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

Sep 2, 2011

New Facebook Group

Are you on Facebook? I've just started a new Facebook group called Celtic Voices. Here on the blog you can read my thoughts and my discoveries on my Celtic Christian journey. But on the Facebook group my hope is that we can all connect together. My plan is to post a question or two every Friday at least to get the discussion going.

It would be great if people share links, books, scripture--anything that has helped them along their life journey. Please tell your friends! Either search for "Celtic Voices" on Facebook or if we are Facebook friends I can add you at your request. Just let me know.

I look forward to seeing you all over there as well as here.