Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Scottish Gaelic World According to Michael Newton

- Michael Newton -

Reading Michael Newton's book "A Handbook of the Scottish Highland Gael" was a profound moment in my life. It was one of only two books I had ever read (the other being "The Mist Filled Path" by my friend Frank MacEowen) that spoke so deeply to my own experience as a white person working to reclaim some sense of my indigeneity. It spoke with such lucidity that I was stunned. Who WAS this man? He had written a book I thought I might have to write myself. He deftly weaved together themes of anti-racism, indigeneity, post-modernism and much more into one . . . well Handbook is the right word I think. He put it all together.

"Must read" is putting it mildly for me.

I have yet to see another book unpack the current situation of the Gaels with more clarity. A stunning political analysis.

BIO: Michael Newton was awarded a PhD in Celtic Studies by the University of Edinburgh in 1998. He has written a number of books and articles on Scottish Gaelic culture (see below), and has recently focused on the hitherto untold story of the Scottish Highlanders in the United States.

He has given lectures and taught workshops on a number of Scottish topics - from Scottish Gaelic language lessons to Scottish cultural geography - at venues such as the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, Slighe nan Gaidheal in Seattle, and the Toronto Scottish Gaelic Learners' Association.

* * *

Dear Tad -

From reading your blog, we clearly have common values and ideological orientations.

I entirely agree with your assessment of the direction of the world, and I fear what fallout will come of it. There are many people around the world whose oppression and dispossession rightfully makes them want to resort to violent means to overthrow the institutions (often masquerading under names such as “free markets” and “democratic reform”) that keep them poor and powerless.

I had hoped that 9/11 would wake Americans up to the reality of the lives of people outside our hall of mirrors, but, alas, the current war-mongers in power in the US exploited the event to peddle fear and militarism and entrench their own hegemony.

I don't think that violence is a valid solution to violence. Plenty of post-colonial societies show that too often the revolution only replaces the oppressor rather than removing the pattern of oppression.

I expect that as the man-made technosphere further spreads across the globe in our vain pursuit to become the "Lords and Possessors of Nature" (in Descartes’s words) the whole system (and the resources upon which the infrastructure is dependent) will collapse due to the detrimental environmental and social side-effects. These and other things I tried to hint at in my Handbook, but was not able to fully express them, as they would have been somewhat tangential, not to mention controversial.

My own intuition is that the redemption of the world will come from what we will be able to salvage from indigenous cultures. And as I wrote in the Handbook, by "indigenous" I mean cultures that are rooted in and sensitive to their environments. It has nothing to do with skin colour or the number of body piercings or tattoos you have.

My own involvement with Gaeldom has given my life depth and a tangible connection to those things that are real. It has made me more human. It has also increased my capacity for empathy, but empathy with a beautiful but endangered thing is not a comforting experience.

I’ve talked to many Scots who belittle the tragedy of the decline of Gaeldom. To them, it is but an insignificant blip in the suffering in the world. Of course, if we look merely numerically, it is a small number in comparison to, say, the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust. However, just as every human being is a miracle of God and an expression of that divine spark, so is every human culture the creative gift of generations of imagination and experience rooted in the real world.

Why is a culture with 60,000,000 people more valid than one with only 60,000? I think the criteria by which people judge “civilisation” is severely stupid. Apparently, a human society which makes an enormous environmental impact and leaves behind huge rubbish piles (variously labelled “pyramids”, “coliseums”, or “ziggurats”) is an "sophisticated civilization" while those who tread lightly on the soil - those whose cultural foci are storytelling and hospitality, for example - are treated as not worthy of study.

I would rejoice if I saw the end of mass media, petroleum-based transport, and consumerism. It would mean that I could follow closer to Thoreau's goal of "sucking the marrow out of the bones of life" - there would be more time for dancing, singing, being in and of a community of real (and not virtual) people, being aware of the cycles of the seasons and the state of the moon. I look at people whose identities and life energies are submerged in corporate culture, whose whole personal experiences are mediated by consumerism (following the lives of celebrities or the cache of marketplace logos) and I feel pity for their lifestyles. Not that they are always conscious of the choices...

