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.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Prophecy of the Morrígan - Memes for Samhain

Here in the mountains we've had our first snow shower, and our first hard freeze, so technically the festival of Samhain is here (despite it not yet being November).

Annie and I have been continuing to make memes, and here are some I've done for the Prophecy. Links below to my full translation.

Prophecy meme – Number 1 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa 
Original image: Colin Whittaker

Prophecy meme – Section 2 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa 
Original image: Chad K

Prophecy meme – Section 3 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa 
Original images: Michael Kötter (coo) and Wikimedia Commons (background)

Prophecy meme – Section 4 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa 
Original image: (used with permission)

Prophecy meme – Section 5 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa
Original image: Moyan Brenn

The original Irish prayer here is from Cath Maige Tuired. 
For the full prayer in one piece, see my post from 2012, or the Gaol Naofa Memes page. For the fully-footnoted version exploring my translation of this traditional piece, see our Prayer in Gaelic Polytheism article.

In ancient Ireland, a great war is said to have taken place between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians as they fought for the right to rule Ireland. The tale of this conflict is told in the Cath Maige Tuired (The Second Battle of Mag Tured), and the final battle took place Samhain, with the Tuatha Dé Danann being victorious.
Conflict, death and chaos are common themes associated with Samhain in Irish myth and folklore, but out of this conflict comes a resolution of peace. At the end of the Cath Maige Tuired, the Morrígan (or Badb) relates a rosc (a particular type of Irish poem, which is often written in obscure or archaic language), proclaiming victory in battle, and giving a prophecy of things to come. As Samhain approaches, it seems only appropriate to reflect on these themes, and the message of the Morrígan's words. As a prayer for peace, you might also wish to incorporate the words into your celebrations. The images collated here (five in all) each contain a section of the prayer. You can also view our video of it, which we released on our youtube channel last year:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lá Fhéile Mhacha / Là Fhèill Mìcheil / Harvest

In honour of Là Fhèill Whatever, we've made an Autumn / Lá Fhéile Mhacha / Là Fhèill Mìcheil playlist, which includes several examples of earth-honouring, community traditions that survive in the present day. We have practical demonstrations of wheat-weaving (if you want to make a Cailleach figure for the harvest), the Cailleach an Dùdain (Old Woman of the Mill Dust) song, footage of the Riding of the Marches in Scotland, and of course the Seaweed Molly festival.

The Riding of the Marches is pretty clearly about boundaries - namely the practical act of checking the fences and edges of the territory, and perhaps there's also something spiritual here. At Samhain, hard choices - literally life and death - need to be made by those who raise livestock; Samhain is traditionally the time to decide how many animals can make it through the winter, and how many are going to be slaughtered for meat. At this festival, those who farm are bringing in the last of the grain, so this figures into the winter planning as well, and is clearly symbolized by the slowest person to finish the harvest having to support the Cailleach for the coming winter. It would also make sense that those with the largest fields need more time to bring all the grain in, so this tradition could be a way of recognizing that personal abundance calls for community responsibility - if you have more than you need, proper hospitality and honour leads one to want to share that abundance with those who don't have enough. And maybe having your neighbors toss the Cailleach at you is a way of making sure everyone upholds that bargain.

The Seaweed Molly rite is about giving back to the sea - making an offering of gratitude and thanks that the sea spirits have been kind this year, and not taken back (drowned) any people from the community. I also find it touching that the modern survival has these young surfers and lifeguards carrying the Molly doll (much like a Brideóg) from door to door and recieving honours and gifts for their part in maintaining community safety: Another safe year of swimming in the sea. How fitting that they then paddle out to make the offerings to the spirits on behalf of the community that they help protect.

Slàinte Mhath! 

For more detail on all of the above, see our other recent posts over at the Gaol Naofa Facebook page.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lá Fhéile Macha

Moladh Mhacha for Gaol Naofa

As seen in our Michaelmas video, the feast of St. Michael on Sep. 29 preserves many seasonal Gaelic customs, though they are mostly the same as ones observed at Lá Lúnasa or Oíche Shamhna in other regions. Pre-Christian deities whose qualities were inherited by Michael include Macha and Manannán.

Manannán already has his own festival at Midsummer. While many of us honour Taillte at Lúnasa, and the Morrígan at Samhain, perhaps Macha also deserves a festival of her own: Lá Fhéile Macha.

Like Michael, Macha is also associated with horses and the fields, and the traditional horse races held at this time could be dedicated to her, along with the swimming of the horses, the walking or riding the boundaries of the fields, and the baking and offering of the bannock/strùthan.

The Cailleach is also relevant now due to the equinox sunrise illuminating the inner chamber at Sliabh na Caillí/Loughcrew in Ireland. The last sheaf of the harvest is called the Cailleach, and the Cailleach an Dudain ("The Old Woman of the Mill") dance is also traditional at this time.

