Sunday, August 2, 2015

First harvest's in.

Yesterday was Lughnasa, one of the big Neopagan holidays. Legend has it that August 1st was set aside by Lugh Lámhfhada (or Lugh of the Long Hand) as a day to honor His foster mother, Tailtiu. There were to be games and feasting to mark the occasion. In addition, the festival celebrates the first harvest: wheat and other grains, as well as the first apples.

Lugh is an interesting fellow. His father was Cian, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann -- in other words, the ancient Irish gods -- and His mother was Ethniu, daughter of a Fomorian chieftain named Balor. He was sent out to foster with Tailtiu, who was of the Fir Bolg -- and that rounds out the three tribes or ethnic groups that were vying for control of Ireland at that time.

When Lugh first came to Tara, the seat of the high kings of Ireland, the guard at the gate wouldn't let Him in. Our multi-talented hero offered his services, one after the other, to the gatekeeper, as recounted by Lady Gregory in Gods and Fighting Men. (Tara is spelled Teamhair in the original, but I'm using the modern spelling. Also, grammer nerds, please excuse the lack of paragraph breaks between speakers -- it's the original text, not me!)
"What are you skilled in?" said the door-keeper; "for no one without an art comes into Tara." "Question me," said Lugh; "I am a carpenter." "We do not want you; we have a carpenter ourselves, Luchtar, son of Luachaid." "Then I am a smith." "We have a smith ourselves, Colum Cuaillemech of the Three New Ways." "Then I am a champion." "That is no use to us; we have a champion before, Ogma, brother to the king." "Question me again," he said; "I am a harper." "That is no use to us; we have a harper ourselves, Abhean, son of Bicelmos, that the Men of the Three Gods brought from the hills." "I am a poet," he said then, "and a teller of tales." "That is no use to us; we have a teller of tales ourselves, Erc, son of Ethaman." "And I am a magician." "That is no use to us; we have plenty of magicians and people of power." "I am a physician," he said. "That is no use; we have Diancecht for our physician." "Let me be a cup-bearer," he said. "We do not want you; we have nine cup-bearers ourselves. "I am a good worker in brass." "We have a worker in brass ourselves, that is Credne Cerd."
Finally, Lugh said, "Go and ask the king if he has any one man that can do all these things, and if he has, I will not ask to come into Tara." So the guard went in and delivered the message to Nuada, who suggested that the guard try Lugh at chess. When Lugh won every game, Nuada relented at last and let Him in. Later, Lugh became high king himself and ruled for forty years -- and fulfilled a prophecy by killing Balor, His grandfather, in battle.

Lugh is sometimes referred to as the Irish sun god, but He's not. Belenus, or maybe the Dagda, hold that honor. No, Lugh is the god of light -- as well as the patron of all the other things He told that gatekeeper He was good at: smithcraft, music, poetry and storytelling, medicine, and all the rest.

When men came at last to Ireland, the Tuatha took their royal court and retreated "under the hill" -- and Lugh of the Long Hand, the god who could do anything, shrunk in both stature and importance. Today, He's known as the leprechaun.

Neopagans celebrate Lughnasa -- or as it's also known, Lammas -- by baking bread or oatcakes, and by taking stock of their own personal harvests. Alert readers of hearth/myth know that my own harvest this year is spotty: I haven't yet made a permanent move to Colorado, but I've finished the ten-book Pipe Woman Chronicles cycle with the publication of Dragon's Web and Firebird's Snare this spring. I'm planning one more book before I let Naomi and her family alone for a while, but it won't be a novel. Instead, it will be a companion volume to the series, consisting of information on each of the gods and goddesses who have appeared in the story. (This post gives you a taste of what readers might find in such a book.)

Aside from that, I'm planning to write one more novel this year. It will probably be magic realism, although I don't know the plot yet. Or any of the characters. But I've never let that stop me before -- why stop now?

A blessed Lughnasa to you all! Next week, hearth/myth will be on hiatus; I'm going to West Virginia to unplug for a few days. See you here in two weeks!

These moments of multi-talented blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell

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