Thursday, October 20, 2016

Praying Amongst Mountains and Waterfalls

It's been quite a while since my last post! Since then, calendar dates for Lá Bealtaine and Lá Lúnasa have past and I've spent my whole summer in Colorado. For both of the festivals I had friends over for dinner and music, as has become the usual, and have finally moved away from my natural shyness to give my offerings and prayers before dinner. In front of EVERYONE. This is a big deal for me as I tend to have a level of social anxiety, especially in ritual situations before a group of non-religious friends, but it went just fine and my confidence was appropriately boosted from the experience.

Much of this summer for me, in a religious context, has been focusing on getting out and experiencing and witnessing the natural wonders that abound here in the Rocky Mountains and the spirits that animate them. I've found that praying on mountain tops seem especially effective in shifting my mindset, where the earth meets the sky and the surrounding land stretches out further than the eye can see. It also seems to me that the Gods appreciate the effort it takes to get up there and the hike up becomes a sacrifice in its own way. And by the time I'm up there my body has pumped enough endorphins into me to put me in the best of moods!

There are also a lot of waterfalls on many of the trails here, so I've taken advantage of having that atmosphere available and have been praying and singing at the water and utilizing the sound of the water as a starting place for my focus and allowing it to drown (ha!) out my thoughts so I can better "hear" those that aren't mine. I had been using my bodhrán, playing a beat and allowing it to change on its own, but I find that the sound of the water can do much of this work for me, so I've used the bodhrán less than I was earlier this year. I think I'll continue to utilize it for some situations, especially when I'm in an especially quiet area (or maybe if it's nighttime), but I've gained some traction by shifting my consciousness with the help of different influences that might be around at the time and I've also gotten use to singing or humming until it starts to change "naturally," which has helped a great deal in sustaining the ritual mindset.

Other than that I've been working a bit on writing down different folk charms and prayers, adapting them for polytheistic context, and translating a number from Gaelic to Irish (significantly improving my understanding of Irish grammar!). I still have some ways to go to remember all the Irish, but it has been an interesting experience recognizing the flow of charms and how that works into one's actions to become a basic ritual, as well as the contrast in charms that seem either to utilize the ability of the charmer or call upon the Gods (or saints, in the original forms as we have them). One text that I have not seen recommended on reading lists for Gaelic Polytheists is Ár bPaidreacha Dúchais (Our Native Prayers) by Diarmuid Ó Laoghaire. Granted, it is completely in Irish, so harder for most Gaelic Polytheists to work through, but I've found a bit more of value to us as Gaelic Polytheists in this book than I find in the more commonly recommended Religious Songs of Connacht. Ár bPaidreacha Dúchais is in some ways akin to Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica, offering some of the same in regards to rising and resting prayers, fire-lighting and smooring prayers, house blessings, as well as a number of prayers to Bríde all of which can easily be adapted for use by Gaelic Polytheists. For those that don't have much Irish, some of these prayers can be found in original or adapted forms in the bilingual Paidreacha na Gaeilge edited by Donla uí Bhraonáin. Fortunately, Donla does a great job at listing her sources for each prayer, so its not hard to find the originals, but I did notice a change in some of the prayers she recorded from Ár bPaidreacha Dúchais, for example, where she made "Bríd Ní Dhubhthaigh" into "Bríd Ní Dhaighidí." Perhaps she read the original wrong and recorded it that way, because of the assumption that Bríd is the daughter of An Dagda, but she doesn't explain further, only noting that Bríd was a goddess in Irish myth and Saint Bríd was sometimes known by that name. It's not really an issue for us as polytheists, but it should be noted that some of the versions found in Paidreacha na Gaeilge may not be identical to those found in her sources.

With that, I will leave with a rising prayer that I've adapted from page 6 of Ár bPaidreacha Dúchais (only changing Dia to Bríde), the translation is my own.

Éirím suas le Bríde,
go n-éirí Bríde liom.
Lámh Bríde i mo thimpeall,
ag suí is ag luí
's ag éirí dom.

