Celtic Calendar

This fair was held once every three years; it began on 1st August and ended on the 6th. Another example is the Curragh of the Liffey which is the most celebrated race course in Ireland. However, from the ancient lore we see the God of Light Lugh Himself, instituted the great fair of Tailltenn (now called Teltown) in honour of his foster mother Tailltiu (pronounced Telsha). The lore relates how Tailltiu’s heart broke under the strain of clearing the plain that carries her name. Lugh then ordained that the fair, with feasting and games should be held there annually for all time as a memorial to Her. Tailltiu was in fact a Goddess of the Land who founded the kingship of Ireland under the Fir Bolgs, in the time before the coming of either the Tuatha de Danaan or the Gael. It is said that the Fir Bolgs landed in Ireland at Lughnasadh, hence this festival seems to have a great deal of association with the older races of that land. The site of Tailltenn was also an ancient sacred burial place for the men of Ulster, which is traditionally the stronghold of the Fir Bolg warriors. The Fir Bolg peoples were closely associated with agriculture. Lughnasadh was an important land festival within the communities of the ‘common folk’. Throughout Gaelic lands Lughnasadh is to this day known as “the festival of first fruits“. It does in a very real way honor Thallium, who as a Goddess of the Land (and sovereignty), is the Earth Mother.

When considering the agricultural perhaps we can best establish the idea of the intent of this festival time by exploring the Gaelic language itself. By doing this study, we find that the name Lugh, transliterates to the least. As the People were still by and large living on the stores or the previous years harvest, this was the time when the stores were at the least. It was a time of looking forward to the harvest time just starting. It must to be pointed out directly, to avoid confusion, that this festival either in veneration of Tailltiu or Lughnasadh, has no connection to any concept of Corn Kings or harvest festivals, such as referenced to in Frazer s The Golden Bough . Tailltenn was the scene of the final battle between the Tuatha de Danaans and the Gaels. The Gaels here defeated the Tuatha, and it is here that they buried their three kings. After this the Gaels divided Ireland between the sons of the Mil.

It seems that a common element was the prevalence of horses at the fairs associated with Lughnasadh. Of course the White Stead is a common companion of Lugh in the lore. Even in the Ulster Cycle, the foot race between Macha and the chariots of MacNesa speak of this. The emphasis on horse races and horsemanship seem to drive home the point. This is very significant, for the horse is the embodiment of the Goddess of Sovereignty. In this her task seems to be to deliver spirits to Otherworld. A telling custom related to this belief which was once widely practised in the coastal lands of the Gaidhealtachd was for people to drive their horses down to the beach and into the sea on Lughnasadh. The Fair of Tailltenn, became a major annual event held on the 1st of August, which was attended by people of all classes in Gaelic Celtic. It had all the usual attractions of a great festival, but was particularly renowned for its excellent games and its ‘marriage market’. Lughnasadh was the season of handfastings, or trial marriages that lasted a year and a day. After that time the couple had to return to the same place at the fair the following year to make their contract a permanent one. They also had the right to declare themselves divorced by walking in opposite directions away from each other. Trial marriages of a year and a day lasted up until recent centuries in many Gaelic areas. During this time young people would often simply *pair up* with a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ for the duration of the fair, after which they went their separate ways. As a matter of fact, even into the 18th century the ribald flavor of the Teltown Fair (Teltown being the Anglicized version of the place name) was held to be quite scandalous. In some places one whole day was dedicated to horse and chariot. In addition to the games, there were recitations of poems, genealogies and romantic tales. Music was provided by cruits (harps), timpans, trumpets, horns and cuisig or piob (pipes). Feats of horsemanship were performed. There were also jugglers and clowns. It seems that there were usually three distinct market places; one for food and clothes, one for livestock and another for luxury goods. If it rained during this festival, it was believed that Lugh himself was present.

Like the other fire festivals, this one too was once celebrated with great bonfires in every district.

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