Yes I know I’m over a week late posting this but I don’t suppose that matters to anyone but me! I celebrated Lughnasadh at the ‘baby’ Green Gathering in Chepstow. Lughnasadh is named in honour of the Celtic god Lugh, which means “light” or “shining.” In Old Irish the word “Lunasa” means “August.” So just as Bridget is the goddess of Imbolc, Lugh is the god of Lughnasadh and like Bridget has a whole host of attributes including rulership of creativity. But where Bridget is associated with the first stirrings of spring and the potential to create, Lugh is associated with late summer, harvest and completion of creative projects. It is achievement, the creative gifts fully developed rather than potential that is associated with Lugh.
Lugh is also known as Ildánach which means “master of all arts and crafts”. The story goes that when Lugh presented himself at the court of King Nuada at Tara he was stopped by the sentry who said only those with a skill might enter. So Lugh said he was a wright but the sentry responded that they had one already and then Lugh listed all his professions in turn only to be told that the Tuatha Dé Danann already had experts in each area. So then Lugh asked if they had a man who possessed all his gifts as wright, smith, champion, harper, poet-historian, sorcerer, physician, cupbearer and craftsman in metal and when the answer was no, then he was allowed to join the company.
There are two different ‘takes’ on what the festival of Lughnasadh is about. One is that we need to appease Lugh (who as God of lightning was held responsible for the summer storms that could destroy crops) so that he will allow us to have a good harvest in the autumn. In this version, Lughnasadh is about entertaining Lugh with music, poetry and story so that he will allow a bountiful harvest. The other is that it is Lugh sacrifices himself for the good of the land so that it will be fruitful and Lughnasadh is the celebration of Lugh’s death – a death that is necessary for the rebirth of the land to take place. Either way Lughnasadh was a time of gathering, sharing and playing that may have continued for the whole of August.
The Green Gathering has the character that I have always imagined our ancestors’ gatherings at this magical time must have had. All of the different activities on offer are fitting ways of honouring Lugh – teaching crafts, healing arts, discussions about what’s going on in our world, teaching earth mysteries and of course story, song and poetry. I was delighted when Linda Benfield (one of the gang of 4 who organised this magical event) asked me to perform my “Visions of Transition” showcase there.
So I was well keyed up for my first performance on the Friday. Lots of people said they’d be there (although festival promises are not guarantees as we all know!). I turned up in good time to find that the wonderful Emma Harper was just about to go on the stage. Both time and venue had been changed and I didn’t know. The upshot was that when the time came to perform there was no audience. I began talking to a completely empty venue “Hello I’m Dearbhaile, one of the Elder Bards of Glastonbury…or I could be some eejit who’s got their hands on a microphone and is talking to themselves!” I could not start without someone to talk to and seeing a couple of people I know going past I begged them to sit down for five minutes so I could at least begin!
Thanks to a conversation with Kali, our current Chaired Bard, I decided that in the next slot I’d been allocated, I would bring together a bunch of Bards so that we’d at least have each other there and if anyone else was around, they’d get an interesting introduction to Bardism. This worked a treat. I discovered that this combination of presenting my own work and encouraging others to display their talents works. I really enjoyed the session. This we should do again. The Bards of Glastonbury are a talented bunch and provide such glorious variety. The other great thing that came out of it was that someone came up to me afterwards enthusing about one of my poems in a way that demonstrated that he knew exactly what I meant. It’s taken me a long time to find my voice and I don’t always trust my audience to understand what I’m saying.
By the time I got as far as Sunday’s performance, I was infinitely more relaxed with both the listeners and using a microphone. I had a small but extremely appreciative audience whose rapt attention was a real gift. I still want to open my sessions with sounding the Awen and it doesn’t seem to fit the festival setting particularly well. In being a Bard, I know I want to go beyond the safety that the community of Glastonbury provides. I want to learn how to win an audience. The Green Gathering was a perfect setting for this step outside the comfort zone that’s developed here.
The celebration of Lughnasadh continues. I’ve been asked to perform at the Healing Fields gathering this week which is a sweet little festival held locally and it’ll be great to have another chance to learn what I need to do differently to adapt my work to a festival setting before the ‘big one’. I love the philosophy of the Dark Mountain Project and I am so excited by this opportunity to perform at Uncivilisation. I feel that I am in some sense representing the Bards of Glastonbury as Uncivilisation is on the same weekend as Sunrise Off-Grid where I suspect the majority of Glastonbury Bards will be performing.
This is the best summer I’ve had in years mainly because I’m fit and well in a way I’ve not been in a ridiculously long time. The crisis I described in my last blog resulted in a poem “Why I reckon I’m wealthy every way that counts”. It’s not finished yet but the current draft went down a treat at the Green Gathering!
I hope you are all well and happy and having fun.
Love and light,
PS Could those of you with photographs from the Green Gathering send them to me? I don’t take photographs but would love to have some to show how wonderful this Lughnasadh was.