Dec 31, 2011


Hogmanay fireworks.JPG
Photo by Katy MacDougall of Hogmanay Fireworks in Edinburgh
Hogmanay is the name of the Scottish New Year's celebration and it's huge. Check out the page for Edinburgh's events. There is even a live stream link so you can peek in on the action. Music, torchlight parade, dancing, concerts...the Scots know how to party!

So clean the ashes from your fireplace, clear out all your debts, and after midnight be sure to sing Robert Burns's Auld Lang Syne.

Welcome 2012!

Links to my previous posts on Hogmanay:
Happy New Year!
Merry Hogmanay or Happy New Year!
Auld Lang Syne

Dec 27, 2011

When Do You Count the 12 Days of Christmas?

Three Wise Men
photo by Kate Elliot
From Wikipedia: The traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas have been largely forgotten in the United States, where the public generally tends to equate the Christmas season with the Christmas shopping season and its attendant commercial marketing campaigns. Contributing factors include the popularity of stories by Charles Dickens in nineteenth-century America (with their emphasis on generous gift-giving), introduction of more secular traditions over the past two centuries (such as the American Santa Claus), and the rise in popularity of New Year's Eve parties. The first day of Christmas actually terminates the Christmas marketing season for merchants, as shown by the number of "after-Christmas sales" that launch on 26 December. Widespread experience with the commercial calendar has encouraged a popular (but erroneous) assumption among consumers that the Twelve Days must end on Christmas Day and must therefore begin on 14 December.

Does anyone (in the US) pay any attention to Epiphany anymore?

When do you take your decorations down? Here is a web site with some suggestions.

Me? Usually New Years or right after. But not for any specific reason. In the US that's probably kind of late. I'd love to hear from people in other countries.

Dec 21, 2011

From the Songwriter

I came across this original song posted on YouTube. It's just beautiful. I've posted the words to the song below the video. I could not find the songwriter's name, but here is a link to her YouTube page. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

As I went out walking in the snow
Under cold and silver moonlight
I thought I heard an angel's voice
Singing, "Silent, holy night."
But the song was not from an angel choir
Nor from the moonlit sky.
It was nearer than my beating heart
And softer than a sigh
And softer than a sigh

As I went out walking in the greenwood
On a grey and cloudy day
I listened for the voice again
To hear what it might say
And then again a song I heard
As I paused to hold my breath
But the song I heard was an ancient dirge
Its story told of death
Its story told of death.

As I went out walking on city streets
All tempest tossed with care
Above the sound of the busy town
I heard the sweetest air.
I heard the bells with their tale to tell
Of a child in a manger laid
Who through His birth brought peace to earth
And by His death would save
And by His death would save.

The bells rang out for all to hear
Still the anxious crowd hurried by
Those who listened well could hear the bells
And the story they did cry.
But none lingered long to hear the song
Oh, there was only I
To hear the sound of my beating heart
That was softer than a sigh
It was softer than a sigh.

Dec 12, 2011

From My Research...

At the turn of the century a woman named Maud Humphrey created artwork that was extremely popular. Some of it appeared on calendars, advertisements, children's books, and greeting cards. You can see why people loved her work.

She was a modern American woman of the times, active in the suffragist movement and a working wife.
She even kept her maiden name. 
Her son was Humphrey Bogart.

I couldn't make a Celtic connection, but this came up while I researching the time period of my novels and I wanted to share.

Dec 5, 2011

5 Reasons to Read My Blog

BLOG IDEAS1. I haven't given away the Celtic ornament yet.

2. You like miscellaneous Celtic-interest/history posts that appear approximately three times a week. Hopefully, with some Irish luck and Divine inspiration.

3. You are waiting to hear when my next book releases. (Okay, not a good reason. It's not until early 2013, but I might write something interesting here in the meantime, hopefully...see reason #2.)

4. You want some links to other sites of Celtic interest.

5. The biggest reason to keep reading Celtic Voices is...............drumroll..............a reason that only you know, but hopefully will tell me in the comments section!
But seriously, here's something you might be interested in:

According to Celtic Britain and Ireland, The Myth of the Dark Ages, by Lloyd & Jennifer Laing, Irish Academic Press, 1990, the study of the early Irish Christians did not begin in earnest until the 18th century. When you consider that St. Patrick came to Ireland near the turn of the 5th century, much historical data was probably lost. That's why I found the early Christian period a fascinating time in which to set fiction. It's history told orally and through folktales.

