A Celtic Lughnasad Module
This ritual is based almost entirely on the one suggested by Maire MacNeill (p. 426). Of course, hers involves an entire village, takes about a week, requires an agricultural community, and includes the sacrifice of an actual bull. Some adaptation was necessary.
This ritual is a continuation of the Beltane ritual, in which the Outsiders are offered to so they will allow us to build our fields in their midst. At Beltane we approach them in fear; we are so young, and they are so old. By Lughnasad, we have earned the right to approach them as equals. As equals, we can form a treaty with them, with exchange of gifts and the establishment of a reciprocal relationship between us.
According to MacNeil, the Lughnasad ritual involved a replacement of Crom Dubh, the original ruler, with Lugh. I combined this with some Vedic concepts, in which Varuna, originally one of the asuras, or Outsiders, becomes promoted to the status of celestial deity, where he joins with Mitra to maintain law and order. Crom Dubh is a chthonic figure, and Lugh has many parallels with Mitra. There is a possibility that the Crom Dubh/Lugh interaction may be similar to that of Mitra-Varuna.
The ritual identifies Crom Dubh with the bull that is sacrificed. Through a triple death, he is elevated to the status of celestial deity. Thus the treaty is established not only by the exchange of food, but also through the promotion of one of the chthonic deities to the status of a celestial one.
After the space is esablished, the fire lit, and the kindred called to, the ritual continues with the offerings to the Outsiders.
The Diviner goes to the west of the fire and picks up the bull bread, which is on a board and covered.
Diviner removes the cloth and lifts the bull up. All sing:
He brings the bull deosil around the circle. As he passes each person, they lift their arms in honor to him. When he has completed the round, he puts the bull again to the west of the fire and returns to his place. The others put their arms down as he puts the bull down. D1 picks up barley and sprinkles it over the bull while D2 says:
D1 steps back to his place and says:
The champion holds up the spear and says: Lugh is our champion!
The others repeat this. They sing:
The champion goes deosil around the circle with the spear held high. As each person is passed, they lift their arms in honor to him. After the circuit is competed, the champion brings the spear to D1 and holds it in front of him. The others lower their arms. D1 says:
He takes the spear from the champion, who returns to her place. D1 takes a step forward.
D2: Through your skill and courage you have brought us to harvest.
D1 takes a step forward.
D2: Through the power that shines from your head you have
D1 takes a step forward.
D2: By the might that is found in your unloosed spear
D1 cuts the head of the bull off with the spear. The drumbeat stops with a bang. He removes the head and places it on the east side of the fire. The drumbeat starts again. He then returns to his place and hands the spear to D2, saying:
D1: Chief above us, this spear is entrusted to your keeping.
D2 holds the spear up and says:
She lowers the spear and says:
D2: Diviner of the tribe,
The Diviner goes about the nemeton with the bowl and gathers the first fruits from the people. D2 says:
The champion goes to her and is given the spear back. D2 picks up the board with the bull's body and goes to the gateway with the champion before her. At the gateway, the diviner joins in between the champion and D2, and the other senior druids present join in behind D2. The diviner gives one of them the first fruits. The resultant order is champion (with spear), diviner (with the cloth from the bull), D2 (with bull), and the other chieftains (one with the first fruits). As they pass out of the nemeton, the drumming stops. They go to the edge of the woods, where a hole has been dug earlier.
The spear, the first fruits, and the bull are raised up.
The Diviner says:
(The following speech is split up amongst the chieftains present.)
D2 goes to the hole, accompanied by the champion and the Diviner. She puts the body of the bull into the hole, saying:
D2: Return, return, return to the unplowed field
The chieftain then gives her the first fruits, and she puts them on top of the bull, saying:
D2: Receive your rightful share.
She then fills in the dirt over the offerings, saying:
D2: Honored be the mounds of those who dwell beneath.
They rejoin the others, and D2 says:
The Diviner goes to beside the mound, where there the bowl of wild food has been placed before the ritual. He brings it to D2 and says:
D2 takes the wild food and says:
All except the Diviner returns to the nemeton. The Diviner sits at or on the mound, and covers himself with the cloth from the bull and divines. The order of the others this time is D2 (with wild food), chieftains, and champion (with spear). At the gateway they stop and a child of the grove comes to the gate and says:
Child: Have the Children of Danu made peace with the Land Dwellers?
D2: With gift and gift, a hospitable peace is established.
They enter the nemeton and the drumming resumes. The wild food is passed around. When all have eaten some of it, the rest is placed on the clar. It must be consumed at the feast afterwards.
After all the praise offerings are made, D1 goes to the champion, who gives him the spear. He takes the spear and transfixes the bull's head with it. He holds the head high for a moment, pointing it towards the top of the bile. He then puts it into the fire and says:
D2: Has the Diviner received the omens?
The Diviner removes the cloth and returns to the nemeton. He stands at its edge and gives the omens.
The ritual then continues in the normal way.
MacNeill, Maire. The Festival of Lughnasa. Oxford: The Oxford University Press, 1962.
Rig Veda. ed. and tr. O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1981.