Saturday, August 01, 2009
August 1st is the first of the three Celtic Harvest festivals and is known as Lughnasadh or Lammas. The first fruits of the harvest are ripening now and the weather becomes a crucial factor in the farmer's life as on it depends whether the grain crops can be harvested at their peak.
Lughnasadh is named for Lugh and according to Celtic legend, he decreed that a commemorative feast be held each year at the beginning of the harvest season to honor his foster mother, Tailtiu. Tailtiu was the royal Lady of the Fir Bolg. After the defeat of her people by the Tuatha De Dannan, she was obliged by them to clear a vast forest for the purpose of planting grain. She died of exhaustion in the attempt. The legend states that she was buried beneath a great mound named for her, at the spot where the first feast of Lughnasadh was held in Ireland, the hill of Tailte. At this gathering were held games and contests of skill as well as a great feast made up of the first fruits of the summer harvest.
Rowan berries (at the top) are always the first to ripen and this year they are prolific. Bilberries also are ripe now but the photo is from last year as so far it has been too wet to go picking so I don't know what this year's crop is like. Good I hope as bilberry pie is one of my favourites.
This is a very ancient English folksong usually sung to the tune of 'We plough the fields and scatter'. John Barleycorn is the personification of the cereal crop barley which was very important in the days when beer was drunk by everyone including children. Barley was one of the grains commonly used to make bread and its history goes back to the Stone Age.
There was three men came out of the west,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn should die.
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in,
Throwed clods upon his head,
And these three man made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn was dead.
Then they let him lie for a very long time
Till the rain from heaven did fall,
Then little Sir John sprung up his head,
And soon amazed them all.
They let him stand till midsummer
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John he growed a long beard
And so became a man.
They hired men with the scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee,
They rolled him and tied him by the waist,
And served him most barbarously.
They hired men with the sharp pitchforks
Who pricked him to the heart,
And the loader he served him worse than that,
For he bound him to the cart.
They wheeled him round and round the field
Till they came unto a barn,
And there they made a solemn mow
of poor John Barleycorn.
They hired men with the crab-tree sticks
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller he served him worse than that,
For he ground him between two stones.
Here's little Sir John in a nut-brown bowl,
And brandy in a glass;
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
Proved the stronger man at last.
And the huntsman he can't hunt the fox,
Nor so loudly blow his horn,
And the tinker he can't mend kettles or pots
Without a little of Barleycorn.
Let us hope that the rain disappears and the sun shines and that this year's harvest is a successful one.