irish society

I want to write you a symphony,
but why try when you are already a well orchestrated choir.
Your heart rings out louder than the crack in the bell ever has.
Your laughter is the sweetest of sounds pianos can only dream of imitating and has forced the songbird into retirement.

I want to create you a masterpiece,
but why try when you are already the brush and the palette.
Your body - how it reminds the moon of her former glory - could never be captured in marble by Michaelangelo.
Your eyes are the clear blue that Picasso always longed for,
and now he turns enviously beneath the earth.

I want to show you that I will be here to chase away the clouds when they block the sunlight,
and I should have begun trying harder a long time ago.
You see,
you trust me enough to open your chest,
lay your heart in my hands and allow me to do anything.
You trust me to touch it,
to not break it.
And although I promise you I will not break it,
I have dropped it one too many times already.
And I know it should have been like this from the start,
but I will hold on tighter,
I will print a vinyl with your heartbeat on it,
and I will play it on repeat so when the pin jumps behind your ribs I’ll be there before the beat kicks in again.
I will hold your hand
and your heart,
you will be alright love,
you will be alright.

- s.o.c

The Vikings in Ireland: The First Wave, 795 - 873.

The initial phase of Viking involvement in Ireland consisted of multiple “hit-and-run” type raids. Starting with the raid on the wealthy monastery of Lambay Island in 795, the Vikings began their plunder. Lambay lies just north of Dublin Bay, however, at this point there was no Dublin. Dublin would later be settled by Vikings in 841 as a longphort (a type of photo-settlement allowing safe harborage for raiding activities) during the second phase of Viking actions in Ireland.

The Vikings came in search of loot and treasure, of which monasteries sure had a lot of during the middle ages. However, they were not alone in this, “for native Irish raiders did not scruple or emulate [the Vikings’] example”(2). Irish society was unique from the rest of Christendom in that they were a fractured society familiar with tribal politics. Although these initial raids do shock the land, the people of Ireland were not estranged from violence and would eventually adapt as seen in the later Viking activities.

Some notable events….

795: Lambay
802: Iona (moves to Kells, 807 - Book of Kells)
812: Irish resistance
824: Bangor (bolder raids)
832: Armagh (several times)
835: Clonmacnoise
841: Longphort at Linn Dúachaill and Duiblinn
842: Viking participation in Irish conflicts

Sources:

  1. Haywood, John. “Vikings in Ireland I.” In The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings. London: Penguin, 1995. 
  2. Killeen, Richard. “Vikings.” In A Brief History of Ireland: Land, People, and History. Running Press, 2012. 
  3. Dukes-Knight, Jennifer. “Vikings in Ireland.” Lecture, Viking History, University of South Florida, 2015.
We don’t fool anyone by parroting that it was ‘a mistake'” on the part of the British government to use the sternest methods against the Sinn Fein leaders. It was not a mistake. To the English government, to any government, the only safe rebel is a dead rebel. The ruthless shooting down of the insurrection leaders, the barbourous execution of James Connolly, who was severely wounded in the Dublin fighting and had to be propped with pillows that the soldiers could take good aim at him — all this may serve to embitter the Irish people. But unless that bitterness express itself in action, in reprisals — individual or collective — against the British government, the latter will have no cause to regret its severity. It is dangerous to let rebels live, If the Irish at home have no more spirit than the Irish in America, the English government has nothing to fear. The Irish-Americans are easily the most powerful influence in American political life. What have these Irish-Americans done to stop the atrocities of Great Britain? They have held mass meetings here and there to 'protest’ against the continuing executions of Sinn Feiners. They have sufficient political power in the country to cause President Wilson to call a halt to British atrocities, to force the English government to treat the Sinn Feiners as prisoners of war, which they are. But the Irish-American priests of Church and State would not dream of such drastic measures: politicians don’t do that.
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More effective yet it would have been if some member or members of the numerous Irish societies had captured a few representatives of the British government in this country as hostages for the Irish rebels awaiting execution. A British Consul ornamenting a lamppost in San Francisco or New York would quickly secure the respectful attention of the British lion. The British Ambassador, in the hands of Washington Irishmen, would more effectively petition his Majesty, King Edward, for the lives of the Irish rebel leaders than all the resolutions passed at mass meetings.
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After all, it is the Redmonds and the Carsons who are chiefly responsible for the failure of the rebellion in Ireland. They were the first to condemn the 'rash step’ of a people for centuries enslaved and oppressed to the verge of utter poverty and degradation. Thus they in the very beginning alienated the support that the uprising might have received in and out of Ireland. It was this treacherous and cowardly attitude of the Irish home rule politicians that encouraged the English government to use the most drastic measures in suppressing the revolt.
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May outraged Ireland soon learn that its official leaders are like unto all labor politicians: the lackeys of the rulers, and the very first to cry Crucify!
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The hope of Ireland lies not in home rule, nor its leaders. It is not circumscribed by the boundaries of the Emerald Isle. The precious blood shed in the unsuccessful revolution will not have been in vain if the tears of their great tragedy will clarify the vision of the sons ad daughters of Erin and make them see beyond the empty shell of national aspirations toward the rising sun of the international brotherhood of the exploited in all countries and climes combined in a solidaric struggle for emancipation from every form of slavery, political and economic.
— 

Alexander Berkman, “The Only Hope of Ireland” James Connolly was executed on this day in 1916.

2

Lady Frances Brudenell, Countess of Newburgh and Baroness Bellew of Duleek (circa. 1677 to 1735/6) was an Anglo-Irish noblewoman and bisexual socialite. Born to the fairly illustrious Brudenell family, she made a good match when she married Charles Livingstone, 2nd Earl of Newburgh in 1692. Charles died two years later, leaving Frances a widow in her late teens (this was around the time Godfrey Kneller painted her, pictured left). Soon after, she married the fiery and often troublesome Richard Bellew, Baron Bellew of Duleek and moved with him to Dublin. Lady Frances had always shown an interest in women as well as men and she really came into her own in Ireland, taking several female lovers. After her second husband died in 1714, Frances dedicated the rest of her life to being both the toast and scandal of Anglo-Irish high society.

By the time she was in her 50s in the late 1720s/early 1730s, she was known for ruling a social circle of tribades (a lesbian/bisexual club which, according to most, primarily focused on and took part in tribbing/scissoring, hence their name). Her primary lover was one Lady Allen who Lady Frances seems to have been extremely attached to.

Around this time, Oxford don, William King, alleged that Lady Frances owed him several thousand pounds in debt. He, unfortunately, lost the case against her and as revenge, he wrote a satire against her in 1732 entitled The Toast, in which Lady Frances is described as “a promiscuous bisexual witch and lesbian named Myra.’ The poem is notable in that it is one of the earliest uses of ‘lesbian’ in the modern sense of the word.

Lady Frances died at the age of 59 and remained one of the famous LGBT women of the long 18th century. Her circle of tribades is often used as an example of how commonplace such groups were in early modern Western Europe.

youtube

Hillary Clinton Society of Irish Women’s 19th annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner in Scranton, PA March 17, 2017

“We Have Lost America to the Irish!” – How Steve Rogers is completely, 100%, to the bone, an Irishman

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I am going to rant on Steve Rogers and Irish identity :)

I’ve seen more stuff on Steve speaking Irish Gaelic as his first language than on his actual cultural heritage that would have shaped the kind of person he is, so I wanted to fill in the void a bit.

There’s lots of discussion as to why Steve is the way he is, and the fact that he’s an Irishman never gets any credit, even though most major elements of his character can be seen in the Irish character.  This is from an MCU perspective, because I don’t have the funds for comics :(

Before we get started, disclaimer: I am nearly 80% Irish, had a nana that loved doing research into her family’s heritage so my Irish roots are mush stronger than the average Irish American, and still have family living there.  I’m not trying to offend anyone.  I am doing this for perspective on what one of my favorite characters probably experienced, which probably played a huge role in shaping his view on the world.

