Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lughnasadh, Oh It's All About Lugh, Isn't It?!

We're coming up on Lughnasadh (sometimes called Lammas) soon which is the last Pagan celebration of summer, and the first harvest festival, celebrated around August 1-2. 

A Rock Star of a Sun God

Lugh may have been the first rock star, as you'll see from his legends to follow, no he didn't play a screaming guitar, but only because it hadn't been invented yet.  There are lots of great stories about Lugh, my favorite is quite personal.  It's the story about how I was inspired to create my piece Lugh of the Long Arm, seen here. It was actually on Lughnasadh in 2007 and I was driving in my car past a field of tawney wheat that was growing near my home.

The sun was shining on my face, and I was thinking about Lugh, his legends and what this day meant to me, when on the radio came Led Zeppelins, "What is and What Shall Never Be." Robert Plant was crooning away and I could picture him in my head, very sexy, very regal, the spotlight turning his mane of golden waves into a dubious halo of light. And I thought to my self, "Robert Plant is a Sun God!" Sigh. The rest is history, I went home and told my husband, and he agreed that Robert Plant was a great inspiration for a portrait of Lugh.  Dan did the pose for me standing on the coffee table in his kilt, (growwwell...I digress...) and then I channeled Robert while listening to lots of Led Zeppelin while working on this piece.
Lugh of the Long Arm, what a rock star!
Let the Games Begin

In Celtic legend the festival of Lughnasadh is said to have been begun by the god Lugh, as a funeral feast to honor his foster-mother, Tailtiu who died of clearing the plains of Ireland so the farmers could use the land for agriculture, she literally worked herself to death.  Historically, the Lughnasadh festivals were associated with the bountiful harvest of wheat, a time for contests of strength and skill, and a favored time for handfastings as well.

Lugh or LLew, (pronounced Loo, ) means "light" or "shining" and although believed to be considered a deity of the sun by the ancient civilizations of the Celts, the Roman invaders associated him with their God Mercury due to his many skills. He is known as Lugh of the Long Arm, as he is he guardian of the magical spear of Gorias. Another of his magical weapons is the sling which he used to kill his terrible adversary Balor, by using the sling to drive Balors evil staring eye backwards in his skull, so that it stared down it's baneful magic upon Balors own armies.

Jack of All Trades, Master of...Well, All Trades

Lugh is also known as Llew Llaw Gyffes "bright one of skillful hand." He could do it all.   In one legend, he was refused entry to the city of Tara, which was crowded,  he was told that only someone who had skills that no one in the city possessed could gain entry.  He told the keepers of the city each of his many talents, one by one, asking if anyone in the city possessed the talents that he had, wheelright, metal-worker, warrior, bard, magician, doctor, cupbearer, and more. He was told that all those skills were met by individual people within the city. He then asked if any one man possessed all of those skills, to which the reply was "No." This was how Lugh cleverly gained entrance to the city of Tara and came to serve as steward to the King Nuadha.   Later Nuadha lost his hand in battle, and since it was a taboo that a king couldn't rule unless he was whole, Lugh took his over his office and ruled in his stead until his had was replaced by a silver one.  And they weren't going to let him in!  *scoff*

Lugh is also associated with the Ogham, a subject near and dear to my heart.  My deck based upon the Ogham Voice of the Trees has another depiction of Lugh representing the Ash card, the Ash tree is associated with both the sun and spears.  A magical bag called the Crane Skin Bag was considered the vessel that held the secrets of the Ogham, and Lugh once had it in his possesion. 
Another version of Lugh, from my brand new deck Voice of the Trees, in which Lugh represents the Ash tree, this print is available in the new Voice of the Trees Etsy shop!
According to legend, the sea god Manannan mac Lir owned the original Crane Bag which was made from the beautiful Aoife who had been magically transformed into a crane.  It was referred to as ‘a treasure of powers with many virtues.   Manannan mac Lir appeared to the sun God Lugh disguised as a warrior and gifted the bag to him. Lugh incidentally was the first person to receive a message written in Ogham, a warning that his wife was in danger of being abducted, a catastrophe that was avoided because of the message.  Lugh passed the Crane Bag to the three sons of Cermait Honeymouth (another name for Ogma.)  The bag finally ended up back with Manannan mac Lir.  The secrets of the Crane Bag were shared around in this way. 

Those Groupies Will Kill Ya!

In a story from the Mabinogion, at one point Llew had a spell placed upon him by his mother Arianrhod, that he could not have a wife of the human race.  Not nice!  Great magicians Gwydion, his uncle and Math magically made him a wife of flowers, Blodeuwedd which means flower face. While Llew was away she had fallen in love with another man. She then tricked Llew into showing her the only method by which he could be killed. She later had her lover Gronw Pebyr attack him in the manner described. According to legend, the spear only wounded Llew, who turned into an Eagle and soared away. Gwydion found Llew and changed him back, and he also transformed Blodeuwedd into an owl to live out her remaining days. Llew slayed Gronw Pebyr upon the same spot where he had fallen. With Llew now healed and restored, the land grew bountiful and prospered.
A cup bearing the Cup Bearer!  From our Etsy shop

I hope you've enjoyed these tales of Lugh as we approach Lughnasadh, and have his blessing for a bountiful harvest of all the fruits of your labors!


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