* The other day after commenting on one of Clare's (Clisare) videos on YouTube, some gobshite thought it be a grand idea to look me up on Google+ and e-mail me. His opinion of me caused some serious internal investigation. So, I wrote this.
What does it mean to be Irish?
Ask anyone in The States and you'll most likely hear, "Oh I'm Irish, My Dad side is Irish, or my Grannie was Irish. Yet so many people in Ireland will either not care or look at you like you're not Irish. Having Irish roots and heritage is not the same as "being Irish", right? After all, you don't live in Ireland. By all means is that takes to be Irish?
So, I live in Ireland and I'm Polish, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, etc. Am I "Irish" now?
I live in Northern Ireland but my family is from (insert foreign land) can I call myself Irish?
I have a legal passport with dual citizenship for the US and Ireland, am I Irish yet?
I was born in the US yet my families roots trace back to the Uí Fiachrach, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and Conn of the hundred battles, what about now?
I speak Irish (Gaeilge) can I be considered Irish?
I know the Old stories of our people and can tell them, am I Irish?
I can Sean-nós dance, am I Irish?
I play the Cláirseach, am I Irish?
I'm a Gaelic Pagan and celebrate Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnasadh. Any closer to being Irish?
Our culture has a poetic tradition that uses a somewhat ritual response; "Ní hansa". This phrase meaning "not hard" often given before responding to a serious question seems rather unfitting here. It's very hard, there is no easy way of putting it. If you look at what it means to call yourself (Irish) something which has many subtle layers, how can we clearly define it. Are we talking blood lines & heritage? What about culture and customs? Which culture, the Gaelic culture? Is that "Irish"? After all a culture is defined by its Language. Gaeilge has more fluent speakers in the US and world wide than in Ireland, so this means what? Most Irish people do not speak Gaeilge, nor do they know much about pre-christain or even later Gaelic customs. They all seem to be rather consumed with modernization.
~ What the feck does it mean to be Irish?
It all depends on who you ask, and where they were born, and where they live now. To some extant even their age will play a part of their responce. One must remember that IRELAND IS AN ISLAND. It has no native people, everyone came from somewhere else. Our earliest roots are a beautiful woven tapestry of mixed history and mythology. Its tales of early inhabitants and different races of beings inspire us; but I can guarantee you that in todays Ireland no one looks to "those people" as their ancestors. Which is sad, as many can trace through DNA roots to a people from the Neolithic and Bronze age throughout the Isles. For a moment think about this. You have a DNA marker that clearly shows you have family that has been in the same region for a good 5,000 years, and they are still there. Now if you can not venerate your ancestors, the land, and the traditions of old, knowing that somehow you are apart of it all - I feel bad for you! But surely these things, thats not Irish is it?
Back to "Being Irish"
Ireland today is as diverse as the UK and its roots. I'm sure they'll love being compared. I can hear someone in the corner making IRA comments and mumbling random outdated shite about this country, that country, the past, and religion. Guess what Mr. your relatives were probably Norman, Viking, maybe even Welsh. Oh are we talking about 'The Gael'? Does this sum up Irishness? The culture, the customs and traditions, the language and laws of our past past are sadly hanging on by a thread. You want a real insight into traditional Gaelic culture? (Read: Cattle Lords and Clansmen - The Social Structure of Early Ireland by Nerys Patterson) The fact is, people have steadily been moving in and out of Ireland since the Neolithic. Since that time with the coming of agriculture and trade, innovation and the exchange of ideas and philosophies allowed us to grow in a way to have a very distinct culture, albeit because we are not landlocked. We never were conquered by Rome, and our historical development based on foreign cultural influence played a large role on who we are today in our Irishness. Look at the Normans, they took on Gaelic culture, took our women as wives, adopted our language, and even dressed like us. They fought beside us as a united people to push back the foreign rule to a small area in the east. Now thats a compliment, someone willing to adopt your culture and die for it. This Irishness, It's something very easy to see, yet hard to define. That's Irish right there!
