Thursday, August 11, 2016

Protecting the Water


Mni Wiconi – Water is Life 
'S e an t-Uisge a' Bheatha

The central watershed and aquifer of North America is under threat. The water defenders are holding the line but need help. Arrests are happening. If you are not able-bodied enough or your kids and job keep you from putting your body on the line, donate to the support fund if you can, and go to the waters where you are and pray.

News stories that spin this as standing with the Indians to protect "their" water are actually missing the point. This about ALL of our water. This is the central water source for the entire continent. This aquifer, and the Mississippi River, cannot handle the inevitable oil spills that are coming from every single one of these pipelines. The question is not if the pipeline will leak, it is when.  The pollution of all our drinking water is inevitable if this project goes through. These industries are used to sacrificing the most vulnerable and disempowered communities first - the Natives on the poorest reservations, the Black folks in the inner cities - and then years after the children in these communities have grown up with birth defects do the white people start maybe noticing and not wanting this stuff near them.

Well guess what. You can't avoid it anymore. No matter what your race or ethnicity or identification. This will effect you and all those who come after us. If you want the kids and grandkids to have water to drink, this is it. This is the war. It's coming for us and now it is here.

Original photo Dawn on the Mississippi River by Kyle Brown
Notes:
* Mni Wiconi - Lakota (Lakȟótiyapi) for "Water is Life"
* 'S e an t-Uisge a' Bheatha - Scottish Gaelic for "Water is Life." Uisge is "water," and usually implies freshwater. Fìor-uisge is specifically pure water, drinking water (literally, "true water"). When translating these water phrases into Gaelic and Irish, there can be some issues, as An t-uisge-beatha is a compound word meaning "whisky," whereas "Uisge na Beatha" is a phrase meaning "Water of Life." Especially when discussing or doing ceremony, the difference here is very important!
* A Shail-Spioradain - Gaelic for "Oh Guardian Spirits"
* Turtle Island - name used by many Indigenous North American Peoples for the North American continent
* Oceti Sakowin - The Seven Fires Council aka The Great Sioux Nation or the Lakota and Dakota people
* Mnišoše - Lakota (Lakȟótiyapi) name for the Missouri River
* Mníšošethąka - Dakota (Dakhótiyapi) name for the Mississipi River
* Abhainn Chluaidh, Uisge Dhè, An Life, An Bhóinn, - In both Gaelic and Irish, "River Clyde, River Dee, Liffy and Boyne"
* Standing Rock - The Lakota reservation where they are blocking the proposed pipeline, and where the runners began their journey on foot to Washington D.C.
* Slàinte Mhath - Gaelic for "Good Health/Strength/Wholeness"

More links: medichealercouncil.com  standwithstandingrock.net  ocetisakowincamp.org  rezpectourwater.com sacredstonecamp.org

And if you're considering going to camp, please read this first, cover to cover.  It's essential. Thanks!

Standing Rock Allies Resource Packet 
(Documents prepared by members of the Solidariteam; Oceti Sakowin Camp Protocols written with camp elders.)

#NoDAPL

Friday, July 15, 2016

"If You Speak My Name I Will Live Forever"

The day I found a family name on the list of lynching victims

Loved ones, If any of this is misspelled, mis-typed or misspoken, please bear with me. This is a hard time for us all. Hardest by far for all of our loved ones who do not pass as white.

From listening to our elders who have lived through the days before media, let alone the Internet, we know that police and vigilante killings of Black, Brown, and other oppressed peoples in America is nothing new. When our parents and grandparents were young, it was hushed up even more. Now, it's on the news and the computer screen. What marginalized communities have known all along is now in the faces of mainstream America. Somehow, though, it just feels even more stressful.

The last time I felt like this was when we were at the height of the AIDS crisis. When we had people dropping dead literally every few minutes. When we, too, did die-ins multiple times along the march route during Pride and other events to remind people what was happening to the less privileged among us. And what continued to happen. In those days, we felt ignored, brutalized, targeted to die by neglect on purpose.  As I watch our communities struggle to bear the burden of police violence and erupting racism now, it feels that way again.

