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.
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.
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.
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.