The Healing Wheel: The Psychology of the Wheel of the Year
Presenting the eight Festivals within an archetypal framework and connecting that framework to personal development and inner transformation.
Donning a Prideful Cloak
“Pride cometh before the fall” is a message I recall hearing many times as a child. The warning that, though there was the expectation that I would always do my best, it was not appropriate to express the positive glow of success and accomplishment. If one did not self-monitor humility, one faced the very real possibility of being “brought back down to size”. Messages that urge us to be humble, to keep quiet, to deflect compliments away are fairly strong. Having internalized these messages, there can definitely be a waft of distaste when we encounter boasting. We feel the wave of Ego come towards us and instinctively step back.
For many years, I approached Lughnasad solely through the lens of ‘harvest festival’. Alternately known as ‘Lammas’ (or ‘loaf-mass’), it hearkens the start of harvesting in earnest, often celebrated by baking the first bread of the year’s grain crop. It marks the beginning of another round of grueling work that will find culmination in Mabon, the festival of thanksgiving. Certainly, in ancient times, between these two festivals, all hands were needed to bring in the harvest, providing the sustenance that needed to last through the harsh Winter months.
Named for the Celtic god, Lugh, Lughnasad literally translates as “The Games (or Assembly) of Lugh”. There are many tales of Lugh which highlight Him as the agile, able, whip-smart and brilliant hero-image. In myth, Lugh is the son of Cian (of the Tuatha De Danaan) and Eithiu (of the Fomorians) who is given to Tailtiu (of the Fir Bolg) in fosterage. He gains His reputation upon returning to Tara as a young man to join the court of the Tuatha De Danaan. Told He must present a skill with which to serve the king, Lugh reveals a long list of skills He has mastered including His ability as a craftsman, a swordsman, and a poet. When informed the king already had individuals who were capable in each of these areas, Lugh replies, “Ah yes, but do you have someone who is capable in all of these areas simultaneously?” With that, He is admitted to court and becomes the hero who frees the Tuatha De Danaan from the yoke of the Fomorians.
The story of Tailtiu brings another element to Lugh’s tale. As queen of the Fir Bolg, married to Eochaidh Ghabh of the Tuatha De Danaan and foster-mother to Lugh, cohesion (at least through relationship) between the three ancient tribes of Ireland is possible. Not much is known of Tailtiu, which is remarkable when one thinks that these annual Games were dedicated to Her and the city, Telltown in County Meath was named for Her. What is known of Her tale is Her contribution to agriculture in single-handedly clearing many plains to create fields for planting, dying of exhaustion at the completion of Her task. It is this gift of service to Her people that inspires Lugh to hold Games in Her honour, highlighting feats of strength and effort.
There is a certain element of caution in Tailtiu’s tale: be conscious of balanced use of energy. It does no-one any good to push ourselves to the point after which we are too exhausted to take a further step. Or, in the case of physical strength, pushing ourselves to the point at which we over-strain, causing harm to our bodies. But Tailtiu also shows us that there is a blessing in doing the very best we can, especially when our effort contributes to the benefit of our greater community. As we allow our own Light to shine, it does not just impact us. Light emanates outwards, touching many.
From a psychological perspective, Lughnasad invites us to see the very best in ourselves and to give ourselves permission to show that best to others. It is an opportunity to celebrate what we have accomplished, knowing that the fruits of that effort are on the cusp of being achieved. It is about stepping into pride. Not the boastful Ego that is actually rooted in diminished self-esteem and lack of a positive sense of Self. This is about self-actualized pride which is rooted in healthy self-esteem. It is pride that says I can celebrate my own gifts and accomplishments at the same time as celebrating yours, knowing that when everyone brings their best to the table, the feast is abundant and sumptuous.
As we approach Lughnasad, I invite you to look at the feast of your own coming harvest and the fruits that are just about ripe for the picking. What are your particular gifts and skills? What have you put energy into accomplishing this year so far and where is that at for you? How often do you say "Well, that was really terrific of me."? And how often, when someone gives you a compliment, do you simply say "Thank you" and allow that glow of pride to envelop you like a cloak? It may be time to hold an inner Lughnasad in honour of your own fabulous Self.
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