The word Lughnasadh carries the name of the god Lugh or LLeu or Lugas, and in Wales is similar to Lleu Llaw Gyffes. The storyline is kin to Jesus’, Prometheus’ and Raven’s. Lugh’s personal energy is compared to both Apollo and Hermes (Mercury). His foster mother, Taitiu, clears the forests to make room for planting crops, and dies in the effort. Lugh holds funeral games in her honor. These games become Lughnasadh, and are celebrated by “ritual athletic and sporting contests, horse racing, music, storytelling, trading, proclaiming laws and settling legal disputes, drawing-up contracts, and matchmaking.” Part of the festival often involves taking the first fruits as a thanksgiving, and burying them at the top of a nearby mountain, returning the gift to the earth, perhaps to Taitiu. In many countries people still hike to a nearby high place and bury a sheaf of grain or a handful of bread, and pour a little wine or grape juice. On the last Sunday of July thousands of pilgrims climb Corag Patrick. This is the traditional beginning date of Lughnasadah, though the event is Roman Catholic now and focused on penance rather than a first fruits celebration.
Lugh is a Hero born of a political alliance marriage: he is both king and craft master, a warrior and a sacrifice. Lugh’s son Cú Chulainn is a similar hero. Lugh’s ancestry is complex, and his birth has different stories, some of which reflect historical figures. Lugh’s grandfather Balor fears an Oedipus-like prophecy of death by a grandson. He imprisons his daughter Eithne in a tower where twelve maidens (possibly astrological signs) tend her. But the grandfather steals a magic cow, and his enemy has Biróg, a Sidhé woman, transport him to the tower where he seduces Balor’s daughter (a Rapunzel variation). Lugh and two siblings are born. Their grandfather Balor has them thrown in the harbor to die and Biróg saves only Lugh. The three siblings are one of the triplets patterns scattered throughout the story.
Lugh does kill his grandfather at the Second Battle of Mag, leading the Tuatha Dé Danann against the Formorians (his parents’ alliance apparently having failed).
Lugh persuades the earth spirits (Formorians) to give up the fruits of the earth for the use of human beings, and teach them the times and methods of plowing, seeding, growing and harvest.
The boughs do shake and the bells do ring,
So merrily comes our harvest in.
We’ve ploughed, we’ve sowed,
We’ve reaped, we’ve mowed,
We’ve got our harvest in.
Here’s a health unto our Master,
The Founder of the feast.
– Traditional Harvest Song
Lugh’s Rituals ensure a successful harvest. He invents horse races, a kind of chess, and ball games. All these things are part of a harvest fair that brings together scattered households and reinforces tribal identity. In our time county and state fairs, as well as Labor Day and many other local harvest festivals are loved. If we follow his storyline through Linear Time, all these joys are gifts from Lugh.