Wednesday, 28 May 2014

New Blog

Due to the amount of time it's been since I've last posted, and in an attempt to get everything under one e-mail as I rarely use this one, I've created another blog at wordpress. I may or may not carry everything from here over, but for the time being I'm just starting fresh, so as of now, I'm now at.....

Monday, 19 March 2012

St. Paddy's

19 de Mhí na Márta

I appear to be chiming in a bit late (as usual with these things), but am still striking off of an appropriate note as I'm enjoying my public holiday off of work since St. Paddy's fell on a Saturday this year. Around this time generally everything "Irish" appears in all sorts of headlines, and current news topics. Aside from the general stigma attached to American celebration of the day in the States chalk full of false stereo-types, that can even qualify as racism&discrimination, leading the boozefest in a general day ignorant of anything relating to actual Irish culture. I understand this pretty well coming from a city that has such big "Irish-American" festivities for it, and yes, was part of the sub-culture I was raised with.

This is however nothing new to me, but my current focus is the way the day is treated within "pagan" communities. The same sort of disassociation that you may see among the native&secular Irish, you also find within the pagan community, especially those following "Celtic" paths. The big reasons are usually for one, despite the normal piss up of a celebration with sin and debauchery, the festival is a primarily Christian religious one in origin. Going deeper, the feast day of Ireland's patron saint happens to be the saint most linked to the Christianisation of Ireland, not something your typical pagan would want to celebrate eh? We've all heard the modern lore of good auld St. Paddy driving the "snakes" from the island, snakes of course assumed to be a metaphor for either the general pagan inhabitants, or druids, but history is a funny creature in itself. Actual events, supposed events, and our understanding of them are often distorted, so if we're going to adopt such serious attitudes towards popular celebrations in modern culture, I guess it would be wise to at least understand them.

First of all. St. Paddy wasn't the first Christian, or missionary in Ireland. The first known Bishop was Palladius. It's important to understand Ireland's conversion to Christianity was relatively embraced and peaceful to a certain extent. The pseudo-history in the hagiographies featuring Patrick in "magical combat" with druids are likely made up to resemble Biblical stories like that of Simon Magus, but of course in the guise of encouraging belief in Christ. We actually owe a debt of gratitude to the church for recording our myths, which even though monks re-worked with their own twist, made it possible for them not to be lost in time. In regards to myths, other than the two main early sources we have of St. Patrick, mainly his Confessio, and letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, it's a possibility the man as we know him may not have even existed.

Now the "Snakes" right? It is well known there have never been snakes in Ireland. Either they didn't survive the last Ice age, or didn't have the right environment to migrate when there was a land-brdge. The whole bit of lore with Paddy&snakes was written by Anglo-Normans in the Middle ages. It was stated in some of his earlier biographies that he studied at the Lérin's monastery off the south coast of France founded by St. Honoratus, who was said to have banished all the snakes from Aralanensis. The Anglo-Norman writers must have liked that association, and since there were pre-existing tales of Paddy banishing demon-birds, and monsters into lakes, they penciled that one in under him as well. His role as a missionary in Ireland, and lore involving supposed encounters with druids likely lead to the symbolic association of pagans&snakes in modern folklore, but we do in fact know that the last pagan High-King in Ireland to be sworn in under the ban-feis rite at Tara, Diarmait mac Cerbaill, did so well over 100 years after Paddy's death in the 6th century, and pre-christian religious practices would have taken longer to wane generally from then.

Therefore if "All Snakes Day" is taking the piss out of modern folklore, then fair play to it, but there shouldn't be any more need in the pagan community to disassociate with the secular celebration of the day. If anything the stereo-types alone would make more sense in reducing an island with the second oldest vernacular in Europe, had a church that lead the rest of Europe throughout the Dark Ages, and has given such beauty, music, and amazing poets&literature to the rest of the world as a need for lack of acknowledgment. The day can also be seen as one of national pride, or by the diaspora as one to honour those that left their home, family, and language behind in order to face oppression& discrimination in becoming "Good Americans." That has usually been the case for me, so on that note, Lá Fhéile Phádraig shona daoibh!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Féile Bríd

Dé Sathairn 11 de Mhí Feabhra 2012

Bhuel Lá Fhéile Bríd go déanach! I've been meaning to get something up earlier for this(as well as many other things that succumb to internet procrastination, but found the right wee bit of time being an early morning Saturday insomniac. I was going to create a post called "Christian Appropriation" to explore common debates aroound this time such as syncretic Christian iconography adopted into Pagan practices, but perhaps that'll do for another time. In the mean time, thought I'd share something I had written before in spirit of the occasion.

