Posts Tagged ‘history’

Documentaries About Ireland

Since we’re in Irish heritage month, I’d like to suggest a few documentaries about Ireland for you to check out.  Now, I’m no Irish scholar so some of the information may be out of date, but they still contain some very useful tidbits that are sure to inspire or move you. The links should take you to Netflix (you’ll need to be logged in) or Hulu.  There are others I have yet to see.  I may add to this list in the future.

  • Out of Ireland: Story of Emigration into America– Paul Wagner wrote and directed this documentary about modern Irish history and the tragedies that drove so many to America.  If you’ve never thought about this aspect of Irish/American history, this is a good starting place to get a better sense of where you came from and the history of St. Patrick’s Day in America.  You should feel a sense of pride in your ancestors after watching this – the sacrifices they made.  Many never saw their loved ones or homeland again. It gets pretty good reviews on Netflix, though some wish there were more details.
  • The Historic Pubs of Ireland – This PBS feature follows the author of Angela’s Ashes as he tours some famous pubs in Dublin.  Along the way, you learn bits and bobs about Irish culture and history.  Very fun watch for anyone interested in modern Irish history.  Also great if you’re planning a trip to Ireland.
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: Dublin – A classic PBS show, Rick Steves is a favorite travel guide of mine.  I like watching his series on the Create Channel when I visit my parents.  Weretoad and I watched this episode before going to Dublin last year.  It helped us choose a few destinations.  Check this show out for cultural and historical information.

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There’s been a lot of discussion on the ADF Gael list about the term “Plastic Paddy,” St. Patrick’s Day, and All Snakes Day.  I’ve posted before about how I celebrate my Irish heritage that day.  A fellow Druid shared this blog post which goes into the history of the real St. Patrick and how his involvement in Ireland has been grossly misrepresented and exaggerated.  I definitely recommend it!

Random CR and Heathen ramblings…: St. Patrick’s Day, snakes, and Irish-American pride.

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Slowly, slowly – I’m reading through Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmichael.  It’s an absolutely fascinating read, and a must for anyone following a Celtic-inspired path.  Although it’s focus is on the Scottish Highlands and surrounding islands, those who have an Irish hearth culture would benefit greatly from its contents.

Anyway, the other day I reached a “Prayer for Protection.”  It is Christian, of course:

Christ be between me and the fairies,

My frown upon each tribe of them!

This day is Friday on the sea and on land –

My trust, O King, that they shall not hear me.

A healthy respect, and even fear, of fairy-folk has existed in Celtic nations for generations.  Today, many Pagans insist that fairies are all light and goodness, possessing an altruism towards humanity.  That can be true for some, especially Tuatha Dé Danann like Brighid, but most (based on lore, my few experiences, and the work of others) are ambivalent, mischievous, and occasionally malicious.  They are part of nature which encompasses the creative as well as the destructive.  Their varied natures should surprise no one.  Thus the above prayer makes a lot of sense, especially considering that many of the people interviewed by Carmichael lived in rural areas and struggled with the hardships of Nature regularly.

In ADF, we work with our allies – some of whom may be considered fairies.  Spirits who do not fit that category are Outsiders (or Outdwellers).  They are spirits who have stood against our Gods, destructive beings, illness, ancestors who don’t care for us… hell even mosquitos can be considered Outsiders in a ritual!  They are not necessarily evil – their goals just don’t align with our own.  Outsiders are a natural part of the cosmos.  When we hold our rites, we ask for our allies to be with us and the Outsiders to leave us in peace.  Every grove goes about this differently.  Some give offerings during ritual, some at the end and only if the rite has gone without disturbance.  Some groups turn their back on the Outsiders while a warrior confronts them.  Others still consider internal stresses and anger to be Outsiders.  They envision them going into a box which is moved out of the ritual space.

The above prayer from Carmina Gadelica could easily be rewritten and used in an ADF rite to ask for protection from the Outsiders.

Kindreds be between me and the Outsiders,

My frown upon each tribe of them!

This day is (Imbolc, Saturday, etc) on the sea and on land-

My trust, Kindreds, that they shall not hear me.