In the early 19th century, Ireland's primary historian was Sir George Petrie, who was also a painter. He made some historical drawings that have preserved some of Ireland's history for us today. Austin Cooper also made drawings that preserved some of Ireland's history. I blogged about Cooper here.

In their book, the Laings say: "It is not improbable that the considerable upsurge of interest in Early Christian Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century was the outcome of two trends--a growing national feeling and an interest in medieval antiquities..."

For whatever reason, much of what we know of Irish history comes out of that time and the work of Victorian-era historians. That's probably too broad of a statement. Archeology is bringing more to light all the time and some of what the old histories tell us has to be reexamined. But I'm always reminding myself that just because an old book says it, doesn't necessarily make it true. Even the belief that the Irish today are descended from the Celts is being questioned. (That's a whole other topic!)

History is not set in stone, so it seems. That's what makes the study so interesting, in my opinion. What do you think?

Nov 30, 2011

It's Not Too Late!

This is my ornament on my tree,
but you could have one
just like it!
I probably won't get around to sending out my monthly newsletter for a few days. Every subscriber will be entered to win this Celtic ornament, plus (and I've only so far mentioned this here) I'll offer subscribers a second chance to win another one of these ornaments when the newsletter comes out. You'll have to subscribe though to learn how. It's easy, just go to and click on "Subscribe to my newsletter." If you're already subscribed, you'll be entered.

*If you have any trouble with the link (a few people have) do one of two things: leave your email in a comment here or try opening the page in another web browser and see if that works. But if you give me your email, I can get you subscribed.

Also in the newsletter you'll about new releases and get some tidbits and links to other information you might like but I announce it on other social media sites.

Hope to see you on the list.

Also, don't forget that you can discuss Celtic interests with others (not just me) on our Facebook Group: Celtic Voices.

Now I'm going back to my cave to finish my novel as my deadline approaches!

Nov 28, 2011

The Dance of the Celtic Bee

After my "sweet" post on the Irish Fireside, I thought I'd share The Dance of the Honey Bee. This is a version that will get your day started off on a light, happy note. (And if you live where it's raining, like where I am, you probably need it!) It's a tune composed by Leitrim man Charlie Lennon and performed by Donegal Irish traditional group Altan (according to the YouTube site.)

In case you were sick that day and missed it in Science class, yes, bees dance:

Dancing Honeybee Using Vector Calculus to Communicate from B Bee on Vimeo.

Nov 24, 2011


Thanksgiving Dinner 2007

Give us O God of the nourishing meal, well-being to the body, the frame of the soul.
Give us O God of the honey-sweet milk,
the sap and the savor of the fragrant farms.

God in our waking, God in our speaking;
God in our cooking, God in our eating;
God in our playing, God in our digesting;
God in our working, God in our Resting.

~From the Carmina Gadelica

Nov 22, 2011

A Sweet Post

In case you don't read the Irish Fireside, I want to point you over there instead of repeating here what I wrote there.

I think you'll enjoy this post on Irish beekeeping and the history of Irish honey. Let me know what you think! Comment over there or here.

Nov 18, 2011

I Heard the Voice...

I love hearing new arrangements of old hymns. I love the old ones too. The hymn I'm sharing with you today is "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say", words by Horatius Bonar in 1886. I found several versions of it on YouTube (I'm sharing a few with you here.) I noticed that it's been called a Catholic hymn, a Baptist hymn, even an African American hymn. Isn't it cool that's found acceptance in many Christian settings? Bonar was born in Scotland in 1808, was an ordained minister, and wrote many religious lyrics. The third verse in the hymn sounds particularly Celtic to me.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Your head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad,
I found in him a resting place,
And he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink, and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in him.

 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's Light;
Look unto me, your morn shall rise,
And all your day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I'll walk,
Till trav'ling days are done.

Below are some very different versions. Enjoy and worship God!

First, probably the most traditional.

This one has a different tune but the same words. It finishes up with a foot stomping Amen chorus, so be sure to listen to the end.

This one might just be my favorite, although I love them all.

Nov 16, 2011

5 More Facts About Celtic Crosses

Said to be the tallest cross in Ireland (pictured here) the West Cross in Monasterboice stands at 21 feet tall.

