Saturday, 31 January 2015

Là Fhèill Brìghde links and stuff

Taking a break from getting the house ready for the celebrations this evening, I thought I'd do a quick post with some links and stuff. Last year Gaol Naofa made a video series on the festivals, but the video for Là Fhèill Brìghde came out some months after the fact, so it seems like a good time to repost:

The song we used for this one is a version of Gabhaim Molta Bríde ("I Praise Brigid"), and we have the lyrics on the Gaol Naofa website in the Music section of the Library. When we were making the videos we tried, where possible, to use songs that fit in with the festival or the themes/season, at the very least, and this song is perfect. Another song, if you prefer your songs in Gaelic rather than Irish, is Tha Bainn’ Aig Na Caoraich Uile (All the Sheep Have Milk), which is a puirt a' beul song that ties in with the theme of lambing and sheep's milk at this time of year (traditionally, anyway; most farmers have their sheep lamb a little later, around Easter, these days). The BBC has a video of it being sung from the Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail last year.

The video has some ideas for things to do, but if you're looking for something more in depth then there's always the stuff I've done over on Tairis:

Là Fhèill Brìghde
Celebrating Là Fhèill Brìghde (edit: Now available in Portuguese)

And I've also updated the pictures on my Creating a Dealbh Brìde page. We've already made some for tonight, and once we've decided which one we're using we'll be welcoming Brìde in with a traditional call.

For more creative stuff, you could try making a cros Bríd. We usually make ones like this:

Which are pretty simple to make and are in the style of the ones I made as a child. If you want to go for a more traditional style of cros, then there are some good websites and video tutorials around, like:

And Jane over at The Ever-Living Ones has some fantastic pics of other styles of crosses, too.

Marsaili wrote up a tutorial for some woolly sheep decorations (they're so good!) on her blog that I wanted to try out with the kids. I haven't got round to it yet, having had an unexpectedly busy week, but we'll give them a go at some point I'm sure. We did make some beeswax candles last weekend, which Tom and Rosie did a brilliant job with. We're going to light them tonight, before they go to bed.

With the start of Spring comes the start of the gardening season. We've had snow here recently that's kind of frosted over so I won't be turning over any soil or sowing anything just yet, but once it's time I'll be consecrating the seed in preparation for sowing. Laurel has shared how she does it over on her Unfettered Wood blog.

For food, I'll be churning some butter in a little while with a traditional churning song, and I'm planning on using some of it to make a potato apple cake. The butter milk that's left over from the churning will go towards some drop scones for breakfast tomorrow.

If you're looking for a festive tale to tell, then The Coming of Angus and Bride is always a good one!

Follow up on the statue theft: Where is Manannán?

It's been just over a week since the statue of Manannán was stolen and a cross was left in its place, as I wrote about in my last post. Although the perpetrators haven't yet been found, or the statue recovered, there are a lot of people who are still hoping that some good can come of this. Whether that means the statue is recovered, or a replacement is made, either option seems like as "good" an outcome as possible under the circumstances. As the sculptor himself notes, the statue is more than likely to be in pieces already, but he's issued an appeal to the thieves:
When asked what he would say to the person, or persons, who made off with his statue, Darren made a simple appeal: “Just bring it back. Bring it home and see if we can get it repaired,” he appealed. 
Darren says although he has got over the initial sick feeling he had when he first saw the damage to the sculpture, which took more than six months work to create, he is still crushed about what happened but says the worldwide outpouring of support has provided some comfort and makes him feel proud people held his work in such esteem.

So there's still hope that the statue may be returned. If it isn't, I do hope it will be replaced, and I think it would be incredibly short-sighted of the council not to considering the amount of attention this has all been giving them, and if there are fundraising efforts established locally then Gaol Naofa has pledged to support that. The huge amount of attention the story has been getting is almost as big a story as the theft itself; a Facebook page that was set up shortly after the news broke now has over 6,000 likes within the last week, and people from all over the world have been sharing their own pictures of the statue, articles from the news, as well as sending in messages of support. The person running the page is urging people to keep sharing and spreading the news, in the hopes that the attention will help with the statue's recovery, and many members of the page have been very generous in giving permission for their images to be used in making memes that can be shared. I posted one that Kathryn made in my last post, and with the help of Caoimhín Ó Cadhla translating for us (to whom we're most appreciative) we've now produced an Irish language version to share:

You can find others we've done hosted on the Gaol Naofa website at a new page we've created in our Resources section, and you can also find them on the Gaol Naofa Facebook page -- feel free to share!

