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: