Well its that time of the year again and the important Celtic Irish holiday of Lúghnasa, the Feast of Lúgh, is upon us. Beginning from sunset today until sunset tomorrow it is the ancient harvest celebration in the native Irish calendar, and this year RTÉ is miraculously (!) marking it with a series of TV programmes, headlined by Lúghnasa Live:

‘RTÉ invites you to celebrate the ancient festival of Lúghnasa on Sunday July 31st with a live entertainment special broadcast for the from Craggaunowen in County Clare. The show will be a combination of live chat, music and food where well known celebrities will celebrate the ancient festival of Lughnasa and reconnect the audience with one of the, until recently, most important dates in the Irish calendar.

The live show will be informative and entertaining and broadcast from a very evocative location – an Iron Age fort – with an audience of 200. Craggaunowen is an award winning Pre-Historic Park owned and operated by Shannon Heritage, situated on 50 acres of wooded grounds.

Presented by Grainne Seioge the programme will see guests John Creedon, Mary McEvoy, Sinead Kennedy, Colm Hayes and Paul Flynn on a mission to find out more on a different aspect of Lughnas folklore. In addition there will be food from that period with Paul Flynn cooking for the audience of 200 and live music Moya Brennan and Sharon Corr.’

The people of Clare are rightly proclaiming this wonderful new development, as our national broadcaster actually celebrates a part of our national culture:

‘The live show will be broadcast from a very evocative location, Craggaunowen, an Iron Age fort, in front of an audience of 200. The award-winning pre-historic park is owned and operated by Shannon Heritage and is situated on 50 acres of wooded grounds in Quin.

“RTÉ is excited to be bringing our audience this lively show full of chat and fun in celebration of Lúghnasa, which marks an important new chapter in the recognition of our magnificent heritage. The location of Craggaunowen has huge historical significance and RTÉ are looking forward to bringing its viewers a night to remember,” Colm Crowley, head of production for RTÉ Cork said.

Meanwhile, John Ruddle CEO of Shannon Heritage, the Shannon Development subsidiary said, “We are delighted that RTÉ has chosen to make Craggaunowen the focus of their Lúghnasa celebrations. The Lúghnasa theme is a perfect fit with our visitor attraction, which gives viewers a unique glimpse into living conditions in Ireland during the pre-historic and early Christian eras, showing them the type of farmsteads, hunting sites and other features of everyday life. One of the major features of a visit to Craggaunowen is the crannóg, a reconstructed lake-dwelling, on which people built houses, kept animals and lived in relative security. Craggaunowen also features a ring fort, part of an Iron Age road or Togher, which was originally laid in 148AD and the Brendan Boat used by Tim Severin to re-enact the voyage of St Brendan the Navigator, reputed to have discovered America centuries before Columbus.”

Lúghnasa marks the beginning of autumn and is among the four major Celtic feast days, the others being Imbolc on February 1, which marks spring; Bealtaine on May 1 marking the start of summer and Samhain on November 1 marking winter.

The name for the festival of Lúghnasa comes from the name of the god Lúgh and is also sometimes referred to as the feast of Lúgh.
The celebration marks the ripening of grain, specifically corn and also the weaning of calves and lambs and later in history, the festival included the maturing of potatoes.

It is celebrated on August 1 or else the first Sunday of August or the last Sunday of July. Lúghnasa was significant in pre-Christian times as it was a Celtic festival and part of the festivities included the lighting of fires and communal feasting.’

Amazing. Some more from Eddie Stack’s blog:

‘One time it was held at around 200 sites, nearly always remote, inaccessible places that were on heights, or near water. The festival was dedicated to Lúgh, the young and most brilliant god of the Tuatha de Danann. Lúgh was the god of light, god of arts and crafts, father of inventions and the likes.

Lúgh was a good time god. His festival was a young peoples gig and it was party central. In the Irish calendar it was the biggest celebration, the harvest was safe and the population could go and boogie. Held at remote locations, only the young, the fit and the agile made their way there.

As was its practice, the Catholic Church cast their net wherever there was a crowd. They took over Lúghnasa and put a religious stamp on it. One of the most glaring examples of this hi-jacking is Reek Sunday on Croagh Patrick, an ancient Lúghnasa site. The Irish Church said that St. Patrick spent 40 days and nights on the mountaintop, fasting and praying for the salvation of Ireland. If he did, he failed. But it’s more likely a pr job and the nearest Paddy got to the mountain was Campbell’s pub in Murrisk or maybe Matt Molloys in Westport. Anyway, year in and year out, thousands of the hoodwinked faithful climb the mountain on Féile Lúghnasa, saying prayers to Patrick, Mary and Jesus. Some climb barefooted, others climb blindfolded. Lúgh is probably shaking his head at the pain, wondering why they no longer believe in a good time god.’

I agree with much of the above. Deserts produce crazy people, all that lack of water, too much sunshine and heat, it sends people nuts, and they have certainly produced three of the world’s nuttiest religions. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are desert religions and they belong in the desert not in these more civilized climes. Rock-solid atheist that I am if we have to have any religion at all then let it be our own native ones that evolved here in Europe (in the wet!) away from all that dry-mouthed, rasp-tongued desert insanity.

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