Saturday, 28 January 2012

A new blog

I've had it in my head for a while to start collating old tales and bits of lore and such, and keep it in a place that's easily accessible. The idea has been percolating for a while now (OK, over a year...), and seeing as I have an increasing amount of time on my hands at the moment, I thought now would be as good a time as any.

A while ago, on a whim, I set up a wordpress blog, so I figure I might as well use it and not let it go to waste. So here it is, without further ado:

Tairis Tales

My aim is to collect the tales and lore that can be seen to relate to gods and maybe-gods and (if I can keep on top of the tagging) form a kind of database so all the different permutations of the same tale, and al the different motifs, can be just a click away. Yes. I am sad like that...

Anyway, feel free to join me. There may be a few tweaks to come just yet, but I've already put the tales I've posted here up, with a little bit more from here and there. Everything that appears over there, just like the stuff I paste here, will be from older material that is copyright-free.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


Gaelic Polytheists tend to talk a lot about tradition. Observing tradition, upholding tradition, being part of a tradition...preserving tradition...and on and on.

We tend to use words like tradition a lot, but nobody really talks about why all that much. It's kind of assumed that this is how things are, and this is what we do. Looking to tradition gives us the framework of what we do. I don't think that's the only reason why they're important, though. When we look at the underlying meaning of the words we use, and how they are seen in their native context, then it helps to put things into perspective a lot of the time. Language is a complex thing. I'm in no way a linguist, I hasten to add, so I can only really go by what dictionaries tell me, but I do see that language is important to understand what it is we're doing, and why.

Words like 'tradition' or 'customs' take on a very different meaning when we consider them from the perspective of the culture we focus on in our practices. When I was working on the last article - the one on values - one of the things I found most interesting was all of the stuff I found relating to customs and tradition; in particular, the fact that bés ('custom, habit, usual procedure, practice, manner, or way') can be seen in terms of moral behaviour, and that it can be found in the word for 'morality' itself, béstatu.

To the early Irish, it wasn't just the values that an individual had and upheld, it was the customs they observed and the way they conducted themselves publicly that made them an upstanding, upright member of the community. When we apply that idea in a modern context, we might hold ourselves to the same kind of standards. It is how we conduct ourselves, what we do, that makes us a good person.

Even so, when it comes to the doing in terms of 'tradition' or 'traditions, customs', we have to consider the fact that for most of us, they are not generally ones that we've been brought up with. There's a learning curve that comes with adopting a new religion, a new worldview, a new way of doing things. It can be a steep learning curve to begin with, but eventually, with a bit of work, we get there. Soon enough, we find ourselves in a sort of rhythm of daily practice - prayer, offerings, doing things a certain way...Suddenly, we've become part of a new worldview, a new way of life.

Some of us might have been brought up with a few traditions or bits of lore - those of us whose family might have come from Ireland or Scotland, or might be second or third generation or so - but even then, while those traditions might take on a new light, a new meaning, we still have to work hard to adapt and build our own traditions and practices within a worldview that we have to work at adopting. For many people in the western world, the worldview and attitudes we've been brought up with can be very different to the ones we find in Gaelic Polytheism, or any kind of polytheism that is rooted in 'traditional culture'. For a lot of people these days there's an ingrained 'every man for themselves' kind of mentality - the individual comes first - whereas in a Gaelic Polytheist view it's pretty much the opposite. It's family and community first, however you might define those things, and it can be quite alien to our upbringing and thinking to begin with. I know it was for me, anyway (my family are not the picture of functionality, to be fair), but it's also an ideal that I found to be attractive, having not really had much sense of family or community before.

Then again, in many ways it's pretty much impossible to talk about Gaelic Polytheism as a tradition, because everyone has their own approach and interpretation of what that tradition is and should be. I think this makes sense when we consider the fact that as a community we're extremely diverse and spread out. What works for me, as a married woman with children, living on the west coast of Scotland, and all the other things that make me fundamentally me (for better or worse) doesn't necessarily work for someone who is single, has no children, and lives somewhere that's vastly different to the kind of climate I live with here (wet and windy, mostly...did I mention wet?). So there will be differences in tradition, because tradition must serve different needs and different locales, and that's something we can see in the lore as well. In Ireland, say, different counties made different kinds of cros Bride at Lá Fhéile Bríde, while at Bealtaine some counties had the tradition of the may bush or the May ball, and others decorated with yellow flowers. And so on...

