Thursday, December 20, 2012

Celebrating Grianstad an Gheimhridh (The Winter Solstice)

Winter Solstice Sunrise, Ireland, Sandymount Strand, 2008
While it is uncertain whether or not the ancient Gaels celebrated the darkest night of the year (Grianstad an Gheimhridh or Meán Geimhridh as it's known in Gaeilge [Irish] today), a number of modern Gaelic Polytheists, including myself, do indeed mark this solar event. As the winter was an extremely hard time for the ancient Gaels and travel would have been short (if any took place at all), the likelihood of a grand celebration on the scale seen at Samhain looks very slim. However, some of us believe that if the Midwinter was indeed observed it would have taken the form of small, intimate, familial celebrations. This sets the stage for how most observe the day.

Family/community is the foundation of Gaelic Polytheism and so gathering together with loved ones (of choice or relation) during the dark, cold months of the year is truly something special that some feel should be commemorated. Many Gaelic Polytheists celebrate by welcoming the sunrise whilst repeating prayers from Carmina Gadelica (#316, "Hail to thee, thou sun of the seasons" being a favorite of most) and turning their thoughts to Brú na Bóinne, or Newgrange, since the tomb is illuminated by the solstice sunrise through the roof box. Others might even have all-night vigils, using the long darkness of the night for meditation, contemplation, and devotion — huddling together with family and friends to celebrate the sun when it rises.

While Brú na Bóinne is definitely a pre-Celtic passage tomb, the fact that it has myths attributed to it shows that the Gaels respected it and even possibly had rites honouring it. While we will probably never know this for certain, Midwinter is indeed an astronomical event marked by many Gaelic Polytheists today. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Announcement: Gaol Naofa Relaunches and Celebrates Five Years

"While it may seem we’ve been quiet for a while, much has been happening behind the scenes as we’ve celebrated five years as an organisation. Our council has been very busy, creating new content for this site, as well as for private use by the members of Gaol Naofa. All of the site documents have been updated and restructured. While much of this site will still be familiar to our long-term readers, there is a lot of new material here.
Notably, we have substantially revised and expanded The Gaol Naofa FAQ into an 89 page pdf document that addresses many of the common questions about Gaelic Polytheism and, specifically, our Gaelic Polytheist Lifeway (Ár nDóigh Bheatha Ildiach is Gaelach / Ar Dòigh-Beatha Ioma-Dhiadhach Ghàidhealach) as practiced by the core members of Gaol Naofa.
New articles include “Rowan and Red Thread: Magic and Witchcraft in Gaelic Cultures” (pdf) — an in-depth look at practices and terminology in both historical and contemporary Gaelic cultures, as well as an upcoming piece on the Triple Flame of Brigid."

Please see the entire announcement here:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Publication Alert: "Cornerstones of Wisdom"

Hey everyone! My essay ‘Cornerstones of Wisdom: Poetry, Permanence and Wildness in Gaelic Polytheism’ (p50-53) was published in the latest issue of Written River. Hope you guys will take a look :) Right now it's only available in online viewing, but soon there will be print copies to order, if you'd rather have a hard copy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Celtic Reconstructionism: A Spirituality or Methodology?

In short, Celtic Reconstructionism is both.

The act of reconstructing is itself absolutely a process or methodology. I've never seen anywhere that has been disputed. However, that being said, to view Celtic *Reconstructionism* as a spiritual practice, religion, or way of life is not some wild idea born from a couple of people misunderstanding of The CR FAQ. I honestly haven't the foggiest idea as to why "CR as a spiritual practice" seems to ruffle feathers as we are not contradicting anything. In fact, I feel the FAQ is quite clear on it being both:
"Most of us are very spiritual people in our private lives. We have altars in our homes and do personal and family-centered devotional work. Some of us do divination or healing, or perform ritual services within our communities. Reading doesn't mean we're not spiritual. In fact, for most of us, the reading we do enhances our spirituality and helps us understand what we are taught by other people and what comes to us through more mystical means such as in visions, meditations or dreams. Reference books, written by those who have devoted their lives to studying the words and traditions of the ancestors, help us sort out what is traditionally Celtic from what is our own internal voice. Both may be valid, but our inner voice may not be entirely accurate about what is Celtic, or what is communication from the Divine and what is our own imaginations. When we believe we are receiving information from a Deity or spirit, we go to the scholars to compare notes and see what's Celtic and what's not.

