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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

Gaelic lands???

Gaelic culture and religion.Posted by Rob Barton Wed, November 23, 2016 12:08PM
We have walked on this land.... and it bore our footsteps with strength.
We drink from the veins of its rivers and streams.... it has quenched our thirst.
Roots digging deeply into it have fed us..... and we are sustained.
Fallen upon it in despair..... and it caught our tears.
Rose again to stand.... and it has lifted us up.
Buried our dear ones in it.... and it embraces them.
Poured our offerings onto it.... it has gifted us in return.
Prayed upon it.... it has listened - and answered.
Sought a home.... and been sheltered

A recent discussion about current events and "Celtic regions" leaves me wondering. While we research Gaelic peoples and the regions in which they lived historically, do we then consider those historically Gaelic regions to be the only currently Gaelic regions? Would that not mean then that the Gaelic identity belongs only to people born there; in those places?

If we say that the identity only belongs to speakers of Gaelic languages then much of Ireland, Scotland and Mann would not qualify.... that can't be right. But parts of Nova Scotia would qualify even though it is only relatively newly inhabited by Gaels..... that sounds right. Or does it?

There are more people of Gaelic descent in the diaspora than in the home countries of origin. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Carolinas all have significant populations of the diaspora.... think of the Irish who have migrated to England...... and a lot of Irish Wild Geese went to Spain and continued to speak their language for generations. Have you seen South Boston? Would you tell them that they are not Irish? Would you expect to walk away without injury? Just over a century ago there were Gaelic speakers still in the American South.... they had been born there yet they still spoke their ancestral language.

Some say that it depends on the relationship with the land.... an historically Gaelic land usually is meant by those who say such things. But what if the relationship is with a new land .... but it follows a Gaelic model and structure? What is the Gaelic part??? Must it be the land? Is it the model and structure? Does it have to be both? Can it be either one or the other? Or is it down to the language only... is praying in that language enough? Must it be the land, the model and the language together only?

It is a complex issue but perhaps an answer can be found that while it is not simple is still yet direct. People move... they migrate... but they don't just become a new people suddenly. Culture evolves, changes, even devolves.... but that is generally slow. People from Gaelic lands went to many new places.. they often had to go in order to survive. They often kept their languages for a time... and many of their customs and practices. They were still Gaels and their model of the world and life was still Gaelic. They prayed and worked the land and entered into a relationship with that land, a relationship based on Gaelic models. They had children.

To say that those new lands became in some way Gaelic or a new Gaelic region is not incorrect or wrong. If people are there who use a Gaelic model for their relationship with the time and space of that place then that relationship makes that area in some way Gaelic. The language may be part of that model... it is for many of us a strong component of that model.

The presence of those who use a Gaelic model for their relationship with that land need not displace others or negate the relationships of others with that same land. The relationships are separate things between people, peoples and their home.... their homeland.

If you live in New Zealand and you have a relationship and practise that is based in a Gaelic model and your neighbour walks the same forest and has a relationship and practise that is that of the Maori then you both have relationships with the same land. The presence of the Maori relationship does not preclude the presence of the Gaelic relationship and the Gaelic relationship does not displace the Maori relationship. The land and the spirits of place understand both relationships. The same can be said of the Americas where so many different native traditions maintain their relationships with the land while newer relationships have also been established along other models.... one model does not mean that the other model doesn't work or is not appropriate.

A direct answer may be this. We walk a land, and that land may be traditionally and historically Gaelic or newly inhabited by Gaels. We form bonds and relationships with that land and we form them along a Gaelic model. We pray in Gaelic and we call ancient Gaelic deities.... and we do it where we are. That place then becomes in some way Gaelic. It doesn't negate or displace others... it does not mean that our neighbours cannot have completely different relationships with the same land and with other deities. Our deities may have sacred places far away in this world but they are not bound to those places and they travel the otherworld also and the otherworld is only just here around the corner.... a whisper away.