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This is the main blog for the fellowship Comhaltacht na nGaedheal: Cairdreabh nan GĂ idheal. Edited and managed by Rob Barton

Tied Together

Gaelic culture and religion.Posted by Rob Barton Wed, February 22, 2017 11:45AM
The air is still - and a little biting - but no longer truly cold..... spring..... Brighid has brought it to us again..... Tapadh Leibh (Thank You)...... her day has just passed.... but today is her day also.... An Caillech has set aside her hammer or wand and is taking her rest in a mountain - far away and right there, both at the same time.

The snow is melting fast in the late morning sun and the icy crystals sparkle in the light as they fade away into the puddles and glistening ribbons of water...... it was crunchy underfoot on the walk out here to stand among the trees on a newly bare patch of forest floor.

There are a thousand little voices of rivulets tinkling here an there all around as the melt runs and writhes its way downward toward the pond..... or the stream...... the stream is swollen..... imagine how it rushes to the sea.... the way Boann rushed to the sea in a tale of long ago. The pond is spilling over the little dam and the chorus of tiny streamlets sing over the distant roar of the water pouring across the dam.

A right handed toss and a length of natural fibre rope sails up into the air..... unravelling - it spins its way skyward..... the sunlight behind it stings tears into the eyes that follow its flight - flailing in an arch that carries it into the still-bare tree limbs where it tangles itself in an embrace with the trees and comes to rest - two knotted ends still swinging lightly..... there it hangs..... so many knots.... so many hopes and wishes..... nature will have it now.... will take it as it hangs in the weather night after night for a few seasons until it has been consumed by the world and time.... looking up at it hanging there with a blue sky behind it and in the bright light of the spring sun..... in places the sky has sheets of white - not really clouds so much as thin gossamer veils.....

This is the aftermath of a rite with Poball nan Ealachan Naomha.. after the prayers and the offerings.... after the feasting and the laughter....... just a lone draoi quietly completing one of the parts of the rite...... a length of rope started it - only natural fibres - before the rite, it is passed around ..... each person can whisper a prayer or a wish and tie a knot into the rope.... some knots are tied to be tightened and made more solid with a tug while others are knots that release with a pull - it all depends on the request to the gods.... to the ancestors..... to the Sidhe.... during the rite the rope is held up an pulled and some knots tighten while others set themselves and their dreams free.... This is just one of the thousands of little customs that make up how a people are themselves and what they do as themselves.

It isn't known to be a specific ancient Gaelic practice but it is consistent with Gaelic practices.... if Cathbad or Amerghin or Birog saw it, they would understand... maybe they do see it, and understand...... didn't the Manx tie things into ropes..... wind for later when they might be becalmed.... so we tie things into ropes..... aren't clooties tied into trees.... so we hang the rope high in the trees.... not a specific practice but consistent with known practices.... and it ties us together..... it ties dreams an hopes together into one length of rope...... we tie ourselves together with it.

And it hangs there in the trees with something of each of us.... a touch from each hand... the whispered breath of hope tied to it as firmly as those knots.... the whispered breath of hope released out into the world as some knots let go..... a message to the world that we are here, and we have dreams and we have hope and we have tied ourselves one to the other and woven our dreams together...... and we are a people.....