Two new videos: Grianstad an Geimhridh and Hogmanay

Rounding off our series of videos on the festivals of the Gaelic year, we now have the final two installments which are covering the Midwinter period. In spite of the fact that the festivities at this time of year aren’t Gaelic in origin, they’ve come to be important occasions and have taken on many Gaelic elements in the ways they’re celebrated, which means that some of us may choose to observe Midwinter celebrations with friends and family in a secular, or more culturally-focused way.

As with our other videos, we take a look at the origins of the festivities and how they might be celebrated by Gaelic Polytheists today, and because of the concentration of celebrations that can be found at this time of year we’ve split them into two separate videos. First we have Grianstad an Geimhridh — The Winter Solstice, covering the roots of the festivities as evidenced by the ancient, pre-Celtic monuments like Newgrange and Maes Howe (which are aligned to the winter solstice), through to the Christian and Norse influences with Christmas, the peculiar and uniquely Gaelic traditions surrounding Saint Stephen’s Day, called Lá an Dreoilín (or Wren Day) in Ireland, and the traditions of the Yule log, the latter of which is identified with the Cailleach in Scotland.

Our second video takes a look at the secular New Year, with the Scottish celebrations of Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) at the forefront. While Gaelic Polytheists might view the new year as beginning with Samhain, some of us may also choose to observe the secular new year, perhaps especially those of us who are Scottish-oriented in our practices. The new year only shifted to January 1st in 1600 (in Scotland; 1752 for Ireland), but Scotland’s complex religious history, which saw Christmas being effectively banned for four hundred years, means that the New Year has long been one of the most eagerly anticipated and celebrated dates in the modern calendar. As with any other liminal period in the Gaelic festival year, Hogmanay sees a concentration of protective rites and communal feasting, but while the original reasons for its popularity (the banning of Christmas) are no longer a factor, it has arguably come to be a celebration of culture and heritage as much as it might be a good excuse for a party.

Over all, the focus of the traditions that are attached to this time of year are on the family (whatever that might mean to you) and loved ones, and in appreciating the warmth and light of the hearth and home in the depth of the winter cold and darkness. As the secular year comes to a close, as the days begin to lengthen once again, Gaol Naofa would like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year. “Yule gude and yule gere, Follow de trew da year.”

 

Fàs is gnàths is toradh.

 

December 15, 2014

Samhain Video and Website Move

Samhain will soon be here, and we have released a new video for the occasion. The longest of our videos so far, this completes the cycle of Gaelic Fire Festivals on our festivals playlist. We have more in the works, of course, but those will come a bit later.

Our Samhain video has traditional music and poetry for the beginning of the dark half of the year, and for honouring the Cailleach, the Cailleachan, and the ancestors. Also suitable for Samhain is our video featuring the Prophecy of the Morrígan, which was first sung by the Badb on Samhain, after The Second Battle of Mag Tuired.

You may notice that we are now at gaolnaofa.org. We still have mirrored pages or redirects at our .com address, but as we are a not for profit organisation, the move to .org seemed overdue. Please forgive us for any odd formatting or difficulty finding content that may have happened during the move. Hopefully it is all straightened out now.

May the warmth of the Samhain sacred fires burn brightly, in our homes, hearts and communities. May the warmth of our bonds with one another sustain us through the coming winter. Thank you for joining us on this journey. Slàinte Mhath!

September 29, 2014

Three New Youtube Videos

With Lúnasa fast approaching for those of us in the northern hemisphere, Gaol Naofa is pleased to announce the release of a number of new videos.

Continuing the festival-themed collection we have on our Youtube channel so far, we’re picking up where we left off at the beginning of the month and have now uploaded new videos for the Gaelic festival of Lúnasa, as well as the primarily Scottish festival of Là Fhèill Mìcheil (The Feast of St Michael, or Michaelmas). As with the other videos, we aim to give a brief introduction to the major themes, lore, and traditions associated with these festivals, giving an idea of how it can be celebrated today.

While it may seem odd to explore saints’ days, in most communities these are now secular events, with cultural celebrations that contain traditional, seasonal customs with clear ties to the older deities and spirits. Often observances that our polytheist ancestors made at the fire festivals now survive in the traditions of the neighboring saints’ day.

Tying in with Lúnasa as well as Samhain, we also have a video on the Prophecy of the Morrígan from Cath Maige Tuired (The Second Battle of Mag Tured). While the story of Cath Maige Tuired is centred around Samhain, many of the major themes the tale deals with are also relevant to Lúnasa, not least the episode where Lugh spares the life of Bres in exchange for knowledge on how best to plough, sow, and harvest the crops. But Lúnasa is also a traditional time for peace, when everyone sets aside their differences to come together to celebrate the day in the company of their people and community, as they gather together to honour the sacrifice of Taillte and take part in the games and festivities that Lugh instituted in memory of her.

The prophecy the Morrígan (or Badb) sings at the end of the tale speaks to this major theme of peace, that we, as Gaelic Polytheists, focus on at this time of year. As we head towards the festival of Lúnasa, we invite you to join us in this prayer for peace…

Sith co nemh,
bid sír nae.
Sith.

Peace to the sky,
life and land everlasting.
Peace.

 

Gaol Naofa would like to extend special thanks to Ali Isaac for giving us permission to use her photo of Taillte’s assembly site, as well as to the members of our Gaol Naofa community who have shared their photos of sacred sites, family and friends.

July 26, 2014

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Bennacht nime, nél-bennacht,
Bennacht tíre, torad-bennacht,
Bennacht mara, íasc-bennacht

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2014 Calendar

25 January — Burns Night
01 February — Lá Fhéile Bríde
02 February — Gealach Ùr
04 March — Gealach Ùr
17 March — Lá Fhéile Pádraig
25 March — Latha na Caillich
02 April — Gealach Ùr
01 May — Lá Bealtaine
01 May — Gealach Ùr
31 May — Gealach Ùr
21 June — Grianstad an tSamhraidh
30 June — Gealach Ùr
05 July — Laa Tinvaal
29 July — Gealach Ùr
01 August — Lá Lúnasa
28 August — Gealach Ùr
26 September — Gealach Ùr
26 October — Gealach Ùr
31 October — Oíche Shamhna
25 November — Gealach Ùr
30 November — Latha Naomh Anndra
21 December — Grianstad an Gheimhridh
24 December — Gealach Ùr
26 December — Lá an Dreoilín
31 December — Hogmanay