The Irish are prone to laugh off people making jokes about us, because we have a sense of humor and can see ourselves for what we are.   We’re very self-depreciating.

Who else is self-depreciating?  Steve.

Steven Grant Rogers is the archetypical Irishman.  He’s feisty, rebellious.  He’s stubborn, argumentative, has a lightning-fast retort always at the tip of his tongue.  Steve is dedicated to liberty and justice, not because he’s an American, but because he’s Irish.

There is not an ounce of doubt in my mind that, even without proper canonical conformation, Steve is the Irish Catholic son of two Irish immigrants.  (Yes, his dog tags said “P”, but either that’s an oversight of the prop department or Steve not seeing a point in making a fuss over something like religion.  I don’t have many good Catholic characters that I know well, so please don’t take Catholic Steve from me.)

His view on women didn’t come from nowhere.  Maybe he has some internalized misogyny, all of us do, but he tries to move past what little he does have.  He’s got the Irish perspective on gender roles: men, while the breadwinners and heads of house, were the ones who tore families apart, with excess drinking and brawling.  Women ran the house and held the family together in the face of the men’s failings.  I’m not saying that’s the right way families should be, but at the heart, Steve knows how much stronger women are than me.

Hell, if you look at the list of his medical problems, most if not all are fairly common ailments among the Irish.  Heart problems, asthma, scoliosis, everything I’ve seen listed as a problem for him is something I can connect to a close relative (I read the list off to my mother, and every answer was a resounding “Yes!”)  

As for all the fevers he contracted, well, a poverty-stricken widowed immigrant would have had a difficult time putting food on the table, much less procuring medicine.  Sarah probably accelerated her own death by giving her food to Steve.  Sarah was either the daughter or granddaughter of people who survived An Gorta Mor, so she understood hunger.  Steve grew up knowing just how close starvation and sickness are.  Yet you don’t see him locking himself away.  He’s lonely, yes, but never bored.

Life isn’t lived on a time table.  Life is about making the best of what you have, and making good memories.  Yes, a lot of Steve’s daring comes from his depression, but I think it’s a way of trying to regain that zest for life.  Steve’s trying to make his life worthwhile, worth living, and maybe the only way he feels alive anymore is with the adrenaline rush.

So yeah, Steve loves adrenalin, he loves his job in certain ways.  How many Irish people are cops, firefighters, and soldiers?  They have an urgency to life, but something else as well: a passion for justice.

The love of the law for the Irish goes back to the Brehon Laws, the codes of societal conduct set up in ancient Ireland.  They’re endlessly fascinating, and funny at times, but they’re fair.  Irish society is built to kindness and compassion, but are harsh but fair on those who don’t respect society.  And any punishment is intended to teach the wrongdoer their fault, and insure they didn’t do it again.  The distinction between justice and the law is now blurred, but the respect for the law has not wavered, and anyway, the Irish have no qualms about not following an unjust law.  (“Yessir”, than goes and does what he thinks is right?)

A large part of Irish identity is the longing for freedom, the ability to be independent of oppressors.  The Irish national anthem, “A Soldier’s Song”, has a line in the chorus that reads: “Sworn to be free, no more our ancient sireland shall shelter the despot or the slave.”

The Irish are fighters, not killers.  We love to fight, but it’s a natural urge.  While areas while high Irish demographics would have high numbers of fights, murder was a rare occurrence.  “I don’t want to kill anyone.  I don’t like bullies.”  Steve understands the need to fight for what he believes in, but killing isn’t a natural solution.  The Irish fight out their differences,  then move on.  A person being able to keep his head up, even during a beating, was a guy that was considered worthwhile to the Irish.  But America doesn’t exactly have those same values.

And as for the Irish’s place in America?  It didn’t start with An Gorta Mor.  British politicians blamed Irishmen for inciting the American Colonies to rebel, one even claiming “We’ve lost America to the Irish!”  When the famine hit, suddenly there was an excess of unskilled labor, and immigrant men were put to building projects.  Skyscrapers, railroads, the Brooklyn Bridge, all were built primarily with Irish hands, and on Irish bones.   As soon as they emigrated, the Irish were just as willing to die for America as Ireland.

While maybe they might have griped a bit, never would any Irish person ever complain about hard work like that.  They had escaped from a homeland that, though beloved, was a place of suffering, hardship, and oppression.  Even terrible conditions were preferable from the past horrors they had experienced.

Steve refuses to seek out help in the 21st Century.  Sure, he complains a bit about Fury, but the only reason he heads to the VA is to see Sam.  Steve appreciates what care they give other vets, but never would he consider seeking help for himself.  Steve has seen people who are worse off than him.  Steve is the type to refuse to properly bind a sprained ankle, because someone might have a broken ankle, and they should be helped first.

I think it also connects to the overly-generous and self-sacrificing nature that is instilled into every native Irish person from birth.  It was law in Ancient Ireland that you should extend hospitality to any guest or friend who asked it of you.  There were no inns; you simply stopped by the next house and they would give you their best.  

The greatest thing Jesus taught according to Irish tradition, was “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

“To lay down on the wire and let the other guy crawl over you”, anyone?

Now, the Irish love to argue, but it’s never pointless, or without merit.  The Irish are famed for their wit, their extraordinarily perceptive, cutting wit.  I could preach forever on the differences between Tony Stark: Man vs. Persona, but what little interaction they have had, and with the persona in full-effect, Steve still manages to see the chinks in Tony’s mental armor.  Yes, they both are terrible to each other, but the reason that scene is so heartbreaking is that it’s true, in a sense, but they both can see it in themselves.

But when the engine is blown and Tony sets off to fix it, what does Steve do?  He does his best to help.  Even though he has doubts about Tony’s moral character, he follows him without a second thought.  Why?  Despite any personal issue you might have with another person, if someone is in need of help, you help.  

And what happens when the person is a friend?  Friends are an extend part of an Irish family.  Being surrounded by good friends was the mark of a successful life and a good man.  The Irish are “gentle in friendship, fierce in battle”.  We’ll fight, but it’s for what matters most.

And what is most important to an Irish person?  Above freedom, above justice, above compassion?

Home.

Not a building.  A family, friends that are practically family.  A place where you are accepted, belong, and are loved.

“Isn’t that why we fight?  So we can go home?”

For Tony, it’s a place.  For Steve, it’s a social construct.

I love the idea of Steve speaking Gaelic, but you know what I love more?  


• Sarah having to leave her family behind so she could make a better life for herself
• Sarah crying after seeing Fastnet Rock disappear (the last piece of Ireland emigrants ever saw), then turning and focusing on the American flag
• Sarah and Joseph bonding over never seeing their mothers again
• Sarah being born Sorcha, and electing to change her name to the English equivalent so she could get a job
• Joseph griping about “just getting off the boat and turning right around”, but signing up for service in WWI anyway
• Sarah making sure her son had a good American name, but still calling him Saoirse, because he was her child of freedom
• Sarah regaling her son with her stories of her childhood spent in the country, and teasing her city-boy son that he would never survive on a farm
• Sarah crying over the letter her cousin sent her telling her that her mother died because they couldn’t afford medicine
• Sarah taking Steve to church to pray for the newly-formed Irish Free State
• Sarah teaching her son that he can be both Irish and American
• Steve getting into his first fight because someone called him Mick
• Steve getting into fights anytime anyone calls him or his mother Mick
• Steve getting into fights anytime calls anyone a derogatory term for their race
• Steve hating bullies because people can’t control what they are or where they come from
• Steve never even blinking at the idea of working with a woman, because men wreaked families while women kept the together
• Steve never even blinking at the idea of working with a black man, because he knows what it’s like to be considered incapable because of your parents
• Steve making sure Hydra soldiers got medical treatment, if he could
• Steve finding that large family that he always wanted but never had
• Captain America being proud of the fact that he’s an immigrant story, and wanting to be an inspiration for others who see America as a place to be free and have a home after living in hardship
• Steve singing his child to sleep with Irish folk songs, because that’s what his mother sang to him

anonymous asked:

You claimed that glassfed beef produces more gas than grain. Can you explain why? And does that mean that letting cattle graze on a natural grassland or pampas unsuitable for crops is bad?

