Jul 24, 2012

Five DYK's from my novel research

Did you know...

1. Immigrant aide societies used to send an agent to the docks or onto Ellis Island to fetch young Irish girls who came to America totally unprepared. They probably saved many young girls from falling into a life of prostitution.

2. In 1900 the mail was delivered twice a day in NYC.

3. In the original Wizard of Oz book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy did not have ruby slippers. That was added with the film. In the book Dorothy's slippers were silver. The book, published in 1900, is in the public domain so you can get it online for free or on your e-reader. It's not quite the same as the movie.

4. There was a musical stage adaptation of the Wizard of Oz just two years after the book was published.

5. In 1900 Irish immigrants were not required to have passports. Many other immigrants from other European countries were required to have them, but not the Irish at that time.

(There are so many other things I've learned as well. I'll share them in the future if you're interested.)

I'm collecting photos to inspire me as I work on the Ellis Island series. You can find them here: http://pinterest.com/cindyswriting/ideas-for-my-ellis-island-series/

Jul 20, 2012

Guest Post: What is the relevance of the Celtic Church for today?

With permission, I'm sharing this article on the Celtic Church by John Birch. I found it the way many of us find most of our information these days--Googling. A little about the author from his web site:

A Methodist Lay Preacher and worship leader living in Wales for around 20 years, I have become increasingly aware of the rich heritage handed down by the early Christian Saints who set up home in the wilder regions of this beautiful country. The primary aim [of his web site] has always been to write prayers that are accessible in style and would fit into any service of worship. Indeed, this is how it all began, as I struggled to find resources to use - often finding that books of prayers contained many that I had issues with regarding language or concept. God is often like that - give him a challenge and you find that you are part of the solution!

So what can an examination of the early blossoming of Christianity in the fringes of Britain and Ireland bring to our spiritual lives today?

As Christians we have firstly to realise that it is not just we who look to the past and to a heritage handed down from our Celtic ancestors. In this post-modern world Celtic legend is the strongest single source in the current revival of interest in paganism. However, in the same way that followers of paganism find it difficult to acknowledge the flowering of Celtic culture that took place within Celtic Christianity, so admirers of the early Celtic Church can be troubled by collections of Celtic prayers and blessings containing charms and curses.

So it is, I feel, that we need to rid ourselves of some of the romanticism that has been handed down concerning the early Christian saints, and whilst acknowledging the influence that they undoubtedly had on the early Christian communities, concentrate on those elements of their faith, doctrine and lifestyle that can bring illumination and spiritual growth into our own.

We are not seeking to live in the past, or drift toward paganism but take what is valuable from our Christian heritage and bring it into a contemporary setting, where Christianity struggles not against invasions of Angles, Jutes and Saxons, but against the enemies of indifference, denominationalism and rejection.

In an age where time is money, and lack of time a serious problem for so many; where the stresses and strains of daily living take their toll both physically and spiritually it is not difficult to see the attraction of a way of faith that finds time to be alone with God; that is God-centred rather than self or work-centred and which brings both beauty, truth and wholeness into lives that are, if not empty certainly not as fulfilled as they might be.

If we sift the wheat from the chaff and look at elements that the early monastic Church brings to us then we see the following general features:

· A genuine love of nature and a passion for God’s creation, coupled with a sense of closeness between the natural and supernatural.
· A love of art and poetry, seen within surviving illuminated Gospels and other works.
· Although they seem to have been theologically orthodox, there was a distinct emphasis on the Trinity, respect for Mary the Mother of Christ, the Incarnation and the use within worship of early forms of liturgy.
· Within their religious life we see an emphasis on solitude, pilgrimage and mission, sacred locations and tough penitential acts.
· There were few boundaries between the sacred and the secular
· We see an emphasis on family and kinship ties.
· There seems to have been greater equality for women than we see generally in the Church today.
· A generous hospitality was an important part of everyday life.

If we look at these characteristics we can perhaps see influences from both pagan and Christian beliefs. We might disagree with some, disregard others, but there are elements here which challenge our faith, call us to examine that which we have become comfortable with, and look again at how we might learn to part the curtain that has separated us from our Christian heritage and take from the past that which can enable us to grow spiritually today.

We might also find that in doing so we can begin to connect with a culture that cannot connect with the denominational jigsaw that is the Church to which we belong, but is seeking to follow a spiritual path which until now has often only been catered for by other faith systems or new age philosophies.

