I was halfway through the afternoon today before I realized that Lughnasadh had started without me. I get the feeling the exact dates that we celebrate these old pagan holidays have some wiggle room, but for you purists sunset on August 1 was the big moment.  

Well, last night around sunset we were getting hammered by yet another round of summer storms. Being that this was on August 2, I’m not sure what all that means.  According to Wikipedia – or should I say Wicca-pedia –  this is a time when Celtic Reconstructionists pray (I guess) to keep storm-hags from ruining the crops.  


Well even if my timing is a bit off,  today I wandered through the neighborhood in search of signs of the season. My brief online studies indicate that Lughnasadh is a harvest festival, which makes sense. Nothing brings a community together like food.  I have to imagine that way back in the day our forebears were pretty darn happy when they were able to eat something other than moss, kelp and small stones. 

Today on Lake Street the Mid Week Market was chugging along under a blue, storm-hag free, summer sky.  There was sweet corn, tomatoes, squash and blueberries for sale.  I looked around the stalls hopefully for signs of neo-pagans, but everyone looked pretty much like they always do around here.  I think this event counts as a harvest festival, even if it does happen every week. I wonder if neo-pagans like fancy salsa?

I wandered on, scanning the landscape for odd signs of the spirit in nature. In the late afternoon sunlight the big flowers positively glowed in their round planters downtown.  Now it wasn’t quite the same as Moses and the Burning Bush. The flowers did not speak to me, but they sure were lit up.  Even that lonely pile of wood chips where the Certified store used to be had a certain presence

Or, perhaps I’d been out in that nice warm sun a little too long. 

So I celebrated the early harvest with the purchase of a non-local-non-organic apple and made my way home. It’s tempting to wonder if the lower angle of the sun doesn’t trigger some ancient something deep in our brains. Why not?  Birds and bugs come and go with the seasons.  I have to think there is something – other than tomatoes that is – special about these subtle turns of the Earth on her axis.   

Look out for those storm-hags!

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Dave Coulter

I have been a horticulturist for thirty years working in the Chicago area and beyond. I have lived in Oak Park for over thirteen years. My writing has recently appeared in the journal Ecological Restoration...