Unfortunately, few Gaels have been given the intellectual tools to question the Anglocentric grand narrative around them; they have been brainwashed in schools that denigrate the local and celebrate the Imperial. In the US there is a sense (at least amongst the educated) that ethnic minorities have a legitimate point of view and cause for grievance. This is, I believe, a natural consequence of extending America's ideals of liberty and justice to all people (not that this hasn't happened without a struggle!). The rhetoric of the inherent worth of every individual and their capacity for self-realisation is at least there to be argued. No such "liberation theology" exists in the British political mindset to empower the Celtic "fringe" - it is and has always been "Progress = Anglicisation : Celticisation = Barbarism".

In my last book "We're Indians Sure Enough”: The Legacy of the Scottish Highlanders in the United States I write further about racism and whiteness and cultural amnesia and oppression. It is something of an extension of the Handbook into American territory.

One of the reasons why I was compelled to write the Handbook was because I didn't think many people (inside of or outwith Scotland) saw the big picture of Gaelic culture and why it matters. I had been inspired by books about other indigenous cultures, or critiques of colonialism, and was amazed that so little had been written in defense of Scottish Gaeldom. Books in particular that inspired me included The Cultural Conquest of Ireland (Kevin Collins), In Absence of the Sacred (Jerry Mander), Stolen Continents (Ronald Wright), Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Paulo Friere) and The Myth of the Machine (Lewis Mumford), as well as the whole dialogue that opened up in the US in 1992 regarding the legacy of Columbus.

Being a writer can be a very solitary pursuit. It is reassuring to know that the ideas that emerge from the chaos of my brain actually have an impact on people!

Is mise le meas,

Micheal Newton

You can learn more about Michael At:

Indigenous Science: Another Way of Knowing - Apela Colorado

- Apela Colorado -

Criteria for an authentic rendering of indigenous science include:

1. The indigenous scientist is an integral part of the research process and there is a defined process for insuring this integrity.

2. All of nature is intelligent and alive, thus an active research partner. We do not act on nature, rather we communicate and work with nature.

3. Compared to western time/space notions, indigenous science collapses time and space, with the result that our fields of inquiry and participation extend into and overlap with past and present.

4. Indigenous science is concerned with relationships, we try to understand and complete our relationships with all living things.

5. Indigenous science is holistic, drawing on all the senses, including the spiritual and psychic.

6. The end point of an indigenous scientific process is a known and recognized place. This point of balance referred to by my own tribe, as the Great Peace, is both peaceful and electrifyingly alive. In the joy of exact balance, creativity occurs, that is why we can think of our way of knowing as a life science.

7. The purpose of indigenous science is to maintain balance.

8. When we reach the moment/place of balance we do not believe that we have transcended, we say that we are normal! Always remain embodied in the natural world.

9. Humor is a critical ingredient of all our truth seeking, even in the most powerful rituals. This is true because humor balances gravity (Colorado, 1994).

(Colorado, p. 7, “Native Science”: A Necessary Antidote to Western Science?)

Fake Shamanism or Sacred Initiations? - Ohki Simine Forest.

an excerpt of a book "Dreaming The Council
Ways", by
Ohki Simine Forest.


Tad's Intro:

As white people begin to decolonize there is a strong tendency amongst some to seek out alternative spiritual paths that feel more real and authentic. Some of these are "new age" and now - the new New Age - "Shamanism".

To me what is interesting here is the way that so many of these practices become used by white folks to simply continue living their life without questioning any of their privileges or their lifestyle to any significant level.

Also interesting is the belief that "everyone can be a shaman." Though - if most people really understood what most shamans had to go through to become one they'd opt out fast.

In truth, most people, deep down, aren't shamans. Not really. But, perhaps out of the need for significance, people clutch to this. It is seeming to me that more important for most of us is the simple common wisdom of right living.

