We've planted a forest in the West of Ireland and now we are opening it up to the community. Trees give us so much. They are the foundation of our Culture. Co create and share the abundance of the Candlefield Community Forest. #celticforestnation
Go Fund Me Fundraiser by Niamh Connor
We've planted a forest in the West of Ireland and now we are opening it up to the community. Trees give us so much. They are the foundation of our Culture. Co create and share the abundance of the Candlefield Community Forest. #celticforestnation
Introduction This essay will explore the origins of the fairies and how fairy tradition has changed over time. It will also look at the fairies of County Meath and how the tradition there compares to the rest of Ireland.
Image - The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Noel Paton
Who are the fairies?
Fairies are otherworldly creatures that inhabit an world invisible to humans[Dái06]. Most European nations have their own fairy tradition with each having their own unique origins stories. Fairies first appeared in Ireland in the early 12th century[Nor20] and seem to be heavily intertwined with the lore of the dead, some of the first tales of fairies evolve from the belief of the dead living on in their burial chamber[Dái06]. This might explain the use of the word sí to describe both fairies and the mythical other world. The Ancient Irish believed that fairies were the first settlers of Ireland. These people were known as the Tuatha de Danaan. The De Danaan conquered all of Eire until they were defeated by the Milesians. The Milesians were believed to be the ancestors of the modern Irish people. Not willing to cooperate with their conquerors, the De Danaan went into hiding and lived in the hills leading to them gaining a new name, Aes Síde or Sí which in this context means mound[Nor20]. The Tuatha De Danaan were often depicted as living in raths, mounds and lakes in the tales of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and in the Book of Invasions. The Tuatha De Danaan or fairy people were described as being the same height as normal people and dressed in elegant green clothing. They had many different abilities such as turning invisible and changing their appearance. The fairies were seen as godly to mortal people, hence, there lifestyle were often associated with the interests of the time. Interests such as music, war and chase were the occupation of the fairies. Their musical abilities were revered, and some of the best musicians of the time credited their best works to the fairies[Nor20]. The other origin tale was the Christian perspective on fairies, the existence of a Christian origin story for the fairies displays the strength of the belief. According to the church, fairies are angels who were thrown out of heaven by God. The tale depicts God opening the floor of heaven and casting Satan and other angels out, when he closed the floor, the angels that had fallen with Satan became his servants, Angels that had landed on the surface become land fairies, the fairies that landed in the sea became sea fairies while the fairies in the air become the air fairies. These exiled angels spend their time trying to get back into heaven by stealing children blood. The fairies are known by many names as there was a folk assumption that you should not refer to the fairies by their name[Joh00]. The fairies are also known as “the good folk” or “the noble folk”
Fairies in Modern Belief
In contrast to the early accounts of fairies in Ireland, the fairies of the 19th and 20th century had a much more volatile relationship with their human counterparts. The fairies were still associated with a lot of good in Ireland, such as music. In the documentary, “The Fairy Faith” a family of musicians recounts how their grandfather came to the acclaim to the people for his musical skills. The grandfather attributes his talents to the fairies, claiming that he played music for a fairy wedding and met two famous fiddlers who thought him the skills he had now[Joh00]. However, the fairies were feared by the people of Ireland and were normally the ones blamed for bad things happening, people were afraid to interfere with fairies on superstitious nights such Halloween, or Hallow Eve. An interesting element of fairy tradition that became popular was changelings. Changelings are fairies that resemble the human that they replace. It was believed by the rural Irish that a changeling was odd and wise beyond their years. The changeling would eventually disappear, if the changeling was discovered during the time it was alive, it would bring back the person it replaced. The presence of changelings were quite common, however, I haven’t encountered a tale where the subject has the person that was taken from them return. One particular tale that was quite disturbing was the burning of Bridget Cleary in 1895. Bridget Cleary was recently wedded to her husband Michael Cleary in County Tipperary. They had lived a happy marriage until her husband noticed his wife acting strangely. The exact details of how his wife was acting strange isn’t told, however it does say that he first suspected his wife being a changeling when she took sick for a few days from a cold. An old man visited the house and told him that the woman in the bed wasn’t his wife. When she didn’t get better, Mr. Cleary became convinced that the woman he was married to was a changeling. He sought a fairy doctor who gave him a cure for expelling the changeling. That night a large number of the Cleary family gathered to witness the expelling of the changeling. When Mrs Cleary refused to take the cure, she was forced to do by a hot poker. She was constantly question and shook as the family attempted to get rid of the changeling. Eventually they placed her over the stove and continued to ask her questions. Eventually the occupants of the house were sasified that Mrs Cleary was not a fairy. Michael Cleary remained unconvinced and the next day when his wife refused to eat he threw her into the fire and poured lamp oil on her. His house went on fire and with it went the supposed changeling. Weeks pasted and his wife did not return which led to Cleary growing remorseful. The occupants of the house were eventually charged with man slaughter[Tho82].
