August Mornings

It’s August and I’m already starting to feel haunted.  While science may declare it nonsense, there’s a feeling in the air—particularly in the early morning—that tells us the seasons are changing.  While it may be different for everyone, for me it begins in the tip of my nose.  I can smell the change coming.  That doesn’t mean that we won’t have more hot days—a long string of them yet awaits—but the shift has begun.  Autumn is perhaps the season closest to the soul.  While I like all seasons for what they represent, fall has always put me in mind of melancholy rapture.  It’s a difficult concept to explain,  a kind of blissful evisceration.  A hitching of the breath in my lungs.  A sudden rush of joy followed by sadness.  The ease of summer living is ending.

Summer is the growth season when we look out and see the promise of provisions that will see us through long months of cold and chill.  The times we huddle down only to be blinded by the arctic beauty of the sun on a snow-covered day.  The indoors time.  Summer is when we can dash outside without a coat, giving no thought to whether we will be warm enough.  The scent of autumn is a slight chill.  It reminds me that while the crops have been growing, the monsters have too.  There’s a reason horror films are released in the fall.  I’m not the only one who knows they are coming.

Late summer is a liminal time.  While the calendar may tell us summer lasts until the autumnal equinox, traditional cultures marked time in a different way.  Equinoxes and solstices were closer to the middle of a season than its start.  Most years we begin to feel summer in May, or even April.  Winter cuts through November, and the thaw may begin as early as February.  When I step outside just after sunrise and breathe deeply, I can feel the monsters coming.  In a way I can’t explain, their lurking fills me with a frisson of anticipation.  Already the days are noticeably shorter.  Daylight itself seems to be fleeing before the ethereal chill that is still available in our rapidly warming world.  The seasons are all about feelings.  Emotions suffuse the changes of weather and human habits that accommodate to it.  There are shivers and then there are shivers that the creatures of autumn bring.  They’ve already begun to gather.

August Ancestry


Now that August is in full swing, it is appropriate to think of Lugh. It would have been more appropriate, I suppose, to have considered him on Lughnasadh (August 1) but I’m afraid I missed the deadline. August is the only month with no officially recognized holidays, either lighthearted or serious, in the United States. Back in Celtic Britain the first of August was one of the quarter days, or days when the rent was due and religious festivals were celebrated. When Scotland was Christianized, Lughnasadh was kept under the name Lammas-mass, a festival of the first harvest of the year. The Christian correlation became the deliverance of Peter from prison or Saint Peter in Chains.

Lugh was, without doubt, one of the most important gods of the Celts. It has been suggested that the Celts understood their gods not to be transcendent beings of a different order than humans, but rather as their own ancestors. They apparently believed that gods came from great humans. Lugh is a warrior god, and occasionally god of the sun. His favored epithet is “long arm” or “long hand,” indicating his felicity with spears and swords. So widely was he known that many important cities were named after him, including Lyon in France, Vienna (known by one of his epithets), and perhaps even London itself. When Romans conquered the Celtic lands, the festival in August was that of the Caesar from whom the month takes its name, Augustus. Apart from the minor Christian festival of Peter in Chains, the month of August was simply forgotten as the seat of holy days.

The origins of gods differ in diverse cultures. The assumption of most people today seems to be that gods exist as an ontological reality and we reverence them because of their factual existence. The Celts, on the other hand, grew their own gods in the tradition that a noble human was worthy of veneration and full of undying power. Lugh may have been one such person. If he was, he has been lost in the heavy haze of hoary antiquity. He comes to us today in August, but more often in March. The word leprechaun is an Anglicized version of the Irish phrase “Lugh the cobbler” (one of his many associations). As such he is remembered every time we pour ourselves a bowl of Lucky Charms.

Part Lugh, part Potter