What a good question! Again, you could write a whole paper on this, or a thesis, but let me try to hit the major points. I’m  going to have to break up the answer into two bits here:

1) Grass-fed animals, on an individual animal level, produce more methane per day than grain-fed ones. But why is that?

Let’s start with a view of what’s going on inside the animal: 

  • Herbivores like cattle and sheep have a very complex ecosystem of microbes in their gut, particularly in the part of the stomach called the rumen. 
  • The rumen is like a giant fermentation vat - it’s anaerobic (no oxygen), warm, and has a pH ranging from neutral-ish to slightly acidic. 
  • Feed goes in, gets regurgitated and chewed to break it down into smaller pieces, and then the rumen microbes break it down.  
  • While some nutrients exit the rumen into the acid part of the stomach without microbes getting a hold of them, the majority of nutrients in feed go to keep the microbes healthy and happy. 
  • The byproducts of the microbes’ actions on these feeds help feed the animal

The basic equation is this: 

Feed + microbes -> VFAs + CO2 + methane +microbial protein

  • VFAs, volatile fatty acids, are short-chain fatty acids that get absorbed by the gut and used for energy - in fact, these account for >70% of a cow or sheep’s energy!  
  • Rumen microbes use nitrogen in feed to grow and make more microbes, and when they get washed out of the rumen into the acid stomach, become a major source of protein to the animal, especially on low-protein diets. 
  • Waste products like carbon dioxide and methane get burped out and become greenhouse gases.

Methane is what the rumen does with excess hydrogen. 

  • There’s been research that shows that the level of hydrogen in the rumen affects the rate of certain chemical reactions, especially ones needed for microbial function, and too much hydrogen can make it harder for some microbes to function.  
  • So methane production by specific methanogenic microbes reduces hydrogen in the rumen, allowing microbes to go on their merry way. 

What you feed cows alters how much hydrogen microbes produce as a byproduct of fermenting feed.  

  • The major VFAs, acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are always going to be produced, but the ratios differ depending on diet. 
  • When acetate or butyrate is produced, so is hydrogen, and hydrogen levels rise in the rumen.  
  • When propionate is produced, the reaction uses up hydrogen, and hydrogen in the rumen decreases.
  • Pasture-based diets contain lots of cellulose, which produces mostly acetate when fermented.  
  • This is good, because cellulose is one of the things that humans definitely can’t digest, so cows are turning human inedible food into tasty meat and milk
  •  But it also means that there’s more hydrogen in the rumen because of the higher acetate levels.  
  • Mostly-grain diets, which have more starch, favor propionate, so less hydrogen and therefore less methane gets produced by the animal itself

There are other more complex effects involving different microbial groups, plant compounds, and pH effects, but let’s stick with this for now. 

There’s also the factor that methane production is driven by how much feed enters the rumen, which is driven by how much feed the animal needs to meet its energy requirements.  Forages usually have lower energy per pound of feed and are less digestible, so an animal needs to eat more. This, combined with acetate being the major VFA, means that on a per day basis, a grass-fed animal will in general produce more methane than a grain-fed one. 

However, the nice thing about grass-fed beef is that the inputs to the system are lower.  On native pasture, the only inputs are often rain and manure.  On managed pasture, there may be irrigation, seeding, fertilizer, etc.  

For grain-based diets, you have to add on the energy (and greenhouse gases) from producing the feed, processing the feed, and transporting the feed, versus the greenhouse gases from managing pasture.  But grain-fed cattle eat a lot of byproducts from other industries that would otherwise go to waste (beet pulp, distiller’s grains, barley hulls) so you need to consider that. Emissions from feed can make up a good chunk of the overall emissions associated with animal production, so the answer gets even more complex fast.  

This specific kind of analysis, of assigning greenhouse gas emissions and summing them up for a product, is part of a technique called Life Cycle Assesment - that is, looking at the life cycle of a product to determine the inputs and outputs and the emissions associated with them.  I’m doing one right now on sheep production in California and it’s utterly fascinating, but it shows that in these situations, there often isn’t an easy answer, and it depends a lot on where you set the boundaries and what you define as an impact. The debate is ongoing, and there really isn’t one clear-cut answer right now. 

So, moving on to part 2 of your question:

Is it bad to let cattle graze land unsuitable for crops because the animals themselves produce more methane than the same cow on a grain-based diet? DEFINITELY NOT.  

Cattle grazing on rangelands is definitely sustainable if managed right.

 I discussed this on my previous post here http://animalsustainability.tumblr.com/post/159885334236/hey-there-ive-been-really-enjoying-reading-your but grasslands need large herbivores to survive, and given how much land is grassland, not producing livestock on grasslands wastes a lot of land that could feed people. Removing herbivores also changes ecosystem balance for many other species that rely on herbivores to clear out excess brush, provide manure, or alter habitats.

If we don’t graze these native rangelands with something, then we risk habitat degradation and impacts on the other species that live there.  Large herbivores are an important part of the grasslands’ circle of life, and help promote ecosystem health if managed sustainably.  Grass-fed systems are also important for using land responsibly to feed everyone. 

Methane is just one part of the big picture. We need to look at ecosystem health, and the methane and other GHGs needed to produce what we’d feed these cattle if we didn’t feed them pasture.

So to answer your question, Both grain-fed and pasture-based systems have their place in modern agriculture, and neither is strictly better than the other.  And the fact is: all systems have the potential to be sustainable!

Thanks for staying with me this long. Here, have some cute Herefords as a treat (one of my favorite beef breeds). They have such sweet faces. Image credit: Irish Hereford Breed Society

anonymous asked:

Hi allec <3 I'm writing a story set in a steampunkish XIX century England, and some of my characters are witches of Irish origin. But I'd rather not use the term "witch", because I find it too vague. Since you are specialized in gaelic mythology and folklore, which term do you think would suit an irish person practicing traditional witchcraft? Also where do you think I would have to look up for historical references about traditional witchcraft and maybe also celtic revival? Thank you <3

First of all, good luck with writing that story as it sounds like it has the potential to be AWESOME.

But into your question… well, there’s a few things to consider.

Traditional Witchcraft is a thing that I know very little about, so I am paging @spiritscraft and @visardistofelphame for both their help. They’re Traditional Witches and will know a ton more than me.

But if you want to know about traditional magic in Ireland… that’s different, I believe. 

A particular person to investigate is an Irish woman who went by the name Biddy Early. She’s a well-known magical-sort-of-person in Irish folklore / history / oral stories. (I can’t quite figure out what she was called during her time, but most likely a ban feasa - wise woman - and/or a fairy doctor.) She healed people, she worked “magic”, she helped turn people’s misfortunes into fortunes. She was accused of being a witch (when the whole witch-burning thing was going on in Europe), but charges were dismissed due to lack of evidence after people who were to testify against her changed their minds. She most likely at least consulted with the Good Folk (faeries or the sidhe). 

For naming, you may want to read Morgan Daimler’s blog article: “Nuances of the words ‘Witchcraft’ and ‘Witch’ in Old Irish”. To sum up a point that Daimler has: translations are tricky. There are many words in Old Irish that denote different types of “witchcraft,” and those nuances are important. Also, bandraoi or draoi – druid – may indeed be a more apt title, if you can strip it of it’s modern-day romanticism. But also phiseogach (male), bean phiseogach (female), and/or lucht piseog (group of “witches”) may work depending on what this person and/or persons are doing in your story is doing. 

More from Morgan Daimler that I think discusses your questions well are the following two: “Fairies, Witches, and Dangerous Magic” and “Witches, Mná Feasa, and Fairy Doctors, oh my!

Some key things include that “witches” in Irish society worked against the community, whereas someone like a ban feasa worked for the community’s good. A lot of times, one’s magical know-how came directly from the fae. If they worked with the fae, they often were working against the community. 

