“The Way of the Seabhean”, An Open Letter in Opposition to the Book and its Blatant Cultural Appropriation

With the recent release of a book claiming to be “genuine Irish Tradition” by Amantha Murphy, I thought the easiest way to tackle this is through a public blog post since nobody involved with it is willing to properly address it. The publisher, Womancraft Publishing, claims this book to be a counter to cultural appropriation […]

“The Way of the Seabhean”, An Open Letter in Opposition to the Book and its Blatant Cultural Appropriation

Lá Fhéile Bríde

Since we opened Creative Ardagh, in Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre, 10 years ago, one of our favourite events, which wasn’t a particularly big one but was a very meaningful one to all who came, was our cross making workshop.

The usual crew came and had tea with us and we created crosses of all shapes and sizes, helped each other try out the new ones we found, or perfect the traditional one made locally. Everyone was tutor and student together.

Stories were told of Brigid, her connection to Ardagh, the meaning that could be drawn from each story, the significance of the well and everyone agreed to join the walk to the well on the 1st, a walk that has happened forever it seems.

Every St. Brigid’s Day the crosses made by the people of the parish are blessed in the church and everyone goes down to the well where the priest performs a blessing. Then those that believe, or just want to believe, fill their bottles from the well with the water that is meant to cure ‘growths’. We generally ask anyone who wants to, to come back to the centre for tea and scones and many do.

But not this year, this year we didn’t have our workshop and this year we aren’t having tea and scones. We know many will wander to the well in their own time today, we put our Brat Bhride out last night ourselves too. We hope next 1st of February we can gather again and create and tell stories together. Here is a video on how to make a Brigid’s cross with our local poet Rose Moran reciting one of her own poems on Brigid.

Picture is created by Annette Corkery and was featured on the GPO 1st February 2020 for Herstory’s celebration of St. Brigid’s Day.

The death of the extended family

Once upon a time, older people were revered and loved by the tribe. They were the wise ones everyone looked up to and asked advice from. They stayed with the little ones and taught them tales while the youth and middle aged went to forage and hunt. They were looked after and they looked after in return. There was no reason for anyone to feel “useless” because everyone shared tasks and cared for each other and everyone just ‘was’. Then we separated into groups of different ages and stages and uses and were manipulated by those who wanted more and more and only saw the value in us when we worked to make their lives better, not our own. We began to see ourselves with a sell by date. This is so wrong. Let’s change that story, lets write a new one where we just ‘are’ and where we are loved for just ‘being’ us. ❤

Let’s talk about weeds

Nearly three years ago we decided to let the garden do what it wanted for many reasons, a rubbish lawnmower and not having the funds to buy a new one was one of them so it wasn’t all ecowarrior motives though there were some thoughts on that too of course. We had been gradually leaving more and more of it alone with pollinators in mind, perhaps it was an inevitable eventuality that we would just stop mowing.

We received some negative comments and growls on the unrulyness of it all but also a few whispers that it was a good idea and helpful to the bees. My replies to the negative comments vary from “We’re doing it for the bees” to “Someone in this village has to be messy” to “Don’t you know we are the Dingles of Ardagh?” to “Why would I use up any of my valuable time pushing a noisy polluting machine around my garden?” to my favourite of all “Lawns are a symbol of colonialism invented by the rich to shove in the face of the poor that they took all the land and didn’t need to use it for food while our ancestors died on their tiny, rented, plot of rotting potatos so why would I want to celebrate that?”

Then Annette Corkery introduced us to the idea of Acts of Restorative Kindness and the We are the Ark Organisation. https://wearetheark.org/what-is-an-ark/. Finally we could stick a sign up and let people know we were leaving our garden alone on purpose! The sign has since been overgrown. That’s what happens when you let nature go wild.