Ultimately, when it comes to tradition, it's the doing that counts, but the doing is nothing without the roots. Even Cú Chulainn - not someone I think most people would generally hold up as an example of wisdom - understood the need for tradition. "Be vigilant [to observe] regulations of [your] fathers," he said. This is what creates stability, and it's also a way of honouring the wisdom and traditions of your ancestors (or the ancestors who performed those traditions if you can't claim any heritage yourself). It is also a way of recognising that those who came before us - their experience, knowledge and wisdom - is valuable, and worth listening to. Those who have come before us, who may have struggled in the face of adversity, who may have had to fight for their own freedoms and rights...these are the people we should listen to and learn from as we might have to face our own struggles. This is a common ideal in many traditional cultures, and it's common because it works.

When you're at some remove from those traditions, though - when you haven't been brought up with them, when they have to be learned or even revived or reconstructed - then there isn't necessarily someone to turn to directly for guidance on the matter. One of the first things I did when I started seriously trying to practice as a Celtic Reconstructionist was to figure out what my traditions could be. People on the email groups and discussion boards directed noobs like myself to the kind of books I could read, and so off I went and read them. I looked at the Carmina Gadelica for inspiration, I read all the books on festivals and folklore that I could get my hands on, and I got an idea of the things I could start doing. They've evolved slowly over the years, as I've figured out what works and what doesn't, but they haven't changed much, I don't think. What I used to say in English I now try to say in Gàidhlig, as much as I can, for one, and I'm always trying to find things I can include the kids in.

It's thinking about the kids that makes me appreciate the idea of tradition the most, I think. There are some family traditions from my childhood that I remember with affection (and some with not so much affection...), and it's those kinds of things I want my kids to have and pass on if they have kids of their own. I can include them in a lot of traditions even if I'm not bringing them up with the religious elements, and I want them to remember those traditions with affection, the kind of things that brought us together as a family; churning the butter and everyone calling for the lumps to come, our seasonal pictures that we make each quarter, making the dealbh Bride for Là Fhèill Brìghde and carving the turnips at Samhainn, cooking all the yummy things for our feasts, and building wee cairns at the beach, and so on...

During a discussion on the cr_r group some years ago, somebody said something along the lines of (and I'm paraphrasing and framing it in the way I see it): Even though things have changed and have been lost over the years, centuries and millennia, or perhaps subsumed by Christianity, there is a thread that runs through it all - a thread of tradition that persists and perseveres no matter what. A bright red thread, one might say. I like that imagery. Even though things might have changed and evolved with the times, its all part of that one thread, continually being woven. It is part of a continuum.  

Some of the songs and prayers in the Carmina Gadelica talk about doing things as a saint or famous figure did - "I will wash my Mary washed her Son..." - or else the songs or prayers being said or sung are said to be those of Brigid or Mary, or whoever else, themselves. It is the connection with these powerful saints, the repetition of and respect for tradition that makes them effective. It is the thread there, shining brightly throughout.

Tradition is important. It's a huge word, when you think about it. Words can have such depth and meaning that can make them so powerful. I do as those before me did, and the weight of that tradition hangs around me like a warm blanket. It brings me comfort when I need it, and it gives me direction and an identity too, I suppose.

This tradition can bring a depth and meaning to even the most simplest of things. As I walk this path, I suppose I might see myself treading carefully in the footsteps of those who have gone before me. And as I walk, there are those who walk beside me in friendship and community, such as I've found across the internet, and I am grateful for that.

Maybe there isn't just one bright red thread reaching through the ages, but many, all being woven together into a thick, strong cord. It is in observing and preserving these traditions that we can make sure that the cord stays strong and bright, and it is in thinking about this kind of thing that I think I've also begun to really appreciate other people's traditions as well, and just how and why some people might be so offended and upset when their traditions are appropriated for fashion or folly, or simple ego. Or money. Most of the time, maybe it really comes down to money. Whatever the reason, it's appropriation; without regard or respect for other people's heritage or traditions or culture. But that, perhaps, is an entirely different post...

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

On this day...

Wishing you all a very merry Burns' Night!

