Thursday, October 20, 2016

Praying Amongst Mountains and Waterfalls

It's been quite a while since my last post! Since then, calendar dates for Lá Bealtaine and Lá Lúnasa have past and I've spent my whole summer in Colorado. For both of the festivals I had friends over for dinner and music, as has become the usual, and have finally moved away from my natural shyness to give my offerings and prayers before dinner. In front of EVERYONE. This is a big deal for me as I tend to have a level of social anxiety, especially in ritual situations before a group of non-religious friends, but it went just fine and my confidence was appropriately boosted from the experience.

Much of this summer for me, in a religious context, has been focusing on getting out and experiencing and witnessing the natural wonders that abound here in the Rocky Mountains and the spirits that animate them. I've found that praying on mountain tops seem especially effective in shifting my mindset, where the earth meets the sky and the surrounding land stretches out further than the eye can see. It also seems to me that the Gods appreciate the effort it takes to get up there and the hike up becomes a sacrifice in its own way. And by the time I'm up there my body has pumped enough endorphins into me to put me in the best of moods!

There are also a lot of waterfalls on many of the trails here, so I've taken advantage of having that atmosphere available and have been praying and singing at the water and utilizing the sound of the water as a starting place for my focus and allowing it to drown (ha!) out my thoughts so I can better "hear" those that aren't mine. I had been using my bodhrán, playing a beat and allowing it to change on its own, but I find that the sound of the water can do much of this work for me, so I've used the bodhrán less than I was earlier this year. I think I'll continue to utilize it for some situations, especially when I'm in an especially quiet area (or maybe if it's nighttime), but I've gained some traction by shifting my consciousness with the help of different influences that might be around at the time and I've also gotten use to singing or humming until it starts to change "naturally," which has helped a great deal in sustaining the ritual mindset.

Other than that I've been working a bit on writing down different folk charms and prayers, adapting them for polytheistic context, and translating a number from Gaelic to Irish (significantly improving my understanding of Irish grammar!). I still have some ways to go to remember all the Irish, but it has been an interesting experience recognizing the flow of charms and how that works into one's actions to become a basic ritual, as well as the contrast in charms that seem either to utilize the ability of the charmer or call upon the Gods (or saints, in the original forms as we have them). One text that I have not seen recommended on reading lists for Gaelic Polytheists is Ár bPaidreacha Dúchais (Our Native Prayers) by Diarmuid Ó Laoghaire. Granted, it is completely in Irish, so harder for most Gaelic Polytheists to work through, but I've found a bit more of value to us as Gaelic Polytheists in this book than I find in the more commonly recommended Religious Songs of Connacht. Ár bPaidreacha Dúchais is in some ways akin to Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica, offering some of the same in regards to rising and resting prayers, fire-lighting and smooring prayers, house blessings, as well as a number of prayers to Bríde all of which can easily be adapted for use by Gaelic Polytheists. For those that don't have much Irish, some of these prayers can be found in original or adapted forms in the bilingual Paidreacha na Gaeilge edited by Donla uí Bhraonáin. Fortunately, Donla does a great job at listing her sources for each prayer, so its not hard to find the originals, but I did notice a change in some of the prayers she recorded from Ár bPaidreacha Dúchais, for example, where she made "Bríd Ní Dhubhthaigh" into "Bríd Ní Dhaighidí." Perhaps she read the original wrong and recorded it that way, because of the assumption that Bríd is the daughter of An Dagda, but she doesn't explain further, only noting that Bríd was a goddess in Irish myth and Saint Bríd was sometimes known by that name. It's not really an issue for us as polytheists, but it should be noted that some of the versions found in Paidreacha na Gaeilge may not be identical to those found in her sources.

With that, I will leave with a rising prayer that I've adapted from page 6 of Ár bPaidreacha Dúchais (only changing Dia to Bríde), the translation is my own.

Éirím suas le Bríde,
go n-éirí Bríde liom.
Lámh Bríde i mo thimpeall,
ag suí is ag luí
's ag éirí dom.

I rise with Bríde,
May Bríde rise with me.
The hand of Bríde around me,
as I sit and as I lie
and as I rise.