I started to write down what was growing and researching what uses they have to wildlife and to us as well. The first I took real note of was the purple vetch outside our sitting room window, we now have yellow vetch too. It buzzes for many months with various insects but the bumblebee seems particularly attracted to it. Did you know it was the first plant humans were supposed to have cultivated? You can make a flour from its peas but they’re lovely just eaten from the plant. Apparently we stopped cultivating it when we started having cattle because they are particularly attracted to it and don’t know when to stop so when we grew large quantities they broke into the area, ate it all, got colic and died and hence our first ‘weed’ was born. We decided to no longer love it but hate it. It’s not harmful in small doses, in fact it is good for the cow but too much of anything…

Dandelions are everywhere of course. The feckers seem to prefer growing in the cracks of the patio which is infuriating and no wonder they get such bad press. Luckily we can eat them in salad and teas and they pull up easily from the root so that sorts the patio ones out. Hoeing also gets rid of anger much better than spraying poison which we have not let into our garden for years. Various pollinators hover over the dandelions and the hens are partial to them too. I always loved them, I even named a toy lion after them. This journey of rewilding is bringing back my childhood day by day. Did you know people used to clear the grass and plant dandelions because they have so many beneficial uses for us? One of the many plants nature gives us that we haven’t appreciated in so long.

Plantain grows in abundance in the garden. I was so surprised to see it grow so tall. It is always so tiny on pathways and lawns that are mowed frequently that I completely forgot it could be so majestically pretty. It brought a vague memory of meadows into my foggy mind so sometime ago I did see it in all its glory. The leaves are great for cuts and for ‘sucking out the badness’ of a sting or bite and apparently the flower heads taste like mushrooms but I haven’t tried them so I can’t verify.

Sticky Mickey, or the nicer name my mother uses, Robin run the hedge, keeps trying to cover my older apple trees and we have an annual fight but he doesn’t seem to mind and neither do I. Many happy memories of running after people sticking that on their back. It is also said to be useful for making a tea for the lymphatic system and was often added to those little black bottle tonics people used to get from the healing woman on the hill or wherever she hung out.

Cuckoo Flower or Lady Smock appeared this year to my delight and to the delight of the many more butterflies who reside here now. This delicate beauty reminds me of gathering wild flowers for the May Altar which was, and still is, a tradition of my mother and now me.

Dock leaves are here too though I’ve yet to see their stinging partner the nettle. Luckily plenty of those in the field next door to make the three nettle portions before May Day. I often wondered why my mother so vehemently burned the dock leaf plants when she saw them but I’ve read that they are really bad to have near potatos so I’ll have to keep that in mind when planting next years. I’m not even sure if she knows that but she hates them anyway. My memory of docks is rubbing it on the nettle stings of which I got many over the years.

Buttercups are making their way across the garden and I’m keeping an eye on them as they spread ferociously and might just take over. Do you remember putting a buttercup under your chin to see if you liked butter? If they take over I might have to get pigs, they have a grá for them I’m told. They also have medicinal uses such as for sciatica and blisters but I have to research that a bit more.

Self Heal appeared lately. So pretty and interesting to look at. Much loved by insects and me alike. Again there are many references to medicinal uses for this too, as the name suggests. I’m wondering should I take a course and study them more, never too old to learn new things.

Some hogweed appeared and at first I was very nervous to see that but then I was noticing how it was standing near the house as if it was guarding us and my imagination took a wander. I saw it being planted intentionally around a crannóg as protection against intruders. Nonsense of course but it made me appreciate it more much to the delight of the creatures who love it.

There are many more ‘weeds’ in my diary and I’m enjoying the learning of their wonders and uses and the unlearning of destroying them with pointless mowing. I am going to mow a few little paths through the many wonderful grasses I have now, between the ‘weeds’, fruit bushes and trees and I will take it mindfully as since we stopped mowing vigorously and aggressively our garden has become home to many wonderful creatures.

