fnubates on Celebrating the Flower Maiden…
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Despite the many assertions, made since the Second World War, that never again could we see war on European soil, the past several months have proved otherwise. Ukrainian refugees have arrived all over Europe, mostly women and children, or elderly male relatives. They arrive with only the clothes on their backs, exhausted, traumatised, stressed over the possible fate of those they have had to leave behind.
As a neutral country, Ireland does not offer military assistance. However, thirty thousand refugees have been welcomed, in houses, sports clubs, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and when they first arrive, until more suitable accommodation can be found, they are offered campsites.
Where do we begin to address, let alone heal, such brokenness? What kind of language would we speak from our common humanity? English, Irish or Ukrainian? Or maybe we have other languages: the language of symbols, songs, poems and stories?
Woman Spirit Ireland, established in 1995 as an educational charity, has for the past several years celebrated the four quarterly festivals: Bealtaine (May 1st); Lughnasadh (August 1st); Samhain (Nov. 1st, and Imbolc (February 1st). Over many centuries many generations are said to have arrived in Ireland on Bealtaine: climate change refugees, adventurers, and political asylum seekers. Among them may have been many immigrants from Slavic countries.
Several commentators, Marija Gimbutas, Mary Kelly, and Elizabeth Barber have pointed out similarities between Irish and other OId European traditions, especially evident in the rituals and material artefacts. This year, Woman Spirit Ireland decided that we would explore our Irish and Ukrainian common origins. We are fortunate to have several cultural specialists willing to offer their services.
Laura Shannon will speak on the beautiful Ukrainian embroidered ritual cloths (rushnyky) and finely decorated Easter eggs (pysanky), with attention to symbols of wheat and grain, the wheel of the year, ancestral relationships and spirit of place, and the theme of protection. These themes have equivalents in Irish folk culture as well, underlining the common ground of shared concerns among all members of the human family. https://laurashannon.net
Of course, our Ukrainian visitors will not be in the mood for celebration. They come to Ireland, not by choice, but from the horrific brokenness they have experienced in their homeland. For that reason, Nadia Tarnawsky has offered us a poignant rendering of the song The Broken Pot, signifying their brokenness. https://www.nadiatarnawsky.com
However, we wish to offer some other perspectives on that brokenness, and Ruth Marshall will recount the age-old story of the woman with two pots, one intact; the other broken, and how the broken pot served to fertilise the field as she took the water from the well back to her home. www.ruthmarshallarts.weebly.com
We will also offer an opportunity for meditation on brokenness with the beautiful craftwork of artist, Mary Wallace, and her broken pot series. www.artwallace.ie
Medical herbalist, Rosari Kingston, will explore the medical significance of the great Ukrainian emblem, the sunflower, and its healing properties. www.drrosarikingston.com
Rosari will also reflect on the theme of Light and Darkness, Warm and Cold, the two parts of the old year in the WISE Island (Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England). In the Living Tradiitons of Ireland and Scotland, the Cailleach, or Old Woman, represents the Cold Half of the year, while her daughter, the Inion Buí (Daughter of the Hag), pronounced In-yeen Bwee, now known as (Bride, or Brigit), presides over the Warm Half.
Some traditions say that at the turning of the seasons, the Cailleach met her daughter who handed her a bunch of primroses. The Cailleach then took off her black cloak, turned it around to reveal a yellow lining, and placed it on the shoulders of her daughter.
In another tradition, it is said Father Winter handed Bride a bunch of snowdrops, saying If the Cailleach scolds you, hand her these flowers and if she asks where you found them, tell her that they came from the green rustling fir-woods. Tell her also that the cress is springing up on the banks of streams, and that the new grass has begun to shoot up in the fields.