I received this article from a dear friend of mine Frank MacEowen (author of "The Spiral of Memory and Belonging"). These were his reflections:

Having gotten my start with shamanic experiences
specifically within an indigenous context -- sometimes
called "the long way around" -- there is something
about the way she words things here that captures or
expresses some of my own trepidation about shamanism
in the modern milieu. As many of you know, I've never
felt quite right about *some* of *certain* elements of
the Harner trainings, and other popular training
programs in shamanism, and this is just another
perspective from someone truly practicing as a shaman,
day in and day out, in an indigenous context -- not to
mention one that is under serious threat as we speak.

Her article does not address directly what Westerners
should do in lieu of such popular shamanic programs,
or in lieu of receiving quick weekend transmissions of
"shamanic techniques," but I, at least, thought it
might promote some good inner reflection, for those of
who practice, and those of you who teach.

I've shared this with two friends, one of whom had a
very strong reaction in the negative, and the other
(an indigenous person) a strong reaction to the
positive. So, I think there is something to it worthy
of reading.

On my own path, at present, I would have to describe
myself as 99.5% focused on mindfulness practice and
the artist's journey (poemcraft and visionary

Nearly a year ago now, on Brighid's Day 2005, I set
aside the practice of shamanic journeying. In part
this was because I began to grow suspicious that my
own ego, with its psychologically savvy way of
co-opting ANYTHING to serve itself, was starting to
lead my journeys...rather than my gaining authentic,
untarnished, or pure guidance from wisdom sources
beyond myself. From talking with several people I've
come to the conclusion that this happens for everyone,
and those who are unaware of this feature, or who say
it doesn't happen for them, are most likely the most
profoundly hooked in under the ego's sway.

I also began to have the sneaking suspicion that with
the sheer amount of shamanic journeying I had been
doing that this was one of the reasons my dream life
had practically gone away. So, in service of a healthy
dream life, and in service of kicking the ass of my
own ego, I elected to take a different road for a
while...one that has an ancient track record for
addressing such things.

In lieu of shamanic journeying, I decided to pick back
up --as a singular focus-- the Buddhist practice of
shamatha-vipassana meditation (which I'd trained in
off and on for ten years in both the Shambhala and
Japanese traditions). I did so for the purposes of
weighing that path against the litmus test of my own
present experiences.

What I can report is that, having walked this circuit
for close to a year, my conclusion is that I think one
of the most valuable things a shamanic practitioner
can do is to either START their path of shamanic
exploration, or augment a pre-existing path, with the
shamatha-vipassana approach. It is a 2,600 year old
fool proof method for gaining mastery over the wild
horse of the mind, learning to track its tendencies
(and how we habitually seek distraction and
entertainment), helping us to observe potent emotions
without getting hooked by them, as well as for opening
the energy gates of the heart.

As I began to contemplate the potentially invaluable
linkage between shamatha-vipassana meditation and
shamanic work, a kind of seed thought arose: Closed
Heart, Confused Mind, Unexamined Ego, Questionable
Journeys. That is not a commentary on anyone else,
only my own path and the continuing process underway
of stripping away the extraneous to get to the real
heart of my life. Needless to say, it has been an
interesting, humbling, sometimes painful, but
otherwise priceless process.

So, I just wanted to share a few of those thoughts, as
well as Ohki's article.

I wish each of you well and pray you are healthy and


S A C R E D M A R K I N G S:
Poetic Imagination Meets the Dreamtime


* * *
Fake Shamanism or Sacred Initiations?

"I must express an important caveat about some of the workshops given on power animals in the Western world. I have found some of these teachings to be extremely incomplete and not well taught in regard to our ancient ways. Unfortunately, these techniques are among the most popular on the international scene of shamanic interest. One of my major aims in writing this book is to assist people in discerning between what is false and what is true, between fake and real shamans, between good practices and hazardous ones. There is so much shamanic “stuff” out there. Some of it makes my hair stand on end each time I hear stories of people receiving inadequate practices improperly imparted. Just the fact that these ancient practices are announced as power animal “techniques” is a good sign of a lack of true appreciation, divesting these noble traditions of their sacredness. The Spirit Animal teaching is one of the most sacred matters for us and is, by all means, a way of living and of finding our soul. Describing our very soul as a “technique” is, therefore, aberrant and totally out of place. I often meet people who have attended such seminars and workshops, and I always hear the same story. The teaching material of the so-called shamanic practitioners imparting these seminars consists of an “Americanized” or Western technique of power animals and spiritual journeys, probably copied from ancient knowledge, but which has, without a doubt, suffered a process of serious “injury.”