Also also! Poetry was seen as a sort of magic, so file may be something investigating. Filid were a sort of seers, but sorta also magic users, in that their poems half foretold the future and half made the future be what they wanted it to be, or thought it best to be. The satires they made could end kingships.

And lastly, “Celtic Revival” isn’t really clear… are you talking about the resurgence of Irish ‘pagan’ beliefs? The Druid Revival? Both? :O

But yeah, I think that should give you something to start with? I don’t have many books to recommend at the moment since I sorta just absorb this from heavy-duty research that Morgan Daimler and Lora O’Brien do (Lora O’Brien is fantastic and I think is working on a book specifically about Irish traditional magic at the moment? But I don’t know if I’m recalling that correctly or when it’s going to be published.)

If anyone has more help for this Anon, reblog away! :D

Today at dinner with some of my family

My auntie’s husband was asking me about school and how my tests were getting on and I replied with that they were fine and I had 5 exams left before Christmas.

For some reason we got onto the topic of friendships and I said that my best friend Conor was at my house yesterday.

And then he started saying “Oooo Who’s Conor now?”and I was like “My friend..” and then My nana asked my younger brother “Have you ever caught them kissing?”and My brother was kinda uncomfortable too and said “No..”

I love Conor and I would trust him with my life but I don’t want to fuck him! He is my best friend!

SOCIETY PLEASE FUCKING STOP SEXUALISING FRIENDSHIPS!!

The role and power of women in Irish culture.

As illustrated in “The Tain." 

The level of equality that men and women shared within Irish culture was extremely unusual in the world of ancient and medieval Europe. Since before the times of early Greeks and Romans, women were considered second class citizens. But not in Ireland. Celtic women enjoyed the same freedoms as Celtic men did, despite the repression of women’s rights in the rest of Europe. Nothing can stand as a better testament to Irish culture then the tales and epics they passed down from each generation, first orally and eventually chronicling their tales in writing.

One tale in particular, the great Irish epic The Táin, outlines the dominant role of women clearly within its narrative. In the Táin, women use their sexuality, power, physicality, wealth and even some supernatural abilities to prove that they’re as equal a member of society as men. Although men in the Táin are typically portrayed as the strongest and most important, their power becomes weak under the woman’s influence. The male heroes of the story, Cú Chulainn, Ailill and Conchobar would have achieved nothing if it wasn’t for the efforts of the females Medb, Macha and Fedelm. The Táin clearly illustrates one surprising point about Irish culture: societal influence was split between men and women, if not leaning more towards the matriarchal side. Irish women were just as strong physically and emotionally as men.  

The Táin, otherwise known as The Cattle Raid of Cooley, is a legendary epic from early Irish literature. A part of why women held such a dominant role within the story can be associated with the fact that this literature is pre-Christian. Christianity brought with it several restrictions to a woman’s way of life. Christian women could not remarry and adultery was punishable by death. This was certainly not the case in Ireland. Sexuality was much more celebrated by the Celts as it was free from the sexual restraints and taboos that a Christian society fostered. Women could divorce their husbands if they wanted and were not punished if they were found to be adulterous. One of the main female characters, Queen Medb, had been married twice before she was married to the to the character we know as her current husband King Aillil of Connacht. During those previous marriages she had plenty of extramarital affairs and was known to take several lovers when not married. Yet despite all these acts that would have been considered barbaric and sacrilegious in another European culture, Queen Medb holds quite a strong position of power and influence which sometimes even rivals that of her husband King Ailill. The relationship between the King and Queen is very much a struggle for power, despite different genders. “Her words were sharp they cut him deep, in a war between the sheets.”

Queen Medb is described as beautiful, powerful and wealthy. Her role and influence is on par with the King Ailill. At one point they take the time to compare their assets. To Medb’s displeasure she finds out that her value (from her wealth and assets) is one less than her partner King Aillil. One Brown Bull of Cooley less. This is where the Táin begins, with the frivolous pursuit of Medb to share wealth exactly equal to her husband. She embarks on a quest, with an army to back her, to steal Donn Cualinge the prized Brown Bull of Cooley, from the couple’s enemies the people of Ulster. During this quest for the possession of the famed bull Medb and other females use their powers to direct the conflict in their favor and illustrate the importance of women in Irish culture.

Sexuality and beauty is a major tool at the disposal of the women of the Táin and is used throughout to conquer the men. Medb uses her beauty and that of her daughter Finnibair to control men with their desires. Finnabair was used by her mother as a bargaining chip to motivate soldiers to fight the enemy Ulster hero Cú Chulainn, the main protagonist of the story. Queen Medb offers Finnabair’s hand in marriage to whomever could slay Cú Chulainn. By her beauty, Finnabair unintentionally manipulates hundreds of soldiers to fight and die in her honor. However her virtue stays intact. That’s what is special about this character; her personality and morales are reminiscent of the mindset of many Irish women. Finnabair sweet talked many a soldier, convincing them to take up arms for her, for a chance to lay with her, but yet she keeps her virginity. Finnabair has love for only one man, Roachad, and feels incredibly guilty when she finds out about the men who died in her name. She’s so overwhelmed by the "harsh, hideous deeds done in anger at Ulster’s high king, and little graves everywhere” from her teasing seduction that she dies of shame on the battlefield. Finnabair shows that Irish woman did value purity and abstinence in some capacity. However this innocence was a quality only present in the character of Finnabair, for Queen Medb used her sexuality in consciously devious ways. Could Queen Medb’s contrasting virtues represent the way males viewed females in Irish societies?


With a name literally meaning “the intoxicater,” Queen Medb’s uses her beauty to get what she wants by offering “her own friendly thighs” to Dáire mac Fiachna, the owner of the Brown Bull. She essentially is willing to prostitute herself for the sake of material possessions. The fact that she goes to these lengths to acquire the Brown Bull of Cooley says a lot of things about her character. Medb uses her sexaulity as a weapon and the men of both Ulster and Connacht fall victim to it. She’s very prideful and is determined to achieve equal status to her husband. She’s violent and takes what she wants. Queen Medb raises an army in determination to see her goals fulfilled. She’s also physically strong, skilled in combat and present on that battlefield. This hints at some roles that women may have played in Irish warfare. Woman were around on the campsites and battlefields of Ireland’s army and were as much a part of the military movement as the men. One of Cú Chulainn’s many lovers, Aife, was a warrior woman who loved her chariots and her horses. Her story also suggest that women were not restricted from the same career opportunities as men. Cú Chulainn’s own combat trainer was a woman by the name of Scathach. Queen Medb’s presence during the battles and even in a personal duel with Cú Chulainn also connotates a woman’s power as a leader in Ancient Ireland. Indeed in Celtic culture if a king died, his wife would inherit all the wealth along with the power and authority. Many powerful female figures and deities arise out of Celtic mythology and history. One example is that of Boudica who was a female druidess who defended Britannica from waves of invading Romans. Celtic women, as illustrated by these tales, were just as fierce as the men. One thing this says about Irish and Celtic culture is that while beauty was important, men valued intelligence and prowess greatly in women.

A woman’s intellectual ability was a trait long sought after in women by Irish men because it was only by looking beyond someone’s physical appearance that the men showed true integrity. It’s actually a common motif in Celtic mythology where young men sleep with unattractive or very old women for their intellect and find out later that they’ve actually coupled with beautiful goddesses in disguise. The character of Fedelm embodies that quality. She’s a poetess that has the gift of “Second Sight,” which grants her precognition and foresight of future events. She uses this gift to make accurate predictions of the future for Queen Medb and her army, “"I see it crimson, I see it red.” Fedelm’s supernatural ability is a metaphor for the smart intellect of Irish women and the ability to use their brains to overcome obstacles.

The Táin also alludes to the notion that women have a subtle but focused controlling effect on the minds of men. This can be observed in the story of Macha, or the horse goddess. In the Táin, Macha curses all the people of Ulster to experience the pains of her labor, rendering them useless and vulnerable to Medb’s forces. This unique and unexpected plague is an homage to the suffering that women have to go through during childbirth. It’s also serves as a commentary for the power that women held over men. In fact Macha says it quite plainly after the curse: “Although you may develop sophisticated doctrines of rebirth; although you may have taken on yourselves the right of life and death; although your efforts may seem logical and plausible in the light of a patriarchal culture; your efforts cannot but be doomed to failure as long as they are based on the subordination of women.”

