Friday, September 30, 2011
The Great Famine. An Gorta Mór.1845-1849 (although it went on into the 1850s)
The potato has been described by some nutritionists as one of the few staple foods that are capable of sustaining life when eaten as a sole diet and for the Irish people life was made possible by this humble tuber. It had been common in Ireland since the seventeenth century and was seen by some foreigners to represent the Irish. Some anti-Irish mobs in England used a potato impaled on a stick as a symbol of the Irish.
It should be remembered though that the potato was only part of the daily diet which also contained milk, buttermilk, eggs, and fish or meat if you were lucky or rich enough to get it. As the population grew so did the pressure on the poor families to put food on the table and from the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century the potato went from being the most important part of the basic diet to the only food available to the majority of the Irish population. An acre of potatoes could feed a family of six and reports of the time describe how the Irish ate huge quantities, roughly ten pounds a day per person.
In 1845 an unknown disease was to arrive in Ireland, carried on the wind it appeared without warning, a terrible blight. Terror began to spread through the land. The air was laden with a sickly odour of death and decay, it was as if the hand of death had stroked the potato field, and everything growing there was rotten. Only 40% of the crop was to die that year and although it brought great suffering only a relatively small number of people died from famine. However, people ate the food normally sold to pay the rent; they sold their clothing and threw themselves on the charity of the public relief boards. These would prove to be temporary measures at best for everything would depend on next year’s crop.
In the summer of 1846 the bight returned and this time it spread with astonishing speed destroying most of the potato crop throughout Ireland. Less than one fifth of the harvest survived and Death walked the land. From the summer of 1846 on, the blight brought immediate and horrible distress. One historian estimates that between 1.1 and 1.5 million people died of starvation and famine-related diseases, and scenes of unimaginable mass suffering were witnessed: "cowering wretches almost naked in the savage weather, prowling in turnip fields and endeavouring to grub up roots", "famished and ghastly skeletons, such as no words can describe", "little children, their limbs fleshless, their faces bloated, yet wrinkled and of a pale greenish hue". Deaths were highest in south Ulster, west Munster and Connacht, those parts of the country where the population of poorest subsistence farmers and labourers was most dense, but very few areas escaped entirely. All over the country landless labourers died in their tens of thousands, and even shopkeepers, townspeople, and relatively comfortable farmers perished from the effects of the diseases spread by the starving and destitute.
In 1847 very few seed potatoes were sown and it was reported that the harvest that year was only 10% of the 1844 level. This had another effect. The people, encouraged by the relative healthy crop of 1847 mass planted seed potatoes but the blight returned. In 1848 the countryside was said to represent “from sea to sea one mass of unvaried rottenness and decay”. Blight continued to return for the next six years and in 1855 the total harvest was only half that of 1844.
Although the blight itself was unavoidable, its impact on Ireland was magnified by the response of the British government. Blinkered by free-market dogma, and by a profound, almost malevolent, indifference to Irish ills, the government refused to recognize the scale of the disaster or to provide public assistance above the level existing before 1844. Only after the horrors of the winter of 1847, when world opinion made it impossible to ignore the magnitude of the cataclysm occurring in Ireland, were efforts finally made to organize public relief. Even then, these efforts were hampered by slavish adherence to the ideas of the free-marketeers: the poor could not be allowed to become dependent on the state and, above all, the market itself should not be interfered with. As a result, thousands of starving people were put to work, for barely enough to keep them alive from day to day, on projects with no practical value, unnecessary bridges, roads that led from nowhere to nowhere.
Between 1845 and 1850, more than a million Irish people starved to death while massive quantities of food were being exported from our country. Over half a million were evicted from their homes during the famine and a further one and a half million emigrated to America, Australia and Britain, aboard rotting, overcrowded “coffin ships” run by rogue’s and thieves who robbed them of what little they had and rarely supplied the rations of food and drinking water paid for in their ticket. Mostly it was not through choice that these poor people chose to sail; they were forced to leave their little plots of land by unscrupulous landlords who saw them as nothing short of vermin that should be cleansed from the face of the earth.