Brighid, Briganti, Brigit, Briga, e.t.c is a Celtic Goddess, and Irish Saint, whose parallel comes up frequently in topics focused on Paganism and Christianity. That parallel is what I intend to focus on, so just briefly touching on the nature of this Goddess...

The etymology of her name literally means "exalted one", a pseudonym that Celtic inhabitants around high hills used for their mother-goddess.(Briganti) This Goddess was the sovereign Goddess said to give her name to Britain, and the famed tribe that controlled central Britain based around the Pennine Hills called the Brigantes, with Briganti their principal Goddess. Off-shoots of this tribe settled in the south-east of Ireland around the 1st century A.D. Many scholars believe that her cult was brought to Ireland with these settlements, with Brigit (Brighid) being her Irish adaptation.

In the myths and literacy creations, Brighid is a Poetess of the Tuatha Dé Dannan, and daughter of the Daghdha, with two sisters of the same name. She was a guardian-goddess of domestic animals, and patroness of smithcraft and poetry. A 9th century glossarian wrote that, "among all the Irish, a goddess used to be called Brigit." A few Irish rivers were given the name Brighid, along with many hills called Brí. It was said that Brigh was the first to weep and shreik to the dead, being a defender of the Laigin(Leinster), terrifying enemies appropriate for a territorial sovern goddess. This indicates that like Danu and Mór-Ríoghain, Brighid was another aspect of the mother-goddess in Ireland.

St. Brighid, Brigit, Bríd, of the Fotharta, Mary of the Irish/ Muire na nGael, is an Irish saint reputed to have lived C. AD 439-524, however practically nothing historical is known about her. Her cult had political importance with the rise of the Uí Dhúnlaige Leinster sept, so a Latin biography called Vita Brigitae was written in 650 by a cleric under the pen name Cogitosus.A shocking feature to many scholars about the text is the lack of any historical information about Brighid who supposedly lived a century earlier. It's mostly composed of miracles such as multiplying crops&stock, healing the sick, and even changing the weather(akin to rumoured feats of druids, and prayers to the Goddess Brighid) and the importance of Kildare. Not only does the saint share her name with the Goddess Brighid, but it's highly coincidental that her feast day, Lá Fhéile Bhríd, falls on the same date as Oímelc(Imbolg), the pagan festival of spring and turning point of the Celtic year, also connected with the goddess. Oímelg is taken to mean "in the belly", connected with lactation, and ewes milk. Is associated with the birth of farm animals in which the saint and goddess also happen to be patronesses of.

Kildare itself, Irish Cill Dara, means "Church of the Oak tree." This suggests that the site was a sacred pagan one, by the presence of oak groves sacred to the people we now refer to as "druids", and some accounts even state Brighid was the daughter of a druid. As F.J Byrne stated in Irish Kings&High-Kings, It's sceptical to doubt the existence of an actual Christian Saint of Kildare, but it's likely that a holy woman of the Fotharta Christianised a pagan sanctuary at Kildare, and borne the name Brighid, common among druidresses. The synthesis between Paganism and Christianity would have met less resistance under the name of Brighid, and much of Saint Brighid's lore contains elements of druidic practices keen for Christian propaganda. It's widely believed that the goddess's presence in the Gaelic mind was so strong, she was simply canonised as a saint.

Her cult was prominent in Leinster, and south Ulster, especially in Kildare and Faughart(where some sources even claim to be her birth), and much of her lore even spread to Scotland and Wales. Kildare and Faughart are still rich with her lore. Folk customs, especially on Febrary 1st like solar&St. Bríde's crosses (cróssog na Bríd), maintain lines to the Goddess Brighis, and well as being the feast of the Saint. Outdoor shrines, especially around sacred spriongs, as well as offerings and well dressings are all remnants of Ireland's pagan past, and living traditions of both Pagan and Christian Gaelic Traditionalists, as you can see here in the pics we took of her shrine at Faughart, Co. Louth...

