Tag Archives: Irish tradition

Happy St. Brigid’s Day 2017

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It’s a beautiful first day of spring here on the island and we put the St. Brigid’s cross up on the house first thing this morning. The children are more wrapped up than usual as they head off for school because we had just returned from a wee trek to collect the bundle of reeds that Nuala is holding; they’ll be used at school to make crosses of their own.

The first day of spring here in Ireland falls about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  One of the traditional ways of celebrating is by making a St. Brigid’s cross which is ‘placed on doorways to ward off evil, fire, and hunger from homes’. It’s also called the Feast of Imbolc, an ancient Irish celebration of the change of seasons from the short, dark winter days to the longer and brighter days of spring.

Here’s a link to a post I did a year ago that shows step by step how to make your own St. Brigid’s cross. It also has links to more information about St. Brigid’s Day, the meaning of the cross, and the Feast of Imbolc. https://thearanartisan.com/2016/03/15/spring-willow-project/

Joining in with the ‘One a Week Photo Challenge‘, word ‘happy’ and with Ronovan Writes haiku challenge, words ‘please & blow’.

please wrap yourself up

on this first day of springtime

the wind is blowing

Getting up early and taking a walk with the children was an amazing way to start the day and has me thinking we ought to do it more often. I’m wondering though if the adventurous feeling to it would soon wear off? Perhaps it was just the novelty that made everyone so happy and they would be less excited to do it regularly. I suppose there’s only one way to find out.

An Island Anecdote & Traditional Irish Soda Bread Recipe

I couldn’t believe my good fortune one day many years ago when a born and raised islander came up to me in the Spar parking lot offering me milk kefir grains. I had been wanting them but didn’t want to buy them. Just like plants for the garden, they’re much more special when received from a loving space which they’ve outgrown rather than purchased from a shop.

Because fermenting cultures reproduce and eventually one has to either give them away, throw them out, compost, or feed to one pet or the other, I believed they’d eventually come to me fortuitously. So, this was my day and when she said ‘Someone told me you might like these’ (I had told no one I was seeking them), I squealed with delight and gratefully accepted. Never did I dream someone on the island had any or I certainly would have made my desire known. Anyhoo, my hobby of fermenting was no secret and now I had kefir grains so I immediately put them to use. Continue reading

Three Cheers for Summer!

 

bonfire night,

yippee! yahoo! yay!

summer starts!

Around sunset on June 23rd much of Ireland celebrates St. John’s Eve.   Also known as bonfire night, it’s a midsummer tradition that falls very near to the summer solstice–which celebrates the longest day of the year when the sun appears highest in the sky and when summer begins back in the States.  When summer officially starts may be determined by where you live but something we can all agree on–it doesn’t feel quite like summer until school has ended and summer break has begun.

Here on the island nearly all of the sixteen villages has their own unique fire.  Some bonfires are only attended by a few neighbours and larger villages have dozens of people gather around the fire.  Potluck food and BYOB can be found at most, while others might have storytelling, music, or singing.  Rituals around the fire to conjure up blessings for the weather, homes, land, crops, and individuals would have been the norm a hundred years ago, but not so much now.

School is out, summer schedule has already begun, and everyone is feeling relaxed.  Now for the sunshine and blue skies to return our way…

The picture above is one of the village fires on the island this week and is my ‘heat’ entry for this week’s photo challenge.  The haiku is for Ron’s weekly haiku challenge using the words ‘birth & cheer’.

Cheers, Melissa Xx

Native sean nós singing on Inis Mor

native Éire sean nós,

winding melismatic tunes-

a fresh sound to most

 

Irish dance is world renowned, but it’s counterpart in song, sean nós, hasn’t quite reached the same global recognition.  Translated from Gaelic to English, sean nós mean ‘old style or old way’ and rightfully so as it’s used to describe this purest form of Irish music.

Each song is unique to the singer and is made up of very technical aspects of performance such as intonation, ornamentation, and tempo.  In many ways it reminds me of Indian/Hindi music.  Seemingly, it’s sung while also breathing, as long verses are expressed with barely a break for air; difficult is an understatement, though when they are well practiced, it flows with apparent ease.