This is the first of the posts on The Great Famine (An Gorta Mór).
Lower image shows a potato affected with blight.
"GIVE ME THREE GRAINS OF CORN, MOTHER.”
By Amelia Blanford Edwards.
Give me three grains of corn, Mother,
Only three grains of corn;
It will keep the little life I have
Till the coming of the morn.
I am dying of hunger and cold, Mother,
Dying of hunger and cold;
And half the agony of such a death
My lips have never told.
It has gnawed like a wolf at my heart, Mother,
A wolf that is fierce for blood;
All the livelong day, and the night beside,
Gnawing for lack of food.
I dreamed of bread in my sleep, Mother,
And the sight was heaven to see;
I awoke with an eager, famishing lip,
But you had no bread for me.
How could I look to you, Mother?
How could I look to you?
For bread to give to your starving boy,
When you were starving too?
For I read the famine in your cheek,
And in your eyes so wild,
And I felt it in your bony hand,
As you laid it on your child.
The Queen has lands and gold, Mother,
The Queen has lands and gold,
While you are forced to your empty breast
A skeleton babe to hold.
A babe that is dying of want, Mother,
As I am dying now,
With a ghastly look in its sunken eye,
And famine upon its brow.
There is many a brave heart here, Mother,
Dying of want and cold,
While only across the Channel, Mother,
Are many that roll in gold?
There are rich and proud men there, Mother,
With wondrous wealth to view,
And the bread they fling to their dogs tonight
Would give life to me and you.
What has poor Ireland done, Mother?
What has poor Ireland done?
That the world looks on, and sees us starve,
Perishing one by one?
Do the men of England care not, Mother?
The great men and the high,
For the suffering sons of Erin's Isle,
Whether they live or die?
Come nearer to my side, Mother,
Come nearer to my side,
And hold me fondly, as you held
My father when he died;
Quick, for I cannot see you, Mother,
My breath is almost gone;
Mother! Dear Mother! Ere I die,
Give me three grains of corn.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Irish Prostitutes in the American mining towns of the 19th century.
Some women left Ireland full of hope for the future, looking to lands across the sea for opportunity and the chance of making their fortune. Unfortunately it did not always work out and what follows is a tale of two of those women.
Mary Welch was born in 1844 and left Ireland to make a new life for herself in America. She had very little money but bags of ambition, a strong Irish brogue, a great Irish wit and the warm charm that we Irish are known for. She changed her name in America when she stepped ashore in 1858, aged 14 to Josephine Airey and obtained a menial job in the city of New York. She soon tired of the work and the city and moved to Chicago and it was there that she joined the Demimonde (the sisterhood of prostitution). She remained in Chicago for a number of years but eventually she tired of that city and hearing great things of Montana she headed for the town of Helena at the age of 23 in 1867. She boarded a train taking three things with her-money, experience and of course her Irish charm, and it was in Helena that Josephine Airey would start her own very successful hurdy-gurdy house.
She proved herself to be an astute business woman and after outwitting a notorious money lender she began to expand her business and adding to her wealth. After a fire in 1874 she was in a position to buy property from those who were unable to rebuild and she became the largest landowner on Wood Street. In 1878 she married James T. Hensley and learning from the fire of four years previously they built a large stone fire proof dance hall and “The Red Light Saloon”. She became an influential landlord renting other properties she owned to other businesses and she also became a generous benefactor to a number of local charities and important political candidates. Her influence was growing. It was now that she took on another name, that of “Chicago Joe” Hensley.
The city of Helena tried to shut down the dance hall and the hurdy-gurdy house declaring that prostitution and hurdy-gurdy houses were immoral. “Chicago Joe” challenged the city law on a technicality, music in a hurdy-gurdy was made by a machine but in her establishment she employed a three piece band to play the music. The court had to throw the case out, her saloon stayed open. She was making powerful enemies who had become jealous of her success and possibly felt threatened by her as she knew of their ‘seedy past’.