I'm not going to revisit it all here. If you're awake and not looking away, you already know. If you're in this with us, you are feeling as raw as the rest of us. Hang on.

So, vigilante murders. Cheery bastard, ain't I?

One of the things that was hushed up before we had media and internet coverage was the lynchings.

Between 1868 and 1968, over 4,000 African Americans were lynched in America.  So many Black and Brown people, usually but not always men, were murdered on sight, without anything even resembling due process. Almost always they were innocent. Even in the rare cases where someone might have committed a crime, they were not given the basic human right to a trial. They were brutally slaughtered without anyone even stopping to check the facts. Just like the cops who shot Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and all the other recently-murdered didn't bother to find out whether they were Nobel Peace Prize candidates or criminals before declaring themselves judge, jury and executioner, the lynched were killed on the whim of white people. It doesn't matter if after the fact someone can dig up some dirt on someone, or a political opinion you don't like; even someone you wouldn't have gotten along with in life deserves basic human rights and a fair trial for gods' sakes, and that has been denied to most people of color in America since this country's inception.

So, the Ashes to Ashes / Speak My Name project has been doing something to remember these racist murders that were swept under the rug.

Some of my loved ones and I are participating. Please consider taking part. Here is a fuller explanation of why I chose the name I did. I chose him because it is very probable that this lynched Black man was my relative.


James Mackey
Great-Something Uncle? Cousin?  - Ancestor -

I have several ancestors named James Mackey. While the name originally comes from Scotland and our distant ancestors in that line include Sámi, Viking, Irish and Manx people, in America the Mackeys also had children with Catawba, Choctaw, Cherokee and West African people. While it's possible some of these unions were consensual and even loving, we all know that this chapter of American history is rarely about consent or love, and that my African blood is probably the result of courageous African women surviving unspeakable violence perpetrated upon them by the white men whose names, ironically, we now remember, while these women's names are forgotten. Today I remember these women, and honour them.

A woman like my relative, The Mother of James Mackey, whose people survived the horrors of slavery, only to lose her son to lynching.

The bloodlines of slavers and enslaved - both are in me. I honour my ancestors who survived the Middle Passage, and the unspeakable horrors of slavery. Without them we would not be. It is the very least we do to remember them now, their legacy and their struggles, all of which have formed who we are as a people. I remember James Mackey, who was lynched. I name the brutal truth that his cousins who carried the exact same blood and the exact same name - but just a bit less melanin - were able to lead radically different lives as free men while he was struck down. I honour his name, his memory, and all my ancestors and relatives who were murdered without fair trial.

Murdered innocent and relatives unborn, due to the white disease of racism. We speak your names. We remember you. We will not forget.

Tha Sinnsearan Slàn. Egun Reo. ("The Ancestors are Good")




Image notes:
* The scarf is Mackey tartan.
* The bush behind me and the offered flowers are Catawba laurel. The Catawba lands in South Carolina are where my  Scottish, Native American, and West African ancestors in the Mackey family came together, for better or worse.
* The purple and white color scheme in several places hints at the Two Row Wampum Treaty - which is very important for my Native family members on the land where we live now, and the sacred agreement that settlers are to "stay in their own boat" and not try to climb into the Indigenous peoples' canoe or steer it for them. 
* The blue is for the sacred waters - the ocean of the Middle Passage, several rivers that were central to the lives of these ancestors, the river where I was born, and the waters where we offer and pray for them now.
* My hood is pulled up for several reasons, some of them conflicting: In ancient Gaelic poetic tradition it is traditional to cover the head when meditating/seeking poetry. I pulled up the hood as I am praying, it was starting to rain, and as a rape survivor who has stalkers, I don't generally use current, identifiable photos of myself online. But... As someone with white skin (passing) privilege, I am not in danger for wearing a hoodie the way Trayvon Martin and others are, or have been. So I hesitated as this could be seen as appropriative of the "hoodies up" actions (that I also attended in solidarity). I am naming the double meaning here, as I have mixed feelings about incorporating this element. Ironically, something I do for my own safety as a survivor of male violence, is something that is only allowed me by the degree of white privilege I possess. Just as the African blood I carry, which in James Mackey's time may have been "one drop" enough to have me enslaved and murdered as well, now is brushed aside and I am seen as white. America, land of contradictions. Bear with us, world.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Prayers for Orlando