The second tallest cross (17.5 ft) stands in Moone, County Kildare. The monastery ruins where it stands are older than the cross, possibly dating to St Palladius, the first bishop sent to Ireland. (Yes, before St. Patrick.)

Moone High Cross, Ireland

3. Some of the high crosses are thought to mimic the wood and metal crosses that preceded them. Look at the "studs" on this cross. Ahenny High Cross in County Tipperary.

Ahenny High Cross

4. The Downpatrick High Cross was relocated from the busy downtown area of Downpatrick and erected in front of Downpatrick 1897!

5. Kilfenora in County Clare is known as the city of crosses. It was once home to seven high crosses. You can read more at the Clare County Library web site.

Nov 14, 2011

5 Facts About Celtic Crosses

I never tire of talking about Celtic crosses or the High Crosses of Ireland. I plan to go back and see more of them. Here are some things you might not have thought of:

Muiredach's Cross
1. Most of the high crosses (maybe all) still existing today were erected by Christians. It's been said the symbol of the cross with a circle joining its arms, predates St. Patrick and Christianity, but none of the crosses still standing today are that old. But they are old. Muiredach's Cross at Monasterboice in County Louth was built in the 10th century. The Ardboe Cross in County Tyrone is about the same age, but perhaps even a bit older. Most of the high crosses can be associated with monasteries that used to stand on those sites.

2. The ancient high crosses were not grave markers. They were probably boundary markers, and might have marked the boundaries of monasteries. That's likely why they were so tall--so they could be seen from a long way off. In more recent times Celtic crosses have been used as grave markers. Here is one in NYC.

3. The crosses were carved from sandstone or granite. The high cross at Clonmacnoise was carved from a single slab of sandstone.

4. The crosses, especially those with biblical scenes, might have colorfully painted. They were stone versions of illuminated manuscripts.

5. The crosses with biblical scenes were probably used as teaching tools for folks who could not read or had no access to scripture, which was everyone not residing in a monastery or somehow connected with a church or a king.

South Cross
Celtic By Design posted an informative article on Celtic crosses that you should check out.

Nov 12, 2011

A Novel With a Celtic Heart

Review: There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

It's not often a book review finds its way onto this blog. It has to have an Irish and/or Celtic connection, and of course it has to inspire me. If you look back in this blog's archives, you might think I don't read much. You'd be wrong. I read a lot. I just don't find many books to review here.

So I was delighted to find that my friend, Jenny Jones, had written a novel set in Ireland. Jenny is a wonderful novelist who has written several contemporary romances/woman fiction, and YA. She's won several awards. I've enjoyed her books, but this one is the one that touched my heart. I'll tell you why.

It's a book about a young girl named Finley Sinclair who goes to Ireland to live with a host family and attend school while she prepares an original composition on her violin for an audition she hopes will get her into a music conservatory in New York. On the plane to Ireland she meets a handsome movie star, a teenage heartthrob named Beckett Rush. Finley doesn't want anything to do with him, however. She's still hurting over the death of her brother two years ago, and she hopes that retracing his steps when he visited Ireland (by way of his journal) will help her heal and inspire her to finish her piece for the audition, which she just can't seem to find the ending to.

The book visits themes of high school bullying, eating disorders, and family disfunction (including her own unwillingness to communicate with her family back home, Beckett's domination by his father, and the broken relationship of a dying nursing home resident Finley is assigned to as a school project.) As Finley goes to the places her brother visited, the wonder of the Creator comes alive--as you will understand if you've ever been to Ireland. But Finley doesn't think God hears her prayers. Why try?

There is one place in Finley's brother's journal that Finley, and Beckett her guide, have trouble finding. All they have is a photograph of a Celtic cross, and how many of those are there in that country? How she finds what she is looking for, and how she's healed is something you'll want to find out for yourself. But the ancient landscape and the history of faith on that island have something to do with it.

You'll find my name, along with other writer friends, mentioned in the acknowledgments for helping pray Jenny through the writing of this book. She admits that this book "kicked my tail." I don't think she'd want to revisit the difficult time she had in writing this, but that's probably why the book feels so authentic. Finley struggled to find her way to the end of the song for her brother. She planned to take this journey alone in a foreign land. That didn't happen. Many others went with her. What she found was worth the journey.

