Thursday, October 7, 2021
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
THERE are more worlds than one, and in many ways
they are unlike each other. But joy and sorrow, or, in
other words, good and evil, are not absent in their
degree from any of the worlds, for wherever there is
life there is action, and action is but the expression of
one or other of these qualities.
After this Earth there is the world of the Shí.
Beyond it again lies the Many-Coloured Land. Next
comes the Land of Wonder, and after that the Land of
Promise awaits us. You will cross clay to get into the
Shí; you will cross water to attain the Many-Coloured
Land; fire must be passed ere the Land of Wonder is
attained, but we do not know what will be crossed for
the fourth world.
James Stephens, from his story ‘Becuma of the White Skin.'
Friday, September 24, 2021
Sarah Pearl McCain née Tweedy... born 1883 and passed in 1962. My grandmother, she gave me insight into another world. As I like to put it, she read Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories as they came out. Being with a person that grew up in the 1800s was interesting for me. The language was different, the intonation different, the concepts different. Of course, I just liked it, only many years later did I realise what a special time that was in my life and what a valuable gift she gave me.
Her house (obviously) had no TV and there was a radio, but it was rarely turned on. She had the Second Sight, as do many in her Tweedy family, both past and present. I learned much from her.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
|Sliabh Na Caillí Meath|
Today is the Autumnal Equinox. The begins the Fall season in the Northern Hemisphere. The days grow shorter and there is more night than day. In Gaelic it is called Cónacht Fómhair and it is the last quarter day of the year. The shortening evenings will bring us cooler temperatures and we await the darker, colder days of Winter. It is a time for reflection and remembrance of our ancestors. The green leaves turn brown, bronze, yellow, red and russet, and remind us of the great cycle. It is an enjoyable time of the year.
On Sliabh Na Caillí, in County Meath, the rising sun of today illuminates the central chamber of this very ancient Sí (mound). This ancient burial place is indeed very old, ever older than Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange).
Sliabh Na Caillí is also the Sí of An Cailleach Bhéara. Sliabh Na Caillí means the 'mountain of the Cailleach.' Cailleach is translated as 'the Hag,' but really means the 'Veiled woman.' The woman is Béara, one of the Sí and is a mysterious Bean Sí (Faerie woman, or literally 'woman of the mound'). I had an interesting encounter with her one day on her mountain, the details of which I put in the last chapter of my book 'Finding the McCains.' The photo at the top is my son Donovan on top of Sliabh na Caillí.
|Barry R McCain on Sliabh na Caillí|
The Autumnal Equinox is a splendid day, a day to light a fire, pour a libation or three, and reflect upon the season change and to remember one's ancestors. Here in the wooded hills of north Mississippi the weather is perfect, cool with bright sunshine. There will be a fire in the firepit tonight for sure. I encourage everyone to mark and enjoy this special day. Turn off your TVs, go outside and enjoy the Autumnal Equinox.
Sunday, June 20, 2021
This is the Summer Solstice today. It is the Midsummer festival which is often celebrated with a bonfire. Saint John the Baptist was associated with the festival in Christian times and there were prayers for God's blessing upon the corps at the height of the growing season. Of course, the festival is much older than St John and dates back to pagan times. St John was a relative newcomer to the Midsummer event and it was none other than An Dagda, also known as Crom, who used to bless the crops.
In astronomical speak, it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere... and the shortest night of the year. Midsummer is, and has been, a prominent cultural event in ancient Europe and still going strong in the 21st Century.
|Sucellus (Dagda's cognate in Gaul)|
Midsummer is celebrated on or near the Summer's Solstice throughout Northern Europe. Festivals and celebrations are held from 19 June to 25 June. Midsummer festivals are held throughout Ireland on the weekend closest to the actual Solstice day. Bonfires lit on the hill tops are a tradition.
It customary to have a fire on the eve, or on the night, of the Solstice and advisable to run and jump over the fire to evoke the blessings of Dagda. A toast to the Solstice, to Dagda and to ole St John as well, all advisable. A bonfire is best, but a small fire in a fire-pit we do splendidly. And for those apartment dwellers, it is fine to just light the candle and open the wine and make your toast.
So, Shake a Leg and Pull a Cork and Welcome in the Solstice!!!
Barry R McCain
Saturday, May 1, 2021
May Day... Lá Bealtaine
Beltane is the anglicised name of the Gaelic May Day festival. May Day is on 1 May and is held on or near the halfway mark between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It is one of the oldest and most ancient festival days. It is widely observed in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, and in modern times has spread to the Diaspora. In Irish Gaelic it is called Lá Bealtaine, in Scottish Gaelic, Là Bealltainn, an in Manx Gaelic Laa Boaltinn. Beltane is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Samhain, Imbolc, and Lughnasa. There are several theories on the etymology of Beltane; the most accepted one is that it is from the common Celtic Belo-tenia, meaning 'bright or shinning fire,' which in turn goes back to the Indo-European 'Bhel (to shine) tepnos (warm).
It is not a 'fire festival,' but fire is a integral part of the festivities. Prior to modern times it was a festival to mark and celebrate the moving of livestock to summer pastures, to honour the Old Ways and old gods, and evoke blessing of fertility of the tribe and the life giving cattle.
Beltane is mentioned in the earliest written Gaelic literature when Christian monks began to write down Gaelic lore and myths in early medieval times. The medieval accounts were ancient even then and date back before Christianity was introduced to the Gaelic homelands.