It matters not whether we can claim Celtic roots or not, it is within the scope of all of us to look at the landscape with spiritual as well as physical eyes, and begin to appreciate it for what it is and for the way that it influences our understanding both of ourselves and our Creator. A growing passion for the beauty of the world in which we work can lead to a renewal in our attitudes to the mundane tasks that we face day be day.

We can acknowledge the importance of friendship in our lives, and appreciate how the love of our friends mirrors the love and companionship of God, and as our faith begins to show forth new growth our journey can begin to take us from the familiar into more challenging circumstances – into mission. If you want inspiration then consider Brendan the Navigator whose voyage was immortalized by Bede. In the sixth century legend has it that Brendon took to the sea, travelling without oars and without sails, navigating the storms of life, and trusting in faith to carry him through. He may, or may not have landed in North America.

I quote from the Iona Community:
‘The past is all around us. We are the inheritors of the Celtic tradition, with its deep sense of Jesus as the head of all, and of God's glory in all of creation. So we use prayers from the Celtic Church for welcome, for work, and in expressing the needs of the world. We are the inheritors of the Benedictine tradition, with its conviction that 'to work is to pray', its commitment to hospitality, and its sense of order, all reflected in our services and our lifestyle...’ The Iona Community Worship Book, Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow, 1991

Read more at: http://www.faithandworship.com/Celtic_Christianity_today.htm#ixzz214D59IXf
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Jul 18, 2012

She Danced to Her Own Shadow

Scottish dancing in the grounds of Falkland Palace
Photo by By garethjmsaundersGareth Saunders

From the Carmina Gadelica comes the story of Mary Macrae.

Alexander Carmichael, the collector of these "Songs of the Gales," describes her this way: "...rather under than over middle height, but strongly and symmetrically formed. She often walked with companions, after the work of the day was done, distances of ten and fifteen miles to a dance, and after dancing all night walked back again to the work of the morning fresh and vigorous as if nothing unusual had occurred. She was a faithful servant and an admirable worker, and danced at her leisure and carolled at her work..."

There apparently came a time when Mary's "old world ways" was frowned upon.

Says Carmichael:

"'The bigots of an iron time
 Had called her simple art a crime.'

But Mary Macrae heeded not, and went on in her own way, singing her songs and ballads, intoning her hymns and incantations, and chanting her own 'port-a-bial,' mouth music, and dancing to her own shadow when nothing better was available.

I love to think of this brave kindly woman, with her strong Highland characteristics and her proud Highland spirit. She was a true type of a grand people gone never to return."

Here is the poem Carmichael recorded from Mary in 1866.

GOD with me lying down,
God with me rising up,
God with me in each ray of light,
Nor I a ray of joy without Him,
    Nor one ray without Him.

Christ with me sleeping,
Christ with me waking,
Christ with me watching,
Every day and night,
    Each day and night.

God with me protecting,
The Lord with me directing,
The Spirit with me strengthening,
For ever and for evermore,
    Ever and evermore, Amen.
        Chief of chiefs, Amen.

Ah, she danced to her own shadow knowing it was God, not man, that she answered to.

Jul 3, 2012

Six Reasons to be Proud of Being Irish American

1. U.S. Presidents share your heritage.
     I've lost count. But Wikipedia has the number close to twenty.

2. You come from a long line of survivors.
     Thinking about it: political oppression, the Great Famine, immigration, "no Irish need apply."
     Truly Irish Americans are among the most resilient people on earth.
Photo by Stephen Rapp

3. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were of Irish heritage.
     (I'm lumping Scots-Irish with the Irish, by the way.) Where would this country be without them?   Still on the east coast? (I could list more famous Irish Americans, but then this post would never end. So, on to reason four!)

4. When I think of the Irish, I think of a proud people. 
     Sure, Ireland has had its ups and downs politically and economically. Many have left the country     seeking opportunity. Yes, that's an understatement. There are more Irish in the world than there are in Ireland. But they always appear (to me, anyway) to think of Ireland as home. Even many generations removed. (By the way, Ireland is planning a homecoming for 2013. Are you going?) Americans are also a proud people. Sure, there are jerks who burn flags, but most Americans fly them.
5. Music.
     I don't play, but I listen. The Irish and Scottish who came to America are responsible for bluegrass, country, and the birth of many of today's musical styles. Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs are credited with inventing bluegrass. Monroe once said, "It's got a hard drive to it. It's Scotch bagpipes and old time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz and it has a high lonesome sound. It's plain music that tells a good story. It's played from my heart to your heart, and it will touch you."

6. Finally, be proud because the Irish have deep spiritual roots, which are a part of your heritage.