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

R.I.P Dáithí Ó hÓgáin

Dé Céadaoin 28 de Mhí naNollag

I've been meaning to find the time to get around to make an article in dedication to the late Dáithí Ó hÓgáin who I unfortunately heard passed away the other week when listening to the news on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.

One of my favourite authors in regards to Irish scholarship which includes pre-Christian myths, legends, and religion. Dáithí was a professor of Irish Folklore at University College Dublin, and was awarded the Irish Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann award Ard Ollaibh for lifelong service towards Irish traditions. I unfortunately never got the chance to meet the man, but always held him in high regard knowing that he had given talks during the Save Tara campaigns, as well as the Cruachan Aí Heritage Centre in Roscommon. All of which play an important role in the history&preservation of pagan traditions here.

I was saddened by this news, and he will be greatly missed.

-Suaimhneas Síoraí Dó

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Curse of Macha

Dé Céadoin 9 de Mhí Shamhna 2011

I went to a fund raiser the other night that took place in Northern Ireland's Tudor Cinema. The event was a fund raising effort contributing to the in the making independent film, "The Curse of Macha." Drawing inspiration from Ireland's, and even more specifically Ulster's, native myths&legends. The writer and director is local man Chris Lennon, who has had previous work featured on BBC&RTE productions. The cast includes local talent from Ireland, as well as the stunt team from the likes of Gladiator , King Arthur,and the FX team from Walking Dead.

I had the chance to meet some of the crew, including Chris at the fundraiser, who were very sound, and dead on people. I'm anticipating the film's arrival as it is set in the time period of our island's pre-Christian pagan past, which serves as a vehicle in capturing that heritage. Not only that, but the tourist board in charge of running the actual site of Ulster's mythic, and historic stronghold, Emain Macha(featured in the film), has made a deal regarding the film's premier. Eamhain Mhacha(Navan fort)has been a personally important site for me as a modern Irish Pagan, and I couldn't think of a better experience. All going well, the film is currently set for a hopeful 2013 release.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Beannachtaí na Samhna (Samhain Blessings)

Dé Luain 31 de Mhí Dheireadh Fómhair 2011

Well Happy Halloween&Samhain to all! There are indeed numerous articles that can be written about this ancient pastoral and agricultural festival that marked the passing of summer, and preparation for winter. From the role it played into the evolution to Halloween, and the folk customs that spread from the Gaelic, to the New World, and celebrated by pagans throughout the world. I think I'll spare another Halloween origin post by reason of there being countless others out there around this time of year. Having already went through the end of autumn anticipation stage, and celebrated our coven Samhain Sabbat, I've decided to share a couple of writings themed for the occasion. For how can a blog exist without poetry eh? Had to happen sooner or later.

Here's one I wrote a couple of years ago.


Deireadh an tSamhraidh
Summer scented serenity Falls into crisp Autumn memories
Transformation, the cold air around the fields shedding vitality brings me tranquility
It’s this fresh breeze that brings my mind to ease

Deireadh Fómhair, Transformation, Reflection, Warmth, Indulgence. My affection follows the path of least resistance
Mo Bhean Chéile, Mo Thuath, Mo Chairde
To these my affection as warm in my stomach as the burn of Cider
As equal the fruits reaped as the deeds done unto me. Compassion the wine of this Season.

For we are never as alive, as before we Die
This is no lie, at the stars is the answer to find
As active the ocean of blackness above, as the rolling colours below
Alive in the frenzy of the bees, in the Red Giant’s rays on my face
Alive until the peak of fury in that clear Starlight night
Transformation. The First Frost

Stillness, Reflection, Dark, Regeneration
We’re from Black, before we fade to Black
In the womb yet once again
The womb of Hearth among family and friends
Tis this Season I adore. For Meán Fómhair was when I was born
A celebration not only to the start of my life
But of that with grá mo chroí agus m’anam, the love of my heart and soul, my wife

The still of the dormant night and howl of the wind is where I find Comfort
At home in the tradition all around me
Alive not only here in their homeland, but my native country
For when there became but one king
“Anocht Oíche Shamna Mongfhinne banda” a chant the children to this day continue to sing

Samhain, Fáilte an Gheimhridh"

And from a recent adoration I wrote to An Mhór-Ríoghain, who we know from myth mated with an Daghdha on the Unshin riverbanks on Samhain before the Cath Tánaiste Maige Tuired.