Our prayers are with everyone in Orlando, and everyone who's been affected by this horrifice, homophobic hate crime, that has hit the Latin@ and other POC communities particularly hard (for anyone who didn't know, not only did the shooter target a gay club during Pride month, but it was Latino night and a drag show).

For those of us who lived through earlier eras, this is bringing back hard memories of when we, too, were shot at or jumped just for going to a gay club, when we held vigils for people murdered by gaybashers, where people we had been with on the barricades turned up dead after being hassled at Pride. Those days are not that long gone, and this is a flashback to when our marches were not "Pride," but "Liberation."

This meme includes one of the Winged Victories from a monument in Dublin. She carries a shield of protection, and she has taken away the enemy's sword and broken it. The background is a photo by Diana Davies of the very first Gay Pride rally in New York City, aka Christopher Street Liberation Day, aka The Gay Liberation Run, held on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

Be safe out there, folks. Be kind to one another.

Winged Victory courtesy Wikimedia. Read more about Diana Davies photos of the Gay Liberation Front.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Grian-Stad Geamhraidh 2015

A Ghrian 1 translation ©kpn for Gaol Naofa

A Ghrian 2 translation ©kpn for Gaol Naofa

 Original images by Michael Kehoe and Susan

I changed very little from Carmichael's translation in the first half of this. Mostly I cut the "thees" and "thous". It's more in the second half where Carmichael's biases showed, in his choosing to translate "rìoghain òg" as "queenly maiden," whereas the meaning is more like "young queen" or "youthful queen."

As the goddesses with solar attributes are also associated with sovereignty,* this seems an odd change on his part. "Queenly Maiden" scans really well, though, so maybe poetic license also figured into it. One hopes. But it's not the only time Carmichael downgraded a goddess or spirit-woman this way. His collections of Gaelic prayers, songs, poetry and lore are invaluable, but between some sexism on his part and his atrocious handwriting, his translations always need to be checked. 


*At least in Áine's case. We really know very little about Grian. We are not even sure she was seen as a goddess. The idea of her being a goddess or powerful spirit-woman (and not just the name of the sun itself) is largely based on her having a hill near Áine's, and there being folklore that describes them as sisters. Beyond that, there are parallels in the Scottish "two suns" idea, so some of this is reconstructed and supported by shared visions, and not necessarily written in stone, per se. For more on Midwinter in the Gaelic lands, Áine and Grian, and our other main Scottish winter festival, Hogmanay, see our Winter playlist:

Friday, November 06, 2015

White people and "Indigeneity"

What is going on? You'd think after all these years of effort there would be improvement. But it seems every year we get a new batch of white noobs jumping on the ridiculous, offensive,  "Become Indigenous" bandwagon.

Look, of course "Indigenous" sounds weightier and more credible than "pagan" or "polytheist" or "animist" (or what the people doing this really are: Newagers).  Of course the terms in our own languages are hard for outsiders to understand. You know what? Too bad.

Colonizing Indigenous identity is racist.

Anyone can connect with the Earth. We all have ancestors who sang to the spirits and felt the power in the land. But we aren't them.

Yes, many of us follow revived traditions in the diaspora. But we have only been able to do that after several decades of hard work at that revival and reconstruction. We are in no way the same as people indigenous to a landbase who did not go through hundreds (if not millenia) of cultural disruption the way the European ancestors did.

Those of us who are born from colonizers, or who have even gone so far as to colonize traditional communities, Are. Not. Indigenous. Our religions, no matter how animistic, polytheistic, and earth-honouring, are not Indigenous, either.

