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
(Patrick Carberry: Source: Belfast Media Group)
I truly believe the Gods have a since of humor. For the first time in centuries, Northern Ireland has allowed Patrick Carberry, a shamanic healer and a pagan priest to be certified by authorities. It was a man by the name of “Patrick” who was famous for bringing Ireland under the Christian fold (even though there were Christian missionaries in Ireland before St. Patrick) and now it is another “Patrick” who is paving the way for the ancient religion to reclaim official recognition. Ironic? Is it not?
Patrick Carberry, who is based in Glengormley, applied to Stormont five months ago to be certified as a holy man. Officials have finally got back to him with the news that he can now carry out religious ceremonies for people who follow Irish pre-Christian religions.
Patrick has been attacked in the past for his beliefs. It is his hope that bringing official recognition to the pagan religion will help it to become more socially acceptable.
“I am the very first pagan priest in Northern Ireland and it’s a big milestone because until now Stormont has point blankly refused to recognize paganism,” he said.
“In 2009 I set up a church called the Order of the Golden River but the members and I agreed to keep it underground because the people were afraid of being targeted.”
Apparently this fear is well founded. Patrick was assaulted at a small outlet he opened in the Park Centre last September. But he says he’s now happy to announce he is a full-time priest in the pagan religion, now that he has official recognition.
“I’m not in the slightest bit bothered. I am a full-time pagan priest and it’s as simple as that. That’s what I do. Other people have jobs and do their paganism outside of that but I am the same level as any priest or reverend and I have now been recognized as such.”
Patrick said the Order of the Golden River deserves to be respected along with other religions.
“Now we are officially recognized as a church and it comes down to the fact it’s the first time paganism has been officially recognized since Saint Patrick came here and did away with all the pagans and made the whole place Christian. This is the first time pagans have had the opportunity to officially celebrate their beliefs.
“We are a pagan order which believes everyone has the right to live and have their own faith without fear. We were underground but at a meeting the Order members agreed to speak out about our faith and stand up for our beliefs. We are happy to explain our faith to anyone who asks because our aim is to dispel all the misinformation which people have about paganism.”
Patrick says he can now perform weddings in full compliance with the law.
“I can marry people in stone circles or ancient woodlands. It really is a milestone for Northern Ireland and a great day for pagans.”
Patrick describes himself as a traditional Celtic Shaman who aims to live as close to nature and the old ways as possible. While he practices mainly in Ireland and the U.K, on his website he states that it is his goal to help people on an international level connect to the spirit world. He provides shamanic healing, Shamanic Healing, Energy Healing, Energy Balancing, Angel Healing, Shamanic Readings, Soul Readings, Holistic Massage, Animal Communicator and Animal Healing.
THE ORDER OF THE GOLDEN RIVER
The Order of the Golden River (of which Silent Oak is a trading name) is a pagan order which believes that everyone has the right to live and have their own faith without fear. Set up in 2009 the Order have been practicing its faith in private. The members have had to remain anonymous to protect their families from harm because of their beliefs. At a meeting in January 2015 the Order members agreed to speak out about their faith and stand up for their beliefs, they will explain their faith to anyone who asks, their aim is to expel all the misinformation which people have about paganism.