"Adhartha Morrígna

Go mbeannaítear duit a Mhór-Ríoghain, a bhandia máthair mhór na talún,
Great Queen of do thuatha, and protectress of our clanns.
Oh powerful Goddess known by many names throughout the lands,
At your choosing rain gifts of plenty, or strike fear into the hearts of man.

For you I bring tribute, dispensed from Cóiced na hÉireann,
To the Great One who is also called Danu, Macha, and Badhbh throughout Ireland.
With your Will our kin protect, and enemies' intent plunder,
As I pledge my love and praise to you mighty mother.

From fertility born at Unshin, and patroness of the battlefields of Ulster,
I give to you my undying loyalty, and service mo mháthair.
By my free soul with the blood of my heart I make this oath,
And I do swear my allegiance by the flight of the Crow.

Oh exalted one who has captured the hearts of many,
I kneel at you shrine and inhale the ecstasy of your beauty.
I ask for your blessing offering this awe projecting before me,
Aiding in your worship, the divine act that sets me free.

From your sacred waters, to Uaimh na gCat,
Take my sacrifice and hear my chant.
Under your intoxication, my profound deity,
Great Queen of Sovereignty, An Mhór-Ríoghain I call unto thee!"

Tír gan Teanga, Tír gan Anam

Dé Domhnaigh 30 de Mhí Dheireadh Fómhair 2011

It can be noticed that I feature some of the Irish language on my pages. Although I do have a few Irish speaking personal friends on my social networking sites, including a couple Native Speakers, why else would I put it up if no one else can understand it, especially if the English is usually featured beside it? Well I received my GCSE in Irish courtesy of Belfast's Ceathrún na Gaeltachta, and it's becoming a strengthening 2nd language of mine, that I choose to include in my personal sites. My teachers have also emphasised the need to live a language, and extend it further from the classroom. So...

"Why would a yank want to learn Irish?"

Well other than knowing if people are talking about you in the Gaeltacht, and being able to tell someone else off who doesn't know their national language that calls you a foreigner, there are further interests. Even though I'm a born and bread American, I also happen to be a Gaelic Polytheist, and have an affinity for traditions associated with Gaelic culture on a personal, and religious level. Although Gaeilge-Ársa, and Sean Gaeilge would have been the languages of pagan Ireland, Modern Irish is a living continuation that still carries the ancient's mindset. Besides, I'm a Traditionalist, so what better way to do my part to preserve traditions native to the land in which I currently reside.

"But no one even speaks it."

Even though Irish is an official language of the Reublic of Ireland, and an official recognised regional language of the United Kingdom, English remains the dominant language of the island outside of the small Irish speaking bilingual districts of the Gaeltacht. Although it's mandatory to learn in public schools in the ROI, few other than native speakers continue its use outside of the class room. As a modern Western society Ireland is, some even believe the language contributes to the stigma behind traditional Irish culture, due to old, negative stereotypes .

With this said, it's believed 1 out of every 10 students forced to learn it actually develop a passion for the language, which has lead to an increasing number of Urban speakers outside of the Gealtacht. In Northern Ireland, Belfast itself has the highest concentration of Irish speakers outside of the Gaeltacht, currently with 44 Naíscoileanna(nurseries), 32 Bunscoileanna(primary schools), and 2 Mheánscoileanna(secondary schools) that teach specifically through the medium ship of Irish. It has it's own Gaeltacht quarter, An Cheathrún Gaeltachta, and with community radio stations such as Raidió Fáilte, and spreading Irish culture centres like An Chultúrlann, and An Droichead, it's easier now to become familiar with the language than ever before. Because of this, Irish is a language that I hear and use on at least a weekly basis, and can be heard anywhere in na Ceathrún Gealtachta, that also extends to Bank Square in the City Centre.

Outside of NI, and the ROI, there has also been an increased interest in the language in countires such as England, the USA, Canada, Australia, and France. Many people from these countries can be found online trying to learn the language on Irish networking sites. This may be because of these country's history of diaspora Irish immigrants, and
as a matter of fact, it was in my home town of St. Louis, MO that I first heard the language spoken. This all makes for a promising future(hopefully) for an teanga Ghaeilge.