This marks the third of my Lughnasa posts, and the completion of a theme that I set myself at last year's Samhain: the idea that each of the eight holidays confers a gift upon us, and asks that we give a gift in return. It's odd to have made it through the year with consistent posting on this theme; although my fullmoon posts have dwindled, I've been keeping to this idea for every one of the holidays. Before Samhain I'll post a retrospective, thinking about what that progression has developed into and maybe finding a similar pattern for the next year.
I'm surprised that there's still time; that I've made it through the whole year, with the feeling of still having more to say and more to do. And that makes me think of what Lughnasa means to me as a holiday.
I know little about its roots: loaf-mass, feast of Lugh, second planting, first of the harvest festivals, celebration of the dog days of August...In comparison to the stories of Imbolc or the clouds of myths around the Big Days of Beltane and Samhain, Lughnasa feels like a date without a history. (No doubt a lot of that could be fixed with a little scholarship on my part.)
For me, its place in the wheel of the year is one of wonderful surprise. Like Imbolc, it seems to be about continuance--more winter to go, more summer left. With the turn of the light at the solstice, I tend to start looking ahead to the Equinox and the gradual decline into winter's sleep--and Lughnasa perks up to show me just how far away that time is.
There's still time, it says. Still time for another planting. Still time to enjoy the summer heat and the green growing world. Yes, the nights come earlier, but isn't that nice too? The relief from the hot August days comes in steamy cool nights, stars overhead even through the August humidity, turning from stifling haze into cooling dew as the night goes on. Did you think you'd wasted the summer? There's a whole turn left to go--a month before classes begin, weeks before the equinox, just as much time as before. There is still time to love what is here.
Like a day where I slept in with the alarm clock unplugged, and woke to find I was fully rested but it was still early; like realizing the night is warm enough for a long walk after dinner; like a fortuitous travel delay that grants me an extra day with friends. Lughnasa is the gift of still time, time we hadn't anticipated or banked on in our plans for the summer, when we saw it going from high summer to equinox-point in a blink.
The gift that is called from us in return is to use this time for what we left out before. Still time: did you work hard all summer because you couldn't spare a moment free? Lughnasa grants you long evenings to rest yourself. Still time: did you procrastinate on the work due at Solstice and resigned yourself to panic? Lughnasa grants you the days to rededicate to this work.
Second planting, second resting, second chances. There is more summer than we knew, and it stays longer than we had dreamed. Use this time well, for the things you could not or did not grant yourself in the first part of the summer.