Dozens of people who have participated in these workshops have told me that these instructors incite everybody to journey, a form of inner meditation with drumbeat, teaching that whatever animal the student finds in visualizing a tunnel, is their power animal. Apparently, no one is verifying any of the participant's findings to ensure that they have the proper animal. Deplorably, sincere and innocent aspirants may believe whatever they hear in these seminars. This is critical to me. I have led numerous private meetings with people in order to “replace” the spirit animal for people who were genuinely convinced they had found the correct guardian animal by themselves.

One of the most serious examples I recall is that of a lady who joined a teaching circle I offered a few years ago. This woman was silent in the circle, and everyone was asking me what was wrong with her, as her energy was so heavily “off” and depressing. I was glad when the lady asked to speak privately with me. She then shared that she had participated in one of these “famous” workshops eight years ago and found a bear in her journeying tunnel. Having been told that the animal they would meet in the tunnel would be their own spirit animal, she adopted the bear she saw as her animal and started a process of intimate identification with it. This error was causing her major problems. I expressed to her that we need not talk more, that the spirit animal I was seeing as she was talking was one of a completely different nature. I told her then that her animal guardian was a red hawk and not a bear. For a long minute she did not say a word, seemingly puzzled. Then her face simply illuminated. She told me she remembered in her adolescence that she had a most striking dream of a red hawk flying directly at her face, looking straight into her eyes. There was no more to say on the subject. A year later, I saw this lady. She was very radiant and her depression had lifted. It is no wonder! How could a hawk needing to fly live happily in a bear's cave for eight years?

I have countless examples similar to this lady's misfortune. To surrender to an erroneous spirit animal as your essence and call its attention to you on a daily basis may bring deranging consequences for the rest of your life, if not amended promptly. This can become quite dangerous.

In traditional ways, the medicine people always point out the animal spirit to you, depending on their own vision or your own visions. Even if you receive a vision of a certain animal, this may not necessarily signify that you have encountered your true spirit animal. Often an animal may come as a strong sign in your life, but that doesn't mean in any way that this is your own animal. Even when you dream about a particular animal, however lucid the dream, you must confirm your findings with the shaman guide or a competent medicine person. Moreover, the power to determine or “catch” spirit animals for others is not given even to all shamans or medicine people. Traditionally, this capacity belongs to certain shamans gifted in this art. Permission for a future shaman to recognize spirit animals for others is only entrusted to them by the main shaman teacher when the time is ripe. Furthermore, each medicine person possesses his or her own gift or medicine specialty, as we will see in the next chapter, and not everyone is dedicated to the same shamanic occupations.

In addition, some of these practitioners have established what they call “shamanic institutions” that offer instruction in these supposed “techniques.” I ask myself, how can people institutionalize shamanic ways? If the spirit animal teachings are a sacred way into life, how can life be institutionalized? Life is a wondrous reality of transient qualities, and there exists no way to retain it in a cage like a bird or in a “building” as a captive. From ancient times, shamanic ways could never be contained in any societal or religious classifications, for they reflect the great ways of Earth and nature.
Furthermore, anyone who lacks the maturity of these ways may experience all sorts of animals in the journey's tunnel. The inexperienced may even encounter the animals of other persons present in the room with them, all trying to undertake their first journey. A beginner is as a child, fresh and open, not always possessing the aptitude to discern what is real. Many animal guides may surface in the tunnel. Your own fears may be disguised as spiders, rabbits, or snakes, reflecting your own psychological complexes. Angry animals may represent your emotional traumas and ravens, among others, may appear if you are pursuing a healing at some level. But these do not signify in any way that you have unearthed your true power spirit animal, the one that will dwell with you for the rest of your life.

