As fruits and crops are harvested and the meadows mown we give thanks to their spirits. Leaf fall and decay are acknowledged as signs of the approaching dead season. We listen for the breath of winter
1st August: Lugus and Rosmerta Festival for Lugus the many-skilled god and Rosmerta the cup-bearer.
Autumn Equinox Festival acknowledging the balance of equal days and nights heading toward winter and seasonal changes.
29th September: Gwyn’s Feast Festival celebrating the end of harvest and honouring Gwyn, a god of hunting and a ruler of Annwn and the dead.
The Sickle and the Shining Spear
The beginning of August has many names within pagan and polytheist traditions; Lammas, Lughnasadh, Gwyl Awst. All share a common theme of harvest. Now is the time to gather in the grain harvest, the first of the lands harvests, and begin reaping the rewards of the union of land and sky. Rather than view it as a singular event, a one off, it is best to view it as the beginning of a season; a transition between the growth and abundance of summer and the slow decline into autumn. The days will still be long, hot and hazy. The landscape around us will have moved on from busting life and rampant growth, to a swell of fruiting.
We are not farmers anymore, we do not spend long sweating days in the fields gathering in the grain, and then returning to the field once more to gather the straw in. Our lives are somewhat detached from this agricultural cycle and so moving from a discrete festival of harvest thanks, to a season of harvests and marking that transition seems more appropriate. We can still gather the fruits from the hedgerow and woodlands, vegetables from our gardens and allotments, and offer a thanks for these too. Each harvest we make over the coming week is a gift; the fruit of a union of the land and of the sky (and in some cases of our own hands and efforts too) and as such each gift received should be marked with a thanks. A memorial that these thing we take to sustain us have not come from nothing, but have come from the warmth and light of the sun and the nurturing sustenance of the earth. A recognition that we are sustained by the land itself.
There is one God above all who is traditionally associated with this time of year and festival; Lugos. Though known as Lug, Lleu, Lleufelys and Lugh at later times across the Celtic cultures. The etymology of his name is thought to derive from one of several Proto-Indo-European words; *leug- “black”, *leuǵ- “to break” or *leugʰ- “to swear an oath”, with him as the God of the Oath. This also links in with Lugus as leader of the warrior warband, as a ruler and King. Segomâros has a good summary of Lugus at Polytheist.com, notably mentioning his association with the spear (nothing new here) and the raven much the same way Wodens and Odin are identified. It is with Woden that Lugus bears the greatest similarity, and this in itself is insightful when digging deeper to find our Lleu ancestor. There is a common thread of epithets for him; ‘skillful hand’, ‘of the many skills’ and there is a parallel between him being regarded as one of the great shoemakers of Britain in the Welsh Triads and an inscription to him from Spain dedicated by a guild of shoemakers. Notably, unlike most other Gods that we know of, Lugus was a pan-Celtic deity, with place names and votive inscriptions pointing to his worship all over the Celtic countries.
Our skills and crafts are what have carried us from stone tools as hunter gatherers all the way to agriculturalists, metalworkers, carpenters and all the great technologies we have brought into being. We can see Lugus as the God of Society, of Civilisation, the God who embodies and epitomises all those things that make is a community and bind us together.
Lugus is paired with Rosmerta, ‘Great Provider’, and it almost seems more fitting to be honouring her at this time of year. However , together they make a striking pair; Goddess of prophecy, dispenser of sovereignty and fruitfulness as the consort of the King-God of the Oath and the things that bind us together as a society and as a people. Rather than think of this season as being a time of thanks to the Shining Lugus the Sun God and be thankful for the bountiful land, perhaps we should see this as as a time of confirmation. When the proper relationship between people and land bears fruit, and the time where we honour that relationship through Lugus as a personification of the responsibilities we hold to each other and the land itself. In fulfilling our proper relationship, our rightful place is sustained and our sovereignty as part of the land maintained through Rosmerta. Lugus as the bond between people and land, Rosmerta as the bond between the land and people and together the triad of people, Gods and landscape is kept strong.
We may not work the land, we may not tend fields to provide food for ourselves, our families and communities, but we can still have (and in fact should have) a relationship with the land around us, and honour that relationship through Lugus and Rosmerta
Last Days of Harvest and Gwyn’s Feast
The Autumn Equinox forms a gateway between the light and dark halves of the year. Balance is always tentative and fragile. A pendulum must swing, the days process, at this time marching from light into darkness, like the summer fay will soon. Beneath the Harvest Moon sloes, damsons, blackberries and apples have ripened. Unlike the grain harvest this is one we have all had the chance to participate in, whether as makers of jams, liquors, pies and crumbles, or as folk who simply like a handy snack part way through a walk. The final fruits are now beginning to sour and fall. Most of the wildflowers have gone to seed. Willowherbs are clad in cobwebs and thistles in cotton-down. When the last pink-purple petals has fallen in the meadow in my local valley it will be time to take up the scythes. The scattering of seeds, the cutting of stems, the reaping of the meadow forms a pivotal part of the transition from light to darkness, summer to winter, life to death, thisworld to Annwn.
Around this time I start feeling the presence of Gwyn ap Nudd and the spirits of Annwn within the landscape: in the blood-red hawthorn berries, in the autumn mists, in the fall of gold-brown leaves and the scent of decay rising from damp soil.
In Cornish, September is called Gwynngala*, which is suggestive of a Gwyn link. On the 29th of September, I celebrate a feast day for Gwyn. This corresponds with Michaelmas. The Celtic scholar, John Rhys, argues that Michael ‘supplanted’ Gwyn** and it seems possible Gwyn’s supposed banishment by St Collen from Glastonbury Tor took place during Michaelmas day celebration. Although there is no hard proof Michael’s feast day replaced Gwyn’s, this feels like a good time to affirm his presence. Moreover, when I asked Gwyn whether I could hold a feast for him on September the 29th, he agreed.
I’ve tried a few different formats for Gwyn’s feast. Last year’s worked best. Drawing on his connection with the hunt for Twrch Trwyth, ‘King of Boars’, I served him a pork roast with apple sauce and also offered a piece of meat to his dog, Dormach, and apples to his horses, Carngrwn and Du. Afterward, I read a selection of poems and stories either written for him, about him, or that reminded me of him by a variety of authors living and dead. My focus was on honouring Gwyn and uniting with all those who have venerated him and walked paths of wildness and enchantment. It was a powerful experience, which was followed by a vivid dream in which, like Twrch Trwyth, I was a human transformed into a boar… *Gwynngala means ‘white or blessed straw’. For more information see Alex Langstone, ‘The Berwyn Mountains of Poetic Adventure’ HERE **In Studies in the Arthurian Legend (1841), John Rhys notes both Michael and Gwyn act as psychopomps and restrain ‘demons’. He also says the ‘old foundations’ associated with Michael’s name ‘occupy sites of sinister reputation… which were considered dangerous and to form the haunts of evil spirits.’ This is certainly the case with the ruined church of St Michael on Glastonbury Tor. Two churches dedicated to St Michael here in Lancashire, at Beetham and Whitewell, are also connected with fairy sites.
GWYN AP NUDD; KING UNDER THE HILL, STAG MASKED RUNNER IN THE WOODLAND, LORD BEYOND THE WALL; I OFFER YOU THIS MEAT AS IT IS PROPER FOR ME TO DO SO I OFFER YOU THIS DRINK AS IT IS RIGHT FOR ME TO DO SO.