No matter how tough a man is, it’s hard to resist the soft tone of a woman’s voice. This subconscious feminine power and the easy subjectability of the male psyche can also be observed through the character of Morrigan, another goddess. With her supernatural shapeshifting abilities, Morrigan is able to trick, confuse and thwart the plans of Cú Chulainn. She trips him up in battle by turning into an eel, leads a charge of cattle towards him, and eventually perches on his dead body in the form of a raven. All evidence suggests the Irish held the role of being a woman to a much higher standard than most cultures of the time. Sure Cú Chulainn has supernatural like combat abilities and an immunity to Macha’s plague, but his powers pale in comparison to the forces of the sacred feminine.

The actions of the females in the Táin also help convey the idea of the existence of female druids in Ancient Ireland. Druids, or badrui, were members of the priestly class and were said to have supernatural powers as well as being very highly esteemed members of society. They healed the sick, held lectures, practiced alchemy and blessed the dead during public funeral ceremonies. Several of the characters in the Táin reflect clear examples of druidism duties. Conchobor’s mother Nessa was a druid and the enchantress Scathach is explicitly called one. Fedelm’s gift of precognition and the fact that she’s a prophetess also strongly suggests that she is a druid. With her claims of possessing an all-encompassing illuminating knowledge, men bend to her will.  Not only did women hold positions of immense political power, but they also held seats with religious authority.


In a time where religious persecution and strict gender roles ravaged across Europe, women enjoyed a unique level of distinction in Irish society, as illustrated by the Táin. Women in Celtic culture could be warriors, doctors, judges, priestesses, artists and in Medbs case, a royal leader. Women and their rights were protected by law. The Táin does indeed tell the story of the fearless male warrior Cú Chulainn who courageously rides into the battle. It is the tale of men and brothers who band together to defend their homeland. But first and foremost it’s a tale about the power of women. Medb’s petty pursuit, and the hundreds of deaths caused by it, is a clear example of how effective women are at getting what they want, no matter the cost. The real heroes in this story are the women. The entire conflict in the Táin was created by, facilitated and eventually ended by Medb and other supporting female characters. Men are just pawns in the hands of a prideful Medb, a vengeful Morrigan, a cruel Macha and a manipulative Finnabair. Whether used for evil or beneficial intentions the women in the Táin exhibit great strength. The epic tale of the Táin showcases the ancient celtic woman as intellectual, defiant and most importantly in a role equal to men within the culture of Ireland as a whole.

The best thing about conversations with @thebustystclair and @gothamsgaygirlgang is that one second we’re discussing the continuing prevalence of sectarianism in our Scottish/Irish society and then the next second we’re discussing shoving a Mr Whippy ice cream up your arsehole and using the flake as a sound. And by ‘best’ thing I categorically mean the absolute worst.

Irish Problems

When you have friends over and your mother spend the majority of the time offering your friend food in the off chance that they may die of starvation in the time spend in your house.

BUT

On the other hand when you are at a friends house and you are offered food you must ALWAYS REFUSE I’m the off chance you seem greedy…

How quickly we forget – How Muslims Helped Ireland During The Great Famine Ireland was ridden with famine and disease between 1845 and 1849. Also known as the Great Hunger, this famine had lasting effects: at least one million people died due to famine-related diseases and more than one million Irish fled, mainly to the United States, England, Canada, and Australia. The Islamic State (Ottoman) ruler at that time Sultan Khaleefah Abdul-Majid declared his intention to send £10,000 sterling to Irish farmers but Queen Victoria requested that the Sultan send only £1,000 sterling, because she had sent only £2,000 sterling herself. The Sultan sent the £1,000 sterling but also secretly sent 3 ships full of food. The British administration tried to block the ships, but the food arrived secretly at Drogheda harbour.

This generous charity from a Muslim ruler to a Christian nation is also important, particularly in our time when Muslims are often unfairly accused of human rights violations. Likewise, the appreciative plaque and overall reaction of the Irish society in return for this charity deserves to be applauded. We hope that the Turkish-Irish friendship sets a model for peace among different nations. In commemoration of the Ottoman aid, Drogheda added the Ottoman crescent and star to its coat of arms. Their football club’s emblem retains this design til this day.

BREAKING NEWS: Ireland passes law allowing trans people to choose their legal gender

“Gender recognition bill will eliminate need for medical or state intervention and comes months after the country voted for same-sex marriage

Transgender people in Ireland have won legal recognition of their status after a law was passed allowing them to change their legal gender with no medical or state intervention.

The gender recognition bill, passed late on Wednesday and set to be signed into law by the end of July, makes Ireland only the third European country, after Denmark and Malta, to allow transgender people aged over 18 to change their legal gender without intervention.

The bill was passed months after the people of Ireland backed same-sex marriageby a landslide in a referendum that marked a dramatic social shift in a country that decriminalised homosexuality just two decades ago.

The legislation, which will be signed into law by the president shortly, contains a number of other innovative features, including permitting the recognition of a person’s gender of choice based on self-determination, making Ireland only the fourth country in the world to adopt this progressive approach.

Sara Phillips, the chair of Transgender Equality Network Ireland, said: “This legislation marks an incredible shift in Irish society … This is a historic moment for the trans community in Ireland. Trans people should be the experts of our own gender identity. Self-determination is at the core of our human rights.”

Read the full piece here

NICE WORK IRELAND!!!

CURRENT MOOD: JOY

I finally realized why I find the idea of JK’s new idea of the American magical school so implausible on top of being offensive and that is: cultural setting. There is no way culture would not have had an effect on how magic and magical societies –and even history of countries like the US – would have been shaped with the existence of magic in the world.

I mostly have the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (a white female American) to thank for this train of thought. If you don’t know it, it’s basically a series about the Napoleonic Wars from the point of view of a British officer– with one major difference: the existence of dragons (as sentient beings). And in the first book, everything seems pretty much the same in this AU world as ours, with England being a world power, ruling and colonizing the world, etc. Except, I think Novik realized that this didn’t make sense - or maybe she planned it - but in book two we start to see that the existence of dragons has made a huge difference in the way things have developed around the world. (P.S. I’m not saying Novik is perfect, just that I appreciated that the dragons made the difference in the world.)

I don’t want to spoil it entirely for those who want to read the series, but a few major things were: the dragon corps in England had to start accepting women into their ranks, because the biggest and the baddest dragons would only accept female riders,  by end of series, one of the top military figures is a woman. Slave trade exists but as the series progresses the nations of Africa band together and destroy every single slave port along the coast of Africa and then sail across the world to the slave nations and wage war to get their people back - and if their people are dead - they demand their descendants. It’s more complex than that and there are a lot of politics but I’m summarizing here. The Incan civilization is alive and thriving. Novik doesn’t go into much detail - but she hints that while the colonization of North America started, it is radically different and in fact - Native Americans appear to be part of established country and in full power and there is even a Native American president - again, I don’t know how it’s supposed to work, but there it is. The development and colonization of Australia is also very different. 

But now J.K. is telling us that the existence of magic did not have made a major difference in the creation of nations in Harry Potter’s world. Well, I guess the UK magical world does make sense if you take their cultural and historical treatment of magic (in our own world). The witch burnings and persecution were real, their stories and mythologies are filled with good Christian knights fighting evil dragons and witches. It makes sense that the witches and wizards and magical creatures in the UK and Europe would hide their world and want nothing to do the Muggle society because of the development of the religious zeal that swept the continent and spurred massive persecution that pushed all the magic into hiding. But then look at the cultures and mythologies of other nations? Inca, Aztec, Native American tribes, Caribbean islands, Brazil, India, African nations and countries as they were before colonization. Magic is a part of their mythologies, and it is often revered, worshiped, and even used and practiced in the open society. They had no reason to hide magic, because in some shape or form it was accepted. 