In these questionable seminars, a “technique” of Soul Retrieval is also taught. The instructors have people work in pairs, and one of the two partners must journey to find the power animal, as well as their partner's soul in the Underworlds. This is done simultaneously, as the other pairs also attempt to accomplish the exercise in the room. These students, hardly knowing each other, are assisting one another in retrieving their Souls. They are not taught to discern the significance of an animal or entity encountered in the tunnel, yet the novices are expected to bring it back and blow it into the body and chest of the partner. For instance, if someone finds an illness in the form of a spider or, by chance, the animal of someone else in the room, whatever animal is found in the journey is then blown into the partner's chest as if it were the power animal of that person. When I hear these stories I do not know if I should laugh or cry!

It is important to understand the magnitude of the emotional damage such “methods” may produce for someone inexperienced in these practices. First, not everyone possesses the natural gift of soul retrieval. It is given to specific types of shamans or healers who indubitably must undergo years of hard training. As I have experienced myself, soul retrieval ceremonies performed by native shamans generally last a few hours, during which the shaman, in a deep trance state, suffers and endures the anguishes of the ill person. Upon his return, he is sweating, considerably exhausted.

Second, not everyone suffers a loss of soul. This practice is the latest vogue, poorly divulged by all sorts of false shamans. Many are led to believe that their souls are lost. Regularly, people ask me in their healing to retrieve their souls, when, in reality, there is nothing wrong with them at that level. These doubtful seminars announce: “Let's have everybody retrieve their souls, now!” Why do people allow an unfamiliar and inexperienced person to blow anything into their chest, their heart center, the seat of their spirit, and one of the most delicate and subtle organs of their emotional lives?

This flimsy emulation of native ways exhibits no respect or discrimination. I can only urge people to be careful. These supposed practices are imparted with the assumption that whatever emotional blockages or past traumas we have suffered have caused a soul loss. A true native perspective of soul loss would be more discerning and not so generalized. Consistently, all the Maya, Mongolian and Native American shamans and healers I have met, have taught me that when someone suffers a complete loss of soul, he or she usually lingers sick in bed, physically depleted as the days go by. They would, therefore, certainly be physically unable to attend any seminars! In the case of a partial loss of soul, the patient is commonly quite emotionally disturbed, seeming far away and totally incapable of functioning properly on a daily basis. I frankly doubt that everyone who attends these seminars finds themselves in such a state.

Of course all humans have, at some point, suffered a strong trauma, the reality of their emotional blockages and past ordeals. Who has not? But this in no way implies that your soul is kept captive by a spirit, is missing, or must be retrieved. Time reveals itself to be the best healer for these emotional problems. And for this, you must find an appropriate internal path to liberate you from them through the course of your life. But the soul generally remains fixed in the body. Though it may be wounded, it is nonetheless there. Often, life situations may create a catharsis, allowing us to purge past hurts, injuries or sentimental bruises, much the same way that our bodies will create an ailment such as a high fever. With the majority of people, it is not retrieval that the soul needs, but to be freed. This naturally involves an entirely different type of healing and spiritual practice. So it is important to place your emotional and spiritual life in the hands of competent healers or shamans when you seek guidance to uncover your inner puzzles and understand your illnesses.

The worst and most critical fact is that all sorts of people “graduate” from these seminars after only a few of these classes, claiming to be shamans, when, in reality, they have no real gift, no true vocation and no veracity, nor any real understanding of these ways. In turn, they may only create more ungroundedness and imbalance within those they instruct or heal. The universe has not chosen everyone to be an enduring shaman, one who must strive along the road to obtain these special ways and develop medicine powers. Even among natives, the medicine people develop their own distinctive field. There are the prayer people, the healers of all sorts, the retrievers, the removers, the blowers, the transformers, the shakers, the shape-shifters, those who pulse, those who perform limpias, the seers of the spirit world, sweat lodge leaders, and the vision makers. In actuality, there are not many true retrievers. This skill is only mastered after many, intensive years of self-healing, through various arduous initiations which corroborate whether someone possesses an authentic spiritual tenacity and vocation.