In addition to that, The Wild Hunt got in touch with Gaol Naofa for some comments about the statue's theft, which I took point on as sacrificial lamb head of the organisation, and the resulting article gives a really good overview of reactions from the locals of Limavady as well as polytheists (like myself...) and pagans. As I said there, we've been following the story closely on our Facebook page, and have been sharing some resources about Manannán ma Lir (like the video we did for Midsummer last year), including prayers and traditional songs, since this is something people can do wherever they might be in the world.

We decided that maybe a video was in order to help keep the story circulating, so Kathryn took point on writing up a script and creating a prayer to share, and with the kind permission of some of the photographers who shared their photos of the statue with the Bring Back Manannán page, we've put something together and we're ready to share:

So if you want to share the video and join us in singing Manannán back home, then please do so! We have a little introduction to it on the front page of the Gaol Naofa site, and the prayer from this video is available on a meme we've created, which you're also welcome to share:

This is another one of the images we have up on the new page I mentioned above (along with a different-sized version of this one). If you click through to the front page of the Gaol Naofa site then you can find them in the Resources section of the Library. There are plenty more on the Bring Back Manannán FB page, too.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Statue of Manannán stolen

In case you haven't heard the news:
Mystery surrounds the disappearance of a six-foot sculpture of a Celtic sea god from a mountainside. 
Manannán Mac Lir, which is made out of fibre glass and stainless steel, was stolen from Binevenagh Mountain near Limavady in County Londonderry. 
The statue had became a popular tourist attraction in the area since its installation about a year ago.

Click on the link there and you'll see what's left of it -- the thieves uprooted the statue of Manannán from its place in the boat, which must've taken a lot of effort and some muscle to shift; according to the sculptor himself it would've take angle grinders and four or five people to move it any distance.

This doesn't appear to be some kind of petty theft or someone attempting to bring home a rather large souvenir; it has all the appearance of being a deliberate and despicable act of desecration. The BBC initially reported an unsubstantiated rumour that a crucifix and piece of scripture had been left in the statue's place, but the article has since been updated to confirm that it was "a wooden cross with the words 'You shall have no other gods before me.'" I can only assume that in their haste they forgot another commandment or two there... Until or unless the thieves are identified and found, however, we can't say for sure whether this was the real purpose for stealing the statue, or if it's just an attempt to throw the police off the trail (or stir up tensions). If it was done for religious purposes then it's safe to say that this is the work of an extreme and sadly fundamentalist minority.

Manannán is still very much a significant figure in the area, and the site of the statue is close to where the Broighter Hoard was discovered in the nineteenth century -- a stash of gold items including a torc, a bowl, and a miniature ship with oars and mast -- which, it was argued (during a courtcase in the late nineteenth century), were deposited as an offering to Manannán:

Offerings are still made to Manannán in the area today, and the statue itself has come to be the focus of some of these. According to local legend and belief, storms and rough seas are said to be the result of his fury and I can only hope the thieves get at least a taste of it... Another article, from the Derry Daily, has a quote from a local farmer who says:
Local people who still believe in the legend behind the god say those who stole the statue would have no luck. 
“It’s a real disgrace that anyone would steal it,” said one local farmer. 
“I can tell you that whoever they are will have no luck with it.” 

Kathryn has a post about this over on her blog as well and she's made up a pic to share and help raise awareness, with a photo credit to Neil Meroney:

Here's hoping (and praying) for a swift and safe recovery of the statue so that it can be put back to its rightful place. 

Monday, 19 January 2015

The house that Rosie built

Bliadhna mhath ùr! Happy new year, I hope you had a good one...