Fairies in Meath
The Schools collection of Co. Meath suggest that fairy belief was quite weak, there is few stories referring to fairies. The three accounts I have included with this essay are entitled Fairies Football, Fairy Reel and Fairy Fort, I chose these particular tales because they were the most common themes of fairy stories in Meath. Fairy football is a about a boy called Seamus who was sitting on Piercetown Hill. He heard shouting and looked down to see a fairy football match taking place. He was impressed by one of the players who wore a red cap and at the end of the game, he shouted out “well done red cap”, when he spoke he was surrounded by a troop of fairy soldiers and was imprisoned and never seen again. Fairy Reel was about fairies unique musical talents, two girls were walking home when they saw dancing fairies in a field, they were struck by the wonderful music of the fairies’ and rush home to tell their mother what they saw. The tale continues with the farmer who owned the field believing that the fairies had a pot of gold buried in his field, he ploughed the field but the grass grew back in a day and he “left the good people to their spring dance”. Unsurprising, fairy places were quite a prominent subject, Meath has many famous burial chambers and scared sites such as Tara and Newgrange which were the preferred dwellings of the fairies. The story I chose described a fairy fort called Rath Maeve near the Hill of Tara, It claims that a fairy with an apron took all the clay from a hill and made the mound with it. The tale also says that if you were to walk under Rath Maeve you would end up on the Hill of Skryne. Modern fairy stories are quite prominent in Meath, from my personal experience there is still a silent belief in fairies in Meath. On the Hill of Tara there is a hawthorn tree known as the fairy tree. I regular walk past this tree on my visits to Tara and it is often covered in ribbons, gifts and sometimes wishes to the fairies. After the construction of the M3 motorway, activist Carmel Divine claimed that the construction of the M3 motorway through the Tara-Skyrne valley angered the fairies and that the woes of Ireland since July 2007 was the fairies taking revenge[Gui11].
My interviews were quite successful and I uncovered some interesting perspectives on fairy lore in Meath. My objective with the interviews was to get a contrast between old and modern fairy tradition to see if it had changed since The Schools Collection was taken. My first interviewee told me about some tales of people who have interfered with fairies and were punished such as a man who bulldozed a fairy fort in Oristown County Meath. He was beheaded by a broken saw blade soon after. My second interviewee provided a lot of information I had never encountered before. He described fairies as energy forms that can take on humanoid forms if they wish to. My interviewee had seen fairies before and he said that they would appear only in your peripheral vision. They would usually be about 40-50 yards away. He told me that fairies were misunderstood creatures and were often blamed for bad things such as storms, rain and deaths or behaviour changes caused by illness. He also talked about different fairy types such as the banshee, which was a fairy that sings before someone dies. Both interviewees agreed that fairies were neither good nor bad, they were like us.