So it is absolutely essential that ancient power animal teachings be taught properly, with sound guidance, to enable the true and serious seeker to reach, through animal integration, the true gifts of their essence."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Gaidhlig Proverbs

Perhaps one of the best inititial ways into a understanding a surface view of indigenous wisdom of any peoples are their sayings and proverbs - the well worn grooves in their minds that show how they think, what they value and their view of how the universe works. In Gaelic, these are known as the seanfhacal (lit: old word). Enjoy a small selection.

* * *

A smooth tongue will blunt wrath.

Brisidh an teanga bhog an cneath.

Three kinds of men who fail to understand woman, -- young men, old men, and middle-aged men

Tri shaghas fear go dteipeann ortha bean do thuisgint, -- fir oga, fir aosda, agus fir mheadhon-aosda.

The three most imcomprehensible things in the world -- The mind of a woman, the labour of the bees, the ebb and flow of the tide.
Na tri ruda is deacra do thuigsint san domhan, -- inntleacht na mban, obair na mbeach, teacht is imtheacht na taoide.

Who won’t take advice is worthless; who takes all advice is the same.

Is diù nach gabh comhairle, ‘s diù ghabhas gach comhairle.

Pity him who has his choice, and chooses the worse.

Ged b’e gheibheadh a roghainn, ‘s mairg a thaghadh an diù

If you wish peace, friendship and quiteness, listen, look and be silent.

Mas math leat sith, càirdeas agud cluain, èisd, faic is fuirich sàmhach.

When the cup is fullest it is most difficult to carry.

An uair as laine 'n cupan, 's ann as dorr' a ghiulan.

A man may force a livelihood, but cannot force fortune.

Bheir duine beath' air eiginn, ach cha toir e rath air eiginn.

Neither draw me without cause, nor return me without honour.

Na tarraing mi gun adhbhar, 's na pill mi gun chliu.

Where the stream is shallowest, greatest is its noise

Far an taine 'n abhainn, 's ann as mo a fuaim

Vanity is not without trouble.

Cha bhi uaill gun dragh.

There never was great news, But was a loss to somebody.

Cha robh naigheachd mhòr riamh, Nach robh na chall do dhuin'eigin

Sorrowing always is not good, And music (mirth) always is not good.

Cha'n fhiach bròn a ghnàth, 'S cha'n fhiach ceòl a ghnàth.

No door closes without opening another door.

Cha d' dhùin dorus nach d'fhosgail dorus.

In the face of inevitability, "There is not usually sunshine without shadow."

Cha dual grian gan sgaile

Truth is often harsh to tell.

Is minig a bha an fhirinn searbh ri h-innse.

The medicine (or liniment) that hurts the most Is generally the best healer.

A'chungaidh leighis is goirte, 'Si is moth'tha deaneamh feum.

No fumes from the pot, but from what it contains.

Cha tig as a phoit ach an toit a bhios innte.

If it is a lie I told, it is a lie I got.

Ma's breag uaim i, Is breag chugam i.

A man's faults will be as large as a mountain ere he himself sees them.

Bithidh cron duine cho mòr ri beinn mas leir dha fhèin e.

A friend's eye is a good looking-glass.

Bu mhath an sgàthan sùil caraid.

"Honey may be sweet, but who would lick it from the top of a briar?"

Ge milis a' mhil, cò dh'imlicheadh o bhàrr dri i?

He that is rude thinks his rudeness bad manners.

Am fear a bhios gun mhodh, saoilidh e gur modh am mi-mhodh.

Youth foresees not poverty, nor the fool his mischief.

Cha tuig an t-og aimbeart, 's cha tuig amadan aimhleas.

too much rush causes delay.

Luathaid gu deanamh maille

Raindrops come heavy on a house unthatched.

Is trom snighe air taigh gun tughadh.