“Chicago Joe”, and her husband, “Black Hawk”, saw the writing on the wall, they needed to change with the times and this meant a change in their business. They built a new establishment called The Coliseum. It became a roaring success, partly due to the high quality ladies it employed and partly due to its lavish furnishings. It was to prove a very profitable investment and she catered to every whim of her clientele. It became the talk of Helena.
In the 1890s things were to change for “Chicago Joe”. Helena became a city of importance and The Coliseum lost its flavour. The depression of 1893 brought about an economic downfall, she lost all her property except “The Red Light Saloon” and she and her husband moved into an apartment above the saloon and began to live the quiet life. She may have been a hard headed business woman but she never forgot her own hard life as a young uneducated girl in Ireland and it was for this reason that she always helped those who needed help. A remarkable woman who although illiterate had a great head for maths. It goes to show that even though some people may look upon you as being less of a person for your status in society what really counts is what you do for that society and how you benefit it rather than who you are and how much money you may have. A lesson there for all of us.
Maggie Hall was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1853. She was from a good, religious family and well-educated. A striking beauty, she had golden blonde hair and blue eyes. In 1873 at the age of 20 she left Ireland to seek her fortune in the land of opportunity, America. She arrived in New York with no idea of what life had in store for her. No money, no contacts and no hope she took the only job that was offered to her, that of a barmaid in a sordid establishment. Her tragic tale begins.
From the very beginning Maggie let everyone know that she was a good Irish catholic girl that would stand for no nonsense. She became well liked in a very short time due to her Irish wit, charm and sense of humour and quickly earned the respect of the bar room customers. She was sought after by many of the men and had no shortage of offers of marriage turning them all down until the day she met and fell in love with a man by the name of Burdan. Although Maggie dreamt of a large wedding she had to settle for a ceremony in front of a justice of the peace, her new husband came from a wealthy New York family and fearing they would disapprove of his choice of bride he kept it secret from them. He was also worried that if they found out he would lose his allowance and he would have to get a job to support his wife and this would not do at all. He even changed his wife’s name to Molly and introduced her to a life of prostitution. He had huge gambling debts and persuaded his new wife to sleep with his debtors as a way of paying off his debts. Romantic bastard wasn’t he?
Poor old Molly made the best of her new life and eventually she left her husband, boarded a train and headed for the mining camps of the West. She had heard of a gold strike in Murray, Idaho. Boarding another train in San Francisco she headed for Thompson Falls, Montana. Arriving in Thompson she got off the train and went over Thompson Pass to the Murray gold fields. She had provided herself with a good horse, appropriate clothing and food.
The minute she arrived in the Murray area her reputation began. A blizzard had developed and she came across a woman and child that had been unable to keep up with the wagon train they were part of. Molly could not and would not leave them and she stayed with them in order to help them survive through the cold and snowy night on the trail. Somehow the news of what she did reached Murray before they did and upon her arrival she was greeted by cheers and praise throughout the town. The first thing she did was to order a cabin and food for her new charges.
In the crowd of people that welcomed her into town was a handsome Irishman with a twinkling eye. He asked her name and she replied Molly Burdan but because of her strong Dublin accent he thought she had said Molly B’Dam and the name stuck. His name was Phil O’Rourke and he was to become her lifelong friend and confidant.
The townspeople soon realised Molly’s occupation. She asked for and got “Cabin number one”. In the town this cabin was the residence of the madam of the red light district. She was finally ‘at home’ She came to like Murray and the people liked her, she treated the girls who worked for her well and if anybody needed help Molly could be counted on th provide it.
History records many of her contributions, most notably her efforts organising help for the sick during the Small Pox epidemic of 1886 and although she did not contract the disease herself it was because of her tireless efforts on their behalf that eventually led to her tragic demise. She developed tuberculosis in 1888 at died at the age of 35. She and others from this era are buried in the Murray Cemetery located on Kings Pass Road overlooking the historic town. The citizens of Murray gave her a simple, elegant funeral and in an outpouring of respect and affection the whole town shut down for the day. Molly’s legendary compassion led the citizens of Murray, Idaho to name their annual city celebration the Molly B'Damn Gold Rush Days in her honour.