For the traditional basis of the festival in the living Gaelic cultures, see Annie's article at Tairis: 'Là Fhèill Mìcheil'

Which deities we honour at these festivals can vary a bit with our differing bioregions, as well as which deities we have more affinity with and other factors that affect our households. Whoever you honour at this festival, we wish you a good one!

Photo collage from Creative Commons images by efilpera (horses)  and Duarte JH (field)
Text excerpted from 'Moladh Macha'
Adapted from 'Moladh Moire' [257] by KPN for Gaol Naofa
For the full prayer visit our meme page

Feel free to share this meme, as long as you link back to either our meme page or our facebook post.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Gaol Naofa Memeage

Those of you who follow us on social media may have seen the memes we've been creating. We've added a page to the site to archive the ones we've done so far, and where we'll be posting more in the future: Gaol Naofa Memes. We've been working with a mixture of proverbs, prayers, triads, and quatrains from various Goidelic sources, doing our bit for language preservation and providing links for further info. For regular updates follow us at our Gaol Naofa Facebook page and Twitter account.
Gaol Naofa – New Moon
Original image: Dawn Perry

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Video - Offerings in Gaelic Polytheism

We've been getting visual :)

More details about the offerings video on our YouTube channel, and in an update over on the Gaol Naofa website.

Gaol Naofa - Dùrachd
Photo credit: John McSporran, used under Creative Commons Licence.

We update more frequently over at our Facebook page, so if you haven't, come visit us there. :)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Manannán Statue Found! - Fáilte a Mhanannáin!

Just a brief note to thank everyone who has searched, sung, prayed, and searched some more. No news yet as to whether the damage done by the vandals can be adequately repaired, or if a new statue will need to be commissioned. Apparently he was hanging out in the forest.

Busy now, but Annie has more details here: Manannán statue found!

Also check out her New video: New moon post, for more on this "black moon" thing.

We are all relieved he has been found, and hoping the damage is not too severe.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mooon. Sacred.

Some Gaol Naofa website updates and another video. This is supposed to be one of those new moons that, once visible, will be larger-looking than usual, low on the horizon. Haven't seen it yet. Go look outside at sunset and see if you can spot it.

(thanks to Ryan for the title. ;) )

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Là Fhèill Brìghde 2015

This has been a busy Imbolc, so this will be brief. Here's our Là Fhèill Brìghde video. We made this last spring, so this is the first time we've had it for the festival day.

We've been continuing to work on the missing Manannán situation, and will have more materials out shortly.  For Imbolc proper, Annie got it together in the midst of it all to post Là Fhèill Brìghde links and stuff, as well as some lovely photos of Brigid's well and environs at her sanctuary in Kildare. Check 'em out, and we'll be back shortly.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Singing Manannán Home - New Video and Memes

image composite by Gaol Naofa at

The search for the Limavady Manannán statue continues. As Gaelic Polytheists, as people involved in cultural preservation, we are continuing to assist the effort, via networking and raising the alert via the Gaol Naofa and CAORANN pages on Facebook and Twitter (Gaol Naofa Twitter, CAORANN Twitter), and now with a new video and some more memes.

For this video we have compiled some of the many, astonishingly beautiful photos of the statue and land in Limavady, County Derry, Ireland (Léim an Mhadaidh, Co. Dhoire, Éire), plus a prayer we are using to call Manannán home. This video also has the Manx lyrics synched up with the corresponding verses in the song, to better facilitate learning.

We are calling Manannán from wherever he is, to show himself in the world, and to reveal the whereabouts of the statue. If the statue has been destroyed, we will support efforts to have it replaced. But it is up to the people of Limavady, and the sculptor, John Darren Sutton. The Limavady town council has expressed interest in replacing it themselves. After all, they originally commissioned the piece as part of their sculpture and heritage trail. If their budget will not adequately cover a replacement, we have also promised to help with any needed fundraising. While it's impressive to see the worldwide attention on this, those of us in the diaspora need to remember that any fundraising - if it is even necessary - needs to go through the local community in Ireland, specifically the Limavady community, and not through any individual from outside that community.

These amazing photos were largely collected via the Facebook group, Bring back Manannan Mac Lir the Sea God.  All the photographs in the video and memes are used with permission from, and gratitude to, the photographers (see the video credits for the full list of participants). Feel free to share them to keep the search for the stolen statue on the front burner.

The theft continues to get a great deal of press in Ireland and worldwide, and in specialized media like The Wild Hunt, who quote Annie and mention our work with Gaol NaofaCalling Manannan mac Lir Back Home.  