Turning Thoughts to Summer

Even though the past two days have been rather windy and a wee on the chilly side, signs are pointing to the approach of Lá Bealtaine...

The honeysuckle and hedges are fragrant and blooming

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lá Bealtaine Survey

The National Museum of Ireland is currently conducting a survey in Ireland to up their efforts to collect May Day / Lá Bealtaine customs for their Archives.

If you live in Ireland and would like to take part in this, please visit this link for more information.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is Celtic Reconstructionism, or, How do I know if I'm CR?

You'd think after years of discussion and a FAQ website and book detailing the tradition that the online community would already have an idea about what Celtic Reconstructionism (CR) is. Alas, based on threads in various online fora, I can see that is not the case. There are people—who claim to be CR or to teach CR—who don't seem to even understand what exactly Celtic Reconstructionism is. They post links to foundation work like the FAQ, and yet don't appear to have even read it (otherwise would we really be constantly re-hashing these things?).

So here's my thoughts:

Celtic Reconstructionism is a way of life. It encompasses your entire worldview, your being. Celtic Reconstructionism is about living every moment of every day within tradition, religion and culture. As a Gaelic Polytheist (or Gaelic Reconstructionist Polytheist), my thoughts, words, beliefs and actions are filtered through Gaelic culture and its accompanying worldview. I don't think simply as a modern polytheistic American or Irish-American; I think like a Gael.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"The Luck of the Irish" and a Link Round-Up

Ah. March 17th - Lá Fhéile Padráig, or St. Patrick's Day, if you will. Or as some of us like to call it, “Cultural Cringe Day.” To a good many of us (whether Christian or Polytheist), this is a day to celebrate our heritage, our ancestors, and the obstacles and adversities that the Irish people have endured. To others – the majority, it seems – it's a day to get shitfaced and generally act like a tit.

A great deal has been said about this day both in terms of the cultural side and in terms of St. Patrick misconceptions amongst Pagans (many of which are included below in the links), however, I would like to talk about an aspect that has always bothered me: the so-called “Luck of the Irish.” 

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Paddy, not Patty.

"Each and every year millions of Irish, Irish-ish and amateur alcoholics are needlessly distracted from their Holy Tradition of drinking themselves into a stupor in the name of Saint Patrick, a Roman Briton slave holding the dubious honour of bringing Christianity to an island that would use it as another convenient excuse to blatter the hell out of each other for centuries.

The source of this terrible distraction?

An onslaught of half-hearted, dyed-green references to St. Patrick's Day as St. Patty's Day."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Seachtain na Gaeilge 2012

From March 5th through 17th, join people the world over as they celebrate the Irish language.

Gaeilge abú!

For more details, check out

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Meaning of Ritual

Have you ever come across a quote that succinctly expresses what it is you've been trying and trying to say but with no avail? That happened to me recently when I came across one by Chinese philosopher, Xunzi, on his thoughts about ritual. While Xunzi was a Confucian I still feel that his 3-part quote transverses cultures, and its origins matter little compared to the message it contains. Either way, it got me to thinking which is always a good thing. Especially since the blog hath been dryeth due to busyness.

The usual disclaimer applies: all you see below is my opinion and my opinion only. I am not speaking for other Gaelic Polytheists or Celtic Reconstructionists.
The meaning of ritual is deep indeed. He who tries to enter it with the kind of perception that distinguishes hard and white, same and different, will drown there.
Ritual is ultimately a mystery. We can try all we might to classify it into formulas or categories but if we give too much into the temptation to do such (until we reach a point of overthinking everything we do), we then lose sight of what ritual is truly for – creating bonds, conveying beliefs, commemorating life moments, and expressing devotion – and we drown.

The religiosity of Gaelic Polytheism is not defined by a system of beliefs (though shared belief does have a place); rather it is a collection of rites, rituals and observances. This is what makes Gaelic Polytheism orthopraxic rather than orthodoxic. While belief is important, what is even more important is what we do and how we do it.