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What Irish People want for ‘Samhain Christmas’

‘With ‘Sam Hayne’ (that legendary Country & Western singer) almost on us again, it’s time when Irish people everywhere must gird their loins for the annual discharge of ‘Oirish Culture’ from Facebook.

This year, out of curiosity, we asked other Irish people what they’d like to see for ‘Samhain Christmas’ and collected a bit less than ninety replies. Fortunately, we’ve managed to consolidate them – very generically – to the eight ‘Samhain Christmas’ wishes below.

So suck in deep, firm those tummy muscles, cross those legs, and … Ádh mór leat, a Sheamais!


What Irish people want for ‘Samhain Christmas’

1) Formally legislate the removal of ‘Happy Samhain’ from the internet (a greeting that makes no sense from either a cultural or language perspective – it’s like being told to “have a Happy Colonisation Day!”)

2) Remove all photos of redhaired ‘Oirish’ children from Oirish Facebook Groups (they’re almost invariably Dutch or Belgian kids)

3) End online ‘Oirish’ Pagan Spirituality (apparently ‘Wicca’/’Celtic Reconstructionist’ wasn’t a good commercial model, hence the name change – still hawking Irish culture for branding purposes, though)

4) Impose a ‘Culturally Offensive Use’ fee on all North American productions of twee Oirish movies (‘Wild Irish Thyme’, not looking at you!)

5) Transport ‘Nazi Celts’ to their own planet (a bizarre cosplaying subgroup of the ‘Oirish White Supremacists’ – usually American – they insist on telling everyone that they’re Celts … despite – apparently – not seeming to know what a ‘Celt’ is).

6) Force ‘Celtic Reconstructionists’ to rewatch ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’ three hundred times. No, not a bunch of ‘born-again-Celt’ building professionals, but a group of hobbyists who cherry-pick specific elements of Irish culture as padding for their own fantasy lifestyle. (We’ll take the ‘nice’ parts from your culture and … Eh? What do you mean Famine? Northern Ireland? 80s’ recession? Unemployment? The Sultans of Ping? Bono? … Er, no thanks. We don’t want THAT part of your culture!)

7) Make non-Irish people who use Gaelic forms of their names for branding purposes, introduce themselves as Gaeilge (Dia dhaoibh a chairde! Is mise, Dilín O’Deamhas!).

8) Legislate for people who insist they’re the scions of Irish kings to call their first child, ‘Prince

Please feel free to add your own suggestions for ‘Samhain Christmas’! Given the lack of respect shown by those borrowing our culture, it feels like time to take it back.

Back on ‘The Island’

Walking home on ‘The Island’ three (maybe four?) years ago. I’d gone up to visit the Martello Tower and it was such a beautiful day I decided to walk back to the village.

The place hadn’t changed that much since I’d last been there although the Government has shut off access to the old submarine pens with a half-hearted, delapidated wire fence. The houses were all in a far better state than I remember as a kid. ‘Back inthe day, the Island’ used to suffer some pretty serious poverty and the houses were in far worse nick.

As were the cars.

I remember once seeing an oul fella parking his battered old Volkswagon on a hill in the village. The car was in such a bad state, he had to get a kid to jump out and drop a cement block in front of the tyre to stop it rolling away.

Some overseas individuals with Irish heritage seem to yearn for this ‘simpler’ time. Given the complexity inherent in the world today (plus the sheer effort necessary to operate effectively in society), I can understand that … to a degree but there are some things, none of us in Ireland want to go back to.

Exploring the Irish Otherworld

Four years ago, I got to visit my favourite of the four main entrances to the Irish Otherworld. Generally speaking, these places tend to be quite difficult to get to (for obvious reasons) and have important topographical features that make them stand out from the rest of the terrain.

Practical tip: If you visit the Otherworld, you should always bring a torch!

Yes, progress is being made

I have to confess I always get a kick posting this image up on Facebook. Several months back when I first released the book, I put it on the Facebook shop only for it to be rejected as “the sale of animals is forbidden” (the Facebook algorithm thought it was a zebra!).

When I resubmitted it a second time, the cover was judged as ‘offensive material’ and therefore unsuitable for the Facebook shop. Neeldess to say, I won’t be adding any more products to the Facebook Shop. Ironically, of course I can still post the image without any qualms whatsoever.