Her gravestone reads:
Sacred to the memory of Maggie Hall, Molly-B-Dam. Died at Murray. Jan.17 1888. Age 35 Years. IHS.
Could these women be described as "Great Irish Women in Folklore"? I'll let you the readers decide.
Seagraves, Anne, Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West, Wesanne Publications, Hayden, Idaho, 1994.
Dungan, Myles, How the Irish Won the West, New Island, Dublin, Ireland, 2006
Adams, Ken. Angels or Whores: Prostitutes in the Mining Camps,
Upper image: Mary Welch/ Josephine Airey/ Chicago Joe.
Middle image: Maggie Hall.
Lower image: Gravestone of Maggie Hall.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Irish Pirate Women.
Gráinne Uí Mháille,
Born in 1530 in County Mayo, possibly she grew up to become a famous and feared pirate, sea trader, and clan chieftain. She was the daughter of Owen O’Malley (Eoghan Dubhdara Ó Máille) and as a young child she always yearned to join her father at sea but he continually discouraged her as the sea was no place for a female. According to legend Gráinne decided to disguise herself by cutting off her long hair, dressing as a boy and boarding her father’s ship. This earned her the nickname of “Gráinne Mhaol”, (Mhaol means bald) so in English that equates to Bald Grace. The nickname stuck and she has been known as Gráinne Mhaol ever since.
The O’Malley clan controlled all the area of Clew Bay and expected taxes to be paid to them by all who sailed or fished the sea around the coast off Mayo and they were generally left alone by the English and Anglo-Irish lords, however, under the rule of the Tudor crown this was to change. The O’Malley had built a line of castles along the west coast and this allowed them to keep an eye on their vast territory both on land and sea. The lord who was in nominal control, Mac William Lochtar Bourke’s (an Anglo-Irish family) left them alone, (by this time the Bourke’s had become more Irish then the Irish themselves and were completely Gallicised).
Gráinne Uí Mháille was educated and could speak in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, English, Latin, French and Spanish. Actually the greater majority of the Irish population spoke more languages and were better educated than those across the water due to the fact that the Irish were forbidden from speaking in Irish and the common person had better access to a basic education. However, as we know that was all to change.
She was to eventually build up a great deal of wealth and this together with her noble Irish blood earned her the title Pirate Queen and she was one of the last Irish rulers of the time to defend against English rule in Ireland. Over her lifetime the English took over most of Ireland piece by piece through a system known as “Sumit and Regrant” they either convinced or forced the Irish clan leaders to surrender their lands and titles to the English crown they would then be given English titles and control of territory, in this way they swore allegiance to the English crown. Some Chieftains submitted, some rebelled, and Grace was one of those who refused the English offer.
At 56 years old, Grace was captured by Sir Richard Bingham, a ruthless Governor appointed by the Queen to rule over the regranted territories. Soon after his appointment, Bingham sent guards to arrest Grace and have her hanged. Grace was apprehended and along with members of her clan, imprisoned and scheduled for execution. Determined to die with dignity, Grace held her head high as she awaited her execution. At the last minute, Grace's son-in-law offered himself as a hostage in exchange for the promise that Grace would never return to her rebellious ways. Bingham released Grace on this promise but was determined to keep her from power and make her suffer for her insurrection. Over the course of time, Bingham was responsible for taking away her cattle, forcing her into poverty, even plotting the murder of her eldest son, Owen.
During this period of Irish rebellion, the Spanish Armada was waging war against the English along the Irish and Scottish coastlines. It is not known whether Grace assisted the English against the Spanish or if she was merely protecting what little she had left-- but around 1588, Grace slaughtered hundreds of Spaniards on the ship of Don Pedro de Mendoza near the castle on Clare Island in Clew Bay. Even into her late 50's, Grace was fierce in battle.
In the early 1590's, Grace was still virtually penniless thanks to the constant efforts of Bingham to keep tight controls on her. There was a rather large rebellion brewing and Bingham feared that Grace would run to the aid of the rebels against the English. He wrote in a letter during this time that Grace was, "a notable traitor and nurse to all rebellions in the province for 40 years."
