Grá mo Chroí, Irish Love of My Heart

Feb 10, 2014 by

In case you want to send someone a Celtic love note for Valentine’s Day….
Grá mo chroí–Irish Gaelic for “love of my heart.” Phonetic pronunciation is (roughly) “graw muh khree ” –the ch in chroi is pronounced like the ch in loch or Bach.


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Strumming A New Version of Ireland’s National Anthem

Feb 8, 2014 by

There is a wonderful new version of Ireland’s national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann, (pronounced OW-rawn nuh VEE-un) also called A Soldier’s Song, that’s been recently posted to YouTube.  Paul Quinn, an Irish musician from County Clare,  performs the famous song of the 1916 Easter Uprising as an acoustical guitar solo with verve and skill, breathing a spirit of vitality into a song written more than 100 years ago.  


Composed in English in 1907 by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney,  the tune became a marching song for Irish rebels in 1916 and throughout the founding of the Irish free State.  The Irish translation was written by Liam Ó Rinn (1888–1950) around 1917  and is the version most commonly sung.  The complete song consists of three stanzas and a chorus, although Ireland’s National Anthem is only the choral refrain.

Amhrán na bhFiann, Ireland’s national anthem

Sinne Fianna Fáil,
atá faoi gheall ag Éirinn,
Buíon dár slua
thar toinn do ráinig chughainn,
Faoi mhóid bheith saor
Seantír ár sinsear feasta,
Ní fhágfar faoin tíorán ná faoin tráill.
Anocht a théam sa bhearna baoil,
Le gean ar Ghaeil, chun báis nó saoil,
Le gunna scréach faoi lámhach na bpiléar,
Seo libh canaig amhrán na bhfiann

Soldiers are we,
whose lives are pledged to Ireland,
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave,
Sworn to be free,
no more our ancient sireland,
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the “bearna baoil”,[fn 4]
In Erin’s cause, come woe or weal,
’Mid cannon’s roar and rifles’ peal,
We’ll chant a soldier’s song



This Gaelic version by a different performer gives you a feel for the sound of the Irish version (which is how Irish schoolchildren learn it):


To learn more about Paul Quinn and his music, visit his links:


He has a very popular acoustic version of the theme from Game of Thrones and this gorgeous cover of The Rolling Stones Wild Horses, featuring singer Sinead Boomsma:


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The Acallam na Senórach: Wisdom of Irish Elders

Feb 7, 2014 by

Is ó mhnáib do·gabar rath nó amhrath.

It is from women that fortune comes, good or bad.

~from Acallam na Senórach, author unknown



The Acallam na Senórach (Tales of the Elders) is a Middle Irish narrative from the late 12th century and is one of the most important surviving manuscripts of original medieval Irish literature.  Set long after the death of  Fionn macCumhaill, it is framed around the aged fianna heroes, Oisín andCaílte mac Rónáin , who are traveling the country with Saint Patrick, newly arrived in Ireland.


Some of the stories involve the interactions between the Fianna and the mythical and mystical Túatha Dé Danann; the above quote  from the Acallam na Senórach is spoken in the council of the Túatha Dé Danann by Midir Mongbuide, son of the Dagda, the king of the Túatha Dé Danann and a main figure in Irish mythology.


To read the Gaelic text of the Acallam na Senórach, click hereThe English translation is available  in Maurice Harmon’s book, The Dialogue of the Ancients: A New Translation of Acallam na Senórach,  available here on Amazon.


You can also purchase a lovely choral interpretation of the Acallam na Senórach, sung in English, Middle Irish and Latin and with sixteen voices, guitar and bodhráin (Irish frame drum), HERE.




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Imbolc and the Feast of Saint Brigid

Feb 1, 2014 by

February 1st is celebrated by Christians as the feast day of Saint Brigid of Kildare (Irish: Naomh Bríd; c. 451–525), one of the patron saints of Ireland.  Her name is spelled in various ways, including Brigit, Bridget, Bridgit, Bríd, and Bride, and she is sometimes called “Mary of the Gaels” in Ireland.   The Irish refer to the day as St Brighid’s Day or Lá Fhéile Bríde ( Irish Gaelic), but the pagan origins of the feast lie in the ancient Gaelic festival of Imbolc or Imbolg (pronounced i-MOLK or i-MOLG ), an event that was connected to the goddess Brighid, the daughter of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann.   Today, pagans and Christians still observe this special day at the beginning of February, a feast marking the midway point between winter and spring.

St. Bride by John McKirdy Duncan; 1913; National Galleries of Scotland (Scotland); tempera on canvas.

St. Bride by John McKirdy Duncan; 1913; National Galleries of Scotland (Scotland); tempera on canvas.

The goddess Brigid is considered the patroness of poetry, fertility, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock, and spring.   Along with these attributes, she also is associated with fire and light, and is frequently depicted holding a flame or candle.   Arrows, bells, thresholds and doorways are also included in Brigid symbolism.  After Ireland was Christianized, many people refused to give up their ancient reverence for the goddess, despite pressure from church authorities.   Eventually, a sort of combined festival emerged, with elements from both the pagan and Christian influences.  Brighid’s crosses (usually handwoven of rushes) and a doll-like figure of Brighid, called a Brídeóg, would be carried from house-to-house.   To receive her blessings, people would make a bed for Brighid and leave her food and drink, while items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless.   Holy wells were visited at Imbolc and it was seen as an opportune time for divination.

