The summer days are just beginning to shorten and the land is rich with earth’s gifts. The season of Lughnasadh is upon us.
An ancient festival dating back to pre-Christian Ireland, Lughnasadh was founded to pay tribute to Lugh, the deity of light and harvest, and Tailtiu, who is believed to have been worshipped as the mother earth goddess. Tailtiu died of exhaustion in her efforts to sow the land and, mourning her death, Lugh held a festival and games every year in her honor. Tailitiu’s work brought forth the first harvest of the season, and with it, a celebration that was revered throughout Ireland and the British Isles. Though it was traditionally celebrated on the first of August, many now hold this festival on the first Sunday of August.
As with many pagan traditions, when Christianity took hold across Europe, names of holidays were changed, but some concepts remained in tact in an effort to appease the masses of converts. Lughnasadh eventually became known as Lammas, which translates to “Loaf Mass.” Still recognized as a harvest celebration, Lammas specifically honors the first crops of wheat, and baking bread – or a Lammas Loaf – is one of the oldest traditions still observed today.
You can create you own rituals to recognize the first harvest at this time of year: volunteer at a community farm, work in your own garden, shop at your local farmer’s market – or you can bake a loaf of Irish Soda Bread to commemorate the event (and share it with friends and family). Here’s a go-to recipe we love:
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups wheat flour
3 tablespoons toasted wheat bran
3 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
2 cups buttermilk
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Preheat the oven to 425F. Prepare a baking sheet with nonstick spray and a sheet of parchment paper, and dust the parchment lightly with all-purpose flour.
Combine both flours, bran, wheat germ, oats, sugar and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined. Using either your hands or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal.
Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in the buttermilk. Working by hand, mix the dough, careful not to over-beat the ingredients.
Transfer the dough to your prepared baking sheet, knead a few times and form into a round loaf – again, be mindful not to overwork the dough. Score the top twice with a knife, creating a long, deep X across the top of your bread.
Turn the oven down to 375F and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool slightly before cutting.
Slather with butter and jam or honey and thank the Spirit for the harvest!