Grace had written letters to the Queen demanding justice, but received no response. In 1593, her son Theobald and brother Donal-na-Piopa were arrested and thrown into prison. This was the final straw that prompted Grace to stop writing letters and go to London in person to request their release and ask for the Queen's help in regaining the lands and wealth that were rightfully hers.
Grace set sail and managed to avoid the English patrol boats that littered the seas between her homeland and London. The meeting took place in Greenwich Castle. Surprisingly the Queen agreed to a meeting and Grace explained, in fluent Latin, that she was not in fact rebellious in her actions but only that she was acting in self-defence, that her rightful inheritance had been withheld and that it should be returned to her. She also asked for the release of her son and brother and if the queen would agree to this then she would use all her strength and leadership to defend the Queen from her enemies whether on land or sea. Unbelievably the Queen agreed, Bingham was forced to release the two captives but in an act of outright defiance he never restored to Grace her possessions.
There is an interesting story about the meeting of the two Queens,
It is said that during the meeting, Grace sneezed in the presence of the Queen and her lords and ladies. A member of the court, in an act of politeness, handed Grace an attractive and expensive lace handkerchief. She took the delicate cloth and proceeded to blow her nose loudly then tossed the kerchief into a blazing fireplace. The members of the court were aghast that she would be so rude to toss an expensive gift so easily into the fire. The Queen then scolded her and said that the handkerchief was meant as a gift and should have been put into her pocket. Grace replied that the Irish would never put a soiled garment into their pocket and apparently had a higher standard of cleanliness. After a period of uncomfortable silence, (during which the members of the court expected the Queen to have Grace executed for her rude behavior) nervous then roaring laughter followed. It is said that the Queen was amused.
I have written another post on Grainne Uí Mháille, dated Thursday August 26th 2010. If you get time have a look.
Like Gráinne Uí Mháille, Anne Bonny was a strong independent woman, way ahead of her time. Her exact date of birth is unknown but most historians put it to be around 1697 in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland. She was born into a man’s world, a world where men made all the decisions, women had very few rights and in a time when women did not join a ship’s crew let alone become a respected pirate considered equal by her peers.
She was born the illegitimate daughter of a lawyer, William Cormac and a woman in his employ, Mary Brennan. William’s wife was not very happy when she found out about his adultery so she made it public, this caused him to lose his reputation and so he and his new wife and child decided to leave Ireland to seek their fortune in the New World. They settled in Charleston, South Carolina and here William started a successful legal practice and eventually became a plantation owner.
By the time young Anne had become a teenager she had lost her mother and had to take over the running of the household and care of her father. Stories began to spread about Anne during her teenage years, there was even a suggestion made that she had murdered a servant girl, stabbing her to death. There was also a story that was told about a young man who attempted to force himself on her sexually; she put him in hospital for several weeks.
When she was only sixteen she fell in love with James Bonny, a pirate who wanted to gain control of her father’s estate. Her father despised Bonny and forbid the relationship, this was enough for the rebellious Anne and against her father’s wishes, and she married him. William Cormac was livid; he had wanted her to marry a respectful man not a rogue like Bonny so he turned her out of his home, cutting her off from all financial aid.
James Bonny took his new wife to the pirate’s hideout in New Providence, he found it difficult to support her and in the end in order to make money he became a pirate informer for the governor, Woodes Rogers. When Anne found out about his betrayal she was extremely upset, most of her friends were pirates and so with the help of one of these friends, Pierre, a celebrated homosexual who ran a popular ladies establishment, Anne left her husband. She ran off with Calico Jack Rackam, he was a pirate captain and a great romantic. It was even said he offered to buy Anne from James Bonny, (romantic??).
Now Calico Jack was only a small time pirate and he plied his trade along the Caribbean coast attacking small merchant ships but was not really all that successful. However, he certainly knew how to spend money. He never made his relationship with Anne public knowledge but on board ship everyone knew she was “the captain’s woman”. When Calico Jack found out Anne was pregnant he left her on Cuba to deliver the baby. There is no record of what happened to the baby, some say Anne abandoned the child, some say Calico Jack gave the child away to friends on Cuba and some even suggest that the child died at birth, but we will never know. After a few months Anne returned to Calico Jack’s ship. By now the infamous Mary Read was also on board and it did not take long for the two women to become very good friends, some suggest that their friendship was a lesbian relationship.
