Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sheela's Day ~ March 18

Today is Sheela's Day, which anticipates the end of the stormy season and the start of Spring. Although recent lore often says she is the wife, sister, or even housekeeper of Patrick, her origins may well be much older.

While there was a time when St. Patrick's day was a political and cultural celebration in the diaspora, or a quiet spiritual day in Ireland, many contemporary polytheists are not that keen on a day for Patrick. While we have made efforts to reclaim the day as a cultural celebration, and this has gone very well in areas with large Irish and Irish-diasporan populations and cultural options, for others an alternative celebration is more fitting.

In welcoming spring on Sheela’s Day, it is traditional to wear a fresh shamrock, which is then “drowned” in a glass as the day draws to a close. Perhaps this is the origin of the dreaded green beer, which most of us shun, along with the other plastic paddyisms of the season, preferring instead to bless and share water from a sacred spring, or milk, or other traditional fare.

Activities traditionally observed for the Hag in Scotland later in the month may also be appropriate at whatever time you welcome spring, such as climbing a hill and shouting poetry.

Our Là na Caillich video has more on this. Here it is, along with our Day of the Hag playlist.

For more info see:

For more on the particular sheela images used in this collage:

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Solidarity with other Survivors

It's going to take me a while to find, let alone annotate or edit, all the content I have online that quotes or mentions Sherman Alexie. If you don't know... Several days ago the mainstream press published that five women have come forward about Alexie sexually harassing and threatening them. Now the number is closer to twenty. But, as is always the case, women in the community have known for far longer. And it has been exponentially unsafe for these Indigenous women to come forward. I've mostly been tweeting about it. And check the twitter stream. It's really just the tip of iceberg.

I stand with these women because while I'm not one of Alexie's victims, I am also a survivor of some similar threats, which in my case followed in the wake of horrific abuse. I cannot comment on the specific details of these women's cases against Alexie, or specifically what was done to silence them. But in my case, I know what it's like to live with constant death threats and surveillance, stalked and libeled by both the predator and the predator's enablers. Some of the enablers do it for status in the eyes of the predator, some of the more sleazy ones have done it for pay. This is the ultimate cruelty that piles on to the CPTSD - to survive torture, and then to be stalked like prey. As the more recent, mainstream, white wave of the #MeToo movement has built, there has been the predictable backlash from those who've never actually experienced assault or serious abuse, who have compounded this abuse of actual survivors by blaming us for not being more outspoken, or not speaking out earlier, even when we were living in fear of a dangerous predator. It's because of these accomplices that enable the abusers, that hound the victims and continue the torture, that so many of these predators are able to do so much damage for so long.

As I had meant to note in the previous post, the flu has hit hard here. Which is really serious for someone like me who is already immuno-compromised. I don't talk much about disability on here, as I'm from a generation that is more private about this stuff, and I don't want to be defined by my limitations. But sometimes I have to mention it for my life to make sense. Right now I don't have it in me to go through all the posts, but I will as soon as I'm feeling stronger. So I needed to make a note about this so, if any of his victims are reading this, you will know I have your backs - I believe you and stand with you - and that it is only my own struggles that are impeding my ability to thoroughly handle all of this right now.

Love, strength and protection to the survivors who are speaking truth to power. This one has been horrible to hear, but nowhere near as horrible as what those who have lived with this silence have had to endure. Thank you for speaking out.

ETA: Sunday 26 Feb 2018: Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children's Literature has now posted An Open Letter About Sherman Alexie. Deb was among the first to break and follow through on the story online, and has been tireless in not only supporting Native women in coming forward about this, but in promoting the many Indigenous women writers who are continually overlooked as men like Alexie have gotten all the contracts, sales and speaking engagements. She has included a timeline of this developing story, with links, and is continually updating the coverage, as well as continuing to promote alternative authors to those now removing Alexie's work from their curricula. It was Deb's tweets about her decision to remove or annotate the mentions of Alexie on her pages that inspired me to do the same last night. Thank you, Deb.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Winter 2018

winter ford, copyright ©2018 kpn / kathryn price nicdhana

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the coastlines, with friends near the seas experiencing unprecedented flooding and freezing. I hope everyone is staying warm and dry, and that you had a good Hogmanay, Winter Solstice, or whatever you and yours celebrate. I've mostly been active on Twitter and other platforms, but will be blogging more at some point.

