Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tillie Black Bear - honour and gratitude

Tillie Black Bear, healer and warrior woman, advocate for survivors of rape and domestic violence, without whom many of us would not be alive, has crossed over. She made a profound difference in my life, and in the life of so many survivors. I've posted about her before, and many of the "stopping the violence" resources I list in the sidebar would not exist without her. What I haven't spoken about as much publicly is the direct, personal impact she had on my life. She is one of the women who saved my life. Without her work, I would probably not be here.

Her compassion, her courageous stand for women and tradition in the face of patriarchal violence, her refusal to let anyone forget that violence against women is not traditional in tribal communities, and is never, ever acceptable, changed the lives of all she touched. And she touched so many.

Love and gratitude to you, Tillie. Peace and comfort to your loved ones. Know that you touched, healed, and saved so many lives. May others pick up the many burdens you shouldered and continue on in your name. Safe and sacred passage to you. I love you, will miss you, and honour you as an ancestor, because without you I would not be. Slàinte Mhath.

Photo of Tillie Black Bear, Sicangu Lakota, 


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Gaelic Polytheist Videos - Lá Fhéile Bríde, Là na Caillich, Bealtaine, Áine agus Grian, & Manannán

We've been busy at Gaol Naofa! Along with all the usual activities of summer, we've made some more videos. Here are five more in the series, focusing on the seasonal and local festivals.

We had fun making these, and hope they can provide a brief intro to the subject for those less inclined to read a 90 page article or scholarly book. Additionally, we've dedicated our efforts to capturing the essence of each topic in visuals and music in a way bare words cannot. After all, the lore says we must drink from all five streams of knowledge, and engage all the senses in absorbing the sacred.

Images are mostly of the sacred sites and activities associated with each of the deities, spirits and festivals. Music is either an old, traditional song on the topic, or a contemporary version of traditional lyrics and tunes. Traditional prayers are included. Some of these images are old, archival photos, others were taken very recently by our members in the Celtic Nations and diaspora (in some cases photographed expressly for this series). Much gratitude to all our friends and relatives who went trekking with their cameras in tow!

Feel free to share!

Lá Fhéile Bríde — The Festival Day of Bríd
As the sun sets on the last day of January, the goddess Brigid walks the land, bringing the first stirrings of spring. Even if the ground is still covered in snow, the earth begins to stir from her long winter sleep.



Là na Caillich — The Day of the Hag
Spring is starting to happen around us, and the Clumsy Old Woman who Shapes the World is stirring up the last of the winter storms, and considering lying down for a bit of a nap. Sometimes when she does this, she accidentally creates a river or loch. Other times she drops stones she's carrying and, Ooops, another mountain range appears. She's had a lot on her mind, and wants to take a break. 



Bealtaine
In the Celtic lands, the summer is here. When the hawthorn blooms, it's warm enough to move the flocks and the herds, and hold bonfires welcoming the light half of the year. Readers of this blog will recognize the song here. 



Midsummer — Áine agus Grian
The Celts do not have a "sun deity" in the way Classical mythology would frame it. Instead, our deities and spirits are multifaceted, with full personalities, like the people they watch over, like the ancestors some of them once were. (And still are, for many of us.) In the Gaelic areas, as in most Celtic cultures, the fire festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lúnasa are the major festivals. Activities and beliefs connected with the solstices and equinox tend to be based either on older, pre-Celtic remnants that survived in some form as local festivals, or on imports that came with the Norse and were syncretised with local beliefs and customs. Not all communities acknowledge these solar phenomena, at all, but those that do tend to associate them with beloved local spirits, often those of sovereignty.



Manannán — Paying the Rents at Midsummer

Mac Lir, son of the sea, patron of the Isle of Man, guiding spirit of Gaelic Polytheism. Well, one of them. But Manannán has shown an especial interest in the development of Celtic Reconstructionism, and I am happy to have this lovely video about him and his work, an homage and thank you for the guidance he's provided us over the decades.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summertime... and the Frauds are Frontin'

Midsummer is a sacred time in many cultures. The sun is at her strongest, the weather is lovely and folks are outside.

Yes, I said, "her." In the Gaelic languages, the sun is female.

Irish Goddesses associated with the sun are Áine and Grian. Áine's time is midsummer, her symbols include the bright red summer sun and the red mare. Her sister, Grian (whose name is also simply the name for the sun) looks to be associated with the pale, white sun of winter, and in my personal experience she has an association with a pale, light gold mare. In Ireland, the two sisters have sacred hills near one another, where people have torchlit processions and make offerings to honour them.

Here on Turtle Island (the North American continent), many Nations also hold this as a time for ceremony, and it is a favored time for interfaith gatherings, worldwide. Interfaith gatherings can vary widely. Those run by traditional people are best, in my opinion, but it is also important to make sure people are involved who understand the protocols of the various groups participating. It's unfortunately common for people from unfamiliar cultures to take advantage of those running interfaith gatherings, by misrepresenting themselves to folks they hope won't know too much about the cultures they claim to represent.

