Friday, October 14, 2016

Samhainn Thoughts

The season of Samhainn is upon us. I set up my ancestors altar a few days ago; we used to have a permanent place for it, but since we moved space has become an issue and at the moment it's temporary. Just this morning I set up the beach stones I had collected after I lost my baby. I have not written about it here (because I haven't written anything!), but just over 2 years ago I was pregnant. We were all excited, my son had just turned 4 and he was happily anticipating finally being a brother. I went in for my 15 week appointment and found out the baby had died. It was devastating for everyone, and then I had to carry the baby for another full week before I had a D&C. This all started a chain of events that would change our lives forever.

Grief is a funny thing. It lays dormant, allowing you to go through the days feeling happy, not thinking constantly of the losses we all endure, and then one day it decides to surface, totally blindsiding you.

She kneels by the small pile of stones, the cairn that is the only earthly remnant of the baby she never got to hold. She touches the base stone and it is cold against her fingers. Two years and more have gone by, but she still remembers the child. The thought of the child, the hope of the child - their daughter that was never born. She is overtaken by grief; a grief she seldom lets through. 
"Why, why ... why did this happen?" she calls out. She calls to Brighid. She wants the answer to an unanswerable question. "What did I do to deserve this? What did we do?!" She thinks of her son, already a brother because he has a love for a sister he never met. A brother who misses her daily. How could that innocent child deserve such grief? She thinks of her husband and the trials he qent through after the baby died, the trials they all suffered, the things she endured because to do anything else would have meant death and defeat. The trials that saved her from the immediate pain of losing her daughter, merely distracting her with a new and more urgent type of pain. "Why did this happen at all?" 
She is confused, she is angry, she is wondering if her Gods have abandoned her. Her bitterest tears salt the earth ... then she feels a presence, Her presence, Brighid. She feels the warm comfort of being wrapped in a mother's embrace. She feels rather than hears these words: 
"Child you have done nothing wrong. You do not earn your pain, and pain comes to every living person. I can not control it, nor can I take it away. I too have felt the pain of loos, and the loss of a child, and it is deep and it lingers. But I have come to hold you through the grief. I am the voice that led you to your husband when he was in danger. I lend you strength when you feel you have no more to give. I can not shield you from every hurt, but I am witness to it and I help you to move on." 
She has cried all her tears for now. She feels warm and comforted, and no longer alone.

Edit, 10-17-16: I realized after I posted this that Oct. 15th is Infant & Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day - check out for more info.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Link Roundup!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh! Happy St. Patrick's Day! I see this day as a wonderful time to celebrate Irish heritage and culture (though I am a Scottish leaning Gaelic Polytheist, I, like many, have both Scottish and Irish ancestry). This is also a day full of misconceptions, particularly in Pagan circles; like how Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland and OMGz SNAKES R PAGANS - yeah, that didn't happen. It's also a day full of harmful stereotypes of Drunken Irish Pride, dyeing perfectly edible foods a nasty green color, and leprechauns. Sigh.

Here I offer you a modest collection of things to read, to counteract the nonsense of the day!

Tairis: St. Patrick's Day, with much Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth.

Pagans, Polytheists, and St. Patrick's Day

Gaol Naofa's YouTube Playlist: St. Patrick's Day / Lá Fhéile Pádraig / Sheela's Day

Story Archaeology Podcast: A Crock of old Cobblers
"Fergus mac Léite gets to encounter the underwater world of the Lupracán, a story which in the late middle / early modern Irish version, almost certainly, inspired Swift’s wonderful satire, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. The Story Archaeologists, ear herbs at the ready, dive right into the tale, but wonder how these small, but proud and fiercely independent, beings have devolved, over the centuries into the scary Leprechaun travesties that are dragged out every Paddy’s day?"

and lastly, a recipe, for your feasting pleasure! Irish Potato Cakes - Boxty

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Exciting Announcement!

I'm very pleased to announce that I have been asked to join An Comhairle Ghaol Naofa - The Gaol Naofa Council - as a Brughaidh ("hospitaller"). There are also updates to the Membership Guidelines as well as a new video about A' Ghealach Ùr - The New Moon, so be sure to check it out. See the official update here!

I'm also relieved that the stolen statue of Mannanán mac Lir has been found, exactly one month after it was stolen.

I think all of our singing must have helped.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Getting Ready for Imbolc - Wooly Sheep Tutorial

Well, here I am again, in my sadly neglected blog. I had a heck of a year, let us leave it at that. The good news - I've graduated, I officially have my Masters Degree (in Traditional Chinese Medicine) and soon I'll be a licensed acupuncturist. Hooray!

Since most of my hard work is done, I have more time for myself and, hopefully, that will translate into more writing.

On to the fun stuff!

Imbolc is coming, spring is beginning to stir in the Northern Hemisphere, and my son and I are starting to make preparations in anticipation of Brighid's visit. O is four now, and is very excited to celebrate Brighid's special day.  (We say a nightly prayer for protection, and he knows that Brighid watches over our home and helps keep him safe) I'm really making an effort to establish traditions in our home that reflect my personal practice. My husband is Jewish so we celebrate Jewish holidays; we celebrate the secular aspects of some other holidays too, like Christmas. I spend a lot of time decorating and preparing for those, so I want to make the effort in a more visible way for the Gaelic festivals as well. Decorating is part of that!

I was on Pinterest and I saw an adorable photo of porcelain sheep ornaments, but it was (as often happens on Pinterest) unsourced! My first thought was "I can make that!" ... I've seen similar concepts, usually using a paper or cardboard cutout of a sheep (or cow) body, wrapped with yarn. Simple!