Long sleep makes hot rowing.

Is e 'n cadal fada ni 'n t-iomradh teth.

He who will not look before him, Will look behind him.

Am fear nach seall roimhe, Seallaidh e as a dheigh.

Do not light a whisp (fire) that you cannot yourself put out

Na las sop nach urrainn duit féin a chuir as

A blessing feeds no one.

Cha bheathaich beannachd neach 's am bi.

Good is not obtained without trouble.

Cha'n fhaighear math gun dragh.

All the keys in the land do not hang from one girdle.

Chan eil gach iuchair san tir an crochadh ri aon chrios.

The first story from the host, And tales till morning from the guest.

A cheud sgeul air fear an taighe, Is sgeul gu làth' air an aoidh.

Better than gold is the tale well told

Is fhearr na'n t-òr sgeul air inns' air chòir

A good tale is not the worse of being twice told.

Cha mhisde sgeul mhath aithris da uair.

Great gaps may be filled with small stones

Lionar bearn mór le clachan beaga

A small spark has often kindled a great fire.

Is tric a bheothaich srad bheag teinne mór

Say but little and say it well.

Abair ach beagan agus abair gu math e.

He who holds his tongue keeps his friend

Am fear a ghleidheas a theanga, gleidhidh e a charaid

Don't lift me up until I fall

Na tog mi gus an tuit mi

Don't interfere with something that doesn't belong to you.

An rud nach buin duit na buin do.

It is no secret when three know it

Cha sgeul rùin e is fios aig triuir air

The manners of the folk where thou art thou must adopt.

Beus na tuath, far am bithear se nithear.

The best apple will be on the highest bough.

Bidh an ùbhal ìs fhearr air a mheangan is

Tell not thy mind to thy foolish friend, nor to thy wise enemy.

Na innis do run do d'charaide gorach, no do d'namhaid glic.

On an unknown path every foot is slow.

Is mall gach cos air chassan agn eolus

Necessity will get something done.

Bheir an èigin air rud-eigin a dheanamh.

If the messenger be worthy, the business is.

Mas fhiach an teachdaire, ‘s fhiach an gnothach.

He will make of you a tool, and of me a liar.

Ni e dhiotsa feumannach, ‘s ni e dhiomsa breugadair.

A person in need gets nothing

Cha tig spilgein air fear eiginn

A man can sleep on every hurt but his own

Caidlidh duine air gach cneadh ach a chneadh fhein.

A favour often costs more than what's hard-bought.

Is tric as daoir' a' chomain na 'n dubh-cheannach.

Remember the people whom you come from.

Cuimhnichibh air na daoine bho'n d'thainig sibh

The man who is known as an early riser can sleep late/sleep until noon.

Am fear a gheibh ainm na mocheirich, faodaidh e cadal anmoch /gu meadhon latha

Renown is more lasting than life.

Is buaine bladh na saoghal.

He who is late rising will be in a hurry all day

Am fear e bhios fada gun eiridh, bidh e na leum fad' an latha

There is no deceit/fraud so great as the promise unfullfilled.

Cha'n eil fealladh ann cho mòr ris an gealladh gun choimhlionadh.

Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing.

Gealladh gun a'choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh

He that promises the most will perform the least.

Am fear as mò a gheallas, ‘s e as lugha cho-gheallas.

Better not to begin than stop without finishing.

B'fhearr gun tòiseachadh na sguir gun chriochnachadh.

A promise can never be tied (or tethered.)

Cha chuirear gad air gealladh.

Quick to promise often deceives.

Am fear a tha grad gu gealladh, ‘s tric leis mealladh.

Like Ossian after the Feinne.

Mar Oisean an dèidh na Fèinne.

If it is worth taking, it is worth asking for.

An rud is fhiach a ghabhail, 's fhaich e iarraidh.

Anger may look in on a wise man's heart, but it abides in the heart of

a fool.

Faodaidh fearg sealltainn a stigh air cridh an duine ghlic, ach còmhnaichidh i an cridh an amadain.