Fairy tradition in Meath is quite odd, I found it quite difficult to find tales of fairies in the Schools collection despite the presence of the Hill of Tara in a lot of the children accounts. In my interviews, one of my interviewees said there was a stigma in the belief of fairies and I suspect that this stigma might already have begun in the 1930s in Meath. There is a wealth of tradition and lore about the Battle of the Boyne, local cures and weather lores in Meath. The Battle of the Boyne is a clear source of pride among the children with a lot of descriptions and followed on stories in their accounts. Fairies do not receive the same treatment, the stories about fairies are isolated and often seem outplace with the other traditions that the children associate with their local town. I believe this might the setting in of the stigma about fairies in Meath and the stories that do remain are the ones that the past generations had told their kids. This provides quite a contrast with modern fairy tradition with that of the past. As I mentioned above, there are many stories and mentions of the fairies in modern Meath folklore, especially the fairies of Tara. Both my interviewees told me that there is a select group of people who believe in fairies and many live in Meath which I find interesting as this belief appears to revival of an old tradition. However the stigma still exists and becomes an interesting topic in itself when we consider whether a stigma is healthy for the tradition or killing the tradition. On one side, you could claim that a stigma on believing in fairies is leading to people being too afraid to speak about their fairy stories. However, if the stigma was non-existent would Irish fairy tradition become commercialised like the depictions we see today. It seems that the only thing certain about fairy tradition is that it isn’t going anywhere anytime quickly.
Guidera, A., 2011. Fairytale of New Ireland. [Online]
Available at: http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/fairytale-of-new-ireland-26796272.html
[Accessed 7th April 2017].
hÓgáin, D. Ó., 2006. The Lore of Ireland. Cork : Collins Press.
McGrath, T., 1982. Fairy Faith and Changelings: The Burning of Bridget Cleary in 1895. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, 71(282), pp. 178-184.
O'Connor, N. J., 1920. The Early Irish Fairies and Fairyland. Sewanee Review , 28(4), pp. 545-557.
Súilleabháin, S., 1942. Handbook of Irish Folklore. s.l.:Folklore of Ireland Society.
The Fairy Faith. 2000. [Film] Directed by John Walker. s.l.: s.n.
This year we will celebrate Brigid, daughter of Dagda on Saturday 28th of January. We host an open and free ceremony for Imbolg at 1:30pm followed by our traditional Brigid's Cross making afternoon. Special designs such as three legged and spinning weave will be demonstrated and taught by Ard Druí Red John.
The ceremony and workshop will be held in the comfort of the Hemp Hall. Places are limited so forward booking is important to secure your place - contact us at email@example.com Some people are unsure about variations on the 4 legged version so we took some pictures in the Armagh Museum and the Ballina Festival to show the wide variations that exist.
The crosses above with the blue background are on a display board seen at the Ballina Salmon Festival - they are copies of the Brigid's Crosses on display at the National Museum for Country Living in Co Mayo. The crosses below (cream background) are on show in the Armagh Museum in Co Armagh, Ireland.
The white table cloth below shows what we made here at the Celtic Druid Temple last year.
Attending our ceremony for Imbolg at 1:30pm followed by our traditional Brigid's Cross making afternoon is open and free of charge - but as places are limited = you must make prior contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
The War Horn of Finn McCoole at the inaugural gathering of the Celtic Druid Alliance at Temple Crom 23-25 September 2016
Finn McCoole in the night sky
Finn McCoole and his Borabú war horn are visible in the night sky right now throughout October. Commonly referred to as the star group Orion we see this Winter champion as Finn McCoole. Right now there is a meteor shower from October the 2nd to November the 7th 2016 peaking on the 20th of October emanating from the mouth of Borabú. Look to the Skies and connect with the ancestors. They are always there - you just have to look up and if you see shooting stars just say "Borabú" and recall the great warrior of Celtic Ireland - Finn McCoole!
When people come to stay with us, they generally fall in to two categories of reactions. The first, and of course my favourite is when they are completely amazed at our lifestyle and become inspired to take on their own projects at home. The other, not so favourite reaction is one of complete and utter astonishment that we don't fit some pre-imagined picture or set of expectations usually along the lines of where's the castle or why don't you do this or that. These reactions are sometimes a little difficult to manage, and sometimes you just have to call it....you're projecting your idea of Druid on to us, this is who we are....take it or leave it.......
Anyway........within these two main reactions both generally agree that our home is very peaceful with an air of tranquility and deep calm. We work hard at making sure that this peace is always with us, and of course we as the humans in the equation don't always get it right, thankfully it's not just us, there's the rocks that the house is made from dotted with sparkling quartz, the living water circulating in our underfloor heating system, the hemp supplied by friends on the walls allowing the house to breath and the sheep's wool in the attic, our woolly hat in winter. We don't have many electrical appliances whizzing or buzzing constantly and at night time the silence grows much deeper. I've found that some people relax into this space immediately whilst others who live in cities, take awhile to tune in.