And then JK comes along and says that witches and wizards don’t care about race or color or whatever else - which is complete bullshit considering the entire conflict with blood purity in HP was equivalent to class and race and ethnicity purgings of Hitler during WWII. And yet somehow, in the same breath she tells us that their world is the same as  ours. That magic made no difference in this world, even in cultures where it is accepted. That Native Americans allowed the colonists to run them over. That India and other colonies allowed the British to invade and kill them by thousands? Are you telling me that the Inca and the Aztec’s would not have used all the magic in their arsenal to fight off the Spanish? Are you telling me that the African tribes would have continued to allow their families to be stolen and sold into slavery? Even if those things managed to take root because of element of surprise (which is how that happened in Novik’s world), I doubt very much the the magical societies in those nations would have allowed their countries to be taken over and their people and history wiped out. To suggest that is not only insensitive and offensive, it’s extremely narrow minded from an literally perspective as well.

Actually now that I think about it… what about even other white cultures… like the Irish, with their proud history and their rich magical stories and folklore. I mean, even in our society the Irish are still seen as a bit of a … ‘magical’ folk. I doubt that in HP’s world they would have bothered hiding… I think magic would have been accepted as part of their society. Even when religion comes about. Their history with the English is so violent and ugly. Are you telling me that the magical Irish society would have allowed themselves to be fully integrated into the British one? Unless they were overwhelmed by the British magical forces? But we know the British magical society would not have involved themselves. We know nothing of this.

Maybe J.K. Rowling didn’t think of this in the grander scheme of things when she began to write Harry Potter because really we never did get a glimpse of any other magical societies except European ones. It was perfect in that moment and while we wanted more, it made sense in that one moment of history. All the information we learn about foreign magical worlds and their development was always post-canon. Yet somehow, the more we learn the more disappointing this world becomes. The fact that even after nearly a decade of writing and developing this world, she is somehow saying the world would still be same as it always was… that magic made no difference in history, saved no one… it’s just… it’s just makes it all so unoriginal and boring. 

On Ancient Celts, Druids, & Vedic Roots

I’m writing this in response to this post, which the OP acknowledges is what they have learned and does ask for corrections if others have better sources; so this is a fleshing-out that I hope will be useful.

I think the main thing that’s getting in the way here is Peter Berresford Ellis’ work. He has some great stuff, but he’s very prone to poor citations and not clearly marking when something is his own guess or not, which can perpetuate things as truth that he possibly never meant to be promoted as such. I feel like he thinks he’s writing in to a vacuum sometimes. I haven’t read his Druids myself, but I’ve read his Celtic myths & legends compilation in which he includes a creation myth which he’s written himself — a lot of people think this is a legitimate historical record of a creation myth because it’s not super clear (I did myself when I was younger). From others who have read Druids, I understand that it suffers from similar problems.

I cannot go point-by-point with the original post to clarify and redirect; it would be impossible in the space of an afternoon. One could write an individual book breaking down each of Ellis’ points. As such, I’m going to go over what I see as the most immediate issues, and hopefully this will encourage any of you to go and explore further.

Throughout this post, I am going to cite Nerys Patterson’s Cattle Lords & Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland for my examples.


The Unusefulness of “Ancient Celts" As a Term

First, and most importantly: conceiving of a group of “Ancient Celts” is rarely useful. A lot of the usage in scholarly works today comes from Caesar’s writing which is one of our main primary sources, but when Caesar is referring to Celts, he is generally referring to the Gauls. Gaelic and Brythonic languages share Celtic roots as well, but what happens is that when you think of Gaels and Brythons as “Celtic,” you then start to apply to them information about “the Celts” that really only applies to Caesar’s observations of Gaul. Brythonic cultures certainly had some interchange with Celtiberians and possibly Gauls, but Gaelic ones almost certainly did not, and the Romans never got to Ireland.

This renders statements by Ellis like this one totally unuseful:

“Tree worship exists both in Celtic tradition and in “the agricultural tribes of India,” as “every village was positioned near a sacred grove” (Ellis 40)”

The Celts covered such an impossibly vast area, there is no way that we can possibly verify a statement such as this. Further, “villages” is not necessarily a useful term, particularly in regards to Irish history and the structure of the tuath. Early Irish structure was far more complex than to be able to just generally make statements about “villages,” and I would suspect that’s true of all the cultures that come under this Celtic umbrella. Patterson’s work covers this in great depth.

All of this stated, we see that most of the points under the original post’s section “Ancient Celts Were Pretty Advanced” are not at all applicable or useful; it’s impossible to make any blanket statements about Celtic philosophy, or the rights of Celtic women or the roles of druids (see my section on castes below). A lot of the points aren’t technically untrue, but when you look at the history you see that modern discourse has childishly simplified a lot of facts about societal interactions, in such a way that tends to promote the bizarre sort of Advanced Feminist Celtic Mythological Personage Thing.


Breaking Down Blanket Statements

I’m going to gloss through one example of this to give you an idea of what I mean by this. Let’s take “Officials were elected and property was more or less shared.” Again, one could do this with any of the statements, such as “Celtic women could do [xyz]” or “the ancient Celts seemed to have the best healthcare system.“

I’m going to break this statement down from an Irish perspective. See all of the nuances and differences I’m describing here. You can imagine that you would be able to find this amount of nuance and difference for every country and culture under the Celtic umbrella, for every single one of these general points. It should be pretty obvious how unuseful these blanket statements are (and why it’s impossible for me to break down all of these fully in the space of this afternoon).

All of this is cited from Patterson’s work. Page citations are in parentheses.

  • Kinship was the focal point of societal organization, and it influenced economically productive social relationships (such as guilds), economic actions that individuals could or could not take, and who was liable for which defaults and debts. Kinship obligations may have been the origin for the way various levels of society interacted with each other. (11)
  • Irish law tracts appear to have largely been written by subject matter experts rather than law-focused academics, which is what provides a lot of granular detail within these relations (for example, we have a tract with lengthy descriptions of legally acceptable forms of fencing for different kinds of agriculture). (15-17)
  • Irish farming was migratory, and necessitated people moving between different types of lands and pastures and ecological “chunks,” if you will — communities were identified in terms of descent, rather than territorial boundaries, because the land was only important in terms of what physical resources it could provide. The job of a tuath’s king was to ensure peaceful interactions between its people, regulating such things as how many animals each farmer could have on a given piece of land. Ensuring that land was shared and used properly, and that those who used the land worked in sync, meant that people weren’t ruining each other’s crops or effectively limiting resources for one another’s livestock. (84-108)
  • Certainly, inheritance of ruling positions wasn’t, say, determined by descent by a monarchy, but it wasn’t exactly elected, either; kinship relations may have roughly determined individual’s roles within society (8-12). As such, when a king passed on, there wasn’t a de facto “heir apparent,” but it wasn’t an election so much as a scuffle.


Castes & Vedic Roots

In early Irish society, we do not have a clearly defined “caste” system, and as such, druids couldn’t be clearly labeled a “caste” of their own. Again, social strata and relationships were faceted and would vary depending on the situation at hand. One law tract, for example, made distinctions between nemed, privileged, and non-nemed, and between sóer (free) and dóer (bond). There were both kinds of both; that is, you could be privileged and be bonded to someone, or you could be free but unprivileged (Patterson 40). The status of Irish druids varies by law tract. In Uraicecht Becc, we’re shown that druids in Munster were fairly prestigious, and were grouped with wrights, blacksmiths, braziers, whitesmiths, leeches, and lawyers, who would all have had a status similar to that of a lesser lord. In other tracts, the druid isn’t much more than a commoner (Patterson 41).