In honour of the day, I thought I'd share with you a very rare specimen of haggis, Haggis scota, which can be found at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow:

I'm sure you'll agree it's magnificent...(I used to have a haggis toy as a kid, but it was white and looked more like a tribble).

If you're partaking this evening, do enjoy your haggis, neeps 'n' tatties. I recommend trying it with a whisky and cheese sauce, if that's your thing. Yum.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Cailleach and the hunter

From The Emmet, 1823:

The Cailleach...had the most unlimited power over the elements. When a hunter kindled a fire in a sheeling to warm his benumbed limbs, after the fatigues of the chase, this sublime being although in a mountain of Perthshire strode in a moment from hill to hill, and was with the hunter at his blazing fire in a twinkling, though it had been kindled by him in the distant mountains of Ross-shire. She always attempted to destroy him whom she thus so unexpectedly and unwelcomely visited; and the means which she had recourse to for this purpose were various. She was much afraid of a dog and a loaded gun; and as these were companions which every hunter had along with him, she was not so successful in the trade of slaying as she naturally wished. The following song was sung by her one evening to scare a hunter from killing her deer. As the hunter was in the act of levelling his piece at a large stag that grazed in a green meadow between two mountains, she suddenly made her appearance on the frowning brow of a large precipice, and recited or sung as follows, and it almost is unnecessary to mention, that the hunter made the decentest speed possible towards the low grounds, when the last strain came rolling to his ear on the evening breeze...

Tiny hunter cease to roam,
O'er the piny heights where I make my dwelling; 
Tempt the roaring foam, 
Of ocean when high the trouble waves are swelling, 
But here where I hold my sway, 
O'er deep glen and mountain gray, 
Dare not venture night or day -
Tiny mortal roam not here! 
I am monarch of the deer,
Which bound over all these green mountains;
I partake of their cheer, 
The crystal stream so clear, 
And the cresses that fringe the blue fountains: 
Tis I that deform heaven's face with the storm, 
And sublime on the dark clouds career.

I revel 'mid the elemental war, 
At rest within my misty car, 
And send my voice in hollow moans afar, 
Down the dusky glen among the dwellings of men; 
And fill them with terror and fear!

Cease, then, my piny heights to climb,
Pollute not my green knoll of thyme, 
Where I hold my august court,
And with my fairy subjects sport, 
When the moon at her noon, 
Pours her silver stream of light, 
O'er the blue bosom of the silent night!

Tremble mortal, at my power, 
Leave my sacred dominion! 
Ere I cause the heavens lower, 
And whelm thee with a fearful shower, 
For sport to my fairy minions!

Hence away! child of clay, 
Go tempt the roaring foam, 
Of ocean, when high the troubled waves are swelling; 
But ne'er again stray where I hold my sway,
O'er the piny heights that I make my dwelling!

Friday, 20 January 2012


Last week, as I was taking the dogs out for a walk with kids in tow, I stumbled across a dead crow, lying in the middle of the pavement. Now that, I thought, can't be a good sign.

With a lot of thought and worrying and gnawing at the innards of my mind, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't so much a sign of impending doom for myself (though I'm still not ruling that out), but that it maybe has more to do with the recent storms that have caused so much devastation and damage in the area. The storms have been nothing like I've ever seen before, and perhaps this crow was a sign to tell me that this place is hurting, and it needs something from me.

Here, mostly stuck on the sofa in pain at the moment, I've not been doing as much to maintain my obligations to this area, and if it takes a dead crow to give me a good kick up the arse, then it's perhaps time to take a hint that I really need to pick things up. During the storms I made offerings to the Cailleachan, the Storm Hags who unleash their fury in the wind and the rain, the raging waves and the rising streams. I watched the storms and breathed them in, at times I got caught up in the energy and the fury, and marvelled in what nature can do sometimes. I prayed and I sang, and on my rounds the other week, I took in the damage.

On a day to day basis, though, I think it's safe to say that I've mostly been wallowing on the sofa; the past few weeks or so haven't been great, as far as keeping on top of the chronic pain issues have gone. I've been so busy wallowing (and trying to escape at the same time, but running in the wrong direction), perhaps, that I've dropped the ball, and I need to get back on an even keel. Instead of wallowing, I need to get up and do.

