Celtic Spiritual Festivals

Each year as the earth orbits around the Sun, we move through the eternal cycle from birth to death. This is true for Cosmos, Nature, humanity and individuals . Astrologically the year is divided into eight segments of 45 degrees, each corresponding to a specific zodiacal position. These eight cycles are also correspond to the eight Lunation cycles, which are instrumental in our unique soul purpose, as outlined in the birthchart.

Sun King Solstice Meditation

The four more well-known of these cycles are the Equinoxes (day and night are equal) and Solstices (longest and shortest days of sunlight). The following tabulation is a brief outline, which varies according to the hemisphere you reside within. Celebration of these ancient Festivals differs somewhat by date from the traditions, as we are now in the 21st century, a new Epoch.

  • Spring (Autumn) Equinox
    • 19th – 22nd March
    • Birth/Eostre
    • 0 Aries
    • New Moon
  • Beltane/Mayday
    • 1st – 6th May
    • Fertility
    • 15 Taurus
    • Crescent
  • Summer (Winter) Solstice
    • 19th – 22nd June
    • Retreat/contemplation
    • 0 Cancer
    • First Quarter
  • Lughnasadh
    • 1st – 6th August
    • Harvest
    • 15 Leo
    • Gibbous
  • Autumn (Spring) Equinox
    • 19th – 22nd September
    • 2nd Harvest
    • 0 Libra
    • Full Moon
  • Samhain/Halloween
    • 31st Oct – 6th November
    • Portal to Inner
    • 15 Scorpio
    • Disseminating
  • Winter (Summer) Solstice
    • 19th – 22nd December
    • Pause/reorient
    • 0 Capricorn
    • Last Quarter
  • Imbolc/St Brigid’s Festival
    • 1st – 6th February
    • Light returns/emerges
    • 15 Aquarius
    • Balsamic
  • Glastonbury Tor . . .
  • Peace Circle of Ballynoe . . . .
  • Long Meg & Her Daughters . . . .
  • Summer Solstice – The Goddess Whispers . . .
  • Summer Solstice – Newgrange . . . .
  • Spiritual Festivals . . . .
  • Visiting Sacred Sites Index . . . .
  • Esoteric Astrology Appointments/Fertility Planning . . . .

Lugnasad Festival and its role in Celtic Mythology

In Old Gaelic Lugnasad.  (Luġnasaḋ, Lughnasadh and Lughnasa), which also means the name for the month of August, was the annual celebration of the Harvest Moon celebrated on 1st August.

In Irish mythology the Lughnasadh festival is said to have been begun by the god Lugh as a funeral feast and sporting competition in commemoration of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. The first location of the Áenach Tailteann gathering was at Tailtin, (between Navan and Kells about 2 hours south west of Ballynoe).

Historically, the Áenach Tailteann was a time for contests of strength and skill and a favoured time for contracting marriages and winter lodgings. A peace was declared at the festival, and religious celebrations were held. This Festival was also held in honour of Carmun, a goddess of the Celts.

As part of the Festival a solemn cutting of the first of the corn of which an offering would be made to the Deity by bringing it up to a high place and burying it; a meal of the new food and of bilberries of which everyone must partake; a sacrifice of a sacred bull, a feast of its flesh, with some ceremony involving its hide, and its replacement by a young bull; a ritual dance-play perhaps telling of a struggle for a goddess and a ritual fight; an installation of a head on top of the hill and a triumphing over it by an actor impersonating Lugh; another play representing the confinement by Lugh of the monster blight or famine; a three-day celebration presided over by the brilliant young god or his human representative. Finally, a ceremony indicating that the interregnum was over, and the chief god in his right place again.

Lughnasadh celebrations were commonly held on hilltops. Traditionally, people would climb hills on Lughnasadh to gather bilberries, which were eaten on the spot or saved to make pies and wine. It is thought that Reek Sunday—the yearly pilgrimage to the top of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo in late July—was originally a Lughnasadh ritual.  As with the other Gaelic seasonal festivals (Imbolc, Beltane and Samhain), the celebrations involved a great feast. In the Scottish Highlands, people made a special cake called the lunastain, which was also called luinean when given to a man and luineag when given to a woman. This may have originated as an offering to the gods.

Another custom that Lughnasadh shared with the other Gaelic festivals was the lighting of bonfires and visiting of holy wells. The ashes from Lughnasadh bonfires would be used to bless fields, cattle and people. Visitors to holy wells would pray for health while walking sunwise around the well. They would then leave offerings; typically coins or clooties (see clootie well).

In Gaelic Ireland, Lughnasadh was also a favoured time for handfastings – trial marriages that would generally last a year and a day, with the option of ending the contract before the new year, or formalizing it as a lasting marriage.

Modern Festival

In Ireland, some people continue to celebrate the holiday with bonfires and dancing. The Catholic Church in Ireland has established the ritual of blessing fields on this day. In the Irish diaspora, survivals of the Lúnasa festivities are often seen by some families still choosing August as the traditional time for family reunions and parties, though due to modern work schedules these events have sometimes been moved to adjacent secular holidays, such as the Fourth of July in the United States.  In Ireland, the festival survived as the Taillten Fair, and was revived for a period in the 20th century as the Telltown Games.