See the update on the Gaol Naofa site for full details: Where is Manannán?

text copyright ©2015 Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa and

Monday, January 26, 2015

Search for Stolen Manannán Statue Continues

Gaol Naofa - Song for Manannán
Photo copyright © David Wright, used with permission. Song traditional Gaelg.
See our Midsummer video for the tune and pronunciation. Memeage by Kathryn NicDhàna

By land and sea and helicopter, by beaches, trails and roads, Irish people are searching for the stolen statue of Irish sea god Manannán mac Lir.

"Sea god Manannán mac Lir still missing after police search"

Locals in Limavady have issued a Missing Persons Alert:
Gaol Naofa - Missing Sea God
DESCRIPTION - A well known six foot tall striking local male with an athletic build. He has shoulder length hair held back with a headband and has a beard. We have concerns for his health in this weather as he is bare chested with only a thin shawl held at the neck with a decorative clasp to keep his top half warm. Evidence at the scene suggests he has injuries to his feet!

He is a very striking fella so if you have seen him please let us know.

Last seen standing at Gortmore viewing point Binvenagh Mountain around the 21st January looking out to sea.

Locals have searched the area and have completed an overflight to check he was not dumped in the area.
And a local funeral director is offering a reward for the statue's return.

On the polytheist front, we are making offerings to him, and singing his traditional songs. We are asking Manannán to help the police and citizens who are searching, and to spur someone who has information and is feeling uneasy to do the right thing and come forward with the truth.

Gaol Naofa - Manannán Meme
And a smaller version
While some are suggesting a co-ordinated, timed effort for the night of Jan 31 - Imbolc, this coming Saturday - we are not waiting for a particular night. We are on this right now.  Manannán is a guide and guardian of our Gaelic Polytheist and Gaol Naofa community, so we are singing to him every day and night. As we have been since this news broke and will continue to do until justice is done and he is brought home.

The many people who love this statue, be they polytheist, Christian, or any other religion or lack thereof, are sharing their photos on the Facebook page, Bring back Manannan Mac Lir the Sea God. While most are those who just love the statue as art and history, others are sharing altar photos as well.

This Manannán playlist has a video of sculptor John Darren Sutton creating the statue from the clay on up, along with local reactions to the theft (here on YouTube for those who can't get Northern Ireland TV news broadcasts) and more songs for him. For the tune and pronunciation of the Manx song in the meme above, see our Midsummer video in the same playlist. We will be adding more Manannán information and materials to the playlist as the situation develops.

Let's bring him home!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ireland: Statue of Celtic Sea God Manannán Stolen

"Those who made off with the sea god left a wooden cross with the words 'You shall have no other gods before me' in its place." - Fiona Murray BBC News NI, Game of Thrones sculptor's sea god statue stolen from mountain.

This statue of the Celtic sea god, Manannán Mac Lir is a religious icon. People have been leaving offerings there, tourists make pilgrimage, photographers have spread his image worldwide, and local people still tell the stories of his protection of the land and relationship with the sea and local weather patterns.

photo via BBC Northern Ireland
Apparently, some people who pretend to be Christians don't like this.

Whether this was done by art thieves looking to lay a false trail, or by intolerant people who betray their supposed lord's message of tolerance and love, this is a hate crime.

Manannán is the guardian of the land on the Isle of Man and in other Gaelic areas. He is also one of the founding forces, guides, and guardians of the Celtic Reconstructionist and Gaelic Polytheist communities. For him to be out in Nature, high on a mountian, overlooking the sea, was profoundly moving, and those who have stolen him have desecrated something sacred.

If this was really done by those who claim to be Christians, this is a relgiously-motivated hate crime against a minority spirituality. For Irish people, even those who consider themselves Christian, or of another faith or no religious belief, Manannán is part of our history and culture, and this is a crime against all the Irish people who still respect history, culture, and the spirits of the land, sky and sea.

Our prayers are with the sculptor and all the people - local and worldwide - who are shocked and hurt by this crime. Our prayers are also with everyone investigating this and searching for the statue, that they quickly recover the statue and bring the criminals to justice.

So be it. Sláinte Mhaith.

If you have any information on this crime or the whereabouts of the stolen statue, please speak out. Talk to the members in your community, use social media, and let's take care of this. Feel free to reuse this meme if you like. This was a deliberate act of desecration, involving several physically strong people, a lot of noise, power tools, several hours at the statue, a truck or van, and planning. Someone who doesn't agree with this hate crime has to have seen or heard something. We pray they come forth now.

Sculpture by John Darren Sutton
Top photo courtesy the artist via his facebook page
Photos for "Missing" meme and Aurora Borealis copyright Neil Maroney, who I hope will understand re-use with credit, given the situation.

ETA: For more on Manannán, and a song to call him home, I am reposting our video about him that we released last summer.

If you're looking for the lyrics to sing along, the first part of the track is a traditional Manx song called "C'raad ta'n Ree?" which you can find a version of on the Gaol Naofa website:

The second part is a song/prayer, which Breesha Maddrell notes is still popular with kids today: