This is an awkward moment for me. When I’d normally be anticipating spring, the polarity of dark, light, and how that resonates with me, if it wasn’t for glances at social media posts advertising the Equinox and Full Moon, this period would’ve passed right over my head. It’s been almost a week since I layed my Craft Brother to rest, and my mind can’t escape constant flashbacks of past circles, and reminiscence.
Lughnasadh brought on different feelings within me this year. As a traditionalist I try to preserve some of the cultural traditions when able (mostly those associated with Bilberry Sunday), however with contemporary harvest festivals, like the majority of folk nowadays I’m mostly detached from the agrarian cycles being a bred city boy, even though I now live close to the countryside where the harvest festivities were rich until fairly recently. (No thanks to our wanker politicians) Therefore, like those that follow the rhythm cycles of the modern neopagan “Wheel of the Year,” minus the Sun God mythos cliché, the Wiccan in me draws on the allegorical and symbolic themes to apply to my life.
Taking its name from one bad ass god, Lughnasadh possesses much overlooked death and funeral imagery. Other than the Aonach Tailteann games, and rites associated with the óenach, not much is actually known about other historic pre-Christian festival traditions, however middle aged literature might deduce some of the strife and hardship associated with life and agriculture with Lugh’s foster mother Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion clearing the fields of Ireland. We know from days passed the seriousness placed on the harvest which could result in life, or death. The games themselves, likely for commemoration, remind me personally of the militaristic attributes placed on sport (a way to exercise maneuvers and tactics) which really resonates with me, especially this year.
Corresponding with other harvest festivals like the English Lammas, (with harvest giving the name to autumn) Lughnasadh/Lúnasa marks the start of autumn as September on the modern Irish calendar, Meán Fómhair, literally meaning “middle of autumn/harvest.” Being an autumn child with a late September birthday, coincidently not long before Michaelmass which takes its name from the Christian saint I was also named after, autumn just happens to be my favourite time of year. Lughnasadh personally marks the start and anticipation of this season for me, which I like to celebrate in a similar fashion to the modern Autumn/Harvest (minus the local Christian hymn one our local wanker politicians robbed our horse fair for), Puck, Lammas, Horse fairs, with festivities involving plenty of drink. The harvest of the grains motif I like to symbolise with those harvested to fill my pint glass! It may be a bit more detached from the hardships our not so distant ancestors faced, but captured in spirit.
Like the martial competitive feats of strength and athleticism held at the Tailteann games, as a martial artist I also compete in the full contact sport elements of the arts. This comes with a dichotomy as I’ve to divide my time between fight camps and competition training, alongside the breaks and times to relax and enjoy life. With this polarity comes different priorities, and disciplines to be balanced in order to reap the fruits of one’s labour. It has won me Irish titles on one side of the coin, but also caused me to miss out on other life events on the other. Like the following equinox, it feels like on many levels I always have one foot in the light, and one foot in the dark, and when one succumbs to the other it becomes a vice….for this harvest then, I’m cultivating different aspects of the self to bring the transformation that gets us back on the warpath, a continued journey, or so I think.
So coming up to Bealtaine decided to make a YouTube vid dealing with the pronounciation of the Celtic terms(Irish specifically) that many use for the Greater Sabbats. Excuse the quality as I’m a Youtube newb, and couldn’t shoot it in landscape or anything.
Nothing that hasn’t been covered before, but since it’s something I still encounter intended it for those fairly new to either Wicca, Neopaganism, or Celtic Pagan/Polytheism, with a few minor errors that I explained in the comment. It’s my first one, so, tóg go bog é 😁
#wicca #celticpaganism #gaeilge
Yes we do exist, and yep, that title was totally deliberate! Alright it’s been a couple decades since the likes of the “Why Wicca isn’t Celtic” Iain MacAnTsaoir and Dawn O’Laoghaire essay, and with the last decade of social networking I obviously don’t have anything new to add on that front, but coming up to St. Paddy’s it’s that time yet once again when I can’t escape the influx of cultural appropriation topics, and Wiccanite Privilege snakes biting me from the grass.
Foremost, Wiccans do exist in the Celtic nations that possess an indigenous cultural identity, and where native languages are still spoken. My personal voice can only come from where I live, in Ireland. The Farrar line has been in Ireland over forty years, and professions amongst today’s Lexies & Gards (and other) range from teachers, archaeologists, curators, scholars, and many more throughout the island including the Gaeltachtaí, with people well versed in their own history, mythology, and own cultural identity. If someone cries cultural appropriation, we should probably ask for their license or passport first. Many of us make huge efforts to preserve traditional culture, especially for those of us here north of the wall in Na Sé Chontae, or “The Dark North”. Trust me that shit is never ending!
Now Wicca can be traditionally defined as a mystery tradition that’s experimental in nature, and being one that utilises the land. We’ve seen examples of this such as the use of Goidelic names of the Greater Sabbats published in the Farrar’s “Eight Sabbats for Witches,” that was given as an example of a coven operating in Ireland. Being an influential text the designations may have been arbitrarily adopted by the masses afterwards, and why other pagans/polytheists want to strongly disassociate with that pigeonholing into the the “Wheel of the Year,” especially Celtic influenced religions with a reconstructionist approach. Wicca’s existence in Ireland, however, does predate the approaches that evolved into those methodologies, and such approaches are also adopted by Wiccans as well. Trads and Trads! Being an orthopraxic mystery tradition, some of us have our individual personal practises, and beliefs outside of circle.
For the same reasons that make Wicca indeed not Celtic in origin is the dichotomy of why that dissociation is so when placing emphasis on historical accuracy. Its eclectic origin in western esotericism, possible conflicting cosmologies with certain worldviews, and modern adoption of terms that can be viewed negatively when translated in traditional cultures are all valid reasons for this. Personally as a Gaelic Polytheist in my personal practise that respects tradition, I also see my Craft similarly, being a mystery cult of its own tradition, with a core that must be preserved and passed on intact. I also, however, know of initiates who have ceased coven work to be more aligned with their personal polytheistic practise that their Craft was thought to be no longer serving. Outside of circle we possess our own varying individual beliefs, but with either approach, both exist in this culture, and I could view Wiccanite Privilege with the same amount of pigeonholing.
As a part time bar man, I’ll already be seeing enough of my culture being appropriated in the sin and debauchery committed in the name of Saint Patrick during my shift tomorrow!…nílim ach ag mogadh ;P
Before Memorial Day became about a three day weekend and BBQs, it was birthed from the decoration of soldiers’ graves with flowers. There really isn’t much of a counterpart here in Ireland to the States’ Memorial Day. The closest probably being Remembrance Day which correlates with the WWI fallen, however its observation with traditions such as wearing the poppy are controversial to some, especially here in the north. Regardless of politics almost 50,000 Irishmen, with over 3,500 in the Somme alone, fell in An Chéad Chogadh Domhand, The Great War. Other than that, the Irish Revolution Period that won the Republic’s independence (also controversial in the north) is celebrated by commemorating those that gave their life in the insurrection of the Éirí amach na Cásca, Easter Risings. Being absent of the recognition I’ve come to know of my native Memorial Day, it has reflected in the practises of my religious life in mundane ritual.
Heroes were praised, sacrificial weapons deposited into sacred waters, feasts and fights were had, and libations made. The myths, legends, and artefacts reveal these aspects of our ancestors’ warrior caste. While many like to claim that ‘warrior path’ label, the lifestyle can be truly forlorn. As a veteran of that occupation, being a professional warrior has permanent casualties. The mental residue of war and operating in constant violent scenarios leaves alienating scars, with the most severe loss being actual life. The wounds sustained when one is extracted from the closest fraternity you know is like none other. Though we have specific holidays and festivals, Samhain for example, reserved for honouring our dead with rituals related to that, Memorial Day has come to be important to me.
As we poured our beers onto the earth in those enlisted days, the praises will still be given. When one of our own is extracted from the summer lands of Donn’s rock, across the waters into the dark one’s house, deeds will be done on their behalf, their memories kept alive with a life lived for them. Go dtí Teach Duinn, the libations continue. Till Valhalla.
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 some even go as far as labelling racist, or at least discriminatory, 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!
Recently did a charity run up Sleeve Donard called “The Donard Challenge,” to raise money for the Cancer Centre. Sliabh Dónairt is Northern Ireland’s, and the whole of Ulster’s highest mountain peek which is fortunately in the back yard of our local Co. Down in the Mourne Mountains(That inspired C.S. Lewis to write ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’). There are two Neolithic passage tombs on the mountain, with the one at the top being the highest passage tomb in the British Isles. Before being named after the saint, Donard was called Beann mBoirchi, and Sliabh Slángha. Boirche was a legendary otherworldly king, and in myth Slángha was a son of Partholón, and the reputed first physician of Ireland. Like many other mountains in local tradition it’s customary to carry a stone from the bottom to place on the cairn at the top which likely originated as a Lughnasadh tradition in which mountain hiking is also customary.