We have a deep respect for Nature, this means that we are conscious of our connection to Nature. At every moment with every breath we are interacting and connecting with Nature. If you look at a dictionary definition of Nature, you'll find something along the lines of "the physical world and everything in it (such as plants, animals, mountains, oceans, stars, etc.) that is not made by people" Fair enough, but the definition and mindset doesn't really allow for the full concept... that people are part of Nature, we are not above Nature, below Nature, in control of Nature or separate from Nature. Even when we're inside an apartment block on the 17th floor of a sprawling city- we are still with Nature, this is who we are. It's the over analyzing, categorizing, specializing and all the other iizings that encourage us to believe that we are separate from Nature, that it is something we must care for.....it is, but come at it from the view point that we are Nature, how does that change your understanding?
We can communicate with other parts of Nature quite easily. We share the same space, we share nutrients, water, minerals, we depend on each other and we communicate on such basic levels that it's way too simple for our categorized, segmented brains and egos to allow! I have often found plants by smell alone. Hidden in the long grass or thorny hedge the most delicate of flowers can call out to pollinators, and what a joy it is to locate these plants through their aromatic touch. If you're just saying hello, you don't need to know it's latin name and all it's properties, all you have to do is appreciate it and know that it has just spoken to you in it's language! When I forage for berries in the hedges my intuition tells me only to pick berries in the height or space from my knees to my shoulders.....to leave berries for the birds and smaller creatures. Most people who spend a lot of time outdoors with plants and trees have little rituals or understandings particular to them and their immediate environment, when Ard Druí Red John and his family visit the fairy tree on Tara, they respectfully check in from a distance to feel if the tree is open for a visit.....respect.
Culture, can be defined as shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. It can be seen as the growth of a group identity fostered by social patterns unique to the group.
Apparently the the word "culture" derives from a French term, which in turn derives from the Latin "colere," which means to tend to the earth and grow.
We also see the word used in a scientific sense to describe groups of bacteria and fungi, we know of beneficial cultures of bacteria and fungi everywhere; in the soil promoting growth, in fermented foods like cheese, krauts, kimchi, and all manner of condiments.
I have a great belief that even though we lost our Forest Culture in the 1600's the bacteria and fungi necessary for forest growth is still here in the soil. I also feel that our sense of separation from Nature comes from a decrease in beneficial culture in our diets and immediate environment.
I approach a solution to this this from a few different angles. I try my best not to intentionally destroy beneficial bacteria....cleaning products in our home are all natural. We have a reed bed system for our waste water so I can visibly see how I'm doing....strong growth of reeds, iris', willows in the reed beds means I'm not killing the good stuff.......bleach kills good bacteria...so no bleach. Similar when I'm outside, no weedkillers, no poisons, same with my own body....no poisons....refined white sugar, dextrose and similar manufactured products are the equivalent of bleach in my mind, sure they do a great job, in that they taste great but oh wow the consequences..
I plant and care for lots of trees and plants, I'm playing a conscious part in the growth of the native culture of our local ecosystem.
I make and eat lots of culture i.e.fermented food products from veg grown locally. And my favourite way of restoring culture is to make herbal mead elixirs.....(local honey, local flowers, local yeast) a recipe for delightful culture.
I came across this blog when looking for ideas for meads; I make my meads in quite a similar way to this blog post: http://www.gallowaywildfoods.com/?page_id=1862
So, you are Nature, where ever you are, Nature is with you. You can feel more connected by becoming aware of your personal connections.....what products do you use, can you change any? Supporting the growth of one potted plant in your home changes your immediate ecosystem- you can practice conscious connection with this plant. Make fermented food- sourdough bread, sauerkraut, mead.....start looking around you. Even in the cities there are nooks and crannies of wonderful and vibrant culture.
Most importantly, have fun.....if you approach this from a guilt perspective, you've already changed your inner culture and guilt is not the approach you want to take........fun, love, exploration, adventure,gratitude and Love, did I say that one already.....Love, love yourself, love your world.....that's all you have to do. If you can't love yourself and consequently the world around you then decide to go on a fun filled adventure of change!