Vedic roots for Celtic society and religion are overblown; the above information on castes is one example.  The influence of this Indo-European “lens” in scholarship has a lot to do with budding nationalist feelings in Ireland and other parts of Europe that wanted to distinguish themselves firmly as un-British, and has scholars to overlook a lot of discrepancies with actual Vedic and Indo-European culture (Patterson 18-20). Again, this could be a full essay in itself; what you should be taking away from this is that Vedic roots for religion is unfounded, and has led to the appropriation of Vedic traditions of reconstructionists to fill in gaps. Though many Celtic societies had druids and other parallels that we are aware of (such as the lack of a creation myth), “Celtic spirituality” cannot be generalized. All of these cultures’ religions were distinctive from one another and largely tailored to their locale, rhythms, and needs.

This is a good article I found a while back concerning Halloween:

When we became followers of Jesus Christ there were many practices we put behind us; lying, immorality, drunkenness, brawling, etc. We accepted the clear teaching of Holy Scripture that a believer should not make such habits a practice in his life. Many, however, feel that the bible is not so clear in condemning the believer’s participation in the celebration of Halloween. They would say that it is a “gray area” where each man must be convinced in his own mind. Is this true? Let us examine, from a biblical and historical perspective, what the bible has to say about the revelry of October 31st.

Reference materials are in general agreement about the origins of the practices of Halloween:

Now a children’s holiday, Halloween was originally a Celtic festival for the dead, celebrated on the last day of the Celtic year, Oct. 31. Elements of that festival were incorporated into the Christian holiday of All Hallows’ Eve, the night preceding All Saints’ (Hallows’) Day.

Customs and superstitions gathered through the ages go into the celebration of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, on October 31, the Christian festival of All Saints. It has its origins, however, in the autumn festivals of earlier times.

The ancient Druids had a three-day celebration at the beginning of November. They believed that on the last night of October spirits of the dead roamed abroad, and they lighted bonfires to drive them away. In ancient Rome the festival of Pomona, goddess of fruits and gardens, occurred at about this time of year. It was an occasion of rejoicing associated with the harvest; and nuts and apples, as symbols of the winter store of fruit, were roasted before huge bonfires. But these agricultural and pastoral celebrations also had a sinister aspect, with ghosts and witches thought to be on the prowl.

Even after November 1 became a Christian feast day honoring all saints, many people clung to the old pagan beliefs and customs that had grown up about Halloween. Some tried to foretell the future on that night by performing such rites as jumping over lighted candles. In the British Isles great bonfires blazed for the Celtic festival of Samhain. Laughing bands of guisers (young people disguised in grotesque masks) carved lanterns from turnips and carried them through the villages.

In ancient Britain and Ireland, October 31 was celebrated as the end of summer. In later centuries it was the opening of the new year and was the occasion for setting huge bonfires on hilltops to drive away evil spirits. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on that day, and the annual fall festival acquired sinister connotations, with evil spirits, ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, and demons wandering about.

Halloween, name applied to the evening of October 31st, preceding the Christian feast of Hallowmas, Allhallows, or All Saints’ Day. The observances connected with Halloween are thought to have originated among the ancient Druids, who believed that on that evening, Saman, the lord of the dead, called forth hosts of evil spirits. The Druids customarily lit great fires on Halloween, apparently for the purpose of warding off all these spirits. Among the ancient Celts, Halloween was the last evening of the year and was regarded as a propitious time for examining the portents of the future. The Celts also believed that the spirits of the dead revisited their earthly homes on that evening. After the Romans conquered Britain, they added to Halloween features of the Roman harvest festival held on November 1 in honor of Pomona, goddess of the fruits of trees.

The Celtic tradition of lighting fires on Halloween survived until modern times in Scotland and Wales, and the concept of ghosts and witches is still common to all Halloween observances. Traces of the Roman harvest festival survive in the custom, prevalent in both the United States and Great Britain, of playing games involving fruit, such as ducking for apples in a tub of water. Of similar origin is the use of hollowed-out pumpkins, carved to resemble grotesque faces and lit by candles placed inside.

So, according to secular sources, the traditions of Halloween are based upon the worship of false gods, contact with the dead, foretelling the future, and communing with evil spirits. Does the bible have anything to say about these practices?

The worship of false gods is condemned numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments and is emphasized so strongly that it is the very first of the commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

In Exodus 20:2-3 the Lord writes with His own hand: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

In Deuteronomy 11:16 He warns the Israelites: “Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.”

The Psalmist warns in Psalm 81:9: “You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god.

John even closes the “Love Letter” of 1 John with the admonition to “…keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

The passage in the bible that most directly addresses the customs mentioned above is Deuteronomy 18:9-14, where we read: “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.

In Amos 5:14 The Lord tells Israel, “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.” He goes on in the next verse to say, “Hate evil, love good.” Even though one may be making a profession of faith, Amos is clearly saying that the Lord Almighty is not with those who are actually seeking evil, instead of good. Peter reminds us of this when he says “…the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).

At this point some may say, “But all of that was ages ago. None of that significance remains. It is now a harmless kids holiday, isn’t it?” Let’s see just what significance, if any, there is in the modern holiday of Halloween.

Rowan Moonstone (a pseudonym), a self-described witch, has written a pamphlet entitled “The Origins of Halloween,” in which he seeks to defend Halloween from the “erroneous information” contained in “woefully inaccurate and poorly researched” Christian tracts on the subject. Following are excerpts from the question and answer style article.

  • Where does Halloween come from?

Our modern celebration of Halloween is a descendent of the ancient Celtic fire festival called “Samhain”. The word is pronounced “sow-in,” with “sow” rhyming with cow.

  • What does “Samhain” mean?

The Irish English dictionary published by the Irish Texts Society defines the word as follows: “Samhain, All Hallowtide, the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signalizing the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season, lasting till May, during which troops (esp. the Fiann) were quartered. Faeries were imagined as particularly active at this season. From it the half year is reckoned. also called Feile Moingfinne (Snow Goddess). The Scottish Gaelis Dictionary defines it as “Hallowtide. The Feast of All Soula. Sam + Fuin = end of summer.” Contrary to the information published by many organizations, there is no archaeological or literary evidence to indicate that Samhain was a deity. The Celtic Gods of the dead were Gwynn ap Nudd for the British, and Arawn for the Welsh. The Irish did not have a “lord of death” as such.

Okay, it is possible that the name of the god and the name of the celebration got mixed up in someone’s research. Note that he still admits it was a “feast of the dead.” He then describes its significance:

  • What does it have to do with a festival of the dead?

The Celts believed that when people died, they went to a land of eternal youth and happiness called Tir nan Og. They did not have the concept of heaven and hell that the Christian church later brought into the land. The dead were sometimes believed to be dwelling with the Fairy Folk, who lived in the numerous mounds or sidhe (pron. “shee”) that dotted the Irish and Scottish countryside. Samhain was the new year to the Celts. In the Celtic belief system, turning points, such as the time between one day and the next, the meeting of sea and shore, or the turning of one year into the next were seen as magickal times. The turning of the year was the most potent of these times. This was the time when the “veil between the worlds” was at its thinnest, and the living could communicate with their beloved dead in Tir nan Og.

  • What other practices were associated with this season?

Folk tradition tells us of many divination practices associated with Samhain. Among the most common were divinations dealing with marriage, weather, and the coming fortunes for the year. These were performed via such methods as ducking for apples, and apple peeling. Ducking for apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple would be the first to marry in the coming year. Apple peeling was a divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the unbroken apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be. In Scotland, people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before retiring for the night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night was said to be destined to die during the coming year.

So from the pen of a defender of the holiday we find that pretty much all that has been said about the holiday by the encyclopedia’s cited earlier, with the possible exception of the faulty association of god status on the name Samhain, is true. Toward the end of the article Mr. Moonstone makes what seems to be, for our purposes, the most telling statement of all:

  • Does anyone today celebrate Samhain as a religious observance?

Yes. Many followers of various pagan religions, such as Druids and Wiccans, observe this day as a religious festival. They view it as a memorial day for their dead friends, similar to the national holiday of Memorial Day in May. It is still a night to practice various forms of divination concerning future events. Also, it is considered a time to wrap up old projects, take stock of ones life, and initiate new projects for the coming year. As the winter season is approaching, it is a good time to do studying on research projects and also a good time to begin hand work such as sewing, leather working, woodworking, etc. for Yule gifts later in the year.

