Lughnasadh and the Goddess Tailtiu

And so we come to Lughnasadh and a full blue moon.

Lughnasadh, the beginning of the harvest season, often recognized as the first harvest; a festival that celebrates the first fruits, the sun god Lugh and games of skill.

In reality, this sabbat was originally about Lugh’s foster mother, Tailtiu, rather than Lugh himself.

Tailtiu was the last queen of the Fir Bolg. She is described in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, a famous history of Ireland:

§59. Tailltiu daughter of Mag Mor king of Spain, queen of the Fir Bolg, came after the slaughter was inflicted upon the Fir Bolg in that first battle of Mag Tuired to Coill Cuan: and the wood was cut down by her, so it was a plain under clover-flower before the end of a year. This is that Tailtiu who was wife of Eochu son of Erc king of Ireland till the Tuatha De Danann slew him, ut praediximus: it is he who took her from her father, from Spain; and it is she who slept with Eochu Garb son of Dui Dall of the Tuatha De Danann; and Cian son of Dian Cecht, whose other name was Scal Balb, gave her his son in fosterage, namely Lugh, whose mother was Eithne daughter of Balar. So Tailltiu died in Tailltiu, and her name clave thereto and her grave is from the Seat of Tailltiu north-eastward. Her games were performed every year and her song of lamentation, by Lugh. With gessa and feats of arms were they performed, a fortnight before Lugnasad and a fortnight after: under dicitur Lughnasadh, that is, the celebration (?) or the festival of Lugh. 
Unde Oengus post multum tempus dicebat, “the nasad of Lug, or the nasad of Beoan [son] of Mellan.” 

Tailtiu cleared a great forest in order for the Irish to plant the first fields. This feat exhausted her and when she was finished, she laid down at her castle and died. The Lughnasadh games were actually the funeral games held by Lugh in her honor.

Tailtiu is the great mother goddess. It is through her pains that the fields were cleared and the harvest was able to be born. She is also seen to be a goddess of childbirth and labor. Tailtiu’s death was a necessary part of bringing forth life for the people. So while people celebrated her life through her funeral games, they also mourned her death and Lugh himself is said to have sung her death song every year. Because of this, Tailtiu is said to have prophesied on her death bed that as long as Lughnasadh is celebrated, there will always be music in Ireland.

Tailtiu’s death was a part of the sacred king rites of Ireland. Tailtiu was a Queen at Tara, the seat of the High King’s of Ireland. She was also married to the last Fir Bolg ruler. While Nuada was the first of the Tuatha rulers, Lugh was his successor.The High King’s of Ireland married the goddess who was sovereign over the land itself. Without holding this sovereignty, no one could rule. Lugh could not marry his foster mother, but by celebrating the sacrifice that ensured the prosperity of the land, Lugh was certainly honoring that connection. Tailtiu is often seen as the dynastic link between the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha de Danaan.

Lugh is the dying and reborn god, the sun and the grain in the fields. While Tailtiu cleared the land through her labor, it was Lugh who embodied the grain that grew in that land and was cut down for the harvest. Tailtiu didn’t birth Lugh physically, but she was certainly his mother in this sacred sense. Lugh is the young God that we cut down and sacrifice and who returns to the underworld and who is later reborn after the Goddess and the Old God marry. But he can only do this because of the original sacrifice of the Goddess.

So this Lughnasadh, while you dance and sing and make merry, also remember Tailtiu, the Great Mother whose death allowed the fields to grow so that the people could eat.

A Quick and Easy Lughnasadh Sweet/Savory Bread Recipe a la my friend Elena:

This is a pretty straightforward and easy garlic bread recipe, but it combines sweet and savory tastes beautifully and combines a lot of things that make me think of Lughnasadh and Mabon…


1 loaf plain white French/Italian bread
2-5 garlic cloves, chopped medium fine
4-5 tablespoons butter (or margarine…or olive oil…but butter is best in my opinion)
seasoned salt (I like Tony Chacherie’s or Lawry’s)
herbs – some combination of 2-3 of the following, dry or fresh
Directions for Preparation:
Preheat oven to about 375
Put the butter and garlic in a microwaveable bowl.
Sprinkle the seasoned salt over it till you pretty much have a thin layer over all the butter/garlic…maybe 1/2 teaspoon?
Add about 1/4 tsp of each herb you’re using
Microwave till butter is melted
Mix herbs and garlic into the butter (just a few whips with an eating spoon works)
Slice the bread into desired number of pieces (I typically go about 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch thick pieces) – try to keep the
bottom of the loaf connected just a bit to hold the shape together during baking
Spoon the seasoned butter onto the bread – I usually just hit one side of a slice, for example every left-hand side of each slice
Make sure you get an even-ish spread of the garlic along the entire loaf
Rub the top of the loaf with honey – probably a tablespoon or two, just enough to glaze the top*
Bake for 10-12 minutes.*
Elena recommends a tablespoon or two, but I watched her liberally pour the stuff out, so put as much honey on the top as you want…
If you want softer bread, put aluminum foil around the loaf, leaving only the top exposed; if you want crunchier bread leave it in the oven a bit longer
If you want to read more about my thoughts on Lughnasadh, go here.