Nov 8, 2011

Five Thoughts For You From Celtic Wisdom

"The first book of Scripture all monks learned--and, it logically follows, the first that all Irish Christians learned--was the book of Psalms. Memorizing the Psalter was their primary task, and every moment spent cooking, praying, walking, building, or engaging in any routine task involved the verse being spoken, often in song or chant." p. 65

"A country's knowledge is in its language, mythology, and mountains."--Old Irish saying, p. 65

[Speaking of The Book of Kells] "The illustrations themselves show influences from various regions in the world, indicating that the monks either travelled or interacted with traders." p. 69

"Brigid was born to Dubthach, a man of some wealth who owned a dairy, and his slave girl, Broicsech. Dubthach's wife was none too happy and urged him to send the pregnant thrall far way. He sold her to a druid but did not sell the unborn child. Shrewd as he was, he listened to advisors and would not part with two slaves for the price of one. When the child was old enough, she returned to Dubthach's household." p. 25-26
(Read my fictionalized version of Brigid's story in Brigid of Ireland.)

"For it is not by path of feet, nor by motion of body, that one draws nigh to God, but it is through practice of good customs and virtues." FROM THE LIFE OF ST COLUMBA (LEABHAR BREAC) p. 45

You can purchase Celtic Wisdom, Treasures from Ireland at Amazon and anywhere you purchase books.

Oct 31, 2011


I was going to blog on this Celtic holiday, the season marking the beginning of the dark half of the year. But I really don't think I have anything new to add to what I posted last year.

So, visit this post if you are so inclined. And be sure to visit a Google page today if you haven't already.

Happy Halloween, All Hallowed Eve, or the Eve of All Saints Day!

Oct 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Lady Liberty!

The Statue of Liberty, originally called Liberty Enlightening the World, turns 125 today!

You probably learned the usual things about the statue in elementary school: she was a gift from the country of France, she stands in the harbor near Manhattan, immigrants saw her as they approached Ellis Island, and she's memorized in a number of ways--on money, in movies...

You've probably also heard the poem, or at least part of it:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 
You can read my post on The New Colossus, the 1883 poem by Emma Lazarus, who was not an immigrant, by the way.

Seeing the Statue of Liberty up close was one of highlights of my trip to New York City. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies, as you can see in these pictures. None of my ancestors, so far as I can tell, came through Ellis Island and had the experience of seeing the statue as they approached America. But many Americans with Irish roots did. Several nationalities came during the time Ellis Island processed immigrants, and an experience I hadn't anticipated was that when I was there, I too was surrounded by people from several ethnicities, speaking different languages. But we were all experiencing much the same thing, just like the ancestors who proceded us. This is a symbol of America, perhaps the greatest symbol.

From the base of the statue to the torch is 151' 11". From the base of the pedestal to the tip of the torch, it's 305' 6". It's just amazing to stand at the base and look up. What an engineering feat! The interior is constructed the way skyscrapers were so it can withstand strong winds. And that was before skyscrapers were built! The inside of the statue is hollow. The exterior copper covering of the Statue of Liberty is 3/32 of an inch thick (less than the thickness of two pennies) and the light green patina is the result of natural weathering of the copper. During the time my novels are set my characters would have seen her mostly copper-colored.

The first immigrant passing through Ellis Island was Annie Moore, an Irish teenager. She is memorized at Ellis Island with a statue. One can only guess what she must have thought when she got her first glimpse at Lady Liberty.
The Annie Moore Statue at Ellis Island

View from Battery Park

Learn more about the statue here:

Oct 21, 2011

The Definition of a Park

While I was in New York I snapped this picture in Madison Square Park and posted it on Facebook, commenting that it was a park where you were not allowed to walk on the grass. Now, to be fair there are parks in the city where you can walk on the grass, but this one surprised this midwesterner a little bit.

Then while researching I came across this from a publication called The Survey, Volume 6
 By Survey Associates, Charity Organization Society of the City of New York, Jan-June 1901. It is referring to the parks that at that time had been recently established.

They still belong to a class of open spaces of which we have many in America the sort of place in which one finds asphalt paths bordered with little posts with curly wire nailed along the top and grass between. Places of this sort are well called breathing spaces you can go there and breathe but there is very little else you can do.

