Friday, August 01, 2008

Food for Thought on Lughnasadh

"Now that most of us in the Western world take plentiful, year-round food for granted, it is hard for us to imagine the relief and gratitude our (Celtic) ancestors must have felt when harvest time began. For poorer people, it wasn't always possible to stretch out the stores till next year's harvest, and this was especially true in the dark days of Ireland's oppression in the 18th and 19th centuries. Before the first potatoes were mature there was "Hungry July" or "July of the Cabbage", when the Cailleach Rua, the Red-haired Hag of Hunger, stalked the fields or squatted by the empty cooking pot. An old woman in County Mayo gave voice to the meaning of Lughnasadh during this era when she proclaimed in ringing tones: "The harvest is in and the hunger is over!"

Even if you don't produce what you eat, this is a good time to connect with those who do by visiting farmers' markets or spending a day in the countryside picking your own fruits for jams and pies. As you watch the black and red jewels of berries, musky peaches, and nectarines spill out onto your kitchen table, let your eyes feast on their colors and shapes.

Smell, touch, and taste the fullness of summer and the blessings of life bestowed upon us by the earth at this time of the year. Think of the human labor and skill that midwifed them into being in your kitchen at this very moment.

In the modern world August is also vacation time when work is set aside for lazing on the porch or the nearest sunny beach. We, too, can rest from our labors, celebrate Summer, and enjoy the fruits of our daily toil. This can give us a good opportunity to take stock of what the seasons so far have yielded: to reflect upon our hopes and dreams that were sown in the dawn of the year, came to life in the springtime, and are now maybe ready to bear fruit. On a spiritual level we can ask ourselves what wisdom we have garnered so far this year: What will be the harvest of our souls?"

From "Kindling the Celtic Spirit" by Mara Freeman

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