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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Springtime Ceilidh

St. Patty's Day can be an odd time of year for we Irish Wiccans and Pagans. On the one hand, the attraction of all things Irish is strong. First there's that stirring fiddle music and the rumble of the drum. The food is mighty tasty, folks are feeling celebratory, and who doesn't like the color of bright, springy green? On the other, who wants to revere a man for driving the "snakes" out of Ireland, a.k.a. the Druids? There is still a spirited scholarly debate regarding how much damage St. Patrick actually did on his own versus the mythic qualities that surround him to this present day. This presents a quandary, but not one insurmountable. I believe that you can partake in festivities in your own way, honoring your Irish heritage. Perhaps this year is one of the most opportune times, when we have the Irish holiday falling within the same week as the Spring Equinox. If you do up a dinner party combining the two, with a focus on some of the more classic Celtic traditions– problem solved!

Take down your favorite celtic knotwork wall hanging and use it as a tablecloth. Hopefully it is nothing you mind cleaning a little spilled food or drink off of. Decorate the table with fresh cut spring flowers, such as daffodils. Invite about 4 to 6 others to join you and pull up a chair. For your menu, think Celtic-eclectic. This is your very own hybrid holiday, after-all.

Had it with tired old corned beef and cabbage? Give this tempting main course a try: 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

As the sun set on February 1st, Pagans everywhere began their preparations to celebrate Imbolc. This is an Irish word meaning “in the belly”, because lambs would be developing “in the belly” of the ewes (female sheep) at this time, waiting to be born in the spring. It is a fire feast because now we can truly see that the sun is growing stronger in the winter skies, and the days are getting longer.

But February 1st through 2nd (note: Irish pagans see the day as starting at dust the prior evening) is also sacred to the Celtic goddess known as Brigid or Bride. (The Celts were the tribes of people who eventually became the Welsh, Manx, Cornish, Scots, Irish, and people of Brittany). Her name means “Exalted (mighty) One”, as well as “Bright Arrow”. She is often seen as 3 goddesses in one, known as a “triple goddess”, because she had mastery over three things: fire and smith-craft, hearth and home, and poetry – which was thought of as magical, and born from the “fire” of inspiration. She is a goddess of fire, but also of water.

This may surprise you, but it is often true: for something to thrive, it needs a little bit of it’s opposite. The warmth of the sun (fire) makes things grow, but it can’t do it without the rain (water). The fire goddess Brigid is also goddess of sacred wells where people would go for healings. So that the goddess would remember them and aid their health, people would tie strips of white cloths, called “clooties”, to the branches of the trees surrounding the wells. It is similar to the way some Christians light candles before a statue of a saint in church, to be a reminder that their help is needed.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Thig thugainn, thig cò' ruim gu siar -  
Gus an cluinn sinn ann cànan nam Fèinn, 
Thig thugainn, thig cò' ruim gu siar - 
Gus an cluinn sinn ann cànan nan Gàidheal. 

Come to us, come with me to the west - 
And hear the language of heroes (of the Fèinn),
Come to us, come with me to the west,
And hear the language of the Gael.

- from Cànan Nan Gàidheal, written by Murdo MacFarlane

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Is Danu the Indigenous Goddess of Ireland?

Ireland has recently conducted national DNA research that asks the question of what actually  makes the Irish...well, Irish?  As a country conditioned by emigration the Celtic tiger of the 1990's and early Noughties brought an influx of new blood into the population. Cue some national soul searching.

If you read the earliest Irish texts, such as the Book of Invasions, Ireland has always been rather 'multi-cultural' although that was probably not the fashionable interpretation in earlier times.  This  DNA survey has noted that along with the Irish being well connected with the Scots and other British populations, there is a strong marker for Spanish, specifically, Basque, lineage.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

As I write this entry, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia is in full, autumn glory and the Celtic Colours International Festival is well underway. For those of you who don't know, Cape Breton is a Gàidhealtachd, a place where the Scottish Gaelic language is still spoken and taught, a place where Gaelic culture still lives. Every year in mid-October, people come from all over the world to celebrate the rich heritage of this place with concerts, classes, discussions and demonstrations rooted in the Gaìdhlig language that traveled here when so many of its native speakers emigrated from Scotland.

Cape Breton is also my home. An American by birth, I immigrated to Canada three and a half years ago after twenty years of Celtic Paganism and a Celtic Studies degree because I wanted to become a fluent Gaìdhlig speaker and advocate. My local Gaìdhlig learning began in Halifax, where Sgoil Ghàidhlig an Àrd-bhaile serves the community with a wide range of classes and workshops. I have since come to sit on the Board of Directors of that organization and maintain its web site, which has given me the opportunity to understand more about the mechanics of Gaìdhlig transmission in the province and also put me in touch with many wonderful Gaìdhlig speakers and learners. More recently, my husband and I bought the Presbyterian minister's manse where the Reverend A.W.R. MacKenzie lived when he founded the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in 1938, and it is our joy to bring the Gaìdhlig language back into this house where I sit, writing to you.

I've heard two terms applied to people like me, who come from outside the Gaìdhlig community and settle within. The first is the title of this blog and this entry, 'Gael Ùr'. It means 'New Gael' and is usually self-referential. The other is GalGael, a term I learned from Alastair McIntosh, which he described as an older word that referred to people who were not Gaels by birth but were assimilated. My native Gaelic friends are less circumspect; they often remind me that the Gaels were great travelers who collected people into their communities, who themselves became Gaels as they absorbed the language and culture.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Deborah Blake
    Deborah Blake says #
    I love hearing about your journey--I think it is a great adventure!
  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    You're pretty adventurous yerself, lass. =)
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. MacCath, Good for you, honoring your Gods! Half my ancestry is Celtic, though I am devoted to Hellenic deities and embrace Pl

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Ah, Samhain-tide: a time when life and death balance on a razor sharp edge as we welcome in the Season of the Winter God. Rua, Fin and I will be tucked safely into our stalls this evening, away from those things that walk between the worlds. It’s a time to stay firmly rooted in this world, while seeking predictions from the next. Your best tools on Samhain are sharp wits and clear vision. It reminds me of a stone we find here at the dairy. It’s usually shiny and black (although it can be green, grey and even “rainbow”), and made from volcanic glass. It’s called obsidian.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Obsidian.png

Obsidian was highly prized by Native Americans because of its use as a blade. It could be honed to the thinnest edge, and still be deadly sharp, so it was a perfect material for arrowheads. Even today, obsidian blades are used in surgery because they are many times sharper than steel blades, and have nice, smooth edges--and smooth blades mean less scaring. Obsidian has other properties that are especially useful this time of year. Wearing or holding the stone not only releases healing energy, but also keeps you grounded and balanced. That’s especially important during a season when the worlds of the living and the dead touch.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Natalie Zaman
    Natalie Zaman says #
    Thanks so much for visiting!
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you. You reminded me of my fascination with obsidian as a child. Now it all makes sense.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Raven's Call at Sunwheel 2012

In the wake of my article on Canadian Pagan music, I had an opportunity to interview Thom of emerging Canadian Celtic folk rock band Raven’s Call, who was happy to share with me the details of what was going on with his band!  For the full interview, check out my podcast as of June 10, 2013, at http://paganpathfinders.webs.com.

Raven’s Call

Location:  Edmonton, AB, Canada

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