I'm sure many different modeling clays or doughs would work - I considered salt dough at first (because it's cheap and if you screw up you haven't spent a lot of money), but then I found some old Sculpey in a forgotten craft box. I used 1 2oz package and got about 7 sheep out of it.

First, I drew my sheep body. I freehanded it, but there are a lot of sheep silhouettes on Google, or just print out mine (I don't mind).

imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa

Roll out the dough to a quarter inch thickness.

imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa

I used a toothpick to trace the outline of my sheep ...

imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa

imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa

... then used a craft knife to cut it out.

imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa

At this point I discovered it's best to roll your clay out on parchment, because once you cut the sheep and try to peel it off the table it gets kind of warped. I used my fingers to soften the cut edges, tweak any part that didn't look right, and smooth out the clay. Toothpicks make nice mini-rollers to smooth away fingerprints!

I poked a hole in each one for a string, then baked them according to package directions. They came out wonderfully! Here they all are, ready for the oven.

imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa

Now, once the sheep are baked and cooled, take your yarn and wrap it all around the sheep until maximum woolliness has been achieved. Tuck (or glue) the loose end of the yarn. (I had no issues wrapping around the tail, but a well-placed dab of glue could be used if your yarn is slipping off) Roving would also work for this step, but I just used a wooly yarn.

imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa

I used a large needle and embroidery floss to make the hanging loop.

imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa


imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa

They're pretty darn cute, and definitely bring some springtime cheer! I'm going to finish the rest with my son tomorrow.

imbolc sheep tutorial gaol naofa

Friday, September 6, 2013

Today I had some time to myself and felt like messing around with Photoshop - this is the result:

gaol naofa
The quote is from the Triads of Ireland, the photo is my own. 

This summer was very busy - one of my busiest trimesters at school, and stressful without having super-reliable childcare. I am happy to say that the childcare issue has been resolved and I feel much more at ease about the time I'm spending away from home. This week I started my last trimester of school - it is very surreal. It's been six very long, intense years but I'm glad I've made it to the (almost) end. I won't have as much time for writing as I'd like until the end of the year, since I've got to study for my graduation exam (cumulative!!) and then the various licensing boards, however I have resolved to be a little bit more frequent than I have as of late. Soon I'll be putting up a post about our trips to the sea and Manannan, and some of the fun autumnal activities my son and I have been doing.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Beach day!

I've suddenly been very busy with school and life, I have already neglected the new blog. Bad!

A few weeks ago I had a lovely day at the beach. Living near the coast for my entire life has given me a deep love and appreciation for the sea (no pun intended), and I'm excited to share it with my son. I've also always felt drawn to the sea in a spiritual sense. When I was younger I began to talk to Poseidon - as Greek mythology was the only type I had been exposed to - and I've been talking to the ocean ever since. I spent a good deal of the beach day mulling over the sea ... I am now beginning to learn about Manannan mac Lir, the Irish sea God, and exploring the beginning of that relationship. I think my connection to the ocean and interest in Manannan are not coincidental.

Whilst lost in these deep thoughts I stumbled - quite literally - upon a unique stone.

It's looks like a liver!
gaelic folk magic - gaol naofa

I thought that this stone would be useful to me in the future for healing work. I found a few other interesting stones that day - a naturally holey stone, a basalt stone with a vein of quartz, and a pretty blue striated stone. I'm always on the lookout for interesting stones.

gaelic folk magic - gaol naofa

From what I understand (thanks to Healing Threads by Mary Beith!) in Scottish tradition stones shaped like body parts were popular for healing. Sometimes the stone would be dipped into water and rubbed on the body, or the patient would drink the treated water. There are many healing sites where votive offerings  often shaped like afflicted body parts, were left, presumably to cure the corresponding part of the living patient.

The rest of our beach day was lovely. The weather was fantastic, the tide was very low; my sister and son and I climbed around tidepools full of ocean life! There were so many starfish, hermit crabs, anemones  and we even saw a few tiny fish. 

gaelic folk magic - gaol naofa

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Imbolc 2013

Happy Imbolc!

imbolc gaol naofa
Dandelions are FUN!

The dandelions have been blooming in my area for a few weeks now, but I wanted to give special consideration to this holiday, as I have been building my relationship with Bride. I felt that this day must be a particularly special holiday for me. Of course, life gets in the way, and on the day of the calendar holiday I was working late and my mom had surgery scheduled for the next day! I ended up celebrating Sunday night (the 3rd); a good friend came for dinner and we "churned" butter in a mason jar! We had fun singing a churning song, and the butter was so delicious! After dinner my friend and her son went home and I attempted to get my 2 year old to help me make a Bride's Cross, but that idea went up like a lead balloon!

imbolc gaol naofa
Bride's Cross made with pipe cleaners - kid friendly!

I finally had some quiet time after Mr. 2yr Old was in bed, to make my dealbh Bride (Bride doll/icon) and her cradle (the leaba Bride). I happen to have a young apple tree in the back yard so I used an apple branch for the slatag Bride - the wand of Bride.

imbolc gaol naofa
The dealbh Bride 

Once the crafty part was done I did my prayers and offerings, and put all my garden seeds and some thread and cloth outside that night to be blessed, before inviting Bride in. More prayers and offerings in the morning; unfortunately I had not had time to go out to find any elder twigs (since I am in an area where there doesn't seem to be much rowan or mountain ash!) to make protective charms with ... I will have to make sure to be more prepared in the future! All said, it was a successful and enjoyable experience. I wish I'd had more time to prepare - especially for house cleaning - but I believe Bride was pleased. I did see something resembling wand marks in my ashes that morning!