Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Preserving Sacred Sites in Ireland - Tara Skryne Preservation Group

The Lia Fáil (aka Stone of Destiny) atop the Hill of Tara,
County Meath, Ireland. Photo © Sean Gilmartin

Many of those involved in the struggle to stop the M3 Motorway are now involved in the Tara Skryne Preservation Group (TSPG), and are working to protect the sites that remain.
We are an allied group of local and non-local stakeholders and concerned citizens who wish to improve the Tara Skryne Landscape after the destruction wrought by the M3 Motorway through this most Sacred, Mythical, and Historical Valley of Ireland.

We are a volunteer, non politically affiliated organisation comprised of members of various groups who stood against the route of the M3 Motorway through the Tara Skryne Valley. Now that the Motorway has opened we stand together to demand the preservation of what remains of the Tara Skryne Valley ie. its protection against further inapproriate development as well as greater protection for our National Monuments and sacred places countrywide.

TPSG members are also involved in planning and coordinating the 2010 Sacred Fires event, and the UNESCO petition for World Heritage Status. You can check out their website and connect with them on Facebook.

In February 2010 - Imbolc - TSPG volunteers reconstructed the Inner Circle of the ancient Lismullin Henge. The M3 motorway bulldozed through this ancient site in the Tara-Skryne Valley.

While many are familiar with henges of stone, such as Stonehenge in England, many other sacred sites were surrounded with a circle of wooden poles which marked astronomical events, such as the place where the sun or moon would rise on a solstice or equinox. These sites have sometimes been forgotten until modern archaeology turns up the evidence of poles in the ground. As discussed in the video, the government knew they were destroying an irreplaceable sacred site when they bulldozed through. What does it do to the land, and the people, to now have cars and trucks speeding through the ceremonial enclosure?

View the video of the Lismullin Reconstruction

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gaelic Polytheist Rites and Customs

I am very pleased to note that my An Chuallacht Ghaol Naofa colleagues Treasa Ní Chonchobhair and Annie Gormlie have posted some excellent work lately.

Ritual within Gaelic Polytheism
is a solid introduction and overview of the earth-based ceremonies and customs that survive in Ireland and Scotland (and the diaspora). Some of the surviving traditions were lightly Christianised, others not so much. They've kept this work very traditional, and have been excellent about noting when a practice has undergone reconstruction, or when presenting ideas for reconstructing a more elaborate version of a surviving practice. I think they've successfully walked that line we all try to balance in GP, that of giving people enough ideas to be able to pray and observe the customs on their own, without publishing anything too private or personal about ceremony.

In (De)constructing Reconstructionist Ritual, Annie looks deeper into the common themes present in Gaelic rites, and discusses the process of maintaining tradition as well as looking to the ancient Celtic practices for additional material.

Due to it being a basic, consensus introduction, and needing to cover a wide variety of subject matter, we were only able to touch briefly upon specific rituals in the CR FAQ. Much work has been done in the past four years, and these articles are a welcome addition to the field. 'S math sin!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Irish Heritage Rights Survey and Tara UNESCO Nomination

From TaraWatch:

TaraWatch and Save Newgrange, in conjunction with a University of California, Berkeley, human rights lawyer, Matt Schwoebel, are launching a heritage rights survey online tomorrow.

The launch will coincide with the opening of the 34th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which opens in Brazil today.

The Hill of Tara is being nominated at the UNESCO meeting, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by Ireland, along with a number of other sites, despite the fact that the M3 motorway has just opened in the middle of the proposed site. Bru na Boinne is under threat from the N2 Slane bypass, which will pass within 500 metres of the existing World Heritage Site, and impact over 44 related sites.

The survey asks Irish people if they believe their heritage is being adequately protected, and if they feel their human rights to heritage are being violated, particularly with regards to the treatment of the Hill of Tara and Bru na Boinne. The results will form part of a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Vincent Salafia of TaraWatch and Save Newgrange said:

“Many Irish people feel their human rights to heritage and culture are being continuously violated by the Irish Government, and we are offering them a chance to do something about it."

(Read the full press release...)

The survey is for those with Irish heritage, and those interested in preserving sacred sites in Ireland, as well as Irish citizens. The survey also asks participants their thoughts about the spiritual and ceremonial significance of Tara, Newgrange, and other Irish sacred sites.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Samhain at Tara 2007 - 2010

Samhain on the Hill of Tara, 2007
photo courtesy tarataratara.net

Many of you reading this have been involved in the struggle to preserve the Tara-Skryne Valley from destruction. While some of the sacred sites in the valley have been irreparably damaged by construction of the superhighway, the struggle continues to preserve the rest of the valley from development. Earth-honoring peoples in Ireland and the diaspora are also working to preserve the ceremonial centers that remain, and to re-establish the old customs and rites that our ancestors observed at these sacred sites.

