Lùnastal, Midseason Holiday

Here’s a story, painted with the points provided by my family’s ancestors.

Do you want to know about Lùnastal? (also known as Lammas or Lughnasadh)

Look it up and they’ll say it’s about harvest-time. About a harvest-god who wrestles away the greedy horde of a dragon. Running of the cattle between two bonfires. Funeral feasts and long games. It’s a partial truth. Like a game of pass-the-message, so much left as only puzzle pieces over time.

With that…

Once upon a time.

The Queen of Nightmares and Spirits, goddess of horses and serpents, creator of the world known now as the Scottish and British Isles, made her way through the eternal and infinite sea. The Morrigan gave birth to three daughters–Alba, Eire, Banba–and later to many more. Those three selkie, accompanied by their vastly younger sisters, were curious about the land. There, they used their selkie skins to create three men to marry. Two died due to mishap (one of the mishaps likely was sexy-times-gone-wrong) and the last remaining male, Fiontann (whose name means “white fire”), frightened of having to handle the passion of several hundred women, turned into a salmon.

Fiontann, as a salmon, refused to spawn and lived, effectively forever. During the second attempt by one of the sons of Banba (mother to all Picts) to re-colonize the isles, he appears as “Tuan” (likely “fire”), who is reported to have been eaten and reborn. That cycle goes on all the way up to the time of Saint Patrick. Fiontann, son of hazel, becomes the Salmon of Wisdom.

The salmon’s kin–the selkies who began the journey and their descendants, the children of Mil–became known as kelts, which is also the name of female salmon who spawn and leave to the sea to spawn once again.

Crom Cruach is the name of the god / dragon that Lugh, the god who defends humans, fights to gain the harvest. Crom Cruach’s name translates as the bloody and bent head. Like the head of a well fed salmon. The silvery-scaled young fry who darted through the ocean like white fire, grow old and bold and raw and bent. Tuan, as Crom Cruach, was worshipped during the years when the rivers ran high. When the years were dry and the food was scarce, he was reviled as hiding the food for the people.

In Scotland, the salmon on good years run July through August. On hot years, the rivers get low enough that they can’t sustain the run. The harvest during those years would be bad, too.

Enter Lugh***, master of all trades, to try and fix the situation. An eternal ‘fight’ against Crom Cruach to give up enough food to feed the people.

How do you win this fight?

You gather the people.

Not just your kin. Not just your friends. Everybody who can come. Enemies, neutral parties. All of them. So they can trade and feast and make deals so that everyone survives. But how do you get them to safely come together? Make it a funeral celebration. Make it about the people who have died. And since there are enemies there, play games to let off steam.

But what about the cattle?

Cattle have long been valued, and taking them between two fires is a lure. Daring Crom Cruach and the river to stop fearing the heat and come through. If the cattle can do it…

This has never been just a story of a fight with a winner, or a day of games.

This is the interplay between the living people and their ancestor. The give and take with the land.

So, on this day, give your love to your people, no matter where they are. Make connections and end arguments and love each other. Raise a glass to those who have passed and remember all that they gave up so that you could be here, today.

May you have a blessed Lammas.

***Yes, I am well aware that Lugh is Irish and I’ve mentioned Scottish rivers. But the early myths speak about a kinship between -all- of the people of the Isles and tend to play on that. Add to that the reality that there is no pan-Celtic belief, nor should there be. These were persistent cultures living well in their environments, promoting their history through oral traditions, most of which were deliberately destroyed through the Christian-promoted genocide of those societies. This is my way of reconstructing what was -important- to those people and what should be important to us, moving into an uncertain future.

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