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A vintage Krampus card.
As part of the Witches Yuletide Ball, fellow blogger Aine of “The Deepest Well” posted about the darker aspects of Yule.
When we think of Yule, most of us think happy thoughts, such as trees sparkling with lights, friends and family get-togethers, singing, gifts and warm fireplaces.  For our ancestors, however, this time of year was dark and cold.  All the food they had harvested and stored away was all the food that was to be had until the Spring.  During these long winters, tales were told of the faeries and malevolent spirits who were waiting in the dark night for a wandering human to cross their paths.
 One of my favorite “dark aspects” of the Yuletide season is Krampus.  He basically does Santa’s dirty work and punishes naughty children.  Of course, by today’s standards, what Krampus does seems extreme, but when you consider what slacking or goofing off could mean to our ancestors…  If a child routinely refused to do his or her chores, it could have meant a harder than usual winter.  It could have meant death.  Figures like Krampus were necessary to keep kids in order while St. Nick rewarded those who did their jobs well.  I’m having trouble finding any online sources about possible pre-Christian Krampus traditions, but it’s hard to deny he represents the life or death realities of pre-industrial societies.
Since learning of Krampus, I’ve been fascinated with him.  I was delighted to hear a segment about him on NPR yesterday.  In particular, it examines how Krampus traditions are coming to America!  I would love to go and even take part in a Krampus parade.  I enjoy lights and joy just as much as the next person, but this season can become too sugary sweet at times.  It is nice to take a step back and face the harsher realities of winter but have fun while doing it.
I’ll end this post with what is becoming a yearly tradition for me – sharing this corny Krampus video.

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Tonight, a recipe perfect for wintery nights! It uses an ingredient native to my home in Upstate NY –  pinus strobus – The Eastern White Pine.  If you live around the North Eastern part of America, you’re probably very familiar with these trees.  They should be especially recognizable to anyone who has ever spent time in the Adirondack Mountains.  They’re very common there!  In fact, the word “Adirondack” is Iroquois for “bark eater” – a reference by the Mohawks of the Algonquins.  They would eat the nutritious inner bark during difficult winters.  The White Pine is also culturally important to the Iroquois as the Tree of Peace.

Cultural significance aside, this tree is packed with vitamin C.  Sources claim it has as much as five times the vitamin C in a lemon.  It is a great drink to boost your immune system and fight off a variety of ailments.  Thus not only is it fun to drink an evergreen tea during the Winter Solstice, it’s exactly the sort of thing to drink as “flu season” gets underway!

Just a couple notes of caution: You want to make certain you are harvesting white pine.  This site has some good photos and information about poisonous conifers to keep in mind. Get a tree field guide and research.  Really, if you’re on a Druidic path this should be something you’re doing a lot of anyway!  Second, many sources insist that pregnant or potentially pregnant women should not consume white pine as it has abortive qualities.  Other sources say the tea is fine, but let’s just play it safe, ok?

I harvested some well-known white pines from my parents’ back yard.  I’ve grown up with these trees.  My father transplanted them as wee saplings from a family camp.  Before cutting a small branch, I told the tree of my intent and asked for permission.  Anyone who works with trees should definitely get in the habit of doing this.  Also keep in mind that a gift calls for a gift  and make an offering.  When actually taking cuttings from trees, I’ve made a practice of offering bits of myself – usually hair but sometimes blood.  (You can give other offerings in addition or in substitution of these).

Wash your pine needles thoroughly before using in your tea.  Pine trees are a favorite haunt of many creatures including blue jays and squirrels, after all!  Begin to boil some water.  You have a couple different options here.  Many boil water in a pot or pan then add a handful of needles to steep for 10-20 minutes. You can also put several needles in a tea ball or muslin sachet and pour boiling water over it in a cup like I did.  You definitely do not want to swallow those pricky needles!

The tea will be very mild.  It has a slight but pleasant pine and citrusy flavor. You may sweeten it with honey or mix with other herbs.  There are many magical possibilities for this tea. Sing or chant healing words before serving to an ill loved one.  Meditate on its healing properties as you drink it.  Envision yourself staying healthy throughout the winter as the white pine stays green.

Although there is no Druidic lore (that I’m aware of) connected to pine, it is a native tree in the land I call home.  In my opinion, it is very important to learn the lore and science of traditionally Druidic trees as well as those in the land you live in.  Be mindful of the cultural significance of the tree to Native peoples, and try to connect to its spirit respectfully.

Pines - Not Just For Breakfast Anymore
The Amazing All-Purpose Pine Needle Tea
Frequently Asked Questions About the Adirondack Region
Pinus strobus - Wikipedia

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On Thanksgiving

Let me come right out and say that I’m not very interested in Thanksgiving at all.  It’s one of my least favorite secular American holidays.  Every year I see kids doing their pilgrim and Native American pageants while adults smile and nod as they perpetuate misinformation… It makes me really jaded.  I have Native American heritage and, while it’s too little to be considered part of a tribe, it’s something I am proud of.  I always feel a little hypocritical doing the whole Thanksgiving thing…  That and I’m a vegetarian so the emphasis on factory-farmed turkey makes me gag.  (At least get one from a local, organic farm or hunt your own, for goodness’ sake!)