So that's what I'm trying to do, getting back to concentrating on my daily devotions; my prayers and offerings, maintaining and rebuilding my relationship with this land that have otherwise been a little fudged recently. Balance must be restored, and my mistakes must be owned and owned up to.

But that's not what this post is about, really; I'm more thinking about signs in general...It's a tricky subject when it comes to a religion that otherwise emphasises that which can be found in books. There's no manual, when it comes to signs. There's nothing set in stone. For once, instead of nosing into a book and burying into research, it's something that we have to turn inwards to for answers. That can be difficult for a lot of folks, I think, and the whole mystical side of practice is something I've struggled with myself, on and off. After I finally had a bit of a breakthrough with it all, and finally got to grips with it, a dear friend said to me, "Welcome to the crazy."

Thanks. I think.

Signs are a tricky subject. You don't necessarily have to be gifted in seeing them per se (I mean, sometimes they're about as subtle as a brick in the face, y'know?), but at the same time, some people just aren't gifted, and that's just the way it is. I can't claim to be an expert in this, of course. I can't make any claims at proficiency. I try, because it's something that I've always been unable to avoid, in spite of the fact that once upon a time I might have tried to. It's just a part of me, and why run away from yourself?

It's the interpreting of signs that's often the hard part. It takes a kind of self-trust and self-knowledge that can be difficult to find; with signs, we have to be honest with ourselves, and sometimes it can be hard to do that. Sometimes there are things about ourselves that we don't to acknowledge, but in striving to be the best we can be, to uphold the values that we as Gaelic Polytheists hold dear...we must strive for truth, and strive for truth being at the heart of everything we do.

Struggling with those inner demons, sometimes we can receive signs that are so painfully obvious it's practically screaming the answer at us, and still we get totally the wrong end of the stick. Sometimes it's because we don't want to admit that we've been going about things wrong; that we've just received a negative sign. Sometimes, when life has thrown us more than a few lemons, the hard part can even be trusting in the fact that you've just had a good sign. Sometimes, we need a little guidance. Eventually, we might just get the hint.

At one point in my evolving Celtic Reconstructionist practices, I tried ogam for divinatory purposes, which included making my own set:

I chose to make them according to the colour correspondences associated with each letter; I respond strongly to colour, and I can't claim to be much of an expert with trees so using the more common tree correspondences seemed a bit pointless. I also tried a neutral set, with no colour or decoration:

Both sets - and others I've since experimented with - were put together from driftwood I found at the local beach after we moved to these here parts on the west coast; wood I collected as part of my efforts to settle in to this place. It involved a long process of offerings and building a relationship with the area before it felt right to even begin collecting anything from the local beach, and then I had to invest in the tools to burn the lettering and ogam into the wood before painting and/or treating with beeswax to preserve them.

The first set I connected with better, but ultimately I decided that ogam is not something that I really get on with. I experimented for a while with taking an ogam reading for the festivals, or when I felt it was necessary, for example, and while I did find them effective and useful in one sense, in another it never seemed to sit right with me. I'm beginning to think it was because I was limiting myself with them, and that as part of settling in here I needed to be looking around me for signs, familiarising myself with the locale and continuing to build on my relationship with it. Certainly my experimenting with the ogam helped me get more comfortable with engaging in the more mystical aspects of practice, though, and it helped solidify my thoughts on it all. Every now and then I think about going back to them; it seems a shame for them to sit in a cupboard, unused.

And so at least I managed to build on it. Birds, in particular (and in keeping with tradition, I think), form a large part of the signs I might see in general. Magpies are something that I feel have some sort of personal significance, but corvids in general have signficance to me and a lot of other folks.

As well as herons, owls, that kind of thing. A breeze picking up at the right time, clouds passing in front of the sun or moon at particular moments, the calling of birds or animals hanging the night air; and so on...

Sometimes signs can seem totally random. One time, I found a rainbow trout lying on the pavement outside my house. A perfectly whole trout, just randomly laying on the pavement...As things go, I figured it had to mean something, but that one I was totally stumped by... 

There have been times when the signs have been a lot more obvious, though. One morning of Là Fhèill Brìghde I got up to find that our back door was wide open; as signs for Bride having visited go, you can't get any stronger really.

