Here are some ideas and resources for celebrating Lughnasadh/Lammas/Freyfaxi with children. These three early to mid- August holidays overlap and share some common themes; the grain (and berry) harvest, fertility of the land, and sporting events and fairs that include horse races.
I disagree with the notion that this was a time of honoring the waning sun. I think that idea comes from the Victorian-era notion that Lúgh is a sun god. The Celtic god Lúgh is most likely a lightning god; his name means “flashing light” and his epithet lonnbeimnech means “fierce striker”. In County Mayo thunderstorms were referred to as battles between Lúgh and Balor. Balor’s evil eye represents the scorching late-summer sun. Lúgh’s defeat of Balor represents August storms defeating the crop-threatening summer heat and drought. Lightning strikes help fertilize the soil with nitrogen, and of course, the rain that comes along with the thunder and lightning is essential for a good harvest.
Many of the (otherwise somewhat useful) books and stories suggested below have a few lines or words in them describing Lúgh as a sun god. Unfortunately, this is true of many, if not most, children’s mythology books. When I find some that are more accurate, I will happily (joyfully!) update this list. So, as with anything, read to yourself before reading aloud to your kids to correct historical mistakes and inaccuracies.
EXPLANATION & INFORMATION
- “The Ancient Celtic Festivals and How We Celebrate Then Today” (page 24) by Clare Walker Leslie and Frank E. Gerace (for ages 9-12). This book isn’t 100% accurate, but has a lot of good information and is nicely illustrated.
- “The Tale of John Barleycorn” by Mary Azarian (for ages 9-12)
- “The Coming of Lugh” from “Celtic Wonder Tales” by Ella Young (for ages 9-12)- available to read online at sacred texts, “Moytura” from The Names Upon the Harp, Irish Myth and Legend by Marie Heaney (ages 9 and up), or “The Second Battle of Moytura” from Druids, Gods & Heroes from Celtic Mythology by Anne Ross (for ages 11 and up).
- Stories of Llew from “Tales from the Mabinogion” by Gwyn Thomas (for ages 9-12)
- “Sif’s Golden Hair” from “D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths” by Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (for ages 5 and up).
- “How Thor got his Hammer” from Gods & Heroes from Viking Mythology by Brian Branston or The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God” by Lise Lunge-Larsen (for ages 9 and up)
- “Saving Freyfaxi” by Christy Lenzi, a four-part story starting in the July/August 2010 issue of Cricket magazine. The story is about a Viking girl who is put in charge of a sacred horse, Freyfaxi, dedicated to the god Frey.
GAMES Games are of special significance for this holiday; the death of Lúgh’s foster-mother, Tailtiu, is commemorated by the Lughnasadh Games.
- Traditional Gaelic sports include hurling, camogie, football, handball, road bowling, stick play, and wrestling.
- More familiar games well suited to this holiday are horseshoes/ ring toss, footraces, tug-of-war, and sack races, etc.
- Idea for an indoor game: play the board game “Hi-ho Cherry-O” with real blueberries instead of the plastic cherries.
CRAFTS / ACTIVITIES
- Go berry-picking.
- Visit a horse ranch. Horses are associated with both Lúgh, and with the Norse god Freyr.
- Help a grown-up with bread-baking; practice kneading and shaping dough into harvest knots and other shapes.
- Make deity coloring pages to decorate your altar; use an internet image search to find one you like, save it, and go to a photo editing website like ScrapColoring to convert your image.
- Try wheat weaving. Braided wheat straw decorations are symbols of good luck and prosperity. They are part of the harvest celebrations of many cultures. They are often called “corn dollies”, but this kind of corn dolly is not shaped like a person. (Also, corn dollies are not made with corn husks. In Europe, corn means a grain like wheat, barley, or rye.) For a simple first wheat weaving project, take three wheat stalks of equal length and soak the stems in warm water until they bend easily. Line them up beside each other. Starting at the wheat heads, braid the stalks all the way to the end, loop it around and tie to just above the wheat heads with a red ribbon. Find a book at the library on wheat weaving and work your way up to making more difficult wheat weaving designs.