And leprechaun hats and lucky charms and a 'Brigid Oracle' machine and begosh and begorra sure aren't all the Oirish funny drunks?!
Ok, so that's the frustrated rant part over. Well, the rant part at least. Ok, so I MAY rant again before we're done, I'll not lie to ye. It's all relatable enough for those born here, and for most folk who genuinely seek an Irish connection, I'd say.
This is where it gets a little more complicated though. I've talked tongue in cheek about 9 Signs That You Might Be A Plastic Paddy before, and the reaction was interesting. I get the fragile sense of connection, of belonging, that is so very prevalent in the United States. I can empathise with it, even if I haven't lived it.
But it causes a whole pile of shite to be put out in the world that is not healthy and not doing ye any favours. Y'all need to fix that, and it starts with YOU.
For example, the Asatru Folk Assembly (I'm not going to link them and provide traffic to their shite) yesterday made a statement that runs like this:
Today we are bombarded with confusion and messages contrary to the values of our ancestors and our folk. The AFA would like to make it clear that we believe gender is not a social construct, it is a beautiful gift from the holy powers and from our ancestors. The AFA celebrates our feminine ladies, our masculine gentlemen and, above all, our beautiful white children. The children of the folk are our shining future and the legacy of all those men and women of our people back to the beginning. Hail the AFA families, now and always!
Besides the fact they named their hall 'Newgrange'... this racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic poison is prevalent in many groups who claim to follow a Norse or 'Celtic' spiritual path. And they base it on lineage, on ancestry.
Now, I work a lot with Irish ancestry. Every day, I would say, between personal work with my own ancestors and facilitating authentic connection to Ireland for folk who are feeling that, often because of family history and ties. I worked for many years in the Irish heritage tourism industry, where ancestral lineage is perhaps the number one reason folk report they are visiting Ireland from America.
I get that ancestry is important, is my point. And I get that it's interesting and exciting to trace your DNA, or your family tree; to find those roots here when you may have felt rootless your whole life. To relate yourself to this land and these people who are, let's face it now, possibly the coolest tribe in the world, and to thrill at a sense of belonging that is proven and measurable. I get that.
This is where it starts to get a little dodgy though. Because, for the most part, people are idiots. This 'proven connection' becomes purity, becomes elitism, becomes all out racism. All too easily.
And that's as likely from folk who are born here, by the way, as well as mouth breathers from across the pond who decide they are 'Irish' and that makes them better than everyone else because CúChulainn.
Irish DNA, bloodlines or proven ancestry, at the end of the day, doesn't mean shit.
We're not some chemistry marks on a page, we're a living breathing culture, a people who continue to grow and change, but who also hold safe our heritage right here within our day to day lives. I've said it from my first day on the internet, and I'll keep saying it til ye fucking get it... Irish DNA isn't what makes you Irish. (I'm gonna go ahead and include the spiritual aspect of all this right in here, but it's just as relevant without. Your mileage may vary.)
Being Irish is about the land and the people, and yes, the language.
I get roasted in book reviews all the time because I keep banging on about the language, and how it is a valuable expression of Irish heritage and magic.
At it's most basic, we all speak English because colonialism, oppression, genocide, and RACISM. When a native person tells you that it would be respectful for those seeking spiritual (and ancestral) connection to their land to maybe try and make an effort to include a few indigenous words and phrases, correct pronunciations and such - the correct response is not to dismiss and ridicule them. No. Bad, that's bad.
Learn how to spell and pronounce the terminology you want to use. FFS.
Learn how to address the Gods you seek in their native tongue. Learn how to say the names of indigenous people and places. Is it really too much for you?
Is your sense of belonging really that shallow that you get upset and offended and downright hostile when you are called out on this shit we are bombarded with day in and day out? Is that necessary, or warranted?
And you folk who are lucky enough to have been born on this blessed isle... learn your own fucking history.
Our version of a creation myth is the Lebor Gabála - the BOOK OF INVASIONS. Like, our own history is literally about waves of people coming to Ireland and making things interesting. Sometimes, that didn't work out so well (I'm looking at you, 700+ years of English oppression), but for the most part it's been really good for us. This land is shaped and fed by her people, and she takes care of us if we take care of each other.
This is important, and you have forgotten it. Ireland is made of many tribes.
Last night, a woman of colour received absolutely vile racist abuse as she curated the @Ireland account on Twitter.
This is not our heritage. This is certainly not our spirituality.
Folk who were not born here often, in my experience, appreciate Ireland in a way many Irish fail to do. They have come to visit, or live here, and they breathe our island in fully and deeply. They speak the language because they want to connect to the soul of Ireland and they're willing to put the work in to do that. They look around that small rural village you grew up in and despise, but they see the charming architecture, the hidden mysteries in the landscape, the value of community support that they're often not even included in as 'blow ins'.
You also forget, perhaps, that us Irish have exported generations, have solved our problems many times by leaving this land. We used to be met with the same racism and abuse you now heap on our visitors and asylum seekers. Your brothers, your sons, your friends and your community are living and working all over the world, right now.
Is that how you want them treated?
So, you don't have to be born here to be Irish. But the blood in your veins doesn't make you so either. It's about living the culture, putting in the work and the effort to connect, the respect and reverence for our history and heritage.
The other side of this coin is the importance of indigenous wisdom and experience. And again, this is where things are taking out of context and blown out of proportion by idiots.
I can say all of the above and still froth frustrated at the dismissal of an Irish person's opinion or experience by non-native spiritual seekers who talk over us, disregard our advice or concerns, and profit from our resources at our expense.
Me getting angry at this and calling you on it doesn't make me elitist, or some sort of aryan purist - and writing me off as such is a way of silencing my valid protest at your disrespect. Do you find yourself agreeing with #AllLivesMatter too?
But it happens all the time. At least weekly for me, but sometimes daily.
A Facebook friend made a very good point recently when someone was getting het up at the idea of not getting a free pass to follow any spiritual path they please, as and when they wanted... my friend asked (paraphrasing): What are you offering to this native spiritual path? What support are you giving to the indigenous people whose culture you wish to take from?
This resonated very deeply for me, particularly as I'm a big proponent of just doing the fecking work on your spiritual path. This story too, speaks strongly to me on this point.
None of this is about your surname, what title you claim, what country your ancestors came from, or where you happen to have been born this time round.
Are you supporting Irish people in need? Are you helping to keep the language alive and growing? Can you help make the country safer for Irish women?
Do you patronise unique Irish businesses, eat local foods and work with Irish tour guides when you visit? Lend your voice and support to Irish activism? Respect and learn from the experience of native spiritual practitioners?
What do you DO, every day, that gives you the right to be Irish?