Last Samhainn, I set out some offerings to my ancestors and had a few words before finishing off my devotions. As I stood back and looked up to the sky for any signs, I saw a band of the Milky Way shining bright and clear above me - beautifully - and then a shooting star travelling right in front of me, in the west towards the ancestors. It's not often I get something as clear as those kinds of signs, but when I do, it's a time when I feel infinitely amazed at the world around me.

And so, all this rambling brings me to the thought that - for me at least - looking for signs is one of the ways I can keep connected with the land around me. With the gods and spirits and ancestors. Without that connection, I'm adrift, wallowing, out of balance. Maybe sometimes it takes a dead crow to wake me up.

Or maybe...maybe I'm just a bit mental and making things up as I go along. "Welcome to the crazy," my friend said.


Addendum: Gorm over at Three Shouts on a Hilltop has some very good thoughts to add to the subject, which is well worth a read.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Labels (again)

This following post is something I've been pondering for a long while, and have made several attempts at getting it all out in a post only to give up and come back to it brain, it just gave up; even it wasn't sure where I was going with this. Some recent conversations I've seen going on have started me thinking about all of this stuff again, though, and it's spurred me on to try and finally get these thoughts into a more coherent mess. Hopefully, I will succeed.

Mostly what I've been thinking about is the ever-popular subject of labels and how (or maybe why) people pick and choose those labels; or perhaps more to the point, what those labels are all about. There's a lot of baggage that can come with those labels sometimes, a lot of judgement values people might place on those who associate with them; a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings that come with them. We all have our biases.

In theory, any labels we choose to identify with are the ones we feel fit us best (hello, obvious statement of the day...). Sometimes, though, maybe that's not so much the case. Maybe sometimes we desperately want to cling onto those labels because we think that's what we should be, but maybe it's not what we actually are and we either can't or won't admit it...yet. Maybe sometimes, those labels become so swamped in misconceptions that they get co-opted into meaning something entirely different from what they were originally intended for. Maybe sometimes people see a prestige in the label and they want to be associated with that prestige, regardless of anything else. Maybe sometimes those people aren't even aware of what it is they're doing.

There is room in this world for a huge variety of viewpoints and approaches, and like anyone else (in theory...) I choose the approach that suits me best, and so the labels as well. In a religious sense, maybe it's not even about me, but what's right for the gods, the spirits, the ancestors that I strive to build and maintain a relationship with.

Either way, it should be a case of 'if the shoe fits,' right?

When it comes to reconstructionism, though, there are a ton of misconceptions that we come up against every day - just like anything else, surely. No, it doesn't mean I'm trying to go back to the Iron Age. No, I don't want to 'live like they did.' No, it's not just an American thing. And no, I don't run screaming from the building when someone mentions UPG...

These are all things that come up again and again, here there and everywhere, among many other things. Sometimes I see folks confidently stating that since Celtic Reconstructionists inevitably have certain gaps in our knowledge as far as our practices go, we look to other cultures to fill those gaps in. I disagree with that; we might look to other cultures - neighbouring Indo-European cultures - in order to form an educated picture of what we should be looking for in certain areas, but this is not the same as taking bits from here and there just to flesh things out.

If we did do this, then it seems to me that what we end up with can't really be considered to be particularly Celtic, let alone 'Gaelic', or whatever our focus happens to be. By incorporating other cultures' traditions into our own, the lines are blurred between trying to reconstruct something, as opposed to synthesising something that is simply modern and eclectic.

Of course, no culture exists in a vacuum; there are accretions from outside influences within any culture. But these are natural accretions, exceptions, that are made from within that cultural framework, over time, and by a process that generally involves the meeting of those cultures naturally, in one way or another. The Norse influences in Scotland are a good example of this, and I think it's fair to say that these influences happened over a long time, through contact and trade before the Norse actually settled and took over parts of Scotland. They had an influence on the language, customs and traditions, but first and foremost, these are things that were adopted into the culture, not things that dominated the culture that was there already.

