Féile Lúghnasa Festival

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The Féile Lúghnasa is an annual revival of an ancient pagan/Celtic festival.

The Féile Lúghnasa is an annual revival of an ancient pagan/Celtic festival. Events include sheep shearing, a Mount Brandon walk, parade, music, storytelling in Tinteán Ceoil and local pubs, comedy dramas, dog trials, swimming races, a triathlon and lots more! For kids there will be kids' golf, treasure hunts and teddy bear competitions.

Féile Lúghnasa is a Celtic harvest festival that dates back 2,000 years. Revived in 1995, the Festival features music, children’s activities, stage dramas as well as many local traditions, including sheep shearing, a blessing of the boats at Brandon Pier, and a pilgrimage to the summit of Mount Brandon.

The schedule of events will be available in all of the local bars, Siopa An Phobail and at the Halle Le Cheile.

Activities throughout the four days feature a poker tournament, swimming races, fancy dress, sandcastle-building competition,, a stage drama that is created annually for the festival, several hill walks, and plenty of other activities to delight the whole family.

Central to Féile Lúghnasa is the pilgrimage to the summit of Mount Brandon. At 952 metres, it is the second highest mountain in Ireland and one of the finest hill walks in all of Ireland, featuring breathtaking views of the mountains and the sea. There are only three such pilgrimages at this time of year in Ireland, Mount Brandon being one of them.

The first farmers in the region celebrated Lúghnasa with a solemn cutting on the first corn and offering to the deity by burying it at the top of Mount Brandon. All would have then participated in a meal of the new food.

The sacrifice of a sacred bull may have taken place followed by a feast of its flesh, some rite with the bulls hide, a ritual dance play and struggle for supremacy with victory symbolised by the installation of the stone head of Crom Dubh on Brandon’s summit and a ceremony of triumph over it by an actor chosen to represent Crom’s adversary, Lugh.

Pilgrims follow the well-trodden path from the grotto at Faha, angling upwards across the hill and passing Benagh Promontory Fort, above to the right. At the entrance to the Coom, the path becomes stonier with a steep drop to the left.

Near the head of the valley, the river is crossed at the marked point, the path then winds between the highest lakes at the foot of the Esk, a steep section leading to the saddle. It is here on clear days gives the most fantastic views of the magnificent coastal scenery on the western side of the mountain. From the saddle, pilgrims turn left at the top. The remains of an early Christian hermitage, attributed to St. Brendan, crown the summit.


At one time it was held at around 200 sites, nearly always remote, inaccessible places that were on heights, or near water. The festival was dedicated to Lúgh, the young and most brilliant god of the Tuatha de Danann. Lúgh was the god of light, god of arts and crafts, father of inventions and the likes. It was he who saved the harvest by vanquishing Bal, the sun god who was in the process of scorching all the country’s plants and crops with relentless heat.

Lúgh was a good time god. His festival was a young peoples gig and it was party central. In the Irish calendar it was the biggest celebration, the harvest was safe and the population could go and boogie. Held at remote locations, only the young, the fit and the agile made their way there.

As was its practice, the Catholic Church cast their net wherever there was a crowd. They took over Lúghnasa and put a religious stamp on it. One of the most glaring examples of this hi-jacking is Reek Sunday on Croagh Patrick, an ancient Lúghnasa site.

The Irish Church said that St. Patrick spent 40 days and nights on the mountaintop, fasting and praying for the salvation of Ireland. If he did, he failed. But it’s more likely a pr job and the nearest Paddy got to the mountain was Campbell’s pub in Murrisk or maybe Matt Molloys in Westport.

Anyway, year in and year out, thousands of the hoodwinked faithful climb the mountain on Féile Lúghnasa, saying prayers to Patrick, Mary and Jesus. Some climb barefooted, others climb blindfolded. Lúgh is probably shaking his head at the pain, wondering why they no longer believe in a good time god.

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