In October of 1720, Captain Barnet, an ex-pirate who now commanded a British Navy ship attacked Calico Jack’s ship (the “Revenge”) as it lay at anchor. Almost the entire crew was drunk at the time, celebrating the capture of a Spanish commercial ship, so the fight was a short one and although Mary and Anne resisted they were eventually overpowered and put in chains. The crew of the “Revenge” were taken to Port Royal, there to stand trial. The trial was sensational and everyone was found guilty of the crime of piracy, a crime that carried the death sentence, but Anne and Mary were both spared because they both claimed to be pregnant and a pregnant woman could not be hanged, It is recorded that Mary Read died in a Jamaican prison but the fate of Anne Bonny is unknown. One theory is that Anne Bonny’s father managed to pay a ransom for his daughter’s release and that he took her back to Charleston and that she married a Joseph Burleigh going on to have eight children. It is also said that she died on April 25th, 1782 in South Carolina.
Top image: Gráinne Uí Mháille. Bronze statue in the grounds of Westport House County Mayo.
Middle image: The flag of Calico Jack Rackam. This became known as ‘The Skull & Crossbones.
Bottom image: Anne Bonny.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Feminism in Irish Mythology.
In many of the pagan world religions the feminine is a dominant presence. The land, the rivers, and mountains in fact all of nature is associated with the Goddesses and other supernatural females. In Ireland it was Ériu who gave her name to our land and she had two sister goddesses called Banba and Fodla. The Trio of goddesses was a common concept within Irish mythology, another trio of goddesses are Morrigan (the Great Queen) goddess of fertility and battle together with her sister goddesses, Badb (“Crow”), and either Macha (also connotes “Crow”) or Nemain (“Frenzy”). The Morrigan frequently appears in the form of a hooded crow. She is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann (“Tribe of the goddess Danu”) and she helped defeat the Firbolg at the First Battle of Mag Tuireadh and the Fomorians at the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh. The Morrigan also appears as the Washer at the Ford, the Washer is usually to be found washing the clothes of men about to die in battle. In effect, she is choosing who will die.
In the ancient Celtic world Anu was the mother goddess and considered to be the mother of all the gods; the Tuatha de Danann. Other references say that she is the mother earth goddess or the Goddess of fertility. On the Cork Kerry border are two mountains called the Paps of Anu (pap is another word for breast.) On the top of each mountain are stone structures or cairns that when viewed from a distance make the two mountains look like a pair of breasts. Anu was known, in the Celtic World, by several similar names: Danu or Don being the most popular alternatives. She was a Mother-Goddess, the wife of the Sun God, Belenos, and considered to be the ancestor of all the Gods, the Tuatha dé Danann, who found themselves obliged to reside in the Otherworld when Miled brought the Celts to the British Isles. She still looks down on us from the night's sky where she appears as Llys Don, better known as the constellation of Casseopeia.
Aine/Enya: A goddess of cattle possibly related to the mother goddess Danu. Irish goddess of love. Also known as the Faery Queen of Munster, she is aligned with faeries and the magic of the woods. Her name comes from the old Irish word An meaning “bright”. She inspires love and has great powers of fertility and healing. As the Dark Maiden she is vengeful when crossed. The feast of Midsummer is held in her honour. She was originally a Sun goddess who could take the form of a Lair Derg, a red mare that no one could outrun. It is possible that Aine and Grainne alternated as goddesses of the waning and waxing solar year, changing place at the solstices. Aine's father, King Egobagal, is one of the Tuatha de Danann. Also called Aine Marine and Aine of Knockaine, she is associated with Knockainy (Aineis Hill in Munster, and with Dun Aine (Dunany Point) in County Louth. People with the surname O'Corra are said to be her descendants.
