Since our most recent video – A’ Ghealach Ùr (The New Moon) – which was released back in February, we’ve been working on a number of projects for the website and for future publication. We’ve had such great feedback from the videos we’ve been doing for the Gaol Naofa Youtube channel, though, that we decided it was high time for another one, so we’ve taken a short break from things to put together our newest video, titled Offerings in Gaelic Polytheism.
Offerings are an important part of our religious practice, and – in theory – they are also one of the most simple things a person can do to make the transition from someone who’s interested in Gaelic Polytheism, to someone who is a practising Gaelic Polytheist. Our latest video is intended to be a brief introduction to the subject, giving an idea of why we make offerings, and how we can go about making them:
Wherever you are in the world, we believe it’s important that offerings should be made with respect to the local spirits. Offerings should not harm the environment or local wildlife, and we would urge careful consideration and contemplation about how your offering(s) may impact the local area. In recent times, this especially needs to be stressed when tying clooties or other things on trees. Although traditions evolve naturally over time, and the type of offerings that are being tied to trees are no exception, the increasingly common trend of tying non-biodegradable items (including, for some reason, things like iPhone cases and even nappies/diapers) tightly onto branches ends up stunting the tree’s growth or even killing them. The practice of leaving pennies or other coins worked into the tree trunks or natural cracks in stone is equally damaging. We believe that the Nature Spirits whom we honour will be better-disposed to you if you don’t harm their abodes and if the offering you make is truly something that honours, feeds, and beautifies the tree or sacred site instead of damaging it. Similarly, as much as we try to keep pets from getting at food offerings, there is always the risk of strays getting into them, and in many places wild animals commonly consume the offerings. Small amounts of human foods are usually not dangerous, but just to be on the safe side be aware of local wildlife, and familiarize yourself with what foods may be harmful if consumed by local animals.
As always, we hope you find the video useful! If there are any subjects you’d like us to cover in future, why not let us know on the Gaol Naofa Facebook page.
We leave you with this ‘Good Wish’, excerpted from the Carmina Gadelica #282, Dùrachd:
Although it’s been heartening to see that (for the most part) there has been very little of the “black armband/All Snakes Day” crowd in recent years, there are still undoubtedly a lot of misconceptions that abound whenever the subject of St Patrick, and St Patrick’s Day, comes up. This was especially evident in the rather ignorant comments made by (thankfully a minority of) people about “finishing what Patrick started” following the theft and destruction of the Irish Manannán Mac Lir statue in February this year. As such, we feel that there’s still very much a need to dispel these misconceptions and present a more factual view of Patrick and just what, exactly, he might be held accountable for…
Before we get onto discussing our new video, we’d like to take this opportunity to announce a new member of An Chomhairle Ghaol Naofa (The Gaol Naofa Council). Marsaili Ros has joined the council as our new Brughaidh (“hospitaller”), and we’re very pleased to welcome her to the team! Along with our three other Brughaidhi, Marsaili will be overseeing all aspects of hospitality and member relations within the organisation, and will be involved in all of the usual decision-making the council is responsible for. Since Marsaili has joined us, we’ve updated our Organisational Structure page, and have also added a new page to the Gaol Naofa site detailing our Membership Guidelines to make them easier to find.
To the Gaels, the “new moon” is a bit different from what astrologers call the “new moon.” In astrology, the “new moon” refers to the exact, astronomical conjunction of the moon and the sun; this is the period when no moon is seen in the sky at all, usually for a period of about three days. In colloquial use, some refer to this period of no visible moon as “the dark of the moon.” In the Gaelic lore, however, the “new moon” refers to the very first sliver that shows in the sky after this period of darkness.
As Alexander Carmichael describes in the Carmina Gadelica, each month at the new moon it was traditional to greet the first visible crescent seen in the sky. Surviving lore about this tradition can also be found in the Isle of Man and Ireland. You can find an overview of this lore, with pointers to further reading, at Tairis: Daily Practices: Prayer to the Moon.
In Gaol Naofa we have continued this tradition as a way of helping our international membership — some of whom may be spread far and wide from one another — share in a sense of community as we come together and honour the gods, spirits, and ancestors. The prayers given in this video are from the Carmina Gadelica (Volume III), with translations by Kathryn Price NicDhàna; for more information on how we approach adapting and translating prayers from the Carmina, see our article on Prayer in Gaelic Polytheism (especially pages 6-7). For more on making offerings, see our article on Offerings in Gaelic Polytheism.
Fàilte ort féin, a ghealach ùr
Àilleagan cùmh nan nèamh!
I welcome you, new moon Shining strength of the skies!
23 January — Gealach Ùr 25 January — Burns Night 01 February — Lá Fhéile Bríde 21 February — Gealach Ùr 17 March — Lá Fhéile Pádraig 18 March — Sheelah's Day 23 March — Gealach Ùr 25 March — Là na Caillich 21 April — Gealach Ùr 01 May — Lá Bealtaine 21 May — Gealach Ùr 19 June — Gealach Ùr 21 June — Grianstad an tSamhraidh 05 July — Laa Tinvaal 19 July — Gealach Ùr 01 August — Lá Lúnasa 17 August — Gealach Ùr 16 September — Gealach Ùr 29 September — Là Fhèill Mìcheil 16 October — Gealach Ùr 31 October — Oíche Shamhna 14 November — Gealach Ùr 30 November — Latha Naomh Anndra 14 December — Gealach Ùr 22 December — Grianstad an Gheimhridh 26 December — Lá an Dreoilín 31 December — Hogmanay