Aaaah Facebook!

The conclusion of this story started in this book will be released in December (porbably through the Irish Imbas website) and through the ususal suspects some time afterwards. Further detail on that over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, here are some of the Amazon reviews for Liath Luachra: The Seeking. As always, I’m very grateful to those people who’ve made the effort to do a review.

GAME OF THRONES TAPESTRY IN BELFAST MUSEUM

Fascinating to see what happens when fantasy becomes commercially strong enough to impact on reality.

In New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand often sold the country as ‘Middle Earth’ (i.e. where LOTR was filmed) but with the Game of Throne television series, Northern Ireland started to give it some serious competition.

This 253-foot-long tapestry (based on a style similar to the Bayeux Tapestry) was hung in Belfast’s Ulster Museum for a time and depicted a scene from each episode. With the completion of the series, the tapestry was transferred to the Bayeux museum (in 2019).

You can see it online HERE

Liath Luachra: The Great Wild

This is the cover image for a small project called ‘Liath Luachra: The Great Wild‘ which I’m hoping to release sometime next year – probably towards the end of the year. Essentially, it’s a prequel novella to the Liath Luachra Series (The Irish Woman Warrior Series) that tells of an event during Liath Luachra’s first year with mercenary group Na Cinéaltaí – The Friendly Ones.

Currently in outline only, I’m expecting the final work to be around 35-40,000 words in length. In terms of style, this story reverts back to the more simple and rugged approach of the first book in the series (Liath Luachra: The Grey One). A simple, stand alone story, it won’t have the ongoing ‘plot baggage’ (that’s a technical term us arty types use!) of the other books in the series which should make it easier (faster) to write.

Prior to releasing that, I have to publish Liath Luachra: The Metal Men (probably in December 2021) and Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán (planned for June 2022).

I’m also hoping to get at least five chapters of Beara: Cry of the Banshee (the second inthe Beara Trilogy) drafted but that will really depend on my freelance workloads. Meanwhile, I also have a non-fiction (Irish mythology based) book planned for next year but that’s a pretty big project so I’m not committing to delivery as yet.

Sheesh! I feel tired just thinking about this!

An Emotional Horse (and An Unsubtle Saint)

One of the stories associated with Saint Columcille tells how, on the day before he died, he went to visit his fellow monks working in the field, but was so weak he had to be carried to them in a cart. When he finally arrived, he informed them all of his great longing to ‘go with Jesus’ but that he’d held off as he was very holy and felt obliged to do his holy duty by attending the recent Easter celebrations.

Not being entirely thick, the monks cottoned onto the fact that he was suggesting he didn’t have much time left with them. Accustomed to his tedious harping on however, they pretended not to understand.

A little later, just in case they hadn’t got the message, the saint also obliquely informed his companion, Diarmuid, that it would soon be his own day of rest – the following Sunday in fact (wink, wink!). Diarmuid stared silently at him, not entirely sure whether the saint was talking about him or about himself.

Heading back to the monastery, Colmcille grew weary and was obliged to sit down and rest at the side of the road when a white horse suddenly ran up to him, pressed its head against his chest and started crying, drenching his shirt with the flood of tears.

Unaccustomed to bawling animals, Diarmuid quickly rushed in to save the saint and attempted to drive the horse away. Colmcille, however, never one to miss an opportunity to lecture, latched onto him and prevented him from doing so by saying, “Allow this admirer of mine to shed his tears on my chest. For this horse, being an animal, understood instinctively that I was going to be with my Lord yet you as a man could not foretell this.”

Ever a man to labour a point, oul Colm Cille.

The Vita Columbae – Life of Columba – a hagiography (or ‘propaganda record’ of the saint’s life) indicate that he died the next day.

It’s silent on whether he was helped by the other monks.  

Meath County Council recently produced a short movie of the story which you can find here: St Colmcille and the Depressed Horse

I prefer my own interpretation, of course.

Ráth Meadhbha

Ráth Meadhbha is looking a bit run down these days but after 3000 years (best estimates indicate it was constructed in the early Bronze Age: 2000–1500 BC) I suppose that’s pretty understandable.

