This shit though.
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!
What's that got to do with being Irish? I'm glad you asked!
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?
If you want to learn more about Authentic Connection to Ireland, have a look at Lora's Patreon Project.
“Listen to this! Then she writes…”
What if the Old Gods of Ireland were walking this world today?
The magazine was flicked shut with a sharp snap, and slammed onto the table top between them. He watched with a bemused half smile as the Lady paced in front of him. Sliding his hand across, he picked it up, smoothed out the frustrated wrinkles, and examined the cover.
“It’s a weekly rag. Really, who is going to believe this? Look, it’s not even an Irish publication – nobody who matters will read this.”
Her eyebrow was raised as she threw him a look. “I was able to buy that ‘rag’ easily in our small rural town. I have read this. Do I not matter?”
The bemused placatory smile dropped like a stone from his face and was replaced by a look of concern. “Apologies Lady, that is not what I meant. Not at all. Simply that, although well written, this piece will not appear in a publication of note. It will not gain notice by those who may matter.”
“And how can we be sure of that? It is out there now, explored and published by one from this very area, our own local community. How do we know it will not gain further credence, that the idea will not spread from here?”
She sank to the seat beside him, her gaze now off in the distance. Although thankful to have escaped her direct line of sight, especially with her in this mood, he worried nonetheless. Despondency was not her usual style. Her next words unsettled him even further.
“Oh Manni. I like the girl, I really do. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her, and I respect her for how far she has traveled, unsupported and relatively unguided."
The Queen sighed. "But, we are going to have to do something about this now.”
To Be Continued...?
Silent, hooded, darkened countenance
shifting, muted, inescapably There.
Unknowable, terrible, hidden
She is Everything and Nothing.
Weapons of truth, Imperative
Thrusting knowledge and awareness
All that we must leave behind
All that we must discover
Darkness and Strength
Power and Insight
Fear and Finding
Connected, terrified, thrilled
Facing the Great Queen
Back into her own,
For More Authentic Spiritual Connection to Ireland
Learn more in the online course - Meeting the Morrigan 2016
If you're coming across my work you'll see various author bios, some more updated than others. But there's a radio interview I did from a few years back, and a recent one on Google Hangouts that might be more useful than stuff I wrote about myself.
Eh.... how far back should I go? Because what you've heard about 'The Troubles' is only the tip of the iceberg, really.
The Normans, perhaps? Strongbow was a Norman lord from Wales who started the Norman conquest of Ireland, around 1170. Though some of them 'went native' and were absorbed into Gaelic (Irish) culture, that was maybe the start of the disparagement and racism against the Irish in our own land.
The Tudor Conquest began with Henry VIII in 1536, and he'd declared himself King of Ireland by 1541. That continued through Elizabeth, and James I, and ended (officially) with the 'Flight of the Earls' in 1607.
We were firmly under the English boot by then. Through the 1500s and 1600s CE we'd been subjected to the Plantations, where ownership of our land was forcibly stripped by the English crown, and re-settled with citizens from England. This officially ended in the 1650s with thousands of Parliamentarian soldiers settled in Ireland under the direction of Oliver Cromwell. Ulster was a hotspot for plantation settlement, and this created large strongholds of communities with British and Protestant identity.
English settlers in Ireland did not think highly of our native Gaelic, and by that time firmly Catholic, culture...
How godly a deed it is to overthrow so wicked a race the world may judge: for my part I think there cannot be a greater sacrifice to God.
- Edward Barkley, describing how the forces of the Earl of Essex slaughtered the entire population of Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim, 1575
All wisdom advises us to keep this [Irish] kingdom as much subordinate and dependent on England as possible; and, holding them from manufacture of wool (which unless otherwise directed, I shall by all means discourage), and then enforcing them to fetch their cloth from England, how can they depart from us without nakedness and beggary?
- Lord Stafford, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in a letter to King Charles I, 1634
Like all clever abusers they fostered mistrust and betrayal among neighbours and communities, taught us over the course of hundreds of years to hate our own culture, our language, our customs - to see ourselves as less than them.
They took our natural resources, the strength of our labour, and grew rich off the skin of our backs, ate well and drank merry while our people drowned in blood, sweat, and tears. They fed us slave food - this, the Irish potato, and when it failed us they refused to allow us to eat of anything else fed from our own lands, grown from our own rich soil.
You've all heard of "the Famine" I'm sure, but first the Irish Famine of 1740 killed at least 38% of our 2.4 million population; proportionally, a greater loss than during the worst years of the Great Famine of 1845–1852. In that time, we lost more than a million people to starvation, and a million more to forced emigration, and they said it was our fault.
...being altogether beyond the power of man, the cure had been applied by the direct stroke of an all-wise Providence in a manner as unexpected and as unthought of as it is likely to be effectual.
The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated. …The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people.
- Charles Trevelyan, head of administration for famine relief, 1840s
[existing policies] will not kill more than one million Irish in 1848 and that will scarcely be enough to do much good.
- Queen Victoria's economist, Nassau Senior
Weak, and poor, and downtrodden - we fought them.