In the same way, what we do as Celtic Reconstructionists should be approrached on the same terms; in understanding the culture, the beliefs, and most of all the worldview that informed those beliefs. These were and are the aims of CR. More and more, though, there seems to be an increasing trend to ignore that; adopting belief and practices from within a modern, neopagan view, rather than a specific cultural context. A side effect of this is that some then end up clinging onto labels that aren't appropriate in cultural terms, but which are perfectly understood - if contradictory - in neopagan terms, but that's perhaps a different post. Either way, yes, we are a modern religion, but I think it's important to point out that neopaganism in general is not a point of reference for reconstructionism as far as practices are concerned (historically, reconstructionism emerged as a reaction against those practices, even). What we find from historical sources, archaeology, language and lore is; from the culture. That's where we should be looking.

But then, there will never be one way of doing things, or total agreement amongst people, especially when we're dealing with an extremely disparate (and highly opinionated) group; it's unreasonable to expect that to be the case. It seems that reconstructionism will always be a spectrum as much as it's a methodology, even when one end of the spectrum might seem to be totally contradictory to the other. Ultimately, there will always be some people who just don't seem to get it.

Some of us deal with the problems these lables can bring by redefining ourselves and abandoning old labels in favour of new ones, sidelining ourselves. If anything, this allow us some space to move beyond the misunderstandings and find a community that fits us better, even if the pond is much much smaller. Inevitably, though, that just means there are new labels to be misunderstood and get confused by...It's a fudge, really, not a solution.

The only thing we can really do is be mindful of the labels we use and the communities we identify with. When we wear those labels and proclaim them, we take on a responsibility to the community those labels are associated with. To misrepresent them can be seriously damaging, and result in yet more misconceptions. Likewise, it's up to everyone to be mindful of what other people mean when they use a label - do they mean the same thing as you? Otherwise discussions get messy; people talk at cross-purposes and end up bickering, only to end up realising that both sides are talking about entirely different things.

Trust me, it's infuriating.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Translated articles

Just a note for any readers whose first language is Portuguese: Two of my articles from Tairis have been translated by Brazilian blogger Aengus Miach (Leeh), over at her blog Tír Tairnge (with my permission). The direct links are:

Celbrando Là Fhèill Brìghde
Là Fhèill Brìghde

Many thanks to Leeh for all the hard work! It's great to see that there are such dedicated folks out there, across the world, doing such good work in CR; Leeh's blog is well worth checking out.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

On being a bit windy...

There have been more than a few storms around these parts lately, and while gales are par for the course for us at this time of year, I've never experienced anything quite like this since I've lived in this part of Scotland. Granted, only for the past four years now, but still. The ferocity of these storms - with winds well into official hurricane strength territory - is beyond unusual.

Tuesday's storm was the most ferocious for us, and there was another weather warning last night - though this one wasn't as bad by far. Tuesday's storm was rather unexpected for us, being woken around 5am with the house actually being shaken by the strength of the winds. A little disconcerting to be woken up like that. We ended up giving up on sleep and watching the storm doing its thing - rubbish bouncing down the street, trees threatening to come down, wondering what the hell that bump, thump, or crash was...And so on. One of those bumps, thumps, or crashes was the fence between our patio and our neighbour's caving in - the fenceposts simply snapped under the force of the wind (technically it's the neighbour's fence, so he has the responsibility to fix it, though we've offered to help in a neighbourly sort of way). Other fences up and down the street suffered a similar fate, with much of it ending up strewn across roads and pavements. Eventually - and this was the biggest calamity of all as far as the kids were concerned - our satellite dish was blown out of alignment. It's fixed now, though, so all is well with the world again.

Yesterday, I decided to actually leave the house for once, and took the kids and the dogs for a walk around the village to see what the damage was. We didn't brave the seafront - far too wet and windy for that - so we hunkered down into our coats and hats and headed towards the woodland that runs through our village. The cost of the storms was great as far as the woods are concerned:

Those grand old trees are covered in moss and lichen and fungus, the moss almost like beards:

It's one of the things I love about this place - the soft moss, the greenery. We only got so far before the path was totally blocked off by trees:

So we headed down to the path that runs besides the woods and made our way to the viewpoint where we could get a could view of the ferry. Along the way, we found this:

A foot to the right, and that tree would've landed on the roof.