Climb in over the shaky ‘geata’, slip through the trees and you find yourself in an open field that could be a farming meadow anywhere in Ireland. It’s only as you return to the road and notice the wide, almost indistinguishable ditches to either side that you realise you’ve been standing in the ‘lis’ of an enormous ráth.   

Although the ráth’s current name relates to Meadhbh Leathdearg (or Meabh or Cruachan) it’s obviously got little connection with the mythological character. It’s not clear when that name was assigned but at a guess (without checking) it was around medieval times (at the very least, 1000 years later) when they were just as good at self-promoting as they are in contemporary times.   

Drawing From the Well

‘Drawing from the Well’ is an expression I often use with respect to my creative work as it effectively captures the concept of returning to the comforting depth of your cultural roots to draw on inspiration for artistic expression.

Having been raised in Irish culture, I know that culture has strongly shaped my personality, the language and cultural elements influencing my formative years, guiding my value systems and pretty much defining how I see the world.

Culture, of course, is developed over many generations and involves a contribution from all those who’ve passed before us. In terms of resonance, therefore, it’s much larger and more cohesive than any individual – despite many who who’d like to think it’s the other way around.

I’ve not heard the expression used by other people, but I’ve always assumed I’m not the only one to use it. Hence, I was was pleased to see it being used as the title for a monthly series that connects Irish artists with material from the Irish archives to inspire new works.

The following is the latest in that series and outlines a work (Petticoat Loose: A Wicked Woman of Irish Folklore, Music, and Song) from musicians Mairéad and Deirdre Hurley where they explore the stories and songs associated with Waterford’s famous “Petticoat Loose”.

Sadly, a number of non-Irish creatives (the Paygans, Celtic Fantasists/ Recreationists and Droods!) are already trying to portray the folklore character as a witch (Ireland didn’t have witches – that was very much an English and Continental thing) so ignore all that and listen to the real thing.

You can find that HERE

The Metal Men

This is the cover for ‘Liath Luachra: The Metal Men‘ which completes the story commenced in the previous book (Liath Luachra: The Seeking) of the Irish Woman Warrior Series.

The first five chapters have now been edited and are in their final forms and I’m busy drafting up ‘close to final’ versions of chapter six and seven. At this stage, the plan is still to release the book in December 2021, although this might initially be to the Irish Imbas website or Vóg followers before its distributed more widely.

The background imagery is quite dramatic in this piece and I’ll be explaining the full context behind that in the next edition of Vóg (due at the end of the month).

Sad News On Irish Mythology

Sadly, I’ll be making some changes to how Irish Imbas Books operates in the future (and there’ll be more detail on that in the Vóg newsletter at the end of the month).

For the past twenty years or so, I’ve used ancient Gaelic cultural and mythological concepts on a daily basis as part of my publishing and creative work. At its most fundamental, Irish mythology is very simple (and very beautiful) when you use it correctly and with respect.

Unfortunately, over the last year or so, I’ve found a disturbing amount of the original material and research I produce, being plagiarised or misused by self-proclaimed ‘Pagans’, ‘Druids’, and ‘Recreational Celts’, desperate to cash in on the fantasy/recreationist interpretations of Irish culture driven by overseas interests. Some of these individuals follow my work with an almost parasitic intensity …

And I no longer wish to feed them.

To start with, I’ve removed all in-depth content on Irish mythology from the Irish Imbas website. I’ll also be substantially reducing the number of articles on this topic released through our social media (although minor posts will continue). l will continue to publish the more in-depth material, but only through platforms I control – my newsletter etc. (but even these will have their safeguards)

The internet (and Facebook in particular) is full of people claiming that Irish mythology is something it’s not, that it’ll fix something it won’t, that it’ll fill some gap in your soul that desperately needs filling.

Unfortunately, it won’t do any of these things because:

(a) it’s not meant to; and

(b) it’s not – and never will be – a ‘product’.

Early Fionn

This was an early sketch for one of the covers for Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma. The faces of the characters actually ended up quite different in the final cover but I liked the look of them sufficiently to think about an adaptation of the book as a graphic novel at some stage when I have time.

If anyone knows a decent graphic novel illustrator, let them know I’m looking.