Hey, who’s up for more mythology? If you’re not, you can skip this post or look at it later, but I found out from the pagans on my LiveJournal friends page that today is Lughnasadh, so I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at the demigod Lugh. As you can probably guess from these practically unpronounceable names, he was from the Gaelic tradition, and was sort of a jack of all trades.
He was a solar deity, but also a war god and a master of several crafts. Lugh once listed his occupations as wright, smith, champion, swordsman, harpist, hero, poet, historian, sorcerer, and craftsman. And he was apparently actually GOOD at all of these things, unlike some other people who claim proficiency in multiple areas (I’m looking at YOU, J-Lo).
Okay, now we’ll go back a little bit, and look at Lugh’s origins.
His grandfather was Balor, ruler of the giant Fomorians. Like Acrisius in Greek mythology, Balor heard a prophecy that he would be killed by his grandson, so he locked his daughter Ethlinn in a crystal tower. Cian, a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann who had the ability to turn into a pig, entered the tower and impregnated Ethlinn, resulting in the birth of triplets. Balor drowned two of these children, but the fairy druidess Biróg saved Lugh, and brought him to be raised by foster parents. There are several different figures identified as raising Lugh, two of the more popular being Queen Tailtiu of the Fir Bolg and the sea god Manannan mac Lir.
Lugh sought to become a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, telling the doorkeeper of his many skills. The doorkeeper said that there were already members of their court with those skills, but allowed Lugh in when he argued that none of them had all of them at once. He became the war leader of the Tuatha, and eventually their king. While in battle with the Fomorians, he used a slingshot to shoot a rock into his grandfather’s evil eye.
I’m not sure whether this killed him immediately or not, but regardless, the prophecy was fulfilled. His own life ended when the sons of Cermait killed him in revenge for slaying their father, who was having an affair with one of Lugh’s wives. Lugh’s most famous son was none other than the great Irish hero Cúchulainn.
So what’s Lughnasadh? Well, basically, it’s the beginning of the Irish harvest season. The reason it’s named after Lugh is that legend regards him as the originator of the festival, which he instituted in honor of his late foster mother Queen Tailtiu.
At least, that’s one explanation for the holiday. Another is that it’s a celebration of Lugh’s victory over the spirit world. Regardless of the origin, it’s still celebrated in much of Ireland, as well as by neo-pagans, some of whom apparently make representations of the corn god out of bread.