I celebrate bounty and harvest earlier – around the Autumn Equinox.  The only reason I continue to do the Thanksgiving “thing” is because it’s important to my mother.

There are two good things I do enjoy about Thanksgiving – things I enjoy as a result of just about any holiday or excuse to get together – family and good food.  As a foodie, I enjoy the opportunity to cook and bake from scratch.  I shared a photo of my homemade dinner rolls but I also made cranberry sauce!  I’m particularly proud of this dish – it smells so divine.  I filled my crock pot with a ton of root veggies.  I’ve been feeling a wee overwhelmed since my last CSA order arrived!

Next year, when I’m not so busy, I hope to have my family over for one of my holidays.  I keep saying that, but I really want to make it happen next year…

Anyway, if you do celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you have a good time with your family.  It is good to gather with the tribe, celebrate the Earth’s bounty, and be thankful.  Just really take some time to consider the last bit.  Really meditate on where your food comes from, on the land you walk on, and the history of your people.  Don’t blot out the mistakes of the past just because they happened in the past.  Remember your ancestors of blood and of place and be thankful for the sacrifices they made.

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If you’re looking for something to watch over the upcoming vacation, consider “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”  I recently finished this six-part documentary by Ken Burns and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’ve considered myself an environmentalist since I was very young, but it recently occurred to me that I really didn’t know much about the history of the movement.  Of course I knew bits – the significance of Theodor Roosevelt, Ansel Adems, and Rachel Carlson, and also a little about its roots in the Romantic and Transcendentalist movement, but beyond that?  I’m ashamed to say that, before this documentary, I didn’t know who John Muir was.  The next time someone asks me which dead person I would most like to meet, I have a solid answer.

“The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” is a must watch for those from and interested in the USA.  To understand the present you need to look into the past, and the history of our conservation movement could give you some insights into today’s arguments over the EPA, States’ Rights, and energy reform.  What is more American than our “purple mountains majesty” and “amber waves of grain?”   The national parks are supposed to belong to “the people” and are meant to be pristine escapes into the wild (more or less).  They’ve been described as “America’s playground.”  The National Parks are also supposed to help preserve our native wildlife.  Some contain the final remnants of beings who once roamed much of America. The parks exist because of government intervention.  Before this documentary, I didn’t know about places like Hetch Hetchy Valley – a pristine environment that was destroyed all so San Francisco could get a dam.   After the reality of what happened – of what had been lost – became known, there was so much outrage that National Parks are now supposed to be protected from operations like that.  The film also provides more insight into civil rights, immigration, and the advances of science. I was particularly interested in the treatment of large predators – once killed without a thought to save the wild herds, then later understood to be essential parts of the “circle of life.”

Anyone following an Earth-centered path will gain much through watching the documentary.  Ken Burns’ style is to provide historical facts and recount the tales of the influential, but also to weave in stories of the everyday men and women who were touched by the parks in some ways.  He balances the factual with the emotional, allowing quite a bit of spiritual exploration.  I’m sure many Pagans would be interested in John Muir – someone who I now include on my ancestral altar.  Although Christian, he believed that God could best be experienced in the wild rather than a church.  He seemed, at times, animistic as he wrote of listening to rocks and trees.  He was key to modern environmentalism.

This program truly touched me.  My heart welled with emotion several times either because I could so relate to the spiritual sensations others were describing to have felt in nature, or because I was so moved by the imagery.  At times, my heart ached for the atrocities we’ve committed against nature and our fellow human beings.  While the film rightfully instils national pride, Ken Burns is honest about our history.

I finished “The National Parks” wanting to visit every single one before I die.  Who knows if my idealistic dream will become reality, but I would like to try.  On the Druidic path, I’m naturally inspired by and drawn to European cultures, but we have some of the most varied and amazing natural features in the world right here!  Remembering that makes me feel better about my inability to afford a trip across the Atlantic each year. We have such beautiful, natural temples here – groves of giant redwoods, the Grand Canyon, Acadia, the Everglades, Yosemite, Denali…  My heart and soul yearn to see them with my own eyes.

Enjoy “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” on Netflix through Instant Queue.

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