As someone committed to preserving the ways of my ancestors*, who has taken the message of finding my own roots to heart, it angers and disturbs me to no end to see white nuagers plagiarizing our hard work and trying to use it to hide the fact that they are pretendians. (And thieves.)

So, for the record: Síla na Géige.
Published in hard copy ©1998 KPN, updated regularly on the web since then. Copyrights on file.

More detailed writings on our creation stories and The Spirit Women Who Shape the Land:  p.30, The Gaol Naofa FAQ   Copyright ©April 2012 in all printed and electronic media.

We have chosen to offer these things for free on the web, because we are opposed to commodifying the sacred. Feel free to be inspired by them and share them, with credit, in community. BUT, this has never been an invitation to plagiarize us, to use our words, our research, our personal experiences, or our creations without credit. Even worse, and shocking, is for nuagers to rip us off and then try to use our work to set themselves up as some kind of fake "Celtic Animist" or "Indigenous Celtic", pray to pray operation. If you see someone doing this, confront them. We appreciate it. And if we have to, we know some excellent copyright lawyers if retractions are not forthcoming.

And of course: Colonists, Descendants of Colonists, and "Indigenous" Identity

And: On Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous Identity


*Note on ancestry: My ancestry is way more diverse and rich in melanin than I knew growing up. I have distant ancestry from Turtle Island (as far as we know, Catawba, with confirmed blood relatives among the Cherokee, Choctaw, and possibly the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho), the Sámi, the Roma/Sinti, South Asia, Central Asia and West Africa). But while that is interesting, and has led me to find cherished relatives in diverse communities, the family culture and in-person community I was raised in is overwhelmingly Irish-/Scottish-American, and as I pass as white to anyone who looks at me in person, I have white privilege. I grew up in Irish American and Irish immigrant communities, and have for many years now worked in collectives with relatives in the Celtic Nations and the First Nations. #AppropriationIsNotSolidarity

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Prophecy of the Morrígan - Memes for Samhain

Here in the mountains we've had our first snow shower, and our first hard freeze, so technically the festival of Samhain is here (despite it not yet being November).

Annie and I have been continuing to make memes, and here are some I've done for the Prophecy. Links below to my full translation.

Prophecy meme – Number 1 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa 
Original image: Colin Whittaker

Prophecy meme – Section 2 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa 
Original image: Chad K

Prophecy meme – Section 3 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa 
Original images: Michael Kötter (coo) and Wikimedia Commons (background)

Prophecy meme – Section 4 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa 
Original image: Knowth.com (used with permission)

Prophecy meme – Section 5 - by Kathryn NicDhàna for Gaol Naofa
Original image: Moyan Brenn


The original Irish prayer here is from Cath Maige Tuired. 
For the full prayer in one piece, see my post from 2012, or the Gaol Naofa Memes page. For the fully-footnoted version exploring my translation of this traditional piece, see our Prayer in Gaelic Polytheism article.

In ancient Ireland, a great war is said to have taken place between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians as they fought for the right to rule Ireland. The tale of this conflict is told in the Cath Maige Tuired (The Second Battle of Mag Tured), and the final battle took place Samhain, with the Tuatha Dé Danann being victorious.
Conflict, death and chaos are common themes associated with Samhain in Irish myth and folklore, but out of this conflict comes a resolution of peace. At the end of the Cath Maige Tuired, the Morrígan (or Badb) relates a rosc (a particular type of Irish poem, which is often written in obscure or archaic language), proclaiming victory in battle, and giving a prophecy of things to come. As Samhain approaches, it seems only appropriate to reflect on these themes, and the message of the Morrígan's words. As a prayer for peace, you might also wish to incorporate the words into your celebrations. The images collated here (five in all) each contain a section of the prayer. You can also view our video of it, which we released on our youtube channel last year:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lá Fhéile Mhacha / Là Fhèill Mìcheil / Harvest

In honour of Là Fhèill Whatever, we've made an Autumn / Lá Fhéile Mhacha / Là Fhèill Mìcheil playlist, which includes several examples of earth-honouring, community traditions that survive in the present day. We have practical demonstrations of wheat-weaving (if you want to make a Cailleach figure for the harvest), the Cailleach an Dùdain (Old Woman of the Mill Dust) song, footage of the Riding of the Marches in Scotland, and of course the Seaweed Molly festival.