I had actually been trying to spend less time on Twitter, when our days leading up to Hogmanay were disrupted in a most bizarre fashion by, Our Strange, Strange Holidays Arguing with Cher, yes, THAT Cher.

There was also some brief, but confused coverage on sites like Jezebel, and other Entertainment media, who got it wrong. But thankfully they updated the story once more comments came in (and, ahem, the author actually read the tweets rather than just skimming and rushing out a scoop). They've also embedded the Storify now, and our comments clarifying that there really was no real apology, only a sort-of one, way too little, way too late. And of the backhanded kind that leaves you scratching your head and asking, "Is that all there is?": Non-Native Jezebel Writer Attempts to Make Sense of a Celebrity Pretendian Meltdown. AKA, Native Twitter on a Random Friday.

Yeah, really not how I planned on spending New Year's Eve. Exhausting and exasperating, as these things tend to be. But when they come at you, you have to stand with your people.  Things have settled out more now. As much as they ever do.

Be well, everyone. May the racists, trolls, and racist trolls go back into hibernation. Slàinte Mhath.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Protecting the Water

Water Meme, text copyright ©2016 kpn / kathryn price nicdhana for Gaol Naofa
Original photo Dawn on the Mississippi River by Kyle Brown

Mni Wiconi – Water is Life 
'S e an t-Uisge a' Bheatha

The central watershed and aquifer of North America is under threat. The water defenders are holding the line but need help. Arrests are happening. If you are not able-bodied enough or your kids and job keep you from putting your body on the line, donate to the support fund if you can, and go to the waters where you are and pray.

News stories that spin this as standing with the Indians to protect "their" water are actually missing the point. This about ALL of our water. This is the central water source for the entire continent. This aquifer, and the Mississippi River, cannot handle the inevitable oil spills that are coming from every single one of these pipelines. The question is not if the pipeline will leak, it is when.  The pollution of all our drinking water is inevitable if this project goes through. These industries are used to sacrificing the most vulnerable and disempowered communities first - the Natives on the poorest reservations, the Black folks in the inner cities - and then years after the children in these communities have grown up with birth defects do the white people start maybe noticing and not wanting this stuff near them.

Well guess what. You can't avoid it anymore. No matter what your race or ethnicity or identification. This will effect you and all those who come after us. If you want the kids and grandkids to have water to drink, this is it. This is the war. It's coming for us and now it is here.

* Mni Wiconi - Lakota (Lakȟótiyapi) for "Water is Life"
* 'S e an t-Uisge a' Bheatha - Scottish Gaelic for "Water is Life." Uisge is "water," and usually implies freshwater. Fìor-uisge is specifically pure water, drinking water (literally, "true water"). When translating these water phrases into Gaelic and Irish, there can be some issues, as An t-uisge-beatha is a compound word meaning "whisky," whereas "Uisge na Beatha" is a phrase meaning "Water of Life." Especially when discussing or doing ceremony, the difference here is very important!
* A Shail-Spioradain - Gaelic for "Oh Guardian Spirits"
* Turtle Island - name used by many Indigenous North American Peoples for the North American continent
* Oceti Sakowin - The Seven Fires Council aka The Great Sioux Nation or the Lakota and Dakota people
* Mnišoše - Lakota (Lakȟótiyapi) name for the Missouri River
* Mníšošethąka - Dakota (Dakhótiyapi) name for the Mississipi River
* Abhainn Chluaidh, Uisge Dhè, An Life, An Bhóinn, - In both Gaelic and Irish, "River Clyde, River Dee, Liffy and Boyne"
* Standing Rock - The Lakota reservation where they are blocking the proposed pipeline, and where the runners began their journey on foot to Washington D.C.
* Slàinte Mhath - Gaelic for "Good Health/Strength/Wholeness"

More links:

And if you're considering going to camp, please read this first, cover to cover.  It's essential. Thanks!