Many of you also participated in the 2007 Samhain event where we re-established the old custom of lighting the signal fires on Tlachtga, Tara, and the surrounding hills. Want to do it again?

The ritual we did in 2007:

I Stand With Tara

A Celtic Reconstructionist (Págánacht) ritual
for the protection of the sacred center:
the Tara-Skryne Valley in Ireland.

The night of Oct. 31 (Samhain) 2007


You can contact the usual suspects to co-ordinate participation this year. Join us on the Sábháil Teamhair (Save Tara) list for updates, and we hope to see you on Samhain, whether in person or in spirit.

People and groups who participated in 2007
(Twelve countries, twenty-two US states, and twenty areas of Ireland.)

Additional areas where the ceremonial fires were lit, that we heard about after the fact, include:
*Countries: England, Portugal, Saudi Arabia
*US States: Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Missouri

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Momentum grows in MTV boycott

Since my last post, additional chapters of AIM, and a number of other Native American actors and organizations, have added their voices to the protest against MTV's racist self-injury show, The Dudesons: Cowboys and Findians.

Today Clyde Bellecourt, speaking for the Grand Governing Council of the American Indian Movement, has condemned MTV for continuing to air the show despite protests.

Letter to AIM Santa Barbara, reprinted at request of recipients:

July 14, 2010

Michael Fairbanks, Director
American Indian Movement-Santa Barbara
P.O. Box 204
Santa Barbara, CA 93102

Dear Michael and Santa Barbara AIM,

The American Indian Movement National Office located in Minneapolis, Minnesota is in full support of the Santa Barbara Chapter of AIM in their efforts to stop the airing of The Dudesons in America-Cowboys and Findians, and demanding an apology from MTV.

The American Indian Movement through the development of the National Coalition on Racism and Sports and Media http://www.aimovement.org/ncrsm/index.html has a long-time record of intolerance for racist imagery in regards to Native people here in America.

We condemn MTV for refusing to recognize the harmful effects of such broadcasting.


Clyde H. Bellecourt
National Director
American Indian Movement
Grand Governing Council
Anishinabe Ojibwe Nation

[signature on record]

National Offices:
TELEPHONE 612-721-3914/FAX 612-721-7826
E-MAIL: aimggc@worldnet.att.net
Web Address: www.aimovement.org

Billy-Talako Williamson of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Department of Education weighs in at length on working with the kids who are the target audience for this programming, and how these racist stereotypes, casually passed off as light humor, set back the efforts of anti-racist educators:

We work on a daily basis with Cheyenne & Arapaho Students along with numerous other students that are members of other tribes. The negative images and stereotypes of Native Americans that have been created over the years are a constant detriment to the progress and self esteem of our students. Most recognize that a new language has emerged in the world, one that has grown to reach all nations with equal effect and understanding,… it is the language of Mass Communications. The average parent spends about 38 minutes a week in quality conversation with their kids, while the average kid spends 3 to 4 hours a day watching television. The American Medical Association recently reported that 60% of the information children receive comes from television. Mass media has become the second language of our children.

This MTV show manages to tear down much of the work we have accomplished.

(Read full letter here)

Other groups who have joined the protest include:

ETA July 17, 2010: Bit by bit the mainstream media has been picking up the story, with coverage in the New York Post and numerous entertainment news outlets. The Santa Barbara Independent has published an excellent editorial by Michael Fairbanks:

Red Face Minstrel Show Unamusing
“Cowboys and Findians” Not Merely Dumb, It’s Abusive

The other side of the coin is that there is a media blackout on Native issues. In this past year, there have been states of emergencies called from tribal leaders, and practically no media covered these stories. People were freezing to death in the plains area, starving to death in the southwestern region, and now, Native nations are struggling with the effects of the oil spill of the Gulf. Yet, ironically, MTV airs The Dudesons, stating the episode was created to honor Native people. This argument is frequently used with regard to the use of mascots in school and sports (think Carpinteria High School). Imposing one’s definition of “honoring” on someone else, and the “honoring” as a guise to hit upon every stereotype ever used to characterize Native people, is simply not good. Our cultures, our spirituality, and our ceremonies laughed at on an international level, with the everlasting shelf life of the Internet.

(Read full editorial)

There are also preliminary reports, via a letter from an MTV-Canada executive, that MTV-Canada is pulling the show. There have also been positive responses from some of the advertisers about pulling their advertising from the show if it continues to air in the US. More on this as it develops.

Members of AIM LA, AIM SB and supporters
demonstrate at the MTV Movie Awards, June 6, 2010
Photo by Tim Keenan