So, according to a witch, for Druids and Wiccans the day still holds religious significance. It is a festival during which “various forms of divination” are practiced. This position is supported in the following article. A witch is giving tips to other homeschooling witches at a website entitled “Halloween: October Festival of the Dead”.

Origins: All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween or Samhain once marked the end of grazing, when herds were collected and separated for slaughter. For farmers, it is the time at which anything not made use of in the garden loses its’ life essence, and is allowed to rot. Halloween is the original new year, when the Wheel of the Year finishes: debts are paid, scores settled, funereal rites observed and the dead put to rest before the coming winter. On this night, the veil between our world and the spirit world is negligible, and the dead may return to walk amongst us. Halloween is the night to ensure that they have been honored, fed and satisfied–and is the best time of the year for gaining otherworldly insight through divination and psychic forecasting. Recognition of the unseen world and the ordinary person’s access to it, as well as the acceptance of death as a natural and illusory part of life is central to the sacred nature of this holiday.

Note her use of the present tense to describe the various aspects of Halloween. Of special interest is the term “sacred nature of this holiday.” Further down the webpage, in an article entitled “Elemental Homeschooling,” she gives the following suggestions for how to enlighten your children on (and about) Halloween:

As much fun as it is for children to get great bags of sweets at Halloween, the origins of this time of year are sacred and meaningful. It is the time when nature appears to die, so it becomes natural to consider those who have passed away to the spirit world. Bring out pictures of your ancestors and re-tell the old family stories to those who haven’t heard them yet. Remind yourself where you come from. Water is the element of Autumn, and the fluidity of emotion is most apparent in the Fall. We retreat within, burrow down into our homes in order to stay warm for the coming winter. We look within, and easily seek inner communication. Halloween is the perfect time to link the deepening of emotion with finding new ways to search for interior wisdom. Likewise, this is a fun and exciting holiday: theatrics, costuming, and acting out new personas express our ability to change. Here are some ideas for integrating this holy day with homeschooling lessons.

Methods of inner communication with divination tools: tarot, palmistry, astrology, dream journaling … ? archetypes: fairy tales, storytelling the Dark Ages, the medieval era, issues about superstition and eternal truths, skeletons: the skeletal system, organs, anatomy …issues about death, persecution (using the Burning Times as a beginning point for older children), mysteries, the spirit world night: nocturnal animals, bodies of water: rivers, lakes, ocean, ponds …

Once again she uses the present tense and describes Halloween as a “Holy Day.” She also advocates many of the activities specifically condemned by Deuteronomy 18:9-12. Obviously, there is a lot more to Halloween than some costumed kids gathering a stomach ache worth of candy. It is clearly a festival of the Kingdom of Darkness.

The scripture has a lot to say about participating in such activities:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you’” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 says to “avoid every kind of evil.”

Jesus said it best in John 3:19-21: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

Finally, Paul gives us an idea for a costume to be worn on Halloween (or any) night in Romans 13:12: “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

There will certainly be people who will still rationalize ways to participate, at some level, in the festivities of Halloween. To this the Lord replies in Proverbs 3:7Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil,” and Proverbs 8:13To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Will we seek to push the boundaries of our faith to see just how far we can go? Or will we seek to serve the Lord with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength? “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

The Lord equates Spiritual maturity with the ability to discern good and evil. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they should “stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20). The author of Hebrews makes it even more clear when he says “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

For those who would still insist that they can participate in such activities with a clear conscience, there is another aspect to think about: the example you are to those around you.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God– even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).

It is curious to note that in the same breath that Paul says “Love must be sincere” he says “Hate what is evil; Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). If we have sincere love for our brethren we will do all that we can to set a good example and not be a stumbling block to them.

Romans 14-16:23:
Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”

1 Corinthians 8:7-13:
However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

The weak or new brother who sees or hears of one of us participating in Halloween may be led or feel pressured to participate himself, even though he does not have a clean conscience about the activity. For him then the activity is clearly sin, because it does not come from faith. This brother would have been pushed toward this sinful state by your indulgence.

Consider another aspect of this; who among us is weaker than our children? Can we take the risk of them seeing us participating, however marginally, in an activity rife with occultism? Jesus had harsh words for those who would cause such little ones to stumble! (Matthew 18:6) We work so hard at protecting them from the evil world around them, will we then be guilty of corrupting them for the sake of a celebration of that very evil? “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The best thing we can do for our relationship with Jesus is devote ourselves entirely to Him.

“…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with endurance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a).

How fixed on Jesus can our eyes be if we are spending a night, or even an evening, thinking on darkness? So let’s press on to know the Lord!

Simply put, that holiday and its symbols originated not in the Bible but with people deceived by the devil to worship FALSE (pagan) gods. No true believer in God should be involved in Halloween, with its celebration of pain, suffering, evil, and death - not to mention its worship (at times cleverly disguised) of God’s adversary. Of course, if there is no God, it does not make any difference. However, God EXISTS, and He clearly forbids indulging in evil practices! For all its trappings and ‘fun’ Halloween is condemned by God and should be avoided by Christians.

Many churches lately have a “Hallow Him” celebration during that day, which seeks to praise God with their community and for anyone who wants a safe alternative to that demonic Halloween celebration. Christians shouldn’t hide at Halloween, we should use it as a time to minister to unbelievers in our community. Give them a free place to come as a safe alternative to Halloween. A place to eat, listen to gospel music, be in the company of loving and caring people, and most of all a place to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Orphanage: Women’s Organizations and Eliza’s Legacy

As we know from the Hamilton finale, the historical Eliza was very involved in what we’d now call charity work, which was in the early 1800s a field largely carried out by women. While there were mutual aid societies run by working-class women, a lot of these organizations were run by upper class, white, Protestant women, largely because those were the women who had the time to devote to these types of organizations. (There were also a large contingent of Black and Catholic organizations of this kind, along with some Jewish organizations as well, since the consequence of having charities run by white Protestants is that they would only provide aid to, you guessed it, white Protestants.)

Eliza herself became an officer in the descriptively-named Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children in 1805, the year after Hamilton died. Founded by Isabella Graham and her daughter Joanna Bethune in 1797, the Society grew out of at least some recognition of the fact that aid societies up to that point were very clearly marked by ethnicity–Graham was Scottish, and both she and Bethune were involved in the Scots-Irish St. Andrew’s Society, but they wanted to form a similar kind of aid society that would have a broader focus (though still, of course, within narrow confines of race and religion). [100-101]

I Help Raise Hundreds of Children

The year after Eliza joined the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows, she along with several of the other women involved in the Society, including Joanna Bethune (remember that name, she’ll come up later), split off to form the Orphan Asylum Society, to help the children of the women they had be aiding in the previous society. (This wasn’t a dramatic split: it was common for women to found and participate in multiple organizations.) Eliza was named second directress, below only first directress Sarah Hoffman: she was, essentially, vice-president. [111]

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Today Ireland became the 20th country in the world to allow gay and lesbians to marry,  and in doing so became a fairer and more equal society. Yesterday  millions of irish people decided that the lgbt community deserved equality and that this country needed to change.Just 22 years ago it was illegal to be gay in Ireland, but now its a different place. It represents a victory not only for the Yes side, but also for Irish society, Irish democracy and the young people of Ireland. Its no longer the oppressive conservative nation that it once was, bound by the restraints of the catholic church, its now a place where equality and liberty matter. 

Today gay teenagers can grow up knowing that theyre accepted by their country, and that they too matter.The struggles of the elderly people who grew up gay in Ireland ,living a lie and a life of misery and marginalisation, have finally been recognised.The Irish people, via the ballot box, have today given each and every gay child and young person in Ireland - and across the world - a strong and powerful message that they are loved, they are cared for, and don’t need to change who they are.

Today I am so proud to call Ireland my home , well done Ireland, you did the right thing.