Ireland has a complicated relationship with religion. Many of its troubles in the last few hundred years are ultimately based in religious conflict and the church has ruled much of the island for centuries. But it wasn’t always so and some of its most-visited and well-known landmarks predate the Christian takeover of the island. Everywhere you go you can see signs of the old ways peeking through the hedges if you are looking for them. Many good Catholics will cross themselves or roll their eyes when they talk about the faeries but they also leave bowls of milk outside to appease them. You’ll still find iron in many doorways, though perhaps the reason it was placed there has been forgotten. As Samhain (more commonly known as Halloween) approaches, seasonal offerings left in fields, forts, tombs, and shrines increase all over Ireland. This time of year may not be the sanest time to go to the gateway to hell, but it certainly is the most appropriate one if you want to meet The Morríghan and her dark minions on one of the only nights they can escape the underworld.
It was the tear heard around the world. In one split (ahem) second Sinead O’Connor defiantly threw her figurative middle fingers in the air, lost a record amount of fans, and got banned from Saturday Night Live with her protest of the Catholic church. Many of the flock still haven’t forgiven her even now, twenty-five years later.
I know that our country is in trouble and that many of you are exhausted and super angry about how things are going down. I know how many problems we have and that everything from jobs to race relations have stalled in the last few years. It leaves many of us divided, frustrated, and looking for new possibilities and directions. I know our system is broken and skewed, and I know that if you have made up your mind, I won’t change it by anything I write, do, or say. That is not the point of this post. This one is for those who are willing to read with empathy and reason. Those who understand that I’m not another voice telling you what to do, but one that is begging you to listen….to everyone.
Dame Alice Kyteler was a very powerful woman in Kilkenny, Ireland, but that power came at a hefty price. She had many friends, but she also had many bitter enemies. She disappeared around this time in 1324, after being on the wrong end of the first witch trial in Ireland.
Autumnal Equinox. Second Harvest. Mea’n Fo’mhair. Mabon. Whatever you call it, this day marks the changing of the seasons and it celebrates equality and planetary harmony on the earth. The Northern and Southern hemisphere rarely get the same thing at the same time. There are only two days that they see eye to eye when it comes to light and darkness, and Mabon is one of those days. During the Autumnal Equinox both hemispheres get exactly the same amount of light—and the same amount of darkness—due to the tilt of the Earth and the position of the sun. The seasons may still be reversed, but the lengths of the day and the night are exactly the same and that balance only happens one other time throughout the year. The harmony may not have anything to do with mankind at all, but man has celebrated it for centuries.
I usually stay away from religious holidays in general, but today is too good to pass up. Today is the feast day of St. Disbode – a 7th century Irish missionary. He was a bit of a hermit when he was not spreading his faith, but he traveled on a mission to Germany to convert the population. Legend has it that while in Germany, wine suddenly began flowing from his pilgrim’s staff and this convinced the Germans not necessarily to convert, but to create a thriving wine industry.
That’s a better reason than many for turning someone into a saint. Eat, drink, and be merry today – especially if you can find yourself some German wine…and if you’re a fan of Hildegard Von Bingen, throw some of her music in there too. She wrote a vita in his honor.
“Londonderry or Derry?,” asked a friend of mine when he was off to the North of Ireland. It’s an age old question and I found myself a little stuck when it came to answering. “That depends” seemed to be the safest bet at the time. However, the next time either of us visit, the question may no longer be an issue since last week Derry city and the Strabane District Council voted in favor of formally losing the London prefix.