Our garden is home to so many different butterflies and we have dragonflies! We have had visits from pheasants and foxes (though now I have hens again I’m not sure if I want those!). We have many frogs and pygmy shrews not to mention all the spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, woodlice, bees and many more I haven’t even met yet. We think we also had visits from a hare who I’m dying to catch – on camera only – these precious creatures are few and far between and I’m never quite sure if they might not be one of the othercrowd. I still cannot believe our government let’s harecoursing happen.

The greatest joy this summer was meeting a newt. I do hope we get more. Such a delicate little beauty. It was a pleasure to make his acquaintance.

Because we shed the need for lawn mowing our life has become fuller and nearer to nature. Maybe you should join us. After all, lawns are a symbol of colonialism invented by the rich to shove in the face of the poor that they took all the land and didn’t need to use it for food while our ancestors died on their tiny rented plot of rotting potatos so why would you want to celebrate that?

BE

When did we decide as humans that being was not enough? When did we decide that to define who we are we had to decide what we wanted to be, to become? WE ARE! We are already, we do not have to become anything. Because we are, we already are what we wanted to be, will be. We exist, that is being.

BE! You are being since you arrived, perhaps before you arrived. You are a being. So why are you spending your whole life trying to BE something? BE who you want to be, be an engineer, be an accountant, be an artist, be a politician, be a leader, be a worker, be a billionaire. None of that is being. That is all DOING!

DO engineering, DO accounting, DO arting, DO politicing, DO leadering, DO working, DO making money to hoard for no reason other than having it beyond your grave ( that is what billionairing is is it not?) DO what you like. That is not being. You are already being. Often all that DOING stops you from BEING. DOING does not make you a better BEING! DOING often makes you a worse BEING, your worst BEING, the worst BEING you could BE.

All the DOING in the world will never make you who you are. Why do we ask people what are you? and expect a doing answer? What are you? I am a teacher. You DO teaching. You already are. You are not a teacher. That is just your DOING! I am a CEO. I am a housewife/husband. DOING and BEING are not and never have been the same so why do we ask what are you and expect a DOING answer and then judge their DOING answer and so judge their BEING?

Your DOING does not define your BEING. You ARE whether you DO nothing or DO loads. What is the DOING about anyway? Often the DOING is just stopping you from BEING.

What about THINKING. Are you what you THINK? That is just your thinking. That is not you and is not your BEING. I think and so I am? Is that correct? You are anyway, with or without THINKING. Often the thinking is irritable noise that is stopping you from being. STOP THINKING. BE!

How? How do we BE? Is it so hard really? BEING can be the simplest thing in the world. watch how the children do it. They are BEING all the time. In the moment, in the NOW, enjoying the moment, feeling it all. That is what we are, BEINGS.

Just BE!

Scéal an tSionainn

Fadó, Fadó, sular rugadh an abhainn is faide sa tir seo bhí tobar ann darbh ainm Tobar
Connla, áit ina raibh naoi crainn coill ina seasamh timpeall a mbéal. Lig siad titim bhur cnó
síos agus bhí na brádain sna tobar ag fanacht leo.


Go leor daoine a chuala faoin dtobar, ó chuala siad faoin mbrádan ón scéal eile ina bhfuair
Fionn MacCumhall óg ‘An t-Eolas’. Bhí cáilin óg ann, ó blianta fada ó shin, roimh an
laochrí MacCumhall, a chuala faoin Tobar Connla. Chuala sí má itheann aon duine na
brádain ón tobar faoi na naoi crainn coill faigheann sé eolas faoi gach rud mar is iad na
brádain feasa.


Sinann, ab ea an cáilin óg seo, iníon Lodan Luchair Glan ó na Tuatha de Danann.
Bronnadh ailieacht, grástulact agus gach rud deas uirthí ach bhí ‘Feasa an domhain’
uaithí. Cáilin fionn agus dathula í, bhí guth binn aici, beola ar dáth an rós aici agus bhí cail
aici mar an cáilin is deasa sa tir ach ní leor sin di.