Standing Rock Allies Resource Packet 
(Documents prepared by members of the Solidariteam; Oceti Sakowin Camp Protocols written with camp elders.)


Friday, July 15, 2016

"If You Speak My Name I Will Live Forever"

The day I found a family name on the list of lynching victims

Loved ones, If any of this is misspelled, mis-typed or misspoken, please bear with me. This is a hard time for us all. Hardest by far for all of our loved ones who do not pass as white.

From listening to our elders who have lived through the days before media, let alone the Internet, we know that police and vigilante killings of Black, Brown, and other oppressed peoples in America is nothing new. When our parents and grandparents were young, it was hushed up even more. Now, it's on the news and the computer screen. What marginalized communities have known all along is now in the faces of mainstream America. Somehow, though, it just feels even more stressful.

The last time I felt like this was when we were at the height of the AIDS crisis. When we had people dropping dead literally every few minutes. When we, too, did die-ins multiple times along the march route during Pride and other events to remind people what was happening to the less privileged among us. And what continued to happen. In those days, we felt ignored, brutalized, targeted to die by neglect on purpose.  As I watch our communities struggle to bear the burden of police violence and erupting racism now, it feels that way again.

I'm not going to revisit it all here. If you're awake and not looking away, you already know. If you're in this with us, you are feeling as raw as the rest of us. Hang on.

So, vigilante murders. Cheery bastard, ain't I?

One of the things that was hushed up before we had media and internet coverage was the lynchings.

Between 1868 and 1968, over 4,000 African Americans were lynched in America.  So many Black and Brown people, usually but not always men, were murdered on sight, without anything even resembling due process. Almost always they were innocent. Even in the rare cases where someone might have committed a crime, they were not given the basic human right to a trial. They were brutally slaughtered without anyone even stopping to check the facts. Just like the cops who shot Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and all the other recently-murdered didn't bother to find out whether they were Nobel Peace Prize candidates or criminals before declaring themselves judge, jury and executioner, the lynched were killed on the whim of white people. It doesn't matter if after the fact someone can dig up some dirt on someone, or a political opinion you don't like; even someone you wouldn't have gotten along with in life deserves basic human rights and a fair trial for gods' sakes, and that has been denied to most people of color in America since this country's inception.

So, the Ashes to Ashes / Speak My Name project has been doing something to remember these racist murders that were swept under the rug.

Some of my loved ones and I are participating. Please consider taking part. Here is a fuller explanation of why I chose the name I did. I chose him because it is very probable that this lynched Black man was my relative.

James Mackey
Great-Something Uncle? Cousin?  - Ancestor -

I have several ancestors named James Mackey. While the name originally comes from Scotland and our distant ancestors in that line include Sámi, Viking, Irish and Manx people, in America the Mackeys also had children with Catawba, Choctaw, Cherokee and West African people. While it's possible some of these unions were consensual and even loving, we all know that this chapter of American history is rarely about consent or love, and that my African blood is probably the result of courageous African women surviving unspeakable violence perpetrated upon them by the white men whose names, ironically, we now remember, while these women's names are forgotten. Today I remember these women, and honour them.

A woman like my relative, The Mother of James Mackey, whose people survived the horrors of slavery, only to lose her son to lynching.

The bloodlines of slavers and enslaved - both are in me. I honour my ancestors who survived the Middle Passage, and the unspeakable horrors of slavery. Without them we would not be. It is the very least we do to remember them now, their legacy and their struggles, all of which have formed who we are as a people. I remember James Mackey, who was lynched. I name the brutal truth that his cousins who carried the exact same blood and the exact same name - but just a bit less melanin - were able to lead radically different lives as free men while he was struck down. I honour his name, his memory, and all my ancestors and relatives who were murdered without fair trial.

