Dance of the Harvest © Rik Berry
Trumpets, harps, hollow-throated horns, pipers, timpanists, unwearied… fiddlers, gleemen, bone-players and bag-pipers, a rude crowd, noisy, profane, roaring and shouting.
— Medieval eyewitness account of Lughnasadh festival at Teltown
Happy Birthday today to Harry Potter and, coincidentally, Madame Helena Blavatsky, author of Isis Unveiled, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, and one of the earliest, and most influential magical women in modern times.
Most noticeably, though, this is the eve of Lughnasadh (variously spelled with one or two Ds and possibly some extra Ss or Hs). The ancient Celts counted days from sundown to sundown, so the celebration of Lughnasadh would have begun at sunset tonight.
This day is named in honor of the Celtic God Lugh, who had dedicated this festival to His foster-mother, Tailtiu. She was the last queen of the Fir Bolg, the ancient race that preceded the Tuatha De Danann. She had died from exhaustion after clearing a great forest so that the land could be cultivated.
When the men of Ireland gathered at Her death-bed, She told them to hold funeral games Her honor. As long as they were held, She prophesied, Ireland would not be without song.
Tailtiu’s name is from the Old Celtic Talantiu, “The Great One of the Earth,” suggesting She may originally have been a personification of the land itself, like so many Irish Goddesses.
Tailtiu is the source of the name of Teltown in County Meath, where the festival was traditionally held in early Ireland. The games evolved into a great tribal assembly, attended by the High King. There, legal agreements were made, political problems discussed, and huge sporting contests were held on the scale of the ancient Olympic Games.
And naturally, artists and entertainers also displayed their talents, traders came from far and wide to sell food, farm animals, fine crafts and clothing, and there was much storytelling, music, and high-spirited revelry.
Tonight, as we prepare for the New Moon, a Solar Eclipse, and the beginning of the season of harvest, we also honor the Great Triple Goddess Hecate, for the last day of every month is sacred to Her.
Hecate is the psychopomp, showing the way between the living and the dead. She is the Lady of the Crossroads and the quintessential Crone. She is the Goddess of Witches and the Wisewomen.
As we observe this night of the dark Moon, and tomorrow’s darkening of the Sun in the eclipse, we ask Hecate’s blessing, for She is our loving guide when we must face Shadow.