The theme of mothers and children continues with a beautiful Bealtaine song, sung by Pádraigín Ní Uallachain: Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn. (We bring the summer with us). In her fabulous book, Hidden Ulster, Pádraigín suggests that the song may represent a ritualised symbolic playful struggle between two opposing groups, (Cailleach and Bride) with the winner taking the spoils –the right to parade through the town or village holding either a Maybush, a May doll, or even a branch, each symbolising fertility. www.irishsong.com
Mary Condren and Laura Shannon will also reflect on the deep bonds between mothers and children, signified by image of daughters in the skirts of their mothers in Ukrainian embroideries; in the stories of the saint and goddess, Brigit, and in the cow and calf images all over the Irish landscape. Mary will continue exploring how the image of the Ukrainian Virgin Mary (recreated for this year’s Venice Biennale) represents images of female divinity and how such images signify protection, and inclusion, regardless of colour or creed. The cloak, whether it represents Brigit, the Cailleach or the Virgin Mary, is also used to collect the dew of mercy from the earth, a healing fluid that contrasts sharply with the ever-flowing sacrificial blood shed in war. https://tcd.academia.edu/MaryCondren
Our event will come to an end with long-time anti-war activist Peggy Seeger’s beautiful song: Oh How I long for Peace. http://www.peggyseeger.com.
If ever they were needed, the events in Ukraine cry out for our work in recuperating religions of the hearth, as opposed to religions of empire. In this sense, the poem of Eva Gore Booth the early 20th century Irish activist and mystic speaks volumes:
The Poet’s God
“What is God? ‘men said in the West, / The Lord of Good and Ill, / Rewarders of the blest, /Judge of the evil will.
“What is God?” men said in the East, / The Universal soul / In man, and bird, and beast / The self of the great whole.
I saw a primrose flower / Rise out of the green sod, / In majesty and power, / And I said, “There is Love, there is God.”
Online event, May 22nd Symbols of Hope: Ukrainian and Irish Traditions at Maytime.
All contributors are offering their services for free in the hope of raising money to support the humanitarian needs of Ukrainian refugees and those still in Ukraine. Simultaneous translations are available in Ukrainian, Russian, French, German and Spanish.
Author of Blog
Mary Condren, Th.D, feminist thealogian, theorist and Brigit researcher, is director of Woman Spirit Ireland and teaches at the Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, Trinity College Dublin. https://tcd.academia.edu/MaryCondren
Ukrainian Refugees are free. Rather than registering for the event, they should send their email to this address: email@example.com
Ukrainian and Irish Traditions at Maytime
A WomanSpirit Ireland Event at Bealtaine
Sunday, May 22nd 2022
19:00 – 21:00
Book through Eventbrite HERE
Admission is free – Donations welcome
All donations will go to “IrelandforUkraine” https://irelandforukraine.ie/
Celebration, Meditation, Excavation
Woman Spirit Ireland has been a torch-bearer in celebrating and researching the festival of Brigit for many years, and now that Brigit’s flame burns ever-brighter, 2022 is the last year before Brigit’s Day becomes a public holiday in Ireland, all thanks to the resurgence of interest in Brigit, goddess and saint.
Saturday 29th January 2022 7pm to 9pm GMT. Please research time zones in your area
Tickets: Standard: €20; Concession: €10
This webinar interweaves strands from folklore, plant wisdom, traditional hearth prayer and healing on many levels with poetry, art and music to offer an experience of Brigit as Soulsmith, Poet and Healer.
Book on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/248697981357
A virtual tour of the four seasons at Brigit’s Garden –Jenny Beale, Founder and Director of Brigit’s Garden, Galway. www.brigitsgarden.ie
Healing Plants at a Time of Imbolc – Rosari Kingston, Medical Herbalist and Ph.D Irish folkore, author of Ireland’s Hidden Medicine. www.drrosarikingston.com
Brigit as Healer – political, social, personal – Mary Condren, Feminist Theorist, Thealogian, and Brigit researcher. https://tcd.academia.edu/MaryCondren
Hearth Prayers in Brigit’s Traditions –Séamas Ó Catháin, Professor Emeritus University College Dublin. Author of Festival of Brigit and many articles on her Irish and European roots.