Murdered innocent and relatives unborn, due to the white disease of racism. We speak your names. We remember you. We will not forget.

Tha Sinnsearan Slàn. Egun Reo. ("The Ancestors are Good")

Image notes:
* The scarf is Mackey tartan.
* The bush behind me and the offered flowers are Catawba laurel. The Catawba lands in South Carolina are where my  Scottish, Native American, and West African ancestors in the Mackey family came together, for better or worse.
* The purple and white color scheme in several places hints at the Two Row Wampum Treaty - which is very important for my Native family members on the land where we live now, and the sacred agreement that settlers are to "stay in their own boat" and not try to climb into the Indigenous peoples' canoe or steer it for them. 
* The blue is for the sacred waters - the ocean of the Middle Passage, several rivers that were central to the lives of these ancestors, the river where I was born, and the waters where we offer and pray for them now.
* My hood is pulled up for several reasons, some of them conflicting: In ancient Gaelic poetic tradition it is traditional to cover the head when meditating/seeking poetry. I pulled up the hood as I am praying, it was starting to rain, and as a rape survivor who has stalkers, I don't generally use current, identifiable photos of myself online. But... As someone with white skin (passing) privilege, I am not in danger for wearing a hoodie the way Trayvon Martin and others are, or have been. So I hesitated as this could be seen as appropriative of the "hoodies up" actions (that I also attended in solidarity). I am naming the double meaning here, as I have mixed feelings about incorporating this element. Ironically, something I do for my own safety as a survivor of male violence, is something that is only allowed me by the degree of white privilege I possess. Just as the African blood I carry, which in James Mackey's time may have been "one drop" enough to have me enslaved and murdered as well, now is brushed aside and I am seen as white. America, land of contradictions. Bear with us, world.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Prayers for Orlando

Prayer for Orlando, text copyright ©2016 kpn / kathryn price nicdhana for CAORANN and Gaol Naofa
Our prayers are with everyone in Orlando, and everyone who's been affected by this horrifice, homophobic hate crime, that has hit the Latin@ and other POC communities particularly hard (for anyone who didn't know, not only did the shooter target a gay club during Pride month, but it was Latino night and a drag show).

For those of us who lived through earlier eras, this is bringing back hard memories of when we, too, were shot at or jumped just for going to a gay club, when we held vigils for people murdered by gaybashers, where people we had been with on the barricades turned up dead after being hassled at Pride. Those days are not that long gone, and this is a flashback to when our marches were not "Pride," but "Liberation."

This meme includes one of the Winged Victories from a monument in Dublin. She carries a shield of protection, and she has taken away the enemy's sword and broken it. The background is a photo by Diana Davies of the very first Gay Pride rally in New York City, aka Christopher Street Liberation Day, aka The Gay Liberation Run, held on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

In ACT UP, all these streams of activists merged, fighting for our lives. Stonewall vets hand in hand with baby dykes, fighting the cops, together. Today we sing for those we lost, who are among the ancestors now. See us here, among the living, beloved dead. Remember us, as we remember you. In truth, in honour, in love, in justice, in eventual hard-won peace.

Be safe out there, folks. Be kind to one another.

Winged Victory courtesy Wikimedia. See more of Diana Davies photos of the Gay Liberation Front, portraits of GLF members and other, related, activists and activist groups.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Grian-Stad Geamhraidh 2015

A Ghrian 1 translation ©kpn for Gaol Naofa

A Ghrian 2 translation ©kpn for Gaol Naofa

 Original images by Michael Kehoe and Susan

I changed very little from Carmichael's translation in the first half of this. Mostly I cut the "thees" and "thous". It's more in the second half where Carmichael's biases showed, in his choosing to translate "rìoghain òg" as "queenly maiden," whereas the meaning is more like "young queen" or "youthful queen."

As the goddesses with solar attributes are also associated with sovereignty,* this seems an odd change on his part. "Queenly Maiden" scans really well, though, so maybe poetic license also figured into it. One hopes. But it's not the only time Carmichael downgraded a goddess or spirit-woman this way. His collections of Gaelic prayers, songs, poetry and lore are invaluable, but between some sexism on his part and his atrocious handwriting, his translations always need to be checked. 