Mar sin, chuaigh sí go Tobar Connla , áit ina raibh sé srutháin ag piobarnach agus
abhainn a deanamh dóibh, Béadh seacht ar fáil go luath, abhainn nios faide agus nios
laidre ná an chuid eile acú. Chuala sí go raibh an t-uisce lán súilíní laidre, na brádain sleamhain agus deacair a tharraingt. Chuala sí cé go bhféidir fear an brádán a tharraingt, an brádán a ithe, an feasa a fháil, cé go bhféidir fear dul isteach sa doire an tobar sin ní raibh cead ar bith, i mbaol a scriosta, ag bean.

Níor thug sí aon aird ar na rabhaidh mar bhí an ‘Feasa gach rud’ uaithí.
Chuaigh sí go dtí an dtobar. Bhí súilíní an t-uisce ag meascadh ard. Tharraing sí an
brádán as an dtobar. Bhí súilíní an t-uisce ag meascadh níos airde. Lás sí tíne chun an
brádán a chócaráil. Bhí súilíní an t-uisce ag meascadh níos airde. Bhlais sí an t-iasc. Bhí
súilíní an t-uisce ag meascadh níos airde. Bhí sceitimini áthais uirthi mar bhí ‘Feasa an
domhain’ aici ar feadh noméid. Bhí súilini an t-uisce ag meascadh níos airde. Rugadh an
seacht srutháin agus rith sí tuibe te tapa. Chruth an abhainn is faide sa tír seo agus thóg
sí an cáilin go dtí an bhfarraige.


D’ainmnigh an abhainn i ndiaidh an cáilin, an tSionainn, agus mar seo ní dhéanfaímid
dearmad ar Sinann. D`ainmnigh an áit ina rugadh an tSionainn, Pota an tSionainn, an áit a
lás sí tine chun an brádan a chócáráíl sular mhúch an tobar an tine agus an cáilin.
Deireann daoine gur ceacht a bhí ann do Sinann, bhí gach rud aici ach ní raibh buíochas
aici, bhí an mian leí ‘Feasa an domhain’ a fháil. Fuair sí é. Ansin bhí sé togtha uirthí.
Deireann daoine eile gurbh ‘Feasa an domhain’ ar Fionn MacCumhaill agus ní raibh sé ar
aon duine eile. Mar sin bhí ar an srútháin é a tarringt ó Sinann. Deireann daoine eile gurbh
í an t-Sionann, Sinann, agus gurbh beandia í, a thug na brádáin agus ‘An Feasa’ do gach
duine mar níl sé le fear amhain nó le cúpla fir.


Is séanscéal é seo agus tá a lán scéalta eile cosúil leis, scéalta ina bádh cáilíní san uisce
agus ansin rugadh abhainn, Boann, Eithne, agus Beandiathe eile. B’fheidir go raibh na fir
a scriobh na scealta sios ag athrú iad mar ag an am seo bhí an tir ag athrú ó Oileán na
Beandithi Draíochta go hOileán na Naomh agus na nÓllúna. B’fheidir go bhfuil an t-uisce
ag meascadh ard aris.

( First attempt at writing in Irish since school which was a long long time ago, ancient times some might say – This is the story of the Shannon – based on ancient texts, you can find the links here along with other links to other legends of interest: https://scealtabeo.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_21.html )

Swans

(Picture is a drawing by Mary Smyth, Original drawing can be purchased here: https://www.creativeardaghcraftshop.com/shop/gracefuldancer)

The first time I saw a Swan

I forgot to breathe

until my gasp reminded me.

Each time is still a reminder

of that day that

nature let me glimpse

her perfection.

Our legends pick them

as the majestic forms

for our gods and

children of our gods.

Swans, beautiful and pure

are indications of something

bigger than ourselves

yet finer than our

deepest thought.

And yet, their clumsy gait

when walking on the land

ensures we never

take ourselves too seriously.

My fondest thought of swans

is the paddleboat

in Westport House

that pretends we all can be

Swans instead of ducks.

AGS 2018