Poetry: Ruth Marshall:storyteller, poet, crafter and author Celebrating Irish Festivals. www.ruthmarshallarts.weebly.com
Music : Pádraigín Ní hUallacháin, author of Hidden Ulster, musician, songwriter. www.irishsong.com
Eithne Ní hUallacháin: 1957-1999. Lá Lugh . the voice of Eithne Ní hUallacháin. New Album of Eithne’s songs Bilingua, nominated for Album of the Year 2014, http://www.eithneniuallachain.com/recordings/bilingua/
Art: Original artwork, “Brigit”by Jane Brideson, artist and creator of The Wisdom of the Cailleach oracle cards. http://theeverlivingones.blogspot.com/p/how-to-order.html
Book on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/248697981357
While 1st February is Brigid’s Day according to the solar and Gregorian calendar, 19th February 2021 will be Imbolc according to the lunar calendar. Our thanks to Emer Cloherty for this information.
We have access to one of the many talks Mary Condren has been giving this year. This is hosted and recorded by WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual) available on YouTube here. The audio recording is available on SoundCloud here. (Be aware that the sound quality improves and is perfect from 4min:28 into the recording).
To make a Brigid’s cross, see Ruth Marshall’s demonstration HERE.
WomanSpiritIreland regrets to announce the death of Margaret MacCurtain, our dear friend, resource person, advisor, and founder member of the Institute for Feminism and Religion, now using the name: Woman Spirit Ireland.
Margaret had been ill for some time and she spent her final years in the care of Santa Sabina Nursing Home, where she was tended by her loving sisters, nurses and staff.
Nevertheless, her final years saw the publication of three of her books, and her brilliant mind was fully functioning up to her final days.
Woman Spirit Ireland extends our deepest sympathy to her Dominican Sisters, and extended family including her beloved sister, Eilis.
The links below, including one from the Irish Times, will give some flavour of a life well lived, to those who had not the privilege of knowing her in person.
May she rest in peace and love, and may her generous, compassionate, humourous, kind, and mischievous spirit live on in all of us.
Woman Spirit Ireland
Irish Times Link
A WomanSpirit Ireland Event Bealtaine
held on line on Sunday, May 22nd 2022 NOW AVAILABLE TO VIEW:
An Online Celebration in Preparation for Hallowe’en
This is an event reclaiming the Spirit of Hallowe’en from the clutches of commercialism. Our virtual event will reflect on the ancient spirit of the Cailleach at Samhain , remember the old traditions for celebrating the festival, and honour our ancestors at this special turning point of the Old Year.
Tickets available through eventbrite below
Topic: Tigh na cailleach: – A gateway to the landscape of the Goddess in Scotland. A surviving ritual site in Glen Lyon illustrates just how much the Cailleach still inhabits the landscape of modern Scotland – and elsewhere?
Stuart McHardy is a writer, historical scholar, poet, musician, storyteller and for many years has been a Teaching Fellow at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Open Learning. His unique take on Scotland’s history and culture comes from a thorough immersion in the storytelling arts and history alike. Past President of the Pictish Arts Society and one time Director of the Scots Language Centre, his recent research in Geomythography focusses on cultural continuities that provide clear links to the pre-Christian beliefs of the indigenous peoples of the British Isles and beyond.
Topic: Meaning and Purpose of Samhain
Emer is a Druid, Saoi, and Elder of Old Irish native spirituality, who was brought up in the tradition and trained since childhood in the art of remembering. Emer can offer invaluable information and perspectives on our almost forgotten rituals, and practices and for Samhain she will offer rich resources to those envisioning Samhain anew. She does not have a website, but has imparted her wisdom and traditions through other means, to many around the world.
Topic: The Gifts of Samhain.
Dolores Whelan is an educator, author and spiritual guide in human and spiritual development for the past 30 years. Dolores draws on wisdom and insights from many spiritual traditions, modern psychology especially the evolution of consciousness and “The work that reconnects” She has woven all of these threads into the fabric of work she shares in the world, and understands the importance of recovering lost wisdom including such resources to evolve towards more wholeness.
