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Lughnasa: in praise of the foster-mother

Today is August 1, the old Celtic festival of Lughnasa: a celebration of harvest; a time for reaping what you sow. It’s often said that the festival honours the Celtic sun-god Lugh, and so its name would suggest, but if you were to go back to the original story, you’d find that the festival was created by Lugh to honour his foster-mother, Tailtiu. According to the source of so many old Irish myths, the Book of Invasions, Tailtiu was the daughter of the king of Spain. She married Eochaid Mac Eirc, the last king of the Firbolg, one of the races which occupied Ireland before the Tuatha de Danaan arrived. Although her husband was killed by the invading Tuatha De Danaan, Tailtiu survived, and she became the foster-mother of Lugh. Lugh’s father was of the Tuatha De Danaan and his mother was Eithniu, daughter of Balor of the Evil Eye, king of the Fomorians (early Irish mythology is a bit of a soap opera, with complex intertwining plots, and many contradictory versions of the narratives …