Many survivors don’t know much about the August holidays, probably because those days have not survived as Christian or secular holidays. I think it’s useful to know some background about them. Perhaps what seems like an obscure bit of information will help explain part of some ritual.
8/1 – 2: Lughnasadh is named for the Celtic god Lugh, the fire god, and is celebrated with bonfires. Lugh is the son or maybe grandson of Baal; on his mother’s side, he is the grandson of Balor. In Wales, he is called Llew Llaw Gyffes.
Lughnasadh takes place August Eve (July 31) and August first. It is still celebrated in some form in parts of the British Isles as Lunasa (August), in Ireland as Lunasda, Lunasdal, and Lunasad in Scotland, as Laa Luanys and Luanistyn (August) in the Isle of Man, and as Gwl Awst (August Feast) in Wales.
Games in honor of Lugh’s foster-mother, Taillte, who died clearing forestland for planting, occur on August first. In Ireland, this holiday is still sometimes called the Tailltean Games; year-long unofficial trial marriages arranged on Lughnasadh are called Tailltean marriages. These games were a gathering of the tribes and a mixture of business, horse racing, athletic contests, and ceremonies. They survived Christianity disguised as medieval craft guild festivals. Today, many country fairs take place around this time.
With the coming of Christianity, Lughnasadh became Anglo-Saxon Lughomass (“Lugh’s Mass”) and later Lammas (from Old English hlaf-mas or ‘loaf mass’). Loaves of bread made from the first grain harvested were placed on the altar to be blessed.
August full moon (Lunasa). Lunasa is the Irish word for August. In Wales, the first August full moon is Arianrhod, “silver wheel.” In Scotland, it is Gealach, the “bright white moon of the seasons.”
8/24 – 8/27: Fundus Mundi seems to be a Greek/Roman mixture of Lammas and Halloween. It means “bottom of the world,” or underworld, in Latin. It’s a time of transition, when the gates of the underworld open for a few days. Mania is a festival in honor of the manes (Latin for ancestors).
Demeter was the goddess of grain and the harvest; she made the crops grow. (The first loaf of bread from the harvest was dedicated to her.) Demeter and Zeus had a daughter, Persephone, who was kidnapped by Hades to be his wife in the underworld. In her sorrow and rage, Demeter laid a curse on the world and made all the plants die.
Now Hades was Zeus’ brother, and thus Persephone’s uncle and Demeter’s brother-in-law. He was the god of wealth and the dead, and he just loved mortals, who increased the number of dead in his kingdom. (Sound familiar? He is sort of Lucifer’s counterpart.)
Zeus had the good sense to try and get Persephone away from Hades. Anybody who eats something in the underworld is not allowed to return, and Persephone had tasted a pomegranate. There was an attempted kidnapping and other drama, and Zeus managed to negotiate to have Persephone spend half her time with Hades, half with Demeter. That’s why we have winter and summer.
8/28: Feast of Nepthys. So how did Nephthys, the Egyptian goddess of death, come into this story? Originally, of course, she didn’t. In the nineteenth century, however, occultists, as well as the general public, were very interested in mythology of all kinds; Far Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman. Some abusive groups incorporated as many “dark” gods as possible into their rites and holidays. Such groups are generally referred to as pantheistic cults, (pan meaning all and theist meaning one who believes in God or gods.) And yes, she was married to Set, as in “The Temple of Set.”
The details of the myths are not important; the fact that they were an excuse to perpetrate the most horrible abuses is what counts. It can be helpful, however, to know that these practices came from somewhere and that they have a history.
The same year I figured out I was a survivor, I came across a 1967 book by Richard Cavendish called The Black Arts. It traces the history of numerology, alchemy, astrology, ritual black magic, and satanism in Europe. As I plowed through it, I gradually realized that my experience was not unique, and that my people were not the absolutely worst people in the history of the world. Ritual abuse is an ancient culture, not a rare modern aberration.