Celtic festival names

Some time back I posted a video about cultural appropriation and Lora O’Brien pointed out that the modern Wiccan and Pagan usage of Sabbat names is appropriated from Irish culture and language.

Gerald Gardner and other early Wiccans did not use the Irish names for these festivals— that happened later. Wicca is not a Celtic religion.

It does seem wrong to lift these festivals out of context. There are other old names for these festivals in England and Wales (the Scots Gaelic has similar names to the Irish Gaelic, but pronounced differently).

Candlemas (Imbolc) evolved from the Feast of Torches which was celebrated all over Europe in honour of various deities depending on the locale. The nearest Roman festival was Lupercalia. The Greeks celebrated the return of Persephone from the underworld. In many places, pancakes, representing the solar disc, were eaten.

May Day is a much older name for the festival celebrated on the first day of May than Beltane (which we’ve all been pronouncing wrong anyway, and is the Irish name for the month of May, as Michéal points out in an excellent YouTube video). Maiouma was celebrated in Greece and Floralia in Rome. The maypole was erected in southern England; fires were lit and leapt over in Northern England. In the midlands, they celebrated the story of Robin Hood & Maid Marian by building bowers for them to lie in. The Old English name for the fifth month of the year was þrimilce. It literally meant “three milkings,” because the cows gave so much milk.

Lammas is a completely different festival from Lughnasadh and the names are not interchangeable. Lammas has different origins and a different story (the story of John Barleycorn). Lughnasadh was established by the god Lugh in honour of his mother, Tailtiu.

The old name for Hallowe’en in various parts of England was Hallantide (Hollantide in the Isle of Man), Hallowstide, or Allantide. It was called Samhain in Scotland and Ireland.

Why is this important? Because Ireland was violently colonized by the English, among other reasons. (All colonization is violent but this one was especially unpleasant.) And also because it’s way past time we stopped appropriating other people’s cultures and looked to our own roots. Not in a xenophobic or nationalist way, though. A person is part of a culture by virtue of having been brought up in that culture, or living in it, not by virtue of their genetic ancestry. If you live in England, you’re entitled to identify as English, for example.

Obviously this gets more complicated in colonized lands — you don’t get to identify as part of an Indigenous culture unless you are recognized as a member of that culture by the people of that culture (typically by being an enrolled member of the First Nation in question).

Anyway, conclusions: let’s stop appropriating, look to our own traditions, and respect other cultures by not lifting them out of context.

Not the messiah

A few years ago, I organized an event where Philip Heselton gave a talk based on his excellent multi-volume biography of Gerald Gardner. He was looking for a title and said that the talk was about the murkier aspects of Gardner’s life. I suggested calling it “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” which I’m sure you will recognize as a line from The Life of Brian by Monty Python. So that was the title of the talk.

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Everything you think you know about Wicca is wrong

This blogpost was inspired by this conversation on Twitter:

The snark quotient of this post may be dangerously high — you’re strongly advised to put your snark goggles on, because I have a snark hammer and I am not afraid to use it.

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Follow Friday

Just been having a conversation with someone I’m following about how to find good blogs to follow on WordPress.

I don’t use the search function very often. I have found the occasional good stuff via search, but it is rare.

Instead, I follow the blogs of people who write good comments on blogs I’m already following. Or people I find on Twitter or Instagram who share an interesting article. Or people I know from other contexts.

I have also followed a lot of people whose posts are featured in The River Crow’s excellent series, Friday Foraging.

In this post, I am going to share a list of the people whose blogs I am following on WordPress. (The title is from #FollowFriday on Twitter)

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What we have in common

I dreamed that I was in an Anglican or Episcopalian Church in North America and had been invited by the vicar to introduce a hymn. She handed me the order of service which already had a hymn picked out, and it had been annotated to change “him” to “her”, so I introduced it and encouraged people to sing “her” where appropriate if they wanted to. One of the congregation said they didn’t really know the tune for that hymn. So then I suggested we sang Morning has broken and changed “him” to “her” in the second verse, and “God’s” to “Her” in the third verse. Then I woke up.

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