The Irish spiritual, mythological, and wisdom teaching are at the heart of her teaching. She is passionate about the protection of sacred landscapes and the celebration of ancient Celtic traditions, especially the seasonal rituals.
Author: Ever Ancient, Ever New – Celtic Spirituality for the 21st Century (second edition 2011).
Contributor: Celtic Threads ( 1999) The Quite Quarter Anthology (2009) and Constant Heart (2010) Brigit Sun of Womanhood (2013). She co-created of the perpetual Celtic Calendar with the American artist the late Cynthia Matyi.
Topics: Masks, Poetry, Games and Stories
Ruth Marshall is a poet, storyteller and crafter living in Co. Clare. Author of three books, Ruth facilitates poetry, arts and heritage workshops for children, and creativity and personal transformation for adults. She brings storytelling to schools, accompanied with craft work, songs, voice work movement and her ukulele. She is a regular contributor to the Clare Museum’s education programme, with a speciality around the seasonal festival traditions.
Limerick Folk Tales,The History Press, 2016; Clare Folk Tales,The History Press, 2013; Celebrating Irish Festivals, Hawthorn Press, 2003.
Poetry: Electric Acorn, 9, 2001 (Bird Woman; Sleeping Beauty); Women’s Work IV,The Works,Wexford, 1993 (My Grandmother’s Ring); NorthWords, Scotland 1989 (Winter Comes Earlier); The Stony Thursday Book, Limerick, Autumn 2001 (Island Event ); The Three-legged Stool, Freedom Press, 2003 (Bird Woman;Woollens); Into the Further Reaches, anthology edited by Jay Ramsay, PS Avalon, 2007 (The Country of Love; Three; Celebrating Brigit; Out of the Night of Stars;The Low Road); Clare Champion, Ennis, Co Clare, 2015 (Poetry Knit Prayer); The Stony Thursday Book, Limerick, 2015 (Instructions: Preparing for Dark Times) ;
Links: How the Forget-me-not Got its Name: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNrWBXnG3ZY
The Whale of Mull https://soundcloud.com/ruthmarshall/the-whale-of-mull
King of the Sea: https://soundcloud.com/ruthmarshall/herring-king-of-the-sea
The Key Flower: https://soundcloud.com/ruthmarshall/primrose-the-key-flower
Topic: A slide show of some of Jane’s paintings of the Cailleach will be shown during our event.
See this interview for Jane’s background and current concerns. https://ramblingsandcoffee.blogspot.com/2017/03/interview-with-jane-brideson-artist.html
Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin
Topic: Beannú: Padraigin’s latest recording, Beannú, will open and close our event.
Of County Armagh and Louth parentage, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin was raised in an Irish speaking family of eight. She is a multifaceted traditional artist: a professional singer since 1999 and a researcher, song writer, author and composer.
Publications: She is the author of A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel (Four Courts Press, 2003), and the author/editor of Oriel Arts Project, a major digital project launched in 2017.
Songs & Recordings: Singing has been the main focus of her professional career – recording nine studio albums and restoring song in the corpus of the Irish language Oriel song tradition and also new song composition. To date she has restored and recorded over 40 Oriel songs that had been lost to the tradition, and has recorded nine other studio albums of song.
Current Work: Her interest in devotional and spiritual song has seen the composition of sacred music in the traditional style, and various devotional songs recorded on the Fonn Ceoil album.
Research on Breifne song, harp songs and songs of Oriel poets is ongoing.
In 2020, Pádraigín released ‘Beannú’, the first composition in an upcoming body of work on the Irish keening tradition.
Website: https://www.irishsong.com (With extensive further biography)
Time Zones: In Ireland and UK the time switches from summer to winter time this weekend, “falling back” from UTC+1 to GMT / UTC. This website will give you a useful link from your timezone to ours. https://www.worldtimebuddy.com/