The United Irishmen (and women) Rebellion in 1798 was perhaps the beginning of the first organised attempts to overthrow the oppressors in hundreds of years, and it officially started in Belfast in 1791 (read my post about Vinegar Hill). A counter campaign of martial law used tactics such as house burnings, torture of captives, pitch-capping and murder, particularly in Ulster where large numbers of Catholics and Protestants had joined in common cause. That just couldn't stand.
The Act of Union in 1801 was a betrayal, and highlighted a particularly Catholic vs Protestant struggle for Catholic emancipation, and following from that the The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB; in Irish: Bráithreachas Phoblacht na hÉireann) began in 1858 - it was a secret oath-bound fraternal organisation dedicated to the establishment of an "independent democratic republic" in Ireland.
And then, my dear Readers, our Troubles became focused in 'the North'.
Tensions were rising and we seemed on the brink of civil war from 1912, with opposition to 'Home Rule' from Ulster Unionists, who formed the 'Ulster Volunteers', which led to Irish Nationalists forming the 'Irish Volunteers'. World War 1 averted some of the crisis, but it didn't go away anywhere.
Of course the famed Easter Rising didn't happen in a vacuum, and we've just celebrated the 100 year anniversary of that these last few months, so we're very much into recent history now after a run down of what... nearly 750 years of English rule? The history of that is well know, I guess, though the depth and breadth of it is often glossed over and washed green instead of red, swathed in beer and rebel ballads.
The Partition of Ireland was the division of the island of Ireland which created two distinct political territories - Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, as it was called at the time, on the 3rd of May in 1921, under the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Today we still call the 6 counties 'Northern Ireland', and it is a self governing part of the larger 'United Kingdom', with Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and England. The rest of the island is a sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland, or just called Ireland.
To refer to us now as 'Southern Ireland' is offensive. To say we are part of "Great Britain" will get you verbally slapped at least, and even though technically and geographically our island can be classed as part of the 'British Isles', if you've read this far you may now have an inkling of why it might rankle and burn to be proprietorially inferred as owned by Britain in such a way.
I've brought you this far, through 800 years of systematic oppression and genocide, shown you the seeds that were planted on our island that were cultivated and grew to be 'the North'.
I didn't grow up there. I'm reluctant to talk about the horrors that direct immersion in 'the Troubles' has brought for the people who did.
My great grandparents, my grandparents and their siblings were directly involved, and maybe even my parents or their siblings, I don't know. We don't talk about the more recent loyalties and actions in the same way as we tell stories which are a generation or two removed. I can tell you the stories I've heard of the Black and Tans that make me want to scream when I see a product named this way in ignorance, my awareness and fears through the long years of Bombings in the North, and the Republic, and in the heart of England too - and if you ever order an 'Irish Car Bomb' drink in my presence you will not be in my presence for much longer, of that you can be sure.
I can share memories of crossing into the North, across the border, maybe once or twice... and the soldiers aiming guns at us frightened kids in the back of the car, their harsh questions and suspicious peering, poking, prodding with the tip of a machine gun.
I can tell you of the confusion and anger I felt when I first learned of the Hunger Strikes, at the age of 4 or 5 years old, and later on when I understood the dirty protests, and the stark reality of a person starving themselves to death for what they believed. Of how the energy of hunger has seeped so thoroughly into this land that it seems forever stained with the raw, gnawing, hollowed out fear and pain of starvation, and how teenage me was tormented by that before I even knew what it was, or how to manage it and protect myself from the ravenous pockets of it that are a part of our landscape. And maybe even begin to heal some of that, in time.
And I can tell you of the sweet, cautious, dawning of hope with the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998, two weeks before my 20th birthday. That unsteady peace has grown, and things have stabilised in the North for the first time any of us can remember.
This morning we woke to the news that Britain had voted to exit the EU, and nobody knows what that means for Northern Ireland now. I'm not going to speculate on that... but about the only good I can see from today's news and social media chatter is the idea that both Unionists and Nationalists in the North may be agreed that leaving the United Kingdom is the way forward for Northern Ireland.
Borders have always been a problem for us, as you can perhaps imagine.
Ok, so a 'fixer', in journalism, is someone (often a local journalist), who gets booked by a foreign journalist or media outlet to help with local connections - to act as a translator and guide, to gain access to local interviews and places on the ground that a foreign journalist just wouldn't have access to.
I'm a journalist by trade, so I'm used to fixer work from both sides, but I occasionally (more often as the years roll by) get a request to act as a 'Spiritual Fixer' for folk who are either coming to Ireland and want a guide to a genuine spiritual experience while here - land, sites, communities - or else by those who can't set foot on land here for various reasons, and need some help or support, or spiritual work done for them.
This has crossed from personal (favours for friends), to professional (I worked in Irish tourism as a guide and heritage manager for 8 years), to those times when the Beings and entities I work with and for in my own spiritual practice tell me in no uncertain terms I need to help a certain person or group. That last one has been both personal (or ended up that way, with making good friends from complete strangers!) and professional paid work. And occasionally both at once, because honourable folk compensate other honourable folk for their valuable time, skills, and resources.