We turned back with two soggy dogs and headed back home. Aside from fences, the damage only went as far as broken guttering and misaligned satellite dishes for the most part - houses and people got off lightly. This wasn't the case for the neighbouring towns and villages, some of which you can see in this slideshow - the pictures of Largs and Greenock. There were tiles missing from the roofs of the small row of village shops we have, and there was tile debris all around the place. The hairdresser's shop had water flooding in through the ceiling and the staff were battling flooding as we went by, and council contractors were sorting out felled trees around the school and playing fields.

Looking at the damage - those magnificent old trees, snapped and broken and uprooted in particular - it's sad, but it's nature I suppose. Other trees will sprout up in their place eventually. Thankfully, however, at least we've had some sunshine today. Finally!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr dhuibh uile!

Happy New Year, everyone. Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh (Great health and every good blessing to you)!

We had a quiet Hogmanay, and my husband and I welcomed in the new year together after a busy day of cleaning and getting the house in order. After some offerings and prayer I went off to bed not too long after some chatting with friends and family, and then in the morning I did some more formal ritual with blessings, prayer and offerings, sweeping the old year out and welcoming in the new year, and saining the house. I'd hoped to have done a lot of that before I went to bed, but physically I wasn't up to it then. It got done, at least.

I'd anticipated that laying the old year to rest would be something I was more than happy to do; it wasn't a terrible year, as such, but there are some things that I'm more than happy to leave behind - threads of stress and worries that I hope aren't carried on into this new year. More than anything, for me personally, the last year has been dominated by my having to adjust to chronic pain issues - learning how to live with it, finding medications that actually help, accepting my limitations and the fact that I'm unlikely to ever get better. Not great. On reflection, though, I can't say that things are all that bad...

In my prayers and blessings, I've felt a little conflicted about wishing for health for my family and myself (such as in this blessing), since I have this chronic pain thing that isn't ever going to go away...Considering the fact that there are days when I can't even walk, I can't say I'm a picture of physical health to begin with, and wishing for health when I'm not and never will be is something that seems odd to me; wishing for something that can never be again. Then again, all in all I know things could be a lot worse for myself; there are far - far - worse afflictions that I could be suffering from. It's something that I found myself mulling over as I meditated before bedtime on New Year's Eve: There are plenty of other health problems that I can be grateful that I don't have, and all in all what I do have is something I can live with. It got me thinking that while the chronic pain stuff has changed a lot in my life over the past year or so, it's something that I am going to adjust to eventually. I'm getting there, I think, and eventually maybe I'll get to the point where it won't be something I will have to keep harping on about here(!) as I figure stuff out.

Whatever changes it might have brought in my life, there are some things that haven't changed, and these are the things that are the most important. My kids are happy and thriving, I have family and friends that have been a great support to me, I have a roof over my head, and love in my life. Life can be a stress or a struggle at times, but most of all I have pretty much everything I need; the simple, fundamental things in life. It makes me feel incredibly lucky, and humbled, too.

There are other changes that have happened in the last year - solidifying good friendships, making new ones and finding spiritual fellowship; moving forward with my writing and research, finding more confidence in what I do, and so on. Not everything went the way that I'd hoped in the last year, though, and there are some things that might give me pause when I think about them. In particular, I'm saddened by the fact that I've been unable to visit my family and friends for over a year now - and not just because of my health problems. I'm thankful that some were able to visit me instead, even so.

Looking back and looking forward, I have a lot to be thankful for. Sometimes change can be difficult and painful, but I suppose looking on the bright side I've learned a lot, even from the negative stuff...I can't say what the future might bring, but having laid the last year to rest that's where my mind turns to now; I'm not one for making resolutions so really my only intention for the future is to keep plugging away at everything. Keep writing, keep adjusting, keep doing. And hoping that this year will be an improvement on the last.

Monday, 2 January 2012

New archaeology magazine

A new magazine is now available from Irish Archaeological Research, who are:

...a non‐profit, member‐supported organisation dedicated to the preservation, protection and promotion of Ireland’s rich heritage. Based in Northern Ireland, IAR was formed by four archaeologists who, after years of working in the commercial sector, realised the need for a medium through archaeological information could be disseminated to both national and international audiences with relative ease.

There are tough times ahead for those in the archaeology sector and the aims of this group are fantastic and much-needed, I think. The magazine can be downloaded for free at their blog here, and I think it's well worth a read; for those who might have difficulty in downloading the pdf there are apparently plans to launch a flash and html5 version next month, so keep a look out.