. Sara spends most of her time writing, creating, and daydreaming.