To this end, the crew at Gaol Naofa, with help from the CAORANN stalwarts, have put together some memes and leaflets to help navigate these issues. We have several formats of three basic documents, depending on what sort of social media you prefer, or if you want to print them out.

Introductory Leaflet about Gaol Naofa and Gaelic Polytheism

A Brief Guide to Spotting Offensive Celtic Ceremonies

A Brief Guide to Recognizing Authentic, Respectful, Celtic Traditions

If any of the content seems confusing, we go into more detail in the wordier versions on the pages above, as well as in our collection of articles

Enjoy the summer sun, ceremony season and reunions with family and friends. Slàinte Mhath!



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Là na Caillich, 2014

  Day of The Hag 
 
photo montage copyright ©2014 Kathryn NicDhàna 
from images of the Romsey Sheela and the equinox illumination of Sliabh na Caillí, Éire



Whether as early as March 18, Sheelah's Day
in Ireland, or April 6, Là na Caillich by
the old calendar in the colder climes
of Scotland, or somewhere in between,
when the Equinox sunrise illuminates
the chamber at Sliabh na Caillí, this
is the time of year when the Hag
renews herself. And as she does so,
she brings life to the land.

She waves her branch to raise the winds,
to bring the last snow of the winter,
to turn the seasons of the year. 