On the Beltane Eve the festival began. The people gathered to feast, have drink, and make offerings to the Aos Sí, who are the old gods of the Gaels. Byres, the windows and doors of homes, etc., were decorated with flowers. It was a joyous festival ushering in the bountiful time when the days grew longer, the sun shined more, and the weather grew warmer.
Beltane is still celebrated and the practice is growing. It is now held not only in the Gaelic homeland, but in the Diaspora, and has been incorporated into similar May Eve and May Day celebrations in Europe. While many see Beltane as just a good time with a bonfire, there is also a growing interest in the spiritual aspects of the festival. The concepts of the a new growing season, the connection to the Old Ways of ancestors, and reflection upon life, are also now part of Beltane for a growing number of people.
|a sacred fire of Bealtaine|
|Sláinte ar Lá Bealtaine|
Barry R McCain on Amazon
Monday, February 1, 2021
|Cros Bríde (Bríde's Cross) made of rushes|
Today is Imbolc one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals. Imbolc is the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The festival is associated with the goddess Bríd, who is one of Tuatha Dé. Bríd was the protectress of hearth and home, and of barns and livestock. She was invoked to bless the agrarian and pastoral production in the coming year. Imbolc has been celebrated from ancient times to the present.
In Christian times, Bríd was made into a Saint and there are many traditions and customs associated with Saint Bríd in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Imbolc is called Lá Fhéile Bríde also, i.e. the festival of Bríd.
How to celebrate in the these modern times: Light a candle, a deiseal procession (sunwise or clock wise) three times around the fire and a toast. This practice is called Saining i.e. a blessing, protection or consecrating. In this case to invoke Bríd... both the Naomh Bríd (saint Bríd) or Bríd, the ancient goddess.
© 2020 Barry R McCain
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Monday, December 21, 2020
Today is the Winter Solstice. This is the astronomical first day of Winter and it is the shortest day of the year, in the Northern Hemisphere. The Winter Solstice has been celebrated and venerated for many thousands of years. Now, if that were not wonderful enough, there is an additional astronomical treat this year, the conjunction of two planets, Jupiter and Saturn.
The etymology of solstice is from the Latin sol meaning 'sun' and sistere meaning 'to stand still.' So named as for a few days before and after the solstice the sun's path across the sky appears to freeze. On the winter's solstice the sun is low in the sky. The sun's path begins northward again and will reach the most northerly point on the summer solstice. If you step out at noon today your shadow will be the longest of the year.
|Saturnalia Holly and Candle|
Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Hellenic, etc., people all celebrated the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year takes place and the days begin to slowly get longer and and longer. In the Roman world the Winter Solstice festival was Saturnalia. Many of the traditions of Saturnalia have endured and have been assimilated into our own Christmas customs.
The giving of gifts, decorating homes with green using ivy and holly. Candles were given as gifts and used to celebrate the season. Saturnalia is named after the god Saturn. The etymology of Saturn is probably from the Proto Indo European word sewH(r) which means 'seed, bring forth,' and is a cognate with the modern English 'seed, son, semen, and sow (as in a seed).' Saturn is connected to agriculture, and he is often conflated with the Greek Kronos. The two entities come from a single Indo-European spiritual cosmology concept. While it is a different topic, there is a link between the Spirit of Christmas, or Father Christmas, and the traditions and rituals from Saturnalia.
In the 4th Century the Church selected the 25th of December to celebrate the birth of Christ and this allowed them to incorporate Christmas with Saturnalia and the other Winter Solstice celebrations practiced in indigenous European spirituality.
|The Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter|
And speaking of Saturn, his planet and the planet Jupiter have the Great Conjunction tonight. These are the two largest planets in the night sky, easily visible with the naked eye, but if you have binoculars or a telescope, all the better to see them with.
This will be the closest Conjunction in 397 years and will be spectacular. The two planets will only appear 0.1 degree apart tonight. This is a one night event, so if weather permits, I encourage you to view.
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere the conjunction will appear in the southwestern night sky low on the horizon from dusk and be present for a about an hour.
Saturday, December 5, 2020
My new book is finished... finally. A few months late, but done now. It will be out in later winter 2021. It is about the Scots-Irish and their beliefs in the Faeries. The book examines who and what the Faeries are and where those beliefs originated. The tale starts some 5,000 years ago and we follow the story from the Yamnaya migration from the Russian Steppe into Europe, to the Bell Beaker settlement of the Isles (Britain and Ireland), onto the proto Celts, and then the insular Celts. I use ancient DNA results, Gaelic literature and the living folk traditions of Ireland and Scotland to follow this long path to the Faeries. This is done however, with a specific focus on the Scots-Irish.
The Scots-Irish were an integral part of the indigenous American society created by the early European settlers and it is for this reason I felt like a Scots-Irish perspective was useful.
|Placing a Clootie on a Faerie Tree|
Topics include the Scots-Irish Faerie beliefs, both in Ireland and the New World. Foremost, are the Faeries of course, better known as the Síthe (said Shee). I also will explore the Second Sight and traditional ritual magic and the elements of the Faerie Faith that still endure.
1 McCuaig's Bar
2 Scots-Irish Ethnogenesis
3 Reverend Robert Kirk
4 Faeries in Ulster
5 The High Síthe
6 The Lesser Síthe
7 Across the Water
8 Seers and the Second Sight
9 Magic and Ritual
10 Old Faith Survival
Until the new book is out, my last book Finding the McCains is available on Amazon and makes a wonderful Christmas and Yule gift.
© Barry R McCain 2020