Airmed: Irish goddess of healing, herbalists, magic and learning. She is a goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who healed those injured in wars and battles. She collects herbs for health and healing and teaches us about the craft of plant medicine. She also guards the secret wells, springs and rivers of healing and is worshipped as a goddess of Witchcraft and magic.
According to legend, there was once a great and noble god Nuada who ruled the Tuatha De Danann (ancient fairy folk). During a fateful battle, King Nuada lost his arm and was forced to relinquish the throne as a result of the deformity. Airmid’s father and master physician, Dian Cecht, fashioned the fallen king a silver prosthetic arm which enabled Nuada to return as ruler of the land.
Now, Dian Cecht’s son Miach believed that with his own skill as a surgeon and his sister Airmid’s aptitude for regeneration, an even better solution was possible. Together, sister and brother perfectly rebuilt Nuada’s flesh arm in “thrice three days and nights.” When Dian Cecht found out that he had been bested by his own son, he flew into a jealous rage, killing Miach with a fatal blow to the head.
Deeply grieving, Airmid went to her brother’s grave and laid a cairn of stones around the burial plot. Soon after, she discovered new life rising from the earth. Three hundred and sixty-five herbs grew on that spot, each one a cure for a specific part of the body. The goddess spread her cloak and gathered up the herbs according to their properties. But when Dian Cecht learned of this, he overturned the cloak, scattering the herbs to the wind and forever losing the gift that Miach had shared with humankind. Only Airmid has knowledge of the specific herbs in her brother’s offering, and so in times of need we may invoke her spirit for guidance.
The number of the herbs, three hundred sixty-five, is symbolic of the passing of a year; reminding us that time heals all wounds. Despite her pain and frustration, Airmid remained devoted to her ministry as a healer. With Dian Cecht and her remaining brothers, the goddess went on to tend the sacred well of healing. The family recited charms and incantations while the injured and dead were immersed and restored to perfect health and vitality. Wells were believed to be a link between the upper and the lower worlds. Airmid and her family used the well as a way for their tribe to communicate with and draw on the healing forces of the underworld.
We celebrate Goddess Airmid by appreciating nature and the gift of plant medicine. We lend honour to her fate by staying true to the course of our own life’s mission no matter what hardships we may endure. Altars dedicated to the goddess should include herbs of any kind, a piece of cloth to represent her cloak, and a bowl or small cauldron of spring water to symbolize her family’s healing well and the mystical forces that flow throughout all of life.
Badb/Badb Catha: “Raven,” or “Battle Crow,” a goddess of war and sovereignty who could take the form of a raven or wolf. Badb was equivalent to the Gaulish Cathubodua. Her sisters were Macha and the Morrigan, making her a triple goddess. She is sometimes referred to as the Fury and is the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. Mainly associated with death and destruction she is also the keeper of the Sacred Cauldron, controlling fate, time, and rebirth.
Banba/Banbha: Irish goddess of protection. The poetic name of Ireland, she protects the land and its people from invaders and forms a triad with her sisters Eriu and Fódla. She also gave her name to the river Barrow.
Be Chuille: Goddess of Druids and Witches.
Boann: The goddess of the river Boyne, which passes Newgrange. Boann was the mother of Aenghus. Also known as a goddess of poetry and spiritual insight. She inspires creativity by clearing the mind and opening the spirit to her. You can invoke her presence near running waters or riverbanks. Mother of the herds and a cow goddess.
Brighid: “Fire Arrow” or “Exalted” goddess of fire, poetry, and smith craft, the daughter of the Dagda. Brighid was one of three sisters, all named Brighid, and was a triple goddess. She is the goddess of the Sacred Flame. Each one of her faces represents her dominion over poetry, healing and smithcraft. She is the keeper of the holy wells and rivers of healing and rebirth as well as the sacred flames of creativity. We celebrate her festival at Imbolc when sacred fires are lit and kept burning all night to encourage the sun to return from hiding. She is the mother of invention and smithcraft and the patroness of priestesses. She is also a patron of other womanly arts – midwifery, dyeing, weaving and brewing, and the guardian of children and farm animals – particularly cows.
Bronach: Goddess of sea cliffs.