It's been a while longer than I intended with the first post of the year, but it's been a busy busy start to 2015 here. In amongst trying to get all the useful stuff done, there have been lots and lots of walks with the dogs while I hope - in vain - that Oscar might tire himself out for once, and with the reappearance of my camera charger I've been able to get out and take proper photos again (I'd been using Mr Seren's Canon but I don't like it so much).

So as the winter finally seems to be getting a decent grip there have been lots of bracing walks around the village, a lot of the time spent wending our way through the woods or down to the beach so the dogs can get a good run around without getting into too much trouble. The weather's been pretty rough lately, and so have the seas, so Oscar hasn't had a swim yet. He's not that keen on water at the moment, but he likes to sit and sniff the air and try to look majestic before running off to steal whatever stick Mungo might have found:

And as I walk along the beach, or make my way through the woods, I'll stop to make an offering or two, and say hello to Eddie as I look out to sea. With the storms we've been having, I've been making lots of offerings to the Cailleachan as well. So far they've chosen to spare us, thankfully, barring some minor fence damage back in Novemeber.

Our neighbour, who very kindly fixed the fence for us, told me about a spot just outside of the village that I'd never heard of before. It's nice and quiet, so good for letting the dogs off the lead and not having to worry about Oscar trying to herd cars, so I set off to go and have a look as soon as I could. It's a truly amazing and beautiful place, and I finally got to take some photos to share in the last week. It's quickly become a favourite spot with the kids, too (although Tom isn't as keen because walking).

It's a wooded area with a burn running through it, which is all pebbly and twisty turny, with waterfalls here and there and small streams joining it. The sound of the water trickling along is peaceful and calming, and at the spot closest to the entrance the water is shallow enough to cross so you can find a path to walk along and get further into the woods. To begin with we didn't go far, mainly because Oscar refused to get his feet wet and got upset if Mungo and I went too far away from him. So for our first couple of visits we mostly stayed in the main part closest to the entrance:

It's all pretty desolate and wintry at the moment, but come the spring I expect there'll be some flowers to brighten up the place.

After a few trips Oscar finally decided to brave the water, so for once we got a chance to really explore the woods and I found a much larger waterfall. Not huge, but impressively loud, at least:

Photos can't really do this place justice. I can see a day or two in the summer spent here, having a picnic, paddling around in the cool water, and building little dams with the kids. My nephews will love it here, too, when they come to visit again.

The water must be pretty high given the amount of rain we've been having, and you can see how mossy it all is up on the banks. Oscar likes to bury his face in the carpets of moss, pressing his head into it as far as possible amd snorting and snuffling into it, but it's the mossy tree trunks I love the most:

And the way the light shines onto it and gives it an ethereal glow:

The banks of the burn are very sandy and soft, and when I first brought the kids with me Tom spent most of his time making sandcastles, while Rosie collected a bunch of fir cones and bits of bark to make "houses" for the spirits. Or spiders. Whichever... On our last visit yesterday Rosie decided to fix the house up - the bad weather we've had messed it up a little:

And we left some offerings as we usually do - some nuts, so they'd be woodland creature friendly. Tom had stayed home because he wasn't feeling too good, so it was just me and Rosie this time. I took her to see the waterfall and we had an adventure through the woods (a bit more of an adventure than intended after very nearly losing a boot to the mud). Rosie went looking for bits of bark, which she found floated on the water, so she decided she keep them for boats to leave by the spirit houses; she built a little jetty at the bank of the burn for them as well.

On our way back to the wee house, to leave the boats, Rosie spotted a skull on the floor. I'm not sure what kind of animal it might have come from, but it's pretty cool looking:

After our visit yesterday, Rosie decided to write a poem about her house (I asked her if I could share it here because I think it's pretty good for a seven year old and she's been wanting to start a blog of her own - she's a little too young yet, though. I've given it a bit of punctuation but it's otherwise Rosie's work):

The trees are green
and the door
is yellow and orange. 
There is a flowing stream
to take your boat
out for a spin;
there is bark
for spiders to live in. 
Fire is a place
in a stone triangle;
the stream is long
and blue
with a white touch. 
I've been making
a home for animals;
four nuts for squirrels,
one already open
and one tiny tree.