Monday, 16 March 2015

That time of year again...

Dare I say it? There doesn't seem to have been too much silliness in the run up to St Patrick's Day as there has been in previous years... Not so much as a whisper of genocidal maniacs, no yelling about snakes or druids... Is it too good to be true? Am I being a little premature?

Either way, I figured it might be a good time to do a round up of some links and videos that might be of interest. I'll start with a little humour:

Although alas, I've no idea who to credit for it... If you take a look at the Paddy Not Patty Twitter feed, you'll see it's all very SRS BZNSS. People are very attached to ole "Patty." Incidentally, the guy behind has been interviewed here, it's good stuff!

This time of year marks the first anniversary of Gaol Naofa's Youtube channel, and the first couple of videos we did back then focused on various aspects of St Patrick's Day. Our first video looks at the harmful stereotypes vs. the realities that often come hand in hand with the day:

While the second video takes a look at the history and misconceptions surrounding the man and the saint, from the snakes as druids (except not!) to the idea of some pagans celebrating it as a "Day of Mourning" as a result of these misconceptions:

Fellow Gaol Naofa colleague, Sionnach Gorm, wrote a great article to accompany the videos as well, asking the question:
How do we, as devout polytheists, reconcile the historic reality that our ancestors (at some point in the 5th-6th century CE and with no evidence of coercion) chose to turn to a god of bells and tonsures, of monks and scriptures, of Rome and the Papacy? Why would they “abandon” the gods of their ancestors, and choose this newfangled Christ and his missionaries?
You can read the article on the GN website here.

Last year I kind of nearly reached critical mass on the whole business, but I might as well link to the post I wrote then, because it ties in neatly with Gorm's article and the videos. Seeing as the videos and the posts touch on Sheelah's Day, which falls on March 18th and traditionally marks the beginning of spring and the end of the wintry storms at this time of year (just as Là na Caillich does in Scotland, on March 25th), I might as well link to a post giving an overview of it that I did a couple of years back. 

Kathryn and I are currently working on overhauling the festivals section of the Gaol Naofa site, expanding on what's already there for the Quarter Days and adding articles for the "lesser" festivals in Gaelic Polytheism as well, including one for Sheelah's Day. In the meantime, we already have a video on Sheelah's Day and Là na Caillich that might be of interest:

Elsewhere on the web, there's a great post on the Vox Hiberionacum site announcing a new audio guide on St Patrick called Six Year's a Slave, with a bit of a historical overview about the man himself there. The audio guide looks really interesting! 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Decision made on Manannán statue

After the final meeting of Limavady Borough Council this week, a decision has finally been made to commission a replacement for the Manannán statue.

After the statue was found in February, exactly one month to the day since it had been stolen, the sculptor was contacted by the council to see if it could be repaired. Aside from the damage to the base, where it had been hacked away from the rest of the sculpture, the back of the head had been completely detached and there were dents and marks all over it. It was eventually decided that the statue was beyond repair and the best option would be to replace it. The new sculpture, which will be an exact replica (with some extra reinforcements to help strengthen it) will take at least five or six months to complete. It seems the council have decided to meet the cost of replacement themselves, rather than opting to set up an online fundraiser as had been mooted at the last meeting.

The statue was initially discovered by a group of ramblers, only 300 metres from its original position at the Gortmore Viewing Point. Given the search efforts that were made shortly after the theft, which included a helicopter sweep of the area, it's assumed that the statue had only been moved to that position recently, perhaps even the night before it was discovered. The ramblers who spotted the statue alerted some soldiers who were on a training exercise nearby (something that caused a little controversy), and the police were called. One of the soldiers involved in the recovery said that it took three men to move the statue up onto the roadside, so clearly there were a number of people involved in the theft, as has already been speculated.

During the council meeting, it was suggested that the original sculpture could be put on display in a local arts and cultural centre:
“I think the damaged statue itself presents a double whammy, and a golden opportunity to make it an actual tourist attraction within the town centre, which would be of great interest to schools and visitors to learn about the background to the Broighter Gold legend.”

Which sounds like a great idea -- I'd love to be able to see the original statue as well as the new replacement if I'm ever able to go and visit the place (I certainly plan to the next time I'm over in Ireland). Perhaps predictably, however, the suggestion prompted something of an outcry, with a TUV councillor raising concerns that making a tourist attraction out of it "...would promote paganism and false gods":
...Mr Mullan said he was taken aback by the reaction his suggestion ignited from his fellow councillors. Among those who vented their disapproval was the TUV's Boyd Douglas who said he was unhappy the statute had been erected at all. 
"I don't believe in these false gods. Councillor Mullan's suggestion to link a paganistic monument with the Broighter Gold is ridiculous." 
Belfast Telegraph: Celtic statue row: TUV man blasts 'false gods and pagans'
Which totally ignores the fact that there's a good reason that Manannán mac Lir is associated with the Broighter Gold in the first place! And really. Sorry, Mr Douglas. The cat's pretty much out of the bag on this one, with or without a statue...

The councillor might not have much truck with it, but the fact of the matter is, the theft has garnered a huge amount of interest worldwide and more people are interested in going to see the statue -- new or old -- than ever before, regardless of their own personal beliefs or lack thereof. To argue against responding to this interest and refusing to put the damaged statue on display is a disservice to those in the area who could benefit from the increased tourism, a point that Councillor Mullan himself made when he withdrew the proposal.

It's a shame, but at least there hasn't been any serious opposition to replacing the statue up on Binevenagh Mountain itself. Manannán will return.

Sunday, 1 March 2015


Last month I wrote about a new spot we'd found, a beautiful wooded area with a burn running through it -- lots of waterfalls here and there, big and small, and lots of moss clinging to just about everything:

And where Rosie had been building wee houses for the spirits to live in:

And she wrote a beautiful poem about the place. We'd been visiting the place regularly, to give the dogs a good run around and enjoy the place, to make some offerings and tend to the houses, but we hadn't been able to get there for the last week or so. Yesterday, we took a long walk and happened to end up nearby so we decided to stop by and see how Rosie's wee houses were doing. She wanted to make sure everything was OK.

We were greeted by this scene:

It's all gone. Completely cut down.

I'm guessing it's been cleared to sell the timber, which has been piled up next to a caravan that's situated nearby. The entrance to the place has been semi-blocked by a huge pile of mud and rubble, so I didn't explore too far, and besides, Rosie was distraught. The waterfall you can see in the distance is the one in the first picture above. There's no more moss, no more spirit houses. It's just completely gone. There was no warning it was going to happen.

I'm absolutely gutted. Rosie cried all the way home and I have to admit I shed a tear or two as well. I suggested that maybe we could build some new houses somewhere else, maybe we could have a "funeral" of sorts. I suggested that Rosie could draw a picture, or maybe write down her poem or compose a new one, and we could go and bury it to let the place know how sorry we are. Rosie was too upset, though. She couldn't even bring herself to climb the mud and take a look at the scene. She tried to console herself that at least the birds could fly away. At least the animals could run off and find somewhere else to live. But all the nests are gone. Any eggs or babies won't have survived. I suggested that they might replant some new trees, but that was a small consolation. It will take years to get back to anything like it had been before.

I said to Rosie that maybe she could think about what she wanted to do and let me know, I didn't want to push it, but maybe doing something will help her feel a bit better about it. If she doesn't want to come with me, then I'll go myself and leave some offerings to the place. Assuming there's anything still around.