Cailleach Bheara (The Cailleach): The great goddess of the moon, sky, and earth. Controller of the seasons and of the weather. In her dark aspect she is a destroyer causing famine, disease, and plagues. Other names are The Veiled One, The Hag, The Crone, and The White Lady. She can turn into a beautiful woman and bestow favours on men who are kind to her.
Cailb: Some people associate this goddess with the Cailleach. She is a death goddess and prophetess. Her mouth was on one side of her head and she had pubic hair down to her knees (not her most attractive attribute).
Canola: Irish goddess of music and dance. She fell asleep to the sound of the wind whispering along the bones of a gutted whale on the beach. When she awoke, she created the Irish harp, an instrument designed to capture the haunting sounds she had heard in her dreams. She is the patroness of musicians and bards. Canola aids inspiration and creativity.
Caer: The wife of Aenghus, Caer possessed the ability to transform into a swan.
Danu: The mother goddess and namesake of the Tuatha Dé Danann or “People of Danu.” Earth goddess of Ireland her name translates as “knowledge”. She is the power and magic of fertile soil, rivers and vegetation.
Echtga: Owl goddess.
Eiru, Banba, and Fodhla: Three queens of the Tuatha Dé Danann who aid the Milesians on the condition that their names are given to their home. Eiru is of course Eire, or Ireland, and Banba and Fodhla are often used as poetic titles for the island.
Etain: A shape changing/reincarnating goddess, the wife of Midir. Etain is sometimes related to the Sheela-na-gig icons that dot Ireland.
Flidais: Irish goddess of the woodlands she rides through the forests in a chariot pulled by deer. She is a deity with great sexual powers, seducing male mortals. She is a fertility goddess with many children and supplies nourishment with her cow that can give milk to three hundred people.
Macha: Sister of Badb and the Morrigan, Macha was a sovereignty goddess. Her strong associations with horses make her equivalent to Epona and the Welsh Rhiannon.
Maeve: She is a warrior Goddess of Ireland. She was said to have been worshiped at the ancient mystical site of Tara. Her name is translated to mean "intoxicated woman", as she is associated with intoxication by different substances, such as mead and mind altering herbs. She is also a Goddess of sovereignty, fertility, personal power and of the earth. It is said that the ancient kings of Ireland married the Goddess when they took their place if power. She would bestow her gifts upon them, and they could claim their sovereignty over the land. They would hold great feasts where mead was drunk in her
Morrigan: “Terrible Queen” or “Phantom Queen”; Morrigan is a sovereignty and war goddess, and the lover of Cuchulainn.
Sionainn: Goddess of the Shannon River.
Tailtiu: Harvest goddess. The Fomorian foster mother of Lugh, whose funeral games inspired the festival of Lughnasadh.
Teamair: Goddess of Tara, daughter of Lugh. Her lover was the goddess Brid.
These are just a few of the Irish goddess’s, there are many more goddess’s throughout the various Celtic pantheon.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
MUIN/VINE - September 2 - September 29
Those born under this sign have a very changeable personality, one minute up, the next down, one minute full of laughter, the next full of tears. In other words extremely emotional. In times of danger or stress they are very cool and in control and are good organisers. If born under this sign you have a gentle and kind nature, you are a good socialiser although a little over indulgent at times. You need to feel in control of your emotions in order to have balance and contentment in your life. People born under this sign are not really ambitious, they have a very simple attitude towards life, they believe happiness and balance is more important than pursuing high ambition. The old saying “You sow what you reap” is the message they tend to send out. Due to their high emotions they are passionate lovers but they can be difficult to fathom out and this may cause problems in long term relationships. They have an earthy quality that can be extremely attractive and they have a good sense of humour. They are very good at seeing both sides of the story and can empathise equally with all concerned.
People born under this sign have a love for the finer things in life like good food, fine wine, music and the arts. They have very good taste and are both charming and elegant and have a certain degree of class. You can bring harmony and stability to others but try not to become dependent on others in order to validate your own self worth.
Top image: On The Vine by Darice Machel McGuire (An American artist).
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