What's Lugh got to do with it?
Happy Lughnasadh. I thought I'd share a little of the story behind this painting which I created of Lugh a few years ago after a visit to some wonderful sacred sites in Ireland. I stayed in Teltown, County Meath, which is the legendary home of the Lughnasadh funerary games.
These games happened in August at Lughnasadh, the first harvest of the summer. It may seem strange to us to mix funerals and games, however the Irish have always known how to celebrate and the deities of the Tuatha de Danann (Children of the Goddess Danu) really partied in style.
The pagan themes surrounding Lughnasadh are of the sacrifice of the Corn King to enable the harvest. August is also the time of year for Poppies to flower, and so the evocative red petals on the yellowing fields came to represent the blood of the Corn King spilled on the land. The festival of Lughnasadh is a bitter sweet mix of the bounty and joy of summer and a reminder of the coming of winter and of endings; funerals and games.
The name Lughnasadh (also called Lammas) is the feast of the multi talented Irish Hero God Lugh. Now Lugh was pretty good at everything, especially war like sports, he was named Lugh
the Long handed or the Long Arm because of his spear throwing skills.
Even though the festival is named after Lugh, it really was in honour of Lugh's Goddess Foster Mother Tailtiu.
(Now let's see here, the games were held in Teltown, which in Irish is often called Taillteann... not too much of a leap of the imagination to reach the name Tailtiu).
The story goes that Tailtiu died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland so that the crops could grow and the harvest could be secured. Lugh proclaimed that on the 1st of August there would be a festival to honour her death and celebrate her achievements, and so we have the tradition of funerary games at the feast of Lughnasadh.
After visitng this sacred land I painted this image of Lugh. I love the energy of him relaxed but posied for action, his guardian totem Wolf looking watchful by his side.
For me here Lugh has an energy of inbetween times and spaces; inbetween two trees, inbetween the two barrow mounds behind, inbetween sun and shade. The triskele on his arm mirrors the themes of life, death and rebirth present in the barrow mounds, the water shows the flow of this world to the otherworld. What are your feelings when you see this painting? What is the mood you feel? Please let me know in the comments below.
I hope you enjoyed my mini Lughnasadh geek out! There is so much more to all these tales and paintings, and like the spirals of the triskele, the mysteries can be explored deeper and deeper with every spiralling year.
May your harvest be bountiful this August.