A good way to helping someone understand what it means to be Irish is showing someone from outside our culture our historical works of art. Look at the spirals of the Neolithic site of Brú na Bóinne (New Grange) look then at the development of that artistic style almost exactly mimicked in the Iron Age on pottery, shields, sword scabbards, mirrors, and so much more. Later we see it again in the artistic styles in The Book of Kells. This is Irishness; a continual development of culture and people, growing from our past - not defined by it! *With the cultural stream-bed of inspiration in our subconscious we can use the undertow currents of our past to summersault and leap upstream like the Salmon of Wisdom to our future which is ultimately a place of home. Think about that, there is some draíocht ya boi ya.
When someone online tells me that I am not Irish because I don't live there, or wasn't born there they are making an ignorant assumption about a stranger. This is very unfair and rude on their behalf. They don't know what my passport says, they don't know that I speak Gaeilge, they don't know that I and many others celebrate 'the old ways' that honor The Tuatha Dé Danann, the ancestors and the sidhe folk. When it comes down to defining who is Irish and who is not, its a foggy thing; much like trying to decipher the Ogham or translate poems and stories from Old Irish. I honestly feel bad for the people who claim to Irish that live in Ireland that do not speak the language and who do not know their stories, and customs. They are not my people. They are Irish because they live there, some were born there; but again, not my people. Ireland... IT'S AN ISLAND, no one is 100% Irish. Get over yerself. Am I saying I'm more Irish than you, NO! I'm saying I simply see myself as a very different kind of Irish than most. Being a Gaelic Pagan which does not subscribe to Neo-paganism is very different. For those on this path the Culture and Faith can not be separated. Our faith is apart of our culture, it is everyday day and everywhere. It is how we see the world, how we treat people with our ethics and virtues. Our views on deity and the otherworld. Our laws, and customs help to define us as well as our language.
I guess what I am getting at is, it is highly offensive to assume certain things about people you do not know. I would never call out someone on their Irishness because they are not a Gaelic pagan, thats obsurd. I don't care, it's their private life. I also don't care if they are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Wiccan, etc. Unless you are trying to shove your culture/faith down my throat we wont have a problem. I am Irish, I'm also not Irish. Not all of my ancestors come from Ireland... so what. Some come from Scotland, Wales, Germany, and even Greece. Who cares? Most of the people in Ireland are so mixed they shouldn't be so up-nosed about it. Ireland is made up of Picts (Non-Gaelic early people 'possibly Brythonic'?) Gaels, Normans, Anglo Saxon, Viking, Franks, Welsh, British, Germans, Poles, and Czechs. Pakistani, Afghans, Asians, Indians and lets not forget our Travelers! Who claims the right to call themselves Irish and by what parameters? You'd be better off looking for the answers inside Oweynagat. You wanna go one step further and say You're a Celt, I dare you to define that! There is one that is certain, we Irish have been good at two things, maybe three for a very long time, so much so its sadly a stereotype. I'll give ya a hint to one: You're here because of your parents ;-) I'm sure your smart enough to figure the others out.
When will we adopt the idea that this earth is our only home and we have to share it. If we embrace one an others differences to understand & compassionately see from their perspective we might further grow and evolve. Possibly into a people that can unify for the greater good to explore outside (and inside) space as "human beings". So, lets just agree NO ONE knows what it means to be Irish. It is like attraction, it's subjective and can not be analyzed... Much like us Irish. It's something you feel and something you share and celebrate. The next time some tourist tells you that their great great great so & so was Irish, don't be an ass to them. They are trying to connect with something they feel inside which is important to them. Be hospitable and good repressive of our culture & buy them round. Show them by example what it means to be Irish.
I will leave you with a final warning. The next person to say I'm not Irish for any reason will only get the following response: Gabh suas ort fhéin a thóin mhóir chacsmuitín bod. A bhastaird bhreallghnúisigh!
For the rest of ya,
Beannú na déithe's n'aindhéithe ort - Bí sé amhlaidh
Go gcumhdaí is dtreoraí na déithe thú - Bí sé amhlaidh
Now go wet the tay and give yer one hug ya cunt!
Slán agus beannacht libh!