Oct 20, 2011

One Grave That Won't Be Forgotten

This is not an especially Celtic story, although it could be without my knowing it since I don't know the name of the man involved. However, he was someone who was a major contributor to a Presbyterian church where many of the members were of Scots-Irish descent. (Piney Creek in Taneytown, MD)

While searching for my husband's Thomson ancestors, we had a pleasant time talking to the church's current pastor, The Rev. Paul Matthews. The photo below is the pastor in the middle, Tom on the right, and one of the church elders (we unfortunately forgot his name.)

Rev. Matthews told me a story about one of the graves in the churchyard. He said when a man's house slave passed away, he wanted to have her buried at Piney Creek. This is a church right on the Mason-Dixon line and the congregation said no way, this is for our white church members. He insisted. They said no. He said, fine then. I'll bury her somewhere else, but I'll go too and take my tithe with me. Apparently he was a wealthy and generous man so they relented, saying he could bury her in the furtherest corner of the graveyard.

It's a wonderful story of a man standing up for what he believed was right. This woman, Sarah Agnes Brown, had served this man's family well for many years. She was a part of the family. Money talks, certainly. But in this case it seems like a justified means. The current church members think so too. They've taken very good care of all the old grave sites in this small churchyard. They are slowly going about pouring new concrete footings for the old markers. One of the first they finished was Sarah's. Here it is:

Oct 14, 2011

A Little Patch of Ireland

Would you have guessed this picture was taken in the United States and not Ireland? And even more surprising is that this patch of Ireland is actually in Lower Manhattan on the banks of the Hudson River.

It's the Irish Hunger Memorial, designed by artist Brian Tolle to recognize the Great Hunger in the mid 19th century, and opened in 2002.

When you walk through a tunnel, on which various quotes from and about the Irish are inscribed on the walls, you can hear the voice of the Irish.

Recordings play continuously, as though the rocks themselves speak with the voices of our ancestors. The walls are made from ancient Irish limestone. Very cool.

What's also cool is that every county in Ireland (32 of them) is represented by a stone. The stones actually came from those Irish counties, which is incredible when you see the size of some of them. We photographed the ones from the counties where our ancestors were born. The names of the counties are engraved on the stones. These are from Derry and Down.

 Irish vegetation is planted throughout and a guide to what is what is available at the site.

It's a beautiful memorial and a unique experience. If you find yourself in NYC, you should visit.

Oct 12, 2011

On The Genealogy Trail

I have long known that the Thomsons were quite the characters (and I married into the family anyway!)

But seriously some years ago Tom's grandfather, Don Thomson, shared some genealogical information he had received from another family member. He was quite proud to say that the Thomsons were related to Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress. And they were wealthy barons from Scotland. And their direct line came from a Revolutionary War soldier who was commended for bravery by General George Washington himself.

Being the genealogy buff I am, I was intrigued, and maybe even a little skeptical. Families often spread stories that are bent in flattering ways and passed down generation to generation.

I discovered that our Thomsons are related to Charles Thomson, who not only was a patriot and a well educated man who married into a wealthy family, but also translated from the original Greek the first American printed Bible. He was friends with Ben Franklin and had written down his memoirs. Before he died Charles burned his diaries, proclaiming that there was information that would not be flattering to our country's founding fathers and he wanted to preserve the legacy that Americans held dear. Oh, my. We will never know the nitty gritty it seems.

But all this pertains to a distantly related relative. I sought to find out more about Charles's cousin William from whom comes our Thomson line. It was said that he served at Valley Forge and was commended. The truth is he did serve at Valley Forge. He enlisted in January 1778 (yes that terrible winter we've all heard about) and he was 67 years old at the time! William's oldest son, Hugh, also served in a different PA regiment. William was an Adjutant Officer. I'm not sure how the army defined that at that time. Anyone know? You can find his name here spelled with a p:
Inside Washington's HQ at Valley Forge

William did receive something from Gen. Washington, but it was not what Grandpa Don had thought. In May of 1778 William Thompson (Thomson) received a court martial. Here is the note attached to his file: Charged with failing to report when summoned by Major Francis Nichols. Thompson was acquitted; however was convicted of using "ill language." Washington understood the reasons for Thompson using the language and remitted the conviction.

