Sunday, 31 July 2016

Lughnasadh is coming!


Lugh's Spear by Harold Robert Millar
Wikimedia Commons 
Lughnasadh, one of the four main Celtic Festivals of the year would have been celebrated this evening of 31st July, the Celts' new day beginning at dark or nightfall. Lughnasadh, celebrated on the 1st august, is a time of joy to mark the bounty of the first harvests.

Named after the god Lugh it is also a time to mark the point where the sun’s descent becomes more obvious as it travels towards the darkness of winter.   

The god Lugh is often referred to as the sun god but he is a god of many aspects. He is associated as being a fierce warrior but also of being associated with thunderstorms. The raven, crow and lynx are creatures associated with him and he is said to have had a magic hound. An invincible spear is said to be one of his magic weapons, a spear which never failed to miss its target and was so restless it often moved of its own volition.

There are many sites on the internet with lengthy stories of Lugh and his son Cu Cuchlainn if you’d like more information on the Ulster Cycle of tales.  

Lughnasadh also brings with it an anxiety because although the 1st August traditionally begins Lughnasadh not all of the crops are quite ready yet for harvesting and storing. As daylight reduces and the weather varies from summery to more autumn like the harvesting conditions are crucial for the cropping and storing of fruits and cereals which are meant for long storage.

In the time of my Celtic Fervour Series characters there would have been considerable watching of the ripening of the crops at this time of year. They would have had plenty of experience of checking the crops till they were at the correct stage of ripeness. I’m sure in north-east Scotland almost two thousand years ago, in the lands of the tribes that Ptolemy referred to as Taexali, they would have anxiously watched the weather and made judgements about harvesting depending on what they though the coming days or weeks would be like. Too much rain would have been devastating to crops which were liable to go to mould very quickly if not processed and safely into their underground grain pits.

The advance of General Agricola around AD 83 or 84 to north-east Scotland, said to have been late in the campaign season, would probably have been the absolute worst time for the indigenous tribal people who were essentially farmers. Agricola certainly made his impact on my characters in Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks after Lughnasadh.

Lughnasadh also features in my Teen Time Travel novel The Taexali Game. Here's a little extract from Chapter Seven for your free Sunday read!

A bardic druid?
Aran’s excitement soared. He’d read that bardic druids told stories of the Celts in song and verse as well as being priests of the faith. That they were skilled secret agents was an even more thrilling thing to remember.
Tuadh surged onto his feet, his fist rising high into the air, the noise dwindling to nothing. Furious, yet heartily rousing, his voice boomed over the seated people.
“People of Balbath, of the ancient Taexali, and now allies of the Caledon Federation of tribes – the Roman army again marches across our lands, even though the legions of Emperor Severus trod our soil flat last Lughnasadh. You know how destitute we have been of grain crops over the snows and days of darkness because they carried off the best of our harvest before they burned the remainder, and left us scrabbling for winter fodder for our animals. How many of you had to glean food from our revered forests in the depths of winter, risking the wrath of our god Cernunnos, because the woods and streams were our only source of food?”
A tide of mumbles rumbled around the room.
“Aye! They left us lean and hungry. Now the news is that Emperor Severus flies in our face yet again. The Roman legions stride south towards us, again killing everything in their path that shows a hint of resistance.”
Appalled gasps halted Tuadh.
An old female elder’s frail question broke into the disgust. “Are our constant attacks not sufficient to rout them from our lands?”
“Did their ships not take them away from the northern shores of our Vacomagi neighbours?” asked a warrior alongside her.
“Why do they return? What have we left that they can steal from us?” This wail came from another of the elders.
Tuadh’s shout was meant to calm the disorder… and it did. “We do still have our successes when they infiltrate our woods and hills, but that only happens when we lure in small numbers of them. One Celtic tribe cannot fell a legion of Romans when each soldier wields his powerful gladius and uses his shield like a snail cowering into its shell.”
One of the warriors opposite Tuadh jumped up, his sheer fury evident in his clenched fists held fast to his thighs. “After they left us in dire straits last Lughnasadh it was said they would not return to Beinn Na Ciche and our Garioch area since they had already laid waste to our soil. We were told that they would sail back to Rome using their fleet of vessels which we have noted many times, plying back and forth off our Taexali shores. Why has this not happened?”

“Listen well to our druid brother who has the latest tidings from north and south. He can explain all to us.” Tuadh’s hand rested briefly on the tall man’s shoulder before he sat down again.


Lughnasadh greetings to you! 


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