I rise with Bríde,
May Bríde rise with me.
The hand of Bríde around me,
as I sit and as I lie
and as I rise.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Updates and Lá Fhéile Bríde

As some may notice, I've changed the title of this blog and made some aesthetic changes. I originally created this blog as "Scrawls at the Hearthfire" back in 2009 (maybe 2010...) to log my experiences as a Gaelic Polytheist attending college. Well, college and life on top of it takes a lot of time and it didn't get very far back then...or any other time. I've changed the title, because I am rarely in any one spot for more than a year and have been moving houses for as long as I can remember. I bring my hearth shrine with me wherever I end up and thus, An Teallach Fáin, the Wandering Hearth. And so it will be until a future time when I am living in one place for a time. Another reason I chose An Teallach Fáin as the title of this blog is because of Brigid's connection to the hearth and because of a Manx story called "Manannán and the Shepherd" where Manannán refers to Himself as "King of the Wanderers" (which you can read at Annie's Tairis blog here). I feel my admiration for both gods seem appropriately summed up in the new title.

We celebrated Lá Fhéile Bríde last Monday, February 1st. Usually, I will start things the night before, but my partner's birthday is the day before so we did everything the day after. All seemed to go well overall and we kept it a bit more low-key than previous years. Most of the day was spent cleaning and cooking to Irish music along with many prayers and charms said around the house for protection. I was unable to find any natural materials to make the cros Bríde up here in the mountains, so I made a small one of paper to keep in my pocket as a charm. I may make one later on in the year during the first significant snowmelt should I find materials suitable for the purpose.

Fresh butter!!!

Dinner was beef stew (with parsnips, carrots, leeks, and mushrooms) with soda bread and some home-shaken butter. After starting a fire, I set up the table and then brought my offerings for Brigid and her cow outside to set next to the door in preparation for her visit, which is also when we flung open the door to invite her in. Friends (aka, the extended family) showed up soon after to join us for dinner. I ended the day with smooring the fire and smoothing out the ashes. The next morning there wasn't much in the ash, though a small indentation in the center looked like it could have been a foot-like shape. So, I'll take it.

Neart talamh duit,
Neart mara duit,
Neart neimhe duit,
A Bhríde, an brainse le bláthanna.

 -Prayer as Gaeilge liberally adapted from the Dùrachd or "Good Wish" in Volume III of the Carmina Gadelica, page 230-31.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Back in Colorado...

....because it's hard to stay away. Over half a year has gone by since I last posted. We did manage to get a lot done this past summer, but alongside work it left us with little time to do as much as we would have liked. We raised chickens and turkeys this past year. The chickens went to a friend's house while we're here in Colorado for the Winter, the turkeys became food (and a lot of food it was, three turkeys at 26-30 lbs), and the house guardian, Púca the Bunny, is staying at my sister's. The garden didn't do so well, aside from the herbs (basil, oregano, thyme), thanks to the turkeys, who thoroughly enjoyed the rest. Fair enough, I suppose, as it all came back to us in the end.

I did receive my bodhrán in the mail early last summer and have been practicing, though progressing slowly with the limited free learning material online. I am considering paying for a course from the Online Academy of Irish Music, though I tend to shy away from online courses since I only spend so much time online on something other than my phone. It may be worth a try, however, until I have access to in-person lessons.

I've only used the bodhrán a couple times in prayer, I have to get a better range of rhythms down before I'll be confident in utilizing it for ceremonial reasons. For now it's mostly just fun to practice. Most of my spiritually-focused studies this past summer was centered around practicing reciting poetry in Irish, as well as learning some new songs. I also wrote a basic devotional rite for Brighid and am currently working on one for Manannán Mac Lir. They're mostly a starting point and I expect I'll have a dozen drafts before I'm fully satisfied with what I'm doing, but it's progress. I had begun research on an article I was going to write with my partner about regional varieties of juniper, but we seemed to have bit off more than we could chew at the time with both professional and house work to complete, always, and so we've just been taking notes on varieties that we find travelling around. The varieties we've noted so far being in Minnesota, Colorado, and New Mexico. I plan to keep an eye out on our trip back home, or wherever we decide to go after this Winter, for different varieties and take some samples to compare. My partner will help me with the identification, plants are his thing.

I hope everyone is keeping warm and healthy this Winter, we've made it through the longest nights, though the coldest are yet to come.