Lughnassadh tide is upon us, and it’s almost time to start celebrating the grain harvest represented by the Celtic god Lugh. In the agricultural world, the grains that sustain us are coming ripe. This is a time to celebrate corn, wheat, barley, and anything else that is coming ripe in your area. I also like to celebrate summer fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados, green beans, squash, blackberries, watermelon, and stone fruits. This is a holiday all about enjoying the abundance of the beginning of the harvest, and our hard work paying off.
In the non-agricultural world, we’re noticing that everything is taking on a particular sun-baked appearance as the verdant greens of Spring and early Summer give way to golden grasses, darker green in the forest canopy, and the golden sun glaring overhead. Depending on your attitude towards Summer, you’re either looking forward to the cooler weather in a few months, or you’re happy there are lots of warm, lazy weeks ahead of us. As for me, I’m just resigned to the heat and looking forward to Mabon, which usually signals a slight break in the weather here in Georgia.
To mark this holiday, let’s look at some altar ideas!
Colors (for altar cloths, flowers, candles, and decorations)
You can use anything you want here, of course, as long as it resonates for you. But some traditional colors for Lughnassadh are gold yellow, and wheat colors (to represent the grain we’re harvesting and the sun-baked grasses), browns (represent the soil), oranges and reds (to represent the sun, and also the fact that this is one of the Celtic fire festivals), and green (there are still green and growing things all around us). Highlights of metallic golds, coppers, and bronze add nice detail.
I like stone fruit scents, like peach and cherry for this time of year. Blackberry would also work if you want something fruity. Tobacco scents are also nice, or anything that represents harvest to you. You can carry over any general harvesty-scented candles to your Mabon altar if you wish.
As for incense, I really like nag champa for any time of year, but I find that patchouli (earth) and dragon’s blood (fire) feel really good for this time of year. I’ve thrown malted barley from a brew store into incense blends for Lughnassadh, and found that it provides a wonderfully rich sweetness and heaviness to a harvest blend. Also, any herbs that you have in your garden right now are 100% appropriate to celebrate the season!
Anything that represents grain is appropriate. So small sheaves of wheat, ears of ornamental maize (what we used to call ‘indian corn’), or bowls of barley, oats, or other grains will work. I also like to bake cornbread and leave that as a traditional offering.
Statues and offering bowls made by hand from clay. This is my own connection, but I feel like the baking of the clay is a good metaphor for how baked and dry and parched we feel this time of year. I like the alchemy of it, and clay just has a really good look with the other symbols of this time of year.
The corn dolly. This was traditionally made with the last stalks of grain to be harvested from a field. The spirit of the grain was coaxed into those last stalks, then they were ceremonially cut and braided into a beautiful shape so that the grain spirit had a home to stay for the Winter. It’s brought back out at Imbolc, where it’s dressed as a bride, ceremonially wedded to the land, and placed back into the field when seeds are planted to carry the magick from last year’s harvest forwards. Honestly, I’ve tried to make a corn dolly, but to no avail. So I’ll probably just buy one from Etsy this year.
The sun is usually honored at Litha, but its influence is still strong right now. So a smaller, more subdued image of the sun would work, or maybe a nice sunflower or 3.
Any fruits that are ripe right now. Traditionally apples and grapes are reserved for Mabon celebrations, but I have ripe apples that I’ll be using. I’ll also be tracking down some blackberries, as they’re usually represented at this time of year.
Representations of any animals that I’m seeing a lot of around this time. And probably some turkey feathers, because they just look cool.
So that’s mostly it for me! I still haven’t added a lot of the things that I intend to have on here, partially because I still need to unpack some boxes. But I’ll be adding things as I find them, so this is not a definitive list by far. Are there any symbols or objects that I missed? Let me know in the comments, and blessed be!