Until Samhain when she ushers in the
winter again by washing her great plaid
in the whirlpool of Coire Bhreacain,
bringing the snow to cover the land.

~~~~~~~~~

We still have more in the works for the season, including an overhaul of the Sheela website with new content, and additional videos. But sending you all greetings today, since the 25th is the modern calendar date of Là na Caillich. Hope everyone's having a good Spring! Slàinte Mhath!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lá Fhéile Pádraig / "Saint" "Patrick's" Day, 2014

Tis the Season...

For those of us with Irish heritage in the diaspora, this is one of the most awkward and uncomfortable times of the year. While we are relieved at the lengthening days and warming weather, glad to have survived another harsh winter, we are also horrified at the debacle that is American and Canadian Saint Patrick's day.

As I write this, the riots have started. In one college town this weekend, thousands of students celebrated their idea of St. Patrick's day by drinking themselves sick, puking on their violent green t-shirts, assaulting one another and hurling bottles and rocks at the riot police that tried to stop them from harming other civilians. This behaviour is shameful, and as an Irish-American it makes me very sad and dismayed to see this happening yet again in the name of "Irish pride." Of course, I think only a minority of those rioters even have Irish heritage. And what heritage they have, they dishonour.

As I've written about before, to attend some of these awful festivities can put your safety in jeopardy. And the thing is, these drunken blowouts have nothing to do with being Irish.

In past years, we've done our best to avoid the whole thing, or to quietly educate via online discussion and memes.

This year, we've decided to get proactive.



We're pleased to present an article debunking some of the myths around St. Patrick's Day: Pagans, Polytheists, and St Patrick’s Day, as well as two videos on the topic.

Video one is a general introduction to the problems with the stereotypes, and video two is directed more specifically at the myths around Patrick himself, and the misinformation spread by both Pagans and Christians.



Our Gaol Naofa video channel has been in the works for a while now. Treasa made our first videos two years ago, then we stalled out a bit on getting more done. This year we've tried to use our anger and frustration around the whole St. Paddy's thing to motivate us to finish up some projects and counter the misinformation. Check out our playlists for other videos that should be of interest to Gaelic Polytheists, or anyone interested in Celtic Reconstructionism and Gaelic cultures in general. If you like what you see, feel free to subscribe, as more is in the works.

As we say in the videos, we welcome the spring, and celebrate the Hag who turns the seasons. She, and the Earth, are renewing themselves now, and we honour her.

We also honour our ancestors who worked so hard to survive oppression, famine and exile. The St. Paddy's parades in the diaspora initially began as cultural celebrations - a day for members of an oppressed ethnicity to gather together and celebrate their survival against the odds. It was only after our recent ancestors "became white" and rose to power in the police departments and mainstream politics that the marches became drunken bacchanals, with little to no connection to anything traditionally Irish.

We hope you enjoy these contributions, and find them useful in debunking the myths that surround this season. For more on our recent projects (such as our in-depth article, “Children and Family in Gaelic Polytheism”), see the Gaol Naofa site. Sláinte Mhaith.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

It's that time of the year again...



#StPatricksDay #CulturalCringe #IrishAmerican #Oirish #Irish #CulturalShame #StPats #StPaddys #StPatty[sic] #ItsNotMyFaultYouMadeYourselfIntoaRacistStereotype

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Irish Fairy Beliefs: Interview with Folklorist Dr. Jenny Butler

Here is an excellent interview with Dr. Jenny Butler about the living traditions of the Creideamh Sí ("Fairy Faith"). She discusses those who have maintained these traditional ways of interacting with (or at least respecting) the spirits, along with some discussion of Irish polytheism in general.

At the end the interviewer also seems to know about those of us involved in the preservation, revival and reconstruction of the old Irish ways and asks about the modern communities. While I wish she would have made a bit more of a distinction between the various folks who either observe these ways now and those who are simply inspired by them, as that only came up in the last segment and was not the focus of the interview it's understandable there were only generalizations.

Definitely worth a watch, especially as an intro to the Creideamh Sí.

Go raibh maith agaibh, a Jenny (agus a Mhícheáil for posting this)!



A bit more detail about the Creideamh Sí:

The Creideamh Sí is the foundation of our spiritual work in Gaol Naofa. The Creideamh Sí, aka "the Fairy Faith" is a collection of customs and beliefs which make up the living Gaelic ways of interacting with the local spirits. Most of the people who have maintained these ways down into the present day consider themselves to be Christian. I think it is very important to respect the living traditions and not try to redefine these terms to fit modern, American pagan sensibilities. So, the Creideamh Sí is a part of most contemporary Gaelic Polytheist paths. But any attempt to redefine "Creideamh Sí" to only mean "Modern Gaelic Polytheism" kind of misses the point and is offensive to those in the living cultures, without whom we would have nothing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Justice for Trayvon, Marissa and CeCe


Statement from the CAORANN Council:
17 July, 2013

We at CAORANN are outraged at the atrocity that is the Zimmerman verdict. The system has once again failed People of Colour (POC) in America. We stand with our loved ones for whom this sort of injustice is nothing new, who have borne the brunt of this kind of deadly discrimination their entire lives, who carry the burden of generational trauma, and who have now been shown that they don't even have the right to defend their lives. An unarmed child has been murdered, and we are supposed to accept that a grown man with a gun, who stalked, chased and then murdered him in cold blood was justified in doing so. We are asked to "accept the verdict."

We do not accept the verdict.

We join in the call by the NAACP for the Department of Justice to follow the clear precedents set by the Byrd and Shepard verdicts and charge George Zimmerman with Hate Crime and Civil Rights Violations resulting in the death of a human being, on the Federal level.

Please read and sign The NAACP Petition to the Department of Justice

We also call for justice for Marissa Alexander, a mother with no criminal record, a Master's degree, a weapons permit and a restraining order against her abusive ex-husband. She has been sentenced to twenty years in prison simply for firing a warning shot to scare off her attacker. No one was even wounded. The case against her was presented by the same Florida prosecutor who failed to convict George Zimmerman.

Free Marissa Alexander: Stand Your Ground Marissa Alexander. Or go directly to petitions: The Petition Site and MoveOn.org

The mothers and aunties and grandmothers on the CAORANN council stand with the mothers who have lost their children to racist violence, and the mothers who have been jailed for defending themselves from abusers. We mourn the loss of this young man, the jailing of an innocent woman, and the ugly blood stain that once again spreads across the white hands of America. As a predominantly white group, we know that the pain those of us with white privilege feel, as gutted as we feel, is miniscule compared to that of our friends who have kids who look like Trayvon Martin, who could be shot down like Trayvon, who were already dealing with culture-wide PTSD before this happened, and who have lived with this fear for their entire lives. We fear for all the People of Colour we know and love who could also be shot down, whose words and work are dismissed or stolen every day, and who are dealing with racist trolling, physical assaults, and even murder, just for standing up for themselves and their communities.

We offer our prayers for justice and compassion.

But compassion is not enough. Feeling grief is not enough. From that grief must come action. We affirm that we must continue to work in the communities to which we have access to dismantle the deadly system of white privilege and white supremacy in America, and in all the countries where racism is taking the lives of our friends, relatives and beloved allies.

In grief, solidarity and determination,

The CAORANN Council,
Celts Against Oppression, Racism and Neo-Nazism





ETA: After some initial technical difficulties, we've now posted the above text on the CAORANN website, as well. We apologize for our delay in getting this out. We have been working on these issues locally, processing with other activists, and having trouble speaking through our anger well enough to compose anything longer than a tweet.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Death-Dealing Plastic Shaman to be Released from Prison

James Arthur Ray, convicted of three counts of Negligent Homicide for killing three people (and injuring over twenty more) in a racist, humiliating, pretendian debacle in a plastic death tent, will be loose in just 10 Days. He killed three people, but he's being turned loose. Here's a refresher, from the Usual Suspects:


Here's most of what I've written about James Ray over the past few years: James Ray Sweat Deaths Posts.

He wants your money; he'll take your life. Don't let him ever again have a career at this stuff. Don't let him sell his deadly fake rituals. Don't let him lead any kind of ceremony, ever. Don't buy it, don't excuse it, don't look the other way.

James Ray was able to get away with killing these people due to two things: racism and greed. Racism led otherwise-intelligent people to think they could trust a white man to lead ceremonies that Native people had said he had no right or ability to lead. They bought the racist fantasy that they could be the "better Indians" - that they could attain in one week, or a series of seminars, things it takes normal people decades to achieve, if they ever achieve it at all. And they were greedy enough that they bought the illogical proposal that if they did his silly and offensive newage rituals - gross fabrications mixed with pale imitations of spiritual ceremonies he only pretended to know - that it would bring them material riches. They thought they were better than Native people, they thought they were above the laws of nature. And as long as people are willing to believe those kinds of offensive and absurd falsehoods, frauds and exploiters like Ray will get the chance to kill them.