We all got a good laugh over that. Not sure how old Major Nichols was but can't you see a 67-year-old man giving that young fellow a piece of his mind?
William Thomson's grave, Piney Creek Cemetery

William Thomson lived to the ripe old age of 89 (dying July 4, 1800) and was buried at Piney Creek Cemetery next to a Presbyterian church of the same name. There is more to the family story that I'd like to explore. It's said that he sold his farm with the plans of moving to Kentucky with his wife and his son and his son's family. But the American money he accepted for his farm turned out to be worthless. And his wife died. So they abandoned those plans and William moved to Taneytown, MD, and rented a farm there. It's there he died. Several other Thomsons are buried in this small cemetery (all spelled this way and not with a "p" or without the "h" as previous genealogists have claimed.)
Piney Creek Cemetery and Church in Taneytown, MD

The pastor of the church helped us find the graves. He was very interested. I'll blog more about the cemetery (and another interesting story about who is buried there) in another post later. And I'll share more about those Scottish barons as well. ;-)

Oct 8, 2011

Catherine O'Leary's Cow

Norman Rockwell painting of Catherine O'Leary and her cow.
On this day in 1871 Chicago burned. How someone could blame a woman (an Irish woman no less) for leaving a lantern burning in a barn is a perfect example of laying the blame elsewhere. Chicago had a population explosion, resulting in haphazard immigrant buildings made of wood. And the sidewalks and bridges were wooden along with some streets. The river was full of wooden vessels and businesses were in the practice of dumping grease in the water. It had hardly rained a drop for months. Only one water station existed for over 300,000 residents. Chicago in 1871 was ripe for disaster and that's what happened--four miles burned. Three hundred people died in the fire and thousands were displaced--perhaps as much as one-third of the population.

How did Mrs. O'Leary and her cow get blamed for this? Blame the media. A newspaper journalist later admitted creating the tale, but not until more than twenty years had passed. Apparently, however, Catherine O'Leary and her husband Patrick were chastised and family members say Mrs. O'Leary was vilified for the rest of her life. (Reminds me of Fred Merkle, player for the New York Giants baseball team who bore the blame for the Giants losing the pennant in 1908 when he failed to complete a play. He never lived it down, even when he stopped playing. He even thought they'd engrave his error on his tombstone.) There was speculation that another man dropped a match in the O'Leary's barn. But the real blame should rest on the lack of city planning. Unfortunately sometimes tragedy has to hit before safety measures and just plain good sense take affect.

In the late 1990's Chicago exonerated Catherine O'Leary. Too little much too late for her, however.

Sep 27, 2011

What Does It Mean?

Someone asked me that question recently. I was entering a restroom and a woman exiting stopped to admire a pin I was wearing. After explaining that I got it in Ireland, she asked, "What does it mean?"

I was taken aback. Did she think it was a symbol of some secret society? Did she think I was wearing it to promote some kind of political agenda? Did she ask the question to be sure just in case she purchased one like it for herself?

I was waiting for an open stall. This was no place to give a lecture on Celtic symbolism or to suggest she visit this page on my blog. I simply shrugged and said, "It means it's from Ireland." Lame, I know, but just how to you answer lame questions? If you'd like to give me some tips, I'm all ears.

I think what bothered me most is that I was at a Christian gathering and this woman did not recognize what I was wearing was a cross. That made me think about we define the symbols of our faith. If we don't see it over the altar of the church we frequent, it must not be Christian, right?

I'm sure you're curious. Here's a photo of the cross pin my husband bought for me in Dublin, Ireland, last fall.

Sep 23, 2011

Wishing You Deep Peace

Deep Peace (A Gaelic Blessing)
Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ
The light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you

Sep 21, 2011

The Wee Ancient Irish Church

In ancient times the normal size of a church was 10 x 15. To give you some perspective, here's a room the same size. Surrounding this wee church in a typical monastery would be monk cells (much smaller), a guesthouse, a refectory, perhaps a school or scriptorium, and a barn for animals and a blacksmith shop. I would imagine the monks all crowded in together for mass, but for the ancient Irish this church was not the only location for worship (thank goodness!) because they worshipped and prayed while they worked and went about their day.

Sign at the historical Nendrum site. Sorry it's blurry but it gives you a bit of an idea of the layout.

When a monastery grew, they did not tear down that wee church and build a bigger one necessarily. They just built more small ones.
Foundation of monks' cells at Nendrum, County Down
Most of these early churches were built from wood and do not survive. In some places, however, the cells and monastic buildings were built from stone. Below is an ancient church in Dingle. Incredible, huh?

