HomeAbout Waverly FitzgeraldCorrespondence Course & StoreArchivesSubscribe to our Mailing ListContact UsSchool of the Seasos Store Four Seasons
Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 1, number 11
July 31, 2003, the eve of Lughnasad


  • Welcome
  • Update: On Water Lilies and Ice Cream
  • August Calendar Up!
  • Living in Season: Take a Hike!
  • In the Library: Celtic Holiday Books
  • Current Offerings: Autumn Course
  • Signs of Autumn
  • Copyright
  • Subscribe - Unsubscribe

Welcome to my semi-monthly newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. Please forward this newsletter if you enjoy it.

A special welcome to new subscribers from
If you enjoy this newsletter, please forward it.

If a friend send you this newsletter, welcome! You can subscribe for free at my website: www.schooloftheseasons.com
We never rent, sell or give away subscriber information.

Water Lilies and Ice Cream
Just wanted to let you know that I take my own holiday advice seriously. I had a lovely ice cream bar on July 23, Ice Cream Day (thank you Ben & Jerry's for making Heath Bar Crunch — I prefer the coffee but vanilla's good too.)

And, trying to develop a more practical acquaintance with the flower of the month, the water lily, I convinced my niece, Shayla, to go canoeing with me on Monday. We didn't find any water lilies in bloom but it was lovely to spend a hot afternoon out on the water. It is really the Dog Days here in Seattle. The temperature topped 94 today.

August Calendar Up!
The August calendar is updated and now posted here.

Living in Season: Take a Hike!
The calendar is full of late spring and early summer holidays which mandate spending the day outdoors, picnicking, splashing around in water or frolicking in the woods — I think of May Day, Lag B'Omer, the Thirteenth Outside, Easter Monday, Midsummer.

But I can think of only two holidays that prescribe climbing a mountain. One is the Chinese holiday of the 9th of the 9th, sometimes called Climbing the Heights, which is celebrated either on September 9 or on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month (October 3 this year). The other is the Celtic holiday of Lughnasad, celebrated on or around August 1.

According to Maire MacNeill, who wrote a comprehensive study of this ancient Celtic festival, all over Ireland, people climb mountains, especially on the Sunday before and after Lammas, which is sometimes called Garland Sunday because people leave flowers on the mountaintops, along with other offerings such as wheat. At Gainmhe in County Dongeal, everyone wears a flower going up hill and at the summit all the flowers are put into a hole and covered over, as a sign that summer is over.

Since many scholars believe Lugh was a sun-god, it makes sense that people would climb mountains and leave offerings for him in high places. But some of the Irish folks surveyed by MacNeill said the offerings were left for the fairies, who were active on quarter days. MacNeill believes the practice of standing on a peak overlooking the landscape, keep alive a passion for the land and its history.

Another popular name for the holiday is Bilberry Sunday, since people pick bilberries as they climb the hills. Bilberries (also known as whortle-berries and blaeberries) are the small, dark-blue berries of the vaccinium myrtillus, a hardy shrub that grow on heaths and sunny moors in Great Britain and Northern Europe. They are one of the first berries to ripen.

In some places in Ireland, boys thread the berries on grass stalks and make bracelets of them for the girls of their choice. In Cashel Plantin' in County Armagh, these strung berries were brought home as presents and kept around the house for luck.

In Seattle, it's the blackberries that are getting fat and juicy on August 1st. I always go blackberry-picking on the weekend closest to Lughnasad, gathering enough to make a blackberry cobbler, or simply spoon them over ice cream. Of course, they're also great eaten warm, right off the bush. One of the great transitory pleasures of the summer.

Ideas for celebrating Lughnasad:

  • go on a berry-picking expedition
  • hike to the top of a nearby mountain, perhaps leaving an offering
  • harvest and feast on a first crop from your garden

MacNeill, Maire, The Festival of Lughnasa, Oxford 1962

In my Library: Celtic Holiday Lore
Maire MacNeill's book, The Festival of Lughnasa, is a comprehensive study of this rather obscure holiday. She gathered all the clues she could find about how the holiday was celebrated from references in ancient Irish literature, antiquarian journals, accounts written by folklorists and responses to a survey administered in Ireland in 1942. She has definite opinions about what it all means, some of which don't seem justified to me, but she also includes all the original sources so you can find your own patterns and draw your own conclusions.

My other favorite source for Celtic holiday lore is that great collection by the Scottish folklorist, Alexander Carmichael, the Carmina Gadelica. Unfortunately, I loaned my copy to a friend and never got it back, so I can't refer to it for Lughnasad references. There is a version online but only the first volume has been entered, in both Gaelic and English.

Be warned, there is also a paganized version floating around on the web written by Mike Nichols who says he is only trying to restore these charms and spells to their original mystery and charm. But I find quite a lot of charm in the curious mixture of pagan and Christian in the versions collected by Carmichael.

Autumn in the School of the Seasons
A quick reminder that, although it still feels like summer, in the School of the Seasons, Autumn begins with Lammas, on August 1. Order your correspondence course now if you want to get started on Autumn studies.

Signs of Autumn
In Seattle, I'm noticing the first pale orange berries on the rowan trees, one of the first signs of Autumn. Also the hydrangea bushes have suddenly burst into blossom: pink, purple and vivid blue. And, of course, the blackberries are ripe. What are the signs of this season where you live? What first crops are you harvesting? Send them to me and I'll post them on the website under Signs of the Season.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2003.
All rights reserved. You may reprint material from Living in Season in other electronic or print publications as long as you credit me and provide a link to: http://www.schooloftheseasons.com. Please send me a copy of the publication.

Getting On and Off the List
To subscribe, send an email to:
To unsubscribe, send an email to:



Content © 2003 Waverly Fitzgerald. Do not reproduce without permission. Website Design © 2001 JPC Web Design Services.