Bilberries for Lughnasadh

Bilberries and leaves on a twig

August 1 marks the beginning of autumn observances in the Northern hemisphere, and spring observances in the Southern hemisphere: Lughnasadh and/or Lammas in the Northern hemisphere, Imbolc and Pachamama Raymi in the Southern hemisphere. According to The Festival of Lughnasa, a study of Lughnasadh by folklorist Máire MacNeill, the celebration included:

A solemn cutting of the first of the corn of which an offering would be made to the deity by bringing it up to a high place and burying it; a meal of the new food and of bilberries of which everyone must partake; a sacrifice of a sacred bull, a feast of its flesh, with some ceremony involving its hide, and its replacement by a young bull; a ritual dance-play perhaps telling of a struggle for a goddess and a ritual fight; an installation of a [carved stone] head on top of the hill and a triumphing over it by an actor impersonating Lugh; another play representing the confinement by Lugh of the monster blight or famine; a three-day celebration presided over by the brilliant young god [Lugh] or his human representative. Finally, a ceremony indicating that the interregnum was over, and the chief god in his right place again.

In honor of the feast, we present a traditional Bilberry Pie recipe. As a note, bilberries are often available frozen in Europe, and sometimes fresh in local markets and gourmet stores. They are less likely to be found in the United States, but blueberries are a good substitute. According to the recipe below, “Bilberry Pie is a classic British pie loved throughout the North of England particularly in Yorkshire. Serve it warm with thick cream or a good vanilla ice-cream – delicious.”

Traditional Bilberry Pie Recipe.

Photograph of bilberries by Abrget47j (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.



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