The Riding of the Marches is pretty clearly about boundaries - namely the practical act of checking the fences and edges of the territory, and perhaps there's also something spiritual here. At Samhain, hard choices - literally life and death - need to be made by those who raise livestock; Samhain is traditionally the time to decide how many animals can make it through the winter, and how many are going to be slaughtered for meat. At this festival, those who farm are bringing in the last of the grain, so this figures into the winter planning as well, and is clearly symbolized by the slowest person to finish the harvest having to support the Cailleach for the coming winter. It would also make sense that those with the largest fields need more time to bring all the grain in, so this tradition could be a way of recognizing that personal abundance calls for community responsibility - if you have more than you need, proper hospitality and honour leads one to want to share that abundance with those who don't have enough. And maybe having your neighbors toss the Cailleach at you is a way of making sure everyone upholds that bargain.

The Seaweed Molly rite is about giving back to the sea - making an offering of gratitude and thanks that the sea spirits have been kind this year, and not taken back (drowned) any people from the community. I also find it touching that the modern survival has these young surfers and lifeguards carrying the Molly doll (much like a Brideóg) from door to door and recieving honours and gifts for their part in maintaining community safety: Another safe year of swimming in the sea. How fitting that they then paddle out to make the offerings to the spirits on behalf of the community that they help protect.

Slàinte Mhath! 

For more detail on all of the above, see our other recent posts over at the Gaol Naofa Facebook page.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lá Fhéile Macha

Lá Fhéile Macha for Gaol Naofa 

As seen in our Michaelmas video, the feast of St. Michael on Sep. 29 preserves many seasonal Gaelic customs, though they are mostly the same as ones observed at Lá Lúnasa or Oíche Shamhna in other regions. Pre-Christian deities whose qualities were inherited by Michael include Macha and Manannán.

Manannán already has his own festival at Midsummer. While many of us honour Taillte at Lúnasa, and the Morrígan at Samhain, perhaps Macha also deserves a festival of her own: Lá Fhéile Macha.

Like Michael, Macha is also associated with horses and the fields, and the traditional horse races held at this time could be dedicated to her, along with the swimming of the horses, the walking or riding the boundaries of the fields, and the baking and offering of the bannock/strùthan.

The Cailleach is also relevant now due to the equinox sunrise illuminating the inner chamber at Sliabh na Caillí/Loughcrew in Ireland. The last sheaf of the harvest is called the Cailleach, and the Cailleach an Dudain ("The Old Woman of the Mill") dance is also traditional at this time.

For the traditional basis of the festival in the living Gaelic cultures, see Annie's article at Tairis: 'Là Fhèill Mìcheil'

Which deities we honour at these festivals can vary a bit with our differing bioregions, as well as which deities we have more affinity with and other factors that affect our households. Whoever you honour at this festival, we wish you a good one!

Photo collage from Creative Commons images by efilpera (horses)  and Duarte JH (field)
Text excerpted from 'Moladh Macha'
Adapted from 'Moladh Moire' [257] by KPN for Gaol Naofa
For the full prayer visit our meme page

Feel free to share this meme, as long as you link back to either our meme page or our facebook post.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Gaol Naofa Memeage

Those of you who follow us on social media may have seen the memes we've been creating. We've added a page to the site to archive the ones we've done so far, and where we'll be posting more in the future: Gaol Naofa Memes. We've been working with a mixture of proverbs, prayers, triads, and quatrains from various Goidelic sources, doing our bit for language preservation and providing links for further info. For regular updates follow us at our Gaol Naofa Facebook page and Twitter account.
 
Gaol Naofa – New Moon
Original image: Dawn Perry