*At least in Áine's case. We really know very little about Grian. We are not even sure she was seen as a goddess. The idea of her being a goddess or powerful spirit-woman (and not just the name of the sun itself) is largely based on her having a hill near Áine's, and there being folklore that describes them as sisters. Beyond that, there are parallels in the Scottish "two suns" idea, so some of this is reconstructed and supported by shared visions, and not necessarily written in stone, per se. For more on Midwinter in the Gaelic lands, Áine and Grian, and our other main Scottish winter festival, Hogmanay, see our Winter playlist:

Friday, November 06, 2015

White people and "Indigeneity"

What is going on? You'd think after all these years of effort there would be improvement. But it seems every year we get a new batch of white noobs jumping on the ridiculous, offensive,  "Become Indigenous" bandwagon.

Look, of course "Indigenous" sounds weightier and more credible than "pagan" or "polytheist" or "animist" (or what the people doing this really are: Newagers).  Of course the terms in our own languages are hard for outsiders to understand. You know what? Too bad.

Colonizing Indigenous identity is racist.

Anyone can connect with the Earth. We all have ancestors who sang to the spirits and felt the power in the land. But we aren't them.

Yes, many of us follow revived traditions in the diaspora. But we have only been able to do that after several decades of hard work at that revival and reconstruction. We are in no way the same as people indigenous to a landbase who did not go through hundreds (if not millenia) of cultural disruption the way the European ancestors did.

Those of us who are born from colonizers, or who have even gone so far as to colonize traditional communities, Are. Not. Indigenous. Our religions, no matter how animistic, polytheistic, and earth-honouring, are not Indigenous, either.

As someone committed to preserving the ways of my ancestors*, who has taken the message of finding my own roots to heart, it angers and disturbs me to no end to see white nuagers plagiarizing our hard work and trying to use it to hide the fact that they are pretendians. (And thieves.)

So, for the record: Síla na Géige.
Published in hard copy ©1998 KPN, updated regularly on the web since then. Copyrights on file.

More detailed writings on our creation stories and The Spirit Women Who Shape the Land:  p.30, The Gaol Naofa FAQ   Copyright ©April 2012 in all printed and electronic media.

We have chosen to offer these things for free on the web, because we are opposed to commodifying the sacred. Feel free to be inspired by them and share them, with credit, in community. BUT, this has never been an invitation to plagiarize us, to use our words, our research, our personal experiences, or our creations without credit. Even worse, and shocking, is for nuagers to rip us off and then try to use our work to set themselves up as some kind of fake "Celtic Animist" or "Indigenous Celtic", pray to pray operation. If you see someone doing this, confront them. We appreciate it. And if we have to, we know some excellent copyright lawyers if retractions are not forthcoming.

And of course: Colonists, Descendants of Colonists, and "Indigenous" Identity

And: On Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous Identity

*Note on ancestry: My ancestry is way more diverse and rich in melanin than I knew for certain growing up. There really wasn't much to say about it until I reconnected with relatives in the tribes and they checked their records. My ancestry from Turtle Island (as far as we know, Catawba, with confirmed blood relatives among the Cherokee, Choctaw, and possibly the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho), the Sámi, the Roma/Sinti, South Asia, Central Asia and West Africa) is pretty distant, and really isn't apparent to the casual observer. While I admit it has been life-changing to find relatives in diverse communities, the family culture and in-person community I was raised in is overwhelmingly Irish-/Scottish-American, and as I pass as white to anyone who looks at me in person, I have white/passing privilege. Those of use who are descendants are not the same as fully Indigenous people, and it is not our right to represent for tribes we are not enrolled in. The tribes/nations set their own criteria. And if we are truly working for Indigenous Sovereignty, it is imperative that we respect their definitions and boundaries - a primary right of which is their right to declare their definitions on citizenship criteria.