Gallarus Oratory front/side

Sep 19, 2011

An Irish Painter

Francis S. Walker06Francis S. Walker was an Irish painter born in County Meath in 1848. He studied art in London and remained there for most of his life but never lost his fondness for his birth land. Some of his most moving paintings are of the common Irish life as he disregarded the turmoil and poverty that existed in his lifetime.

According to Wikipedia, he was the son of a workhouse master, which considering that he was born during the Great Famine, was fortunate for him. He was one of the privileged Irish. Yet many of his paintings are hauntingly and simply beautiful, don't you think?

Francis S. Walker02 I have a book of his paintings that I just recently pulled out to study. There are books available online that you can explore as well. But I doubt the computer screen or even the pages of a published book can adequately show the beauty of these paintings. I'll have to see them some day for myself at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin or perhaps in London's British Museum. His paintings have been sold at auction and reproductions have been made, but all I have right now is a book and Wikipedia.

Francis S. Walker10

Sep 16, 2011

The Harpist

Harpist, Dinan
The harpist is the only musician who is of noble standing. Flute players, trumpeters and timpanists, as well as jugglers, conjurers and equestrians who stand on the backs of horses at fairs, have no status of their own in the community, only that of the noble chieftain to whom they are attached.
~From the Brehon Laws

Sep 14, 2011

Irish Lace Curtains

Did you know that lace window curtains were a sign of prosperity among Irish immigrants? Even on the frontier when houses where dwellings were rough hewn, a woman hung lace curtains in the window if she was able. You know, it's the little things. :)

Photo by Jessica

Sep 12, 2011

The Irish Organizations in America

When the 18th century Irish settled in America, it wasn’t long before they formed organizations to aid those who came after them. The first organization (that was recorded) was called the Charitable Irish Society and was formed on St. Patrick’s Day in 1737 in Boston. Their purpose was two fold: First: to cultivate a spirit of unity and harmony among all resident Irish and their descendants in the Massachusetts Colony and to advocate socially and morally the interests of the Irish people and their cultural heritage. Second: to alleviate suffering, and to aid such of its members or other worthy recipients as by the vicissitudes of fortune might be deserving of its charity. (From: )

Soon to follow was the Ancient and Most Benevolent Order of the Friendly Brothers of Saint Patrick founded in New York in 1767 and the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland founded in 1771 in Philadelphia.

An interesting thing to note is that these early organizations did not discriminate according to religious affiliation. In fact, these particular groups still don't. According to the Friendly Son's web site: The Society has always been non-denominational, welcoming  members from all religious backgrounds. Citizens of the United States of Irish lineage, over eighteen years of age and of good moral character are eligible for membership. (It is an organization for men only, however.)

There are many charitable groups based on heritage, and some are Protestant and some Catholic, so that surprised me to discover that this idea was not originally sectarian. I did, however, discover in my research that some of the charity groups for immigrants that were run by the church offered help to anyone, whether they attended the group's church of choice or another one.

Does anyone else find that interesting given Irish history?

Sep 7, 2011

Have You Seen a Hiking Cairn?

Photo byoo_x
Cairns are piles of stones and sometimes used to mark a trail, or in some cases just to mark the fact that someone passed by. In ancient times Celtic Christians took pilgrimages and sometimes marked them in this fashion.

Does this remind anyone else of the Old Testament fathers who built altars of stone?

Like Moses:
He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. (from Exodus 24)

Wherever something significant happened, they built an altar from stones. Maybe this is where the Irish Christian pilgrims got the idea. But then again, pre-Christian Celts built stone cairns as well.

It's something to think about the next time you are on a hiking trail and add a stone to a pile you see. What journey are you on and how will you mark your encounter with your Maker? You might not use a physical marker but everyone has turning points. What do you think?

Sep 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day From The Carmina Gadelica

First Seeds Planted - Spinach Likes it Cool
May God bless your labor!

I will go out to sow the seed,
In name of Him who gave it growth;
I will place my front in the wind,
And throw a gracious handful on high.
Should a grain fall on a bare rock,
It shall have no soil in which to grow;
As much as falls into the earth,
The dew will make it to be full.
~From the Carmina Gadelica, THE CONSECRATION OF THE SEED