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An Emigrant's Daughter by Barry Taylor

March marks the beginning of Spring and planting season.  It is also a time when sheep are released to summer pastures with their young, and blessed for protection from wild predators.  Herders and their dogs should also be blessed for protection.  Livestock could be rotated from winter to summer pastures if they are not kept indoors during winter.  Holidays that occur during March are St. Patrick's Day (Eire's Day), Spring Equinox (the official and astronomical arrival of Spring), and Arbor Day or Week.  By this time, rabbits, fowl, and most wildlife is born during this time.  It is a celebration of new life, new growth, and the survival of winter.  Arbor Day or Arbor Week, which occurs on March 23 and continues until March 29 in Oklahoma, is a new holiday established to promote the planting of trees to increase our sustainability and that of the earth in general.  Any kind of tree can be planted, however, the Arbor Day Foundation (established by John Denver, the late folk singer from Denver, Colorado) stresses the importance of planting indigenous trees and will supply up to ten trees based on an applicant's geographical location.  The winds of March also spread pollen.  Kite flying is a popular activity during March.

It seems ironic that St. Patrick's Day would be celebrated by Pagans, but for several years now, it has made its rounds through many Pagan and New Age circles.  The reason for this paradigm shift is that Pagans today believe that St. Patrick was a Druid based solely on artistic renderings of him in green robes, and they honor him as such.  Never mind that he was born Christian and remained Christian throughout his life in Ireland.  The fact that he converted slaves, and the sons and daughters of Irish nobility, and established churches is completely dismissed by today's Pagans. 


The other reason why St. Patrick's day is celebrated among Pagans is that they are obsessed with Ireland and everything Irish.  Throughout the 60s and 70s, all the hippies claimed Native American heritage to justify their adoption of Native religion.  Everyone wanted to be connected with some Native tribe.  This was the Anglo answer to the Native AIM movement and the message from Natives to "get back to the Old Ways".  Being Native, no matter how white they were, gave them a birth right to Pagan spirituality and to Native practices.  Being Native was a status symbol; it was in vogue.  These days, being Irish is in vogue; everyone is claiming Irish heritage or at least Celtic. 


Nearly every Pagan book on the shelf refers to Ireland as the source of Paganism and everyone wants to stake their birth right claim to the religion.  It's easy enough to do because America was settled primarily by the Irish and Scots.  All literature about pre-Christian Druids was written by either Pliny or Caesar and concerns Iberia, Gaul or Brittania.  They did not venture into Caledonia or Eire.  Irish pre-history was also penned by Christian missionaries.  Despite how we may feel about such biased reports, without them, we wouldn't know a damn thing.  What makes Ireland so attractive to Pagans as a source of Paganism is that so little is known of Druids and true Irish history that writers can make arbitrary claims and there is little to no evidence to refute them.  I therefore felt it necessary to post a true account of Irish history, that even to a scholar, may prove exhaustive.   

The true history of Ireland is shrouded in mystery and legend.  Its people do not have a creation story in the traditional sense, which only makes it more honest.  Rather than a declaration of people appearing from out of nowhere, Ireland was settled by a series of invasions, the stories of which have been handed down from one generation to the next.  These stories were written down by Christian monks who added their own elements to them, forever changing Ireland's history.  However slighted we may feel by this intrusion, the stories might not exist today in a format that we could study and critique.  Where these stories fall short, modern archeology serves to fill in the blanks.

What I've posted isn't just a history of Ireland; it's a history of the Irish people and our struggle for freedom.  I included sections on the history of other Celts and especially the Scots because they are fellow clansmen and our history is intertwined.  The story of William Wallace is just as endearing to us as it is to them.  I can't watch the movie, Braveheart without wanting to put on my kilt, grab my sword and kill every limey I see.  Those pagans who claim Celtic or Irish ancestry to make themselves sound cool don't understand that the Irish and Scots hatred for the English is very real for those of us who really are Irish or Scot.  It's part of our ethnic identity.  We feel it just as strongly today as our ancestors did because it's part of our collective consciousness and racial history.  Just like the Native American hatred for whites; after 400 years, it's still going strong.  But for us, the struggle began around 1165 and lasted well into the 20th century because everything that happened in Ireland also affected us in America.  That's almost 900 years of racial hatred that isn't going away anytime soon.

Image Source: Hellas Multi Media

The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in 1737. That was the first year St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in this country, in Boston.  I refer to St. Pat's Day as Eire's Day because for me, it is a day to celebrate my Irish heritage as it is for most Irish Americans.  However, I do not honor St. Patrick because to do so would be a slap in the face to my own religion since it was he who brought Christianity to Ireland and forever changed the indigenous religion of its people.  We may never know what Irish tenets were before the arrival of Christianity.  Eire's Day is a day that I set aside to honor the land that gave birth to my Irish ancestors and it is a day that I spend focusing on my genealogy.

Speaking of genealogy and clans, Ireland has only 48 clan tartans.  The others are by county; I wear a County Roscommon tartan, for instance.  I can always tell if someone is lying when s/he wears a Scottish clan tartan while claiming to be Irish.  Never assume that we can't tell the difference!  If you don't know which clan you belong to, or don't know which county your clan comes from, there are five national tartans that anyone can wear and a St. Patrick's tartan that should only be worn by clergy or Catholics.  Every state of the Unites States also has its own tartan!  Black Watch is the most widely commercialized Scottish tartan. It is often used for fashion apparel sold in catalogs.  Therefore, anyone can wear the Black Watch tartan as well.  There's no excuse for faking it.  If you're of mixed heritage, as I am, you can wear a Black Watch kilt or sash with different clan badges and a swatch of tartan for each clan pinned to it.  This is acceptable.  I often represent both Handley and Watson clans this way.  The Welsh and English have tartans and clan badges as well.  Regardless of your Celtic heritage, be proud of it.  But most importantly, be honest.


O'hAinlighe Clan

Ancient Handley Line of Descent and History

Handley Arrivals in America

My Handley Family Tree

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