I had agreed to do some work for a friend a while back, but with one thing and another I hadn't gotten to it, and my trip to teach at the Morrigan Retreat in CT was looming. He had a family connection to the River Barrow, and needed some material collected from the area, which I'd agreed to facilitate and transfer to him, and appropriate offerings made to local spirits in exchange.
Being a pure Shannon girl my whole life, I'd never worked with the Barrow (or any of her sisters) but as I'm living in their area now, it seemed like work I should be doing anyway. And get done before I left my land to teach, so time was ticking.
I decided to take an hour or two the day before I travelled and 'pop over' to Passage East, buy some whiskey and honey to make an offering, pick up some river stones, and be back by lunchtime.
Is it ever that easy though?
First, the offering. At that point, I was still seeing this mostly as fixer work for my friend, but when I checked in the night before with my own Gods, Guides and Guardians I was told in no uncertain terms that buying a bottle of whiskey in Tesco with somebody else's money wasn't going to do rightly. Not at all.
I had a lovely bottle of home brewed mead sure, that'd been gifted to me by Treasa at my birthday in April. That I was saving for a special occasion. That was still wrapped in the birthday paper...
When I arrived at Passage East, I realised it was almost entirely salt water there, and sure that wouldn't do at all. I knew the Barrow is a tidal river, but the mix of fresh to salt felt entirely wrong at that point.
Checking the map, I figured if I drove a bit back up towards the loop of the river I'd probably find a wee village I could access the river at. Traveling up towards Cheekpoint I realised nope, it still wasn't right. and I was stuck now in the river loop, so I'd to backtrack out to Waterford, cross the bridge, and travel upriver again.
Still didn't know where I was going, but Graiguenamanagh in Co. Kilkenny felt like a good place to aim for, so I hit off in that direction. I avoided the motorway though, and kept to N25 to New Ross, then followed the road along the river.
I was pulled off the road though (not literally, thankfully - safety first, Spirits!) at a wee place called St. Mullins, which was, I must admit as a happy bonus, and absolute delight of a hidden gem I'd never even heard of.
Down into the river valley, past folk sitting chatting on benches by the side of the lane, to a little paved roundabout with a car park off to one side. A lovely man strimming a garden told me I could tuck my car in at the roundabout area for a few minutes, so I did that, took my offering, and strolled down along the river bank.
I'm going to let these pictures tell the rest of that bit of the story...
But I got what my friend needed, 7 river stones from his ancestral land. I also got what I needed - the beginnings of a local river connection, with a good solid dose of the Irish land before I flew away over the sea. And it did me the power o' good I can tell ya.
I gave my thanks, took a deep breath, and began to make my way home again.
The lane is quiet. High block walls on one side marking the end of back gardens. Forestry area on the other side, a bit of wild still remaining in the outskirts of Dublin – all rough tangles of bramble and holly under large ash and thorn. No way through, just catching and stumbling and pulling.
The forest had escaped along the lane too, dotted here and there against the block wall were clusters of shrubs, baby hedgerows, even some more mature trees standing proud. Broken from the observational reverie by the sound of an engine again, the car in the lane, slowly, slowly moving behind her. No lights. Were there lights before?
It wasn’t full dark, maybe he just hadn’t turned his lights on, maybe he was lost. But the lane is gloomy, the lights would be useful for the lost, surely, a lost person would have their lights turned on. Car blocking the lane behind her. No way back. In front, at the end of the lane – wide empty fields. Walls too high to climb on one side, inhospitable territory on the other. Nowhere to go. Keep moving on. There’s a house up above, somewhere off the lane. Way up at the top, a house. People. Lights.
No lights. Drifting along behind her. Looking. Searching. Hunting. Prey in sight.
Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Maybe he hasn’t seen me, I could hide in the trees but he’ll see me if I cross the lane, see me for sure, find me, catch me. Have to hide in the trees, behind the trees, beside the trees he’s getting closer, I can’t see his face oh god help me I have to hide in the trees… step off the laneway, huge ash tree growing by the wall. Standing alone, a single sentinel, the only cover. Car getting closer, step around the tree, into the tree, oh help me I have to hide in the tree… Stop. Still.
Wrapped and close, in the tree, hiding in the tree. Help me. Hide me.
Car glides by, looking, searching, hunting – not finding. Looking right at the tree, the tree, the tree, only the tree. Confusion on his face, annoyance, moving on, searching, searching… nothing there. Top of the lane, turning, lights glare into life, engine revs, roaring displeasure and frustration, another turn, moving back, still searching, but knowing… she is gone. Back out to the top of the lane, turning into the main flow of traffic, off, and gone.
This 14 year old girl who liked to go for evening walks alone stepped out onto the lane, and found her way home again.
Excerpt from 'A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality'
Buy This Book!
Most commonly referred to as 'That O'Brien One', Lora lives and works in County Roscommon, Ireland, and feels somewhat qualified by now to write down all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff about this fair green Isle.