PSA: As a real life Scottish person please stop using the argument that Celtic peoples had dreadlocks when talking about the cultural appropriation of dreadlocks. We didn’t. Ever. Please don’t lie about my culture in order to validate your racism.
To say there is no worth in learning a language that isn’t economically useful is like saying there’s no point in being friends with somebody unless they’re going to help you get a better job. It’s a spectacular, cynical miss of the point.
HeyO! This was a bit of something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. Had it in my mind to do an Irish/Celtic/Gaelic/Welsh/Scottishwhathaveyou guide for awhile. Finally got around to it, at the very tail end of summer. So here goes.
Aos Sí: Irish term meaning “people of the mound”, they’re comparatively your faeries and elves of Irish mythology. Some believe they are the living survivors of the Tuatha Dé Danann. They’re fiercely territorial of their little mound homes and can either be really, really pretty or really, really ugly. They’re often referred to not by name, but as “Fair Folk” or “Good Neighbors”. Never, ever piss them off.
Cat Sidhe: Cat Sidhe are faerie cats, often black with white spots on their chests. They haunted Scotland, but a few Irish tales tell of witches who could turn into these cats a total of nine times (nine lives?). The Cat Sidhe were large as dogs and were believed to be able to steal souls by passing over a dead body before burial. Irusan was a cat sidhe the size of an ox, and once took a satirical poet for a wild ride before Saint Ciaran killed it with a hot poker.
Badb: Part of the trio of war goddesses called Morrígna with sisters Macha and Morrígan, Badb, meaning “crow”, was responsible for cleaning bodies up after battle. Her appearance meant imminent bloodshed, death of an important person, and/or mass confusion in soldiers that she would use to turn victories in her favor. She and her sisters fought the Battles of Mag Tuired, driving away the Fir Bolg army and the Formorians. In short: total badass.
Merrow: The Irish mermaid. They were said to be very benevolent, charming, modest and affectionate, capable of attachment and companionship with humans. It is believed that they wore caps or capes that would allow them to live underwater, and taking a cap/cape of a merrow would render them unable to return to the sea. Merrow, unlike regular mermaids, were also capable of “shedding” their skin to become more beautiful beings. They also like to sing.
Púca: Also called a phooka, these are the chaotic neutral creatures of the Irish mythos world. They were known to rot fruit and also offer great advice. They are primarily shapeshifters, taking a variety of forms both scary as heck and really really pretty. The forms they took are always said to be dark in color. Púcas are partial to equine forms and have known to entice riders onto its back for a wild but friendly romp, unlike the Kelpie, which just eats its riders after drowning them.
Faoladh: My all-time favorite Irish creature. Faoladh are Irish werewolves. Unlike their english neighbors, Faoladh weren’t seen as cursed and could change into wolves at will. Faoladh of Ossory (Kilkenny) were known to operate in male/female pairs and would spend several years in wolf form before returning to human life together, replaced in work by a younger couple. They are the guardians and protectors of children, wounded men, and lost people. They weren’t above killing sheep or cattle while in wolf form for a meal, and the evidence remained quite plainly on them in human form. Later on, the story of an Irish King being cursed by God made the Faoladh a little less reputable.
Dullahan: Dullahan are headless riders, often carrying their decapitated cranium beneath one arm. They are said to have wild eyes and a grin that goes from ear to ear, and they use the spine of a human skeleton as a whip (What the WHAT). Their carriages were made of dismembered body parts and general darkness. Where they stop riding is where a person is doomed to die, and when they say the human’s name, that person dies instantly.
Gancanagh: An Irish male faerie known as the “Love-Talker”. He’s a dirty little devil related to the Leprechaun that likes seducing human women. Apparently the sex was great, but ultimately the woman would fall into some sort of ruin, whether it be financial or scandal or generally having their lives turn out awful. He was always carrying a dudeen—Irish pipe—and was a pretty chill guy personality-wise. You just don’t ever want to meet him—it’s really bad luck.
Lughnasadh, also known as Lúnasa, Lùnastal, Luanistyn or Lammas, is a Gaelic festival of the first harvest, which also corresponds with other European early harvest festivals. It is held on the 1st of August, halfway between the Summer Solstice (Litha) and the Autumn Equinox (Mabon).
The festival is named after the Celtic god Lugh, and part of the festival is often offering some of the first harvest’s bounty in gratitude, and feasting or athletic competitions. Historically, journeys to sacred wells or holy shrines, or climbing mountains or hills have been popular, and in some places are still observed. Lugh is often seen as a personification of the first harvest, or the corn itself, and he is sometimes recast as folkloric figures such as John Barleycorn.
Lughnasadh colours: gold, orange, yellow, green, light brown
Bake bread! Baking bread is one of the most traditional ways of celebrating this festival, and the first of the grains have been harvested. Consider baking different types of loaves, experiment with plaiting the dough or drawing designs on the top. Add seasonal berries, nuts or seeds to the dough to add flavour and interest
Have a picnic with friends and family – with lots of bread!
Go on a walk up a mountain or hill, or visit a sacred place such as a shrine, holy well, stone circle or burial mound (or just somewhere sacred to you if none of those are available)
Play games with friends or family, have a sports contest such as a running race or a tug of war
Make a donation of food to your local food bank or donate money to a charity
Hold your own Lughnasnadh ritual, light a fire and offer some food to the god Lugh and thank him for your harvest, and feel gratitude in knowing that all your efforts are coming to fruition
Make corn dollies, instructions for lots of interesting designs can be found online, or make sculptures and decorations out of salt dough
Light a candle and make a list of all that you are thankful for, and meditate upon this
Go on a foraging trip, look for early apples, plums, berries and edible fungi (ensure you are certain of what you are harvesting before you eat it!)
A blessed Lughnasadh to all, however you chose to celebrate it, and may your August be fruitful, prosperous and full of joy :)
I have been watching television/listening to music in my target lang as part of my immersion™ and I have found that, instead of focusing really hard on hearing a couple of words I know, it’s better to just relax and let the words flow.
For me, it’s a really hard habit to break. But if you just try it, you will start to hear words and phrases that you know and you aren’t missing further info that you would have if you were still stuck trying to translate the word you recognise. You will find that as time passes, the words will translate almost automatically.
Don’t focus. Just watch/listen. Like you do in your native lang.
Two Irish Army Officers dressed in traditional Celtic dress, accompanied by Irish wolfhounds at the Tailteann Games - a sporting and Gaelic revival festival and Ireland’s attempt to outdo the Olympic Games, 1924
In Celtic religion and Irish mythology, Brigid (exalted one) is the daughter of Dagda, and had two sisters, also named Brigid, and that’s why she’s considered a classic Celtic Triple deity.
Brigid is the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock, sacred wells, the arrival of early spring, all things perceived to be of relatively high dimensions such as high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts and upland areas; and of activities and states conceived as psychologically lofty and elevated, such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare, and also seems to have been the Celtic equivalent of the Roman Minerva and the Greek Athena.
In the Christian era, nineteen nuns at Kildare tended a perpetual flame for the Saint, which is widely believed to be a continuation of a pre-Christian practice of women tending a flame in her honour.