I have several Saint Brigid’s crosses in my home, some made long ago that have been handed down.   To learn how to make a simple Brigid’s cross, try this video:

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Ancient Irish Maxims and Football Game Sundays

Nov 23, 2013 by

Hosting the big game at your house Sunday?

A Rightful Leader Provides Ale Every Sunday--ancient Irish maxim

A Rightful Leader Provides Ale Every Sunday–ancient Irish maxim

“A rightful Celtic leader provides ale every Sunday–especially football Sundays. “

~ancient WESCelt maxim

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Bleak November in Boston, 1688: Witches, Gaelic and Prejudice in the American Colonies

Nov 17, 2013 by

Approximately 325 years ago, on November 16, 1688, an old Irish woman in Boston was charged with witchcraft and hanged for her allegedly malevolent acts against the children of a local Protestant family. Her real crime, in fact, was simply being an Irish Catholic who spoke Irish Gaelic in 17th century Protestant Massachusetts.

A woodcut depiction of a witch in 1643.

A woodcut depiction of a witch in 1643.

Today, if you ask the average person what culture and people are most connected with Boston, a majority will choose the Irish. It is a bitter irony, however, that Boston was at one time a potentially lethal place to be Irish, and even worse, an Irish Catholic female.

Goodwife Ann “Goody” Glover was a poor woman of Irish birth who was sold into slavery in Barbados by Oliver Cromwell in the mid 1600’s. Cromwell was an English military and political leader whose brutal treatment of the Irish and Scots in the 17th century has been characterized as almost genocidal by many historians. Ann and her husband were just two of the thousands of native Irish who were cruelly rounded up by Cromwell’s troops between 1649 to 1652 and then sent to work(against their will) on the English sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

Little is known of Ann’s life prior to her arrival in the American Colonies. We do know from records of her trial that she spoke Irish Gaelic, although she also acquired some knowledge of English during her enslavement. Her true name cannot be authoritatively determined; it is likely that “Ann Glover” is an Anglicization of her original Gaelic name or perhaps a name given by her slave master, who may have used his own surname as a way to identify Ann as his property. How and why Ann came to Boston is unknown, but her husband did not make the journey with her–he died in Barbados after refusing to renounce his Catholic faith.

By 1680, Ann and her daughter(whether she had more children is unknown) had been in Boston for about six years, with the daughter employed as a housekeeper for John Goodwin. In the summer of 1688, four years before the notorious Salem witch trials began, four of the Goodwin children became ill–suspicion quickly fell on Ann and her daughter as the cause of the sicknesses. Ann, elderly, poor and perhaps a bit senile, was eventually singled out as the source of the children’s maladies and was soon arrested and brought to trial for practicing witchcraft.

Anti-Irish Prejudice in 17th-18th Century America

Anti-Irish Prejudice in 17th-18th Century America

At her trial, Ann’s refusal to speak English was seen by Cotton Mather, the highly influential and fiercely anti-Catholic Puritan minister and writer, as particularly indicative of her evilness:

“While the miserable old Woman was under Condemnation, I did my self twice give a visit unto her. She never denyed the guilt of the Witchcraft charg’d upon her; but she confessed very little about the Circumstances of her Confederacies with the Devils; only, she said, That she us’d to be at meetings, which her Prince and Four more were present at. As for those Four, She told who they were; and for her Prince, her account plainly was, that he was the Devil. She entertained me with nothing but Irish ‘, which Language I had not Learning enough to understand without an Interpreter.”

Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions, Cotton Mather, 1689

Mather also called Ann “a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholic and obstinate in idolatry.” Magnalia Christi Americana (roughly, The Glorious Works of Christ in America), Cotton Mather, 1702

At trial, Ann was asked to recite The Lord’s Prayer, which she did in Gaelic and broken Latin, but could not do  in English as she had not learned the prayer in that foreign language.  Unsurprisingly, Ann was convicted of witchcraft and hanged in public on November 16, 1688. The Protestant, English-speaking Scots-Irish of Ulster had bettered their lives by coming to America, but Catholic, Irish-speaking Ann Glover may have been better off had she stayed a slave in Barbados and never set foot on American soil.

Cotton Mather went on to publish several pamphlets that espoused the dominant Puritan narrative of the day, a treacherous construct built of layer upon layer of abject falsehoods. Fueled by his own anti-Catholic biases and superstitious hatred of “witchery”, Mather became a driving force in the witchcraft hysteria that dangerously engulfed the colonies over the next decade. No doubt, some of the later accusations also had non-religious motives such as jealousy and misogyny.  People from all faiths were accused of and executed for witchcraft during those years, but poor Irishwoman Ann Glover was the model upon which all subsequent persecutions were based.


A plaque in the North End recalls Ann Glover. Nov. 16 in Boston has been officially declared Goody Glover Day.
Steve Coronella-

Three hundred years after Ann Glover’s execution for witchcraft, the Boston City Council proclaimed November 16 as Goody Glover Day, in recognition of Ann as the first Catholic martyr in Massachusetts.


Sources: Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions,Cotton Mather, 1689–a must read if you want to gain a better understanding of the outrageous charges brought against Ann Glover, and to understand Cotton Mather’s motivations in condemning Ann. Robert Calef’s rebuttal of Cotton Mather’s writings about witchcraft in Massachussetts–Calef was a wealthy Boston merchant who knew both Ann Glover and Cotton Mather and considered Ann’s trial and execution a perversion of justice.

Boston Globe, November 14, 2012

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Mar 6, 2013 by

roughly translated: keep calm and speak Irish Gaelic

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