This excerpt from Wikipedia–

Decorative elements common in sean-nós singing include:

  • Highly ornamented where the voice is placed near the top of the range
  • Nasalisation
  • A second form of nasalisation, used in the south, produces an “m”, “n” or “ng” sound at the end of a phrase
  • One syllable in a word can be sung to several notes
  • Brief pauses initiated by glottal stops, “slides” or glissandi (predominantly when sung by women)
  • Very long extended phrases
  • A tendency to draw breath after a conjunction or linking words rather than at the end of a phrase
  • The ending of some songs by speaking the finishing line instead of singing it
  • Varying the melody in each verse

A live experience is magically hypnotic.  A whole room immediately shushes when someone starts singing– always from their seat, no standing and performing (unless it’s a competition), just wherever they are at the time.  Though others may join in the song or offer encouraging words, the attention remains on the singer.  And some songs can be six or seven minutes in length.  That mightn’t sound like very long, but this can go on and on as a new singer starts just after one ends.  I’m always touched by how so many people who are gathered but not together can remain so respectful and attentive and enthralled.

The songs are passed down from generation to generation and as I have difficulty understanding the content of the songs, I have another Wiki excerpt to describe the meanings of the song lyrics:

Many of the songs typically sung sean-nós could be seen as forms of love poetry, laments, or references to historical events such as political rebellions or times of famine, lullabies, nature poetry, devotional songs, or combinations of these.  Comic songs are also part of the tradition.

Not everywhere in Ireland practices this tradition, but in the Gaeltachts (Irish speaking regions) the natives are raised with it.  We’re fortunate enough here on The Aran Islands to have sean nós singing taught in the schools starting at the age of five years old at latest, but most children are exposed to it from the crib by family members.  Two of my children have won awards for their participation in sean nós singing competitions–there is a video of my eldest daughter on my Youtube page.

The above video is an Aran native who frequents the hotel for some conversation, a bit of craic, and song.  I videotaped him earlier this week.  Other fine examples of sean-nós singing, sung by several phenomenal talents, may be heard here.

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A snapshot from my video for my photo entry.

This post was inspired by the photo word of the week ‘native’ and Ronovan’s haiku words ‘fresh & wind’.  I love sharing this bit of my world with you and hope you enjoyed it too.

Cheers, Melissa Xx

Celebrating Irish Spring–the Feast of Imbolc

If you’re not from Ireland or familiar with the Irish celebratory feast of Imbolc, the festival of the pagan goddess Brigid, then this post may have little meaning to you.  On the other hand, if you’re a believer in trusting life and it’s myriad of forces that tick away behind the scenes to ensure what should be will be, then read on.

Since many of these forces– the philosophy of law of attraction, the phenomenon of serendipity, and the simple act of keeping the faith– are familiar worldwide, I won’t elaborate further on them, but you may be wondering… Continue reading

Our Jolly Holly Christmas Tree

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I believe we all know the feeling of when something is not quite right.  The feeling grows and grows until you decide assertively (sometimes in a matter of seconds) that “No, this just won’t do.”   Continue reading

Enjoying Summer Weather At Last

Johnny and I went fishing at Pol na bPeist over the last two summer-like November days. It was very20151102_110010 relaxing and serene even though the seas were quite rough and the waves were crashing hard. The warm breeze and bright sunshine felt like we were in heaven.  That’s how I feel most days living here, even in the depths of winter. But winter’s far from our minds this week as we enjoy summer weather at last.  Continue reading

Working Together Separately

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Many days Johnny and I can be found toiling about our garden, working together separately.  With bent over backs, we handle the earth, only speaking when necessary.  Perhaps because we rarely have silence in our full house.  Or because in the openness of the land, sound travels so easily.  With the constant island breeze, the birds might carry our intimate, personal conversation to the ears of neighbours and passing strangers.  Better to not risk it.  After all, if we can hear them, chances are they can hear us.  Although both of these reasons are sound, our silence is more likely because working with our hands is meditative, especially when working in nature.  It has evolved from the aforementioned reasons of appreciation and prudence to the contemplative cognizance of the task being carried out. The work is not just a means to an end; we are wholly aware that this is where we’re meant to be and what we’re meant to do.  So with this week’s mild temperatures and the sun hanging low and shining brightly, we headed to the beach to collect seaweed to fertilize the garden.   Continue reading

Everyone is good natured until a cow goes into their garden.

I like having painted fingernails but rarely take the time to do so until it becomes necessary.  How, you may be wondering, could painted nails ever be necessary, ever be more than just an indulgence?
It’s not something I do so much to show off as to cover up, for hiding beneath their glossy shine is dirt that refuses to be scrubbed away.  My polished nails are the tell-tale sign that I’ve been out working hard in the garden.

Continue reading

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