Hearing Modern Earth in the Ancient Myth of Lughnasadh
To the ancient Celtic people, today, August 1st, marks the festival of Lughnasadh (pronounced: loo + nasa), one of four major seasonal festivals in the Celtic calendar.
Historically, Lughnasadh began as a festival established by the god Lugh in mourning for his foster mother, Tailtiu, who died from exhaustion after clearing the lands of Earth for agriculture. Lughnasadh featured a funeral feast in her honor as well as athletic competitions and games. As a 'first fruits' festival, all the best homemade foods would have been blessed, swapped, and shared with everyone in the community. Lughnasadh was also a time for matchmaking and 'trial marriages' blessed for the coming year and a day.
While the festival has gone through periods of rest, various versions of this ancient celebration are still observed today around the world by Christians, neopagans, and people of Irish descent alike.
Today, in 2018, also marks the earliest Earth Overshoot Day ever documented. Since the 1980s, ecologists and economists with the Global Footprint Network have calculated the calendar date representing the day that humanity's consumption of Earth's natural resources enters an ecological deficit. That is, the day of the year that we are consuming more than the planet can produce. In 1987, this date was in December, but in recent years, it has held steady in August, and this year's Earth Overshoot Day is the earliest so far marked.
Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by looking at the economics of human natural resource consumption:
"On the demand side, the Ecological Footprint measures an individual or a population’s demand for plant-based food and fiber products, livestock and fish products, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure, and forest to absorb its carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.
On the supply side, a city, state, or nation’s biocapacity represents its biologically productive land and sea area, including forest lands, grazing lands, cropland, fishing grounds, and built-up land."
When humanity's ecological footprint exceeds biocapacity, we enter a deficit.
What Can We Learn?
For those who of us who believe in synchronicity more than coincidences, I'd say the collision of this ancient festival with this contemporary 'holiday' acknowledging our modern profanity is significant.
To the ancient Celts, Lughnasadh marked the death of an earth goddess and the beginning of Autumn. With the earliest Earth Overshoot Day ever recorded falling on this day as well, are we also looking at the death of the Earth and the Autumn of the Anthropocene?
And if we love this planet, if we seek to honor her in our relationship to her, and if we seek to celebrate Earth in the solar and lunar cycles of her movement through space-time, how can we let this Earth Overshoot Day pass us by without doing anything to help her? How can we relate to myths about the death of an Earth goddess who cleared the planet's land for agriculture without acknowledging the fact that animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of global climate devastation?
I'm always up for a challenge, and I see in this day a necessity to re-evaluate how I am abusing and enabling the abuse of this planet I find sacred. I hear Earth screaming for us to notice and do something.
What have we learned? What will we do?
Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to firstname.lastname@example.org