In my heritage classes I always ask the children their name. Most recently one little girl, gave me her full name, followed by her parents names and where she was from. The rest of the class laughed but I thanked her as she had brought me nicely into my next segment that 1000 years ago in Ireland we didn't have surnames. There's no youtube video of our ancestors introducing themselves, so it's impossible to know for sure. What most people agree on these days is that it was the Normans who introduced the concept of surnames(as we know them today) to Ireland. In my classes we try out different ways of introduce ourselves like our ancestors may have done, without surnames but family names and ancestry line- for example, the girls introduce themselves as Niamh daughter of Rose, daughter of Kathleen, daughter of Roseanne, and keep going as far back as they can. The boys may have given the paternal ancestry line. How far back can you go? This used to be a sign of education, that you could list your family genealogy. This coupled with where you were from would give the other person the full picture of who you are, they would know the stories associated with your family-the good, the bad etc. Our names today do not reveal so much of our family history or about where we've been. Our names now play a role in a very confusing legal system. Our names are not rooted in place and community any more. They are most likely attached to a number and it is this number that gives your information to the questioner, but it is only the system that established the number that can have the full understanding.They want to know about your financial lineage as opposed to cultural and family events.
I'm an Irish person learning Irish as a second language, it is a deep hurt that I cannot speak my mother tongue fluently. It is indicative of our society and how much we had to bend that we made an English name for ourselves and they we use this name to describe who we are to the rest of the world. I'm not anti any culture, I celebrate diversity in my own country--it's just that we haven't been ourselves for a very long time now and it is so important to know who you are----this goes for countries as well. We have a choice to how we name ourselves. I'm trying to understand our national identity, sometimes I feel as if we're a country that doesn't realise it's actually free to make it's own choices and decisions, we were oppressed for so long( I know I know, don't mention the war.......but maybe our past traumas need to be spoken about and discussed, knowing that they are in the past and we are not trying to resurface the old tensions but become a proud and free people) that we are still displaying signs of that long learned behavior.
Ireland is a made up Irish into English word-what does that say about our identity?......... not a judgement, just a question, a place to look from or at for awhile, would we want to change our name, if we did, would we go back to Eire, which is still used at times, or what if we could choose our own name---could we do it as a country?
Why is this so difficult for Ireland. The concept of indigenous is ridiculed here, ah don't talk about the war, we've had that many waves of invasions, sure who's really Irish? This line of thought brings you right up to where we are today, a nation with a false sense of freedom unable to stand up and be proud because they don't know what it means. We don't want to be seen as anti British, we don't want to be seen as racist, we don't know who we are or what an indigenous heritage might mean to us. If we don't know our rich past how can we share a rich future with other nations?
Anyway that's me being totally naive, which I am accused of regularly! But, I'm part of the change and doing my bit. As a specialist I get to write my own workshops for children, so I ask them lots of questions and when they have a question for me I get them thinking to see if they can come up with their own theory........I had a wonderful class the other day.
One child asked me would they have lived in big tree houses. Well, I said, the archaeologists have never found one, and there hasn't been any documents found yet stating that there was giant tree houses in giant trees, but does that mean they didn't exist? Ahh, the cogs in the mind started whirring....what if what if..............this is how we need to educate ourselves........not drilling ourselves with facts and figures written down by the fox news of the day.......one school I visited had heard so much about vikings in Ireland a thousand years ago that they literally couldn't grasp the concept that there was Irish people in Ireland at that time too.....another child in another school quickly realised and asked ............so does that mean there were Irish people living normal lives in Ireland? He asked me why are they not in the history books, why does he have to learn only about the Viking way of life.......ah the wisdom..I have hope for our little Island, the children are bright and inquisitive, it is our job to nurture this and not tell them to shhhuussh. Lets collectively explore what our indigenous culture is and what it means to us today. This isn't about being exclusive or thinking you have to go back 20 generations to call yourself Irish. It's about our country's self esteem, we have to feel worth something, proud of something, we have to know who we are and love who we are. Right now we're a fearful bunch bending over backwards for the biggest bully. Stand up Ireland, get to know yourself, dig deeper into your histories, find the glorious nation sovereign and proud.
Niamh and Con are founding members of Celtic Druid Temple and walk the path of Celtic Druids in Roscommon, Eire.