When people think of what it means to be Irish, Catholicism is one of the first thing that comes up. I myself am an American that hails from a family of Irish, Catholic immigrants. My grandma prayed to St. Anthony whenever she lost something (which was a lot in her messy house!)
However, in recent decades, the Catholic Church in Ireland has faced a steady decline, which has introduced somewhat of a cultural crisis, according to Olivia Cosgrove, co-editor of Ireland’s New Religious Movements. So alternative spiritualities are becoming more widespread. And I shouldn’t even say “alternative” here, because what Irish people are doing is returning to their roots.
In the ethnographic study “Neo-Paganism in Ireland,” Jenny Butler writes that the spiritual movement encompasses a wide variety of beliefs and practices. Yet the connection to the energies of nature remains a common theme.
Yet in Ireland, 84% of the population still consider themselves Catholic. So non-Catholics living in Ireland inhabit a world where laws and social norms fall into Catholic conventions. However, a recent Irish survey shows that religion ranks as the least important thing in people’s lives. So even among practicing Catholics, religion is becoming less of a priority.
In an article in onbeing, a few people in Ireland describe how they feel about practicing a pre-christian tradition.
“In Ireland we’ve had all sorts of problems and scandals. So what Irish people are finding is that shamanism connects them directly to the source of their own divinity, and they don’t have to have it mediated through a priest or a rabbi or another person. They can go and find that out for themselves.” – Martin Duffy
“We do rituals on the land, because Shamanism and Druidism is an earth-based spirituality. Our cathedrals and our churches are the sky and the trees and nature.” – Martin Duffy
“Shamanism changed my life. It’s in my DNA, in the land here in Ireland, and it’s coming up through me.” – Ann Peard
Not to be confused with the Polish Metal band Behemoth, this is a Chinese movie. Zhao Liang’s film Behemoth provides a striking view of the environmental and health costs of coal mining and consumption in China. The film borrows its plot structure from Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, as a coal miner suffering from lung disease. This coal miner guides the audience through a modern-day hell, purgatory and heaven – the coal mines and cities of Inner Mongolia.
May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside, every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks it’s portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.
Many of us modern folk may think of the Spring Equinox on March 21st as the first day of Spring. But back in ancient Ireland, it was actually around January 31st. It was the day that marked the waning of winter and the coming of longer days. A time when the snow started melting, the animals began coming out of hibernation and birds started singing. A day in between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
The term ‘Imbolc’ derives from Old Irish and means “in the belly,” or alternately “ewe’s milk,” pointing to the the time when the first lambs were born, associated with a celebration of fertility, reproduction and the young.
This is a day connected with the Celtic goddess Brigid, and Imbolc is one of the few contemporary Pagan holidays that is connected completely and solely to a Goddess. Brigid is the goddess of creativity, warfare, healing, fertility and the hearth.
In Christian times, the goddess Brigid was transformed to a Saint. Saint Brigid is still a pretty big deal in Ireland today. The second most popular saint after Saint Patrick. It is believed that Saint Brigid could perform miracles, such as healing the sick. She also acted a bridge between Christianity and Paganism. Even Brigid’s cross is both a reference to both Jesus and the Celtic sun wheel. So as a bridge between two religions, she is a fitting symbol of the threshold between winter and spring.
A good way to celebrate this holiday is by doing some spring cleaning. Getting rid of the old and preparing your home for the new season to come.
Since Brigid is a goddess of creativity, another good way to celebrate is by trying your hand at writing a poem, maybe even writing a song or doing some other creative project.
Most importantly, this is a time of renewal. Do you have any new projects you’d like to start? Or old ones that you need to finish? Is there something you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet? Or any old habits that need to thaw out and melt away like the winter snow? This may be the time, and the strength of Brigid will help guide you through.
THEY AWOKE TO THE SCENT OF SPRING
(I know I shared this song before, but it’s a good one for the occasion)
Lady of The Flame (Metal-Gaia)
How to celebrate Imbolc (Pagan Wiccan)
The Right and Wrong of Imbolc (Patheos)
Imbolc 2016: Facts, Dates, Traditions And Rituals To Know (Huffington Post)
Pagans Celebrate Coming of Spring with Imbolc Festival (World Religion News)
Imbolc Poem (The Fellowship of The King)