What cannot be helped, Must be put up with.

An rud nach gabh leasachadh, 'S fheudar cur suas leis.

Patience will get relief or reward

Gheibh faidhidinn furstachd

You cannot pull a cow backwards,

Cha tharraing tu bò an comhair a h-earball

Sweet sings each bird in his own grove.

Is binn gach eun 'na dhoire fhein.

Night is a good shepherd, it brings home man and beast

Is math am buachaill' an oidhche, bheir e dhachaidh gach beathach is duine

Men will meet, but the hills will not.

Tachraidh na daoine, ach cha tachair na cnuic.

Every flood will have an ebb.

Chan eil tuil air nach tig traoghadh.

A great sea comes not through a narrow strait

Cha tig muir mhor tron chaolas chumhann.

See that your own hearth is swept before you lift your neighbour's ashes

Feuch gu bheil do theallach fhéin sguaibte, ma's tog thu luath do choimhearsnaich

It's easy to keep a castle that's not besieged.

Is fhurasda caisteal gun seisdeadh a ghleidheach.

Although you would put the fool into a wine press, foolishness will not part from him.

Ged a chuireadh tu an t-amadan ann an amar-bruthaidh, cha dhealaich amaideas ris

Though separation be hard, two never met but had to part.

Ge cruaidh sgarachdainn, cha robh dithis gun dealachadh.

Save, and for whom? Remember death?

Caomhain, is cò dha? Cuimhnich am bàs.

A man with neither strength nor art is worth nothing.

Chan fhiach duine gun neart gun innleachd.

One cow breaks the fence, and a dozen leap it.

Aon bho a bhristeas an garradh, 's a dha dheug a leumas

Wrong cannot rest, nor ill deed stand.

Cha bhi suaimhneas aig eucoir, no seasamh aig droch-bheairt.

The more you get of what's good, The less you will get of what's bad.

A mheud 'sa gheibh thu gu math, Se'n lughad a gheibh thu de'n olc.

Three that come unsought - fear, jealousy and love

Trian a thig gun iarraidh - eagal, iadach is gaol

Nothing asked, nothing learned.

Chan fhiosrach mur feòraich.

The herb that cannot be found will not give relief.
An luigh nach fhaighear cha'n ì a chobhras.

Everything but the right thing.
A h-uile rud ach an rud bu chòir.

Bailing the sea with a creel.
A taomadh na mara le cliabh.

All is not lost that is in peril.
Cha chaillear na thèid an cunnart.

Who farthest away e'er did roam
Heard the sweetest music on returning home.
Am fear, is fhaide chaidh bho'n bhaile,
Chual e'n ceòl bu mhilse leis nuair thill e dhachaidh.

The man who farthest away did roam, heard the sweetest music on
returning home

Am fear is fhaide chaidh bho'n bhaile Chual e'n ceòl bu mhilse leis
nuair thill e dhachaidh

A house without a dog, a cat or a little child, is one without affection or merriment.

Taigh gun chù gun chat gun leanabh beag, tigh gun ghean gun ghàire

Sickness needs many things which health requires not.

Is ioma rud a dh’fheumas an euslaint nach fheum an t-slàinte.

Better rise early than sit late.

Is fheàrr èirigh moch na suidhe anmoch.

The best of nursing may overcome the worst disease.

Ruigidh an ro-ghiullachd air an ro-ghalar.

To live life to the full, though you would only live a half hour.

Bhith beò beathail ged nach bitheadh tu beò ach leth-uair.

The contented person has no needs but to be born and brought up.

Chan eil air an duine sona ach a bhreith agus àrach

The deaf will hear the clink of money.

Cluinnidh am bodhar fuaim an airgead.

It is not the quietest sow that eats the least.

Cha'n i a mhuc is sàimhche, Is lugh a dh'itheas de'n drabh.

He that gets most will ask most.

Am fear as mò a gheibh, ‘s e as mò a dh’iarras.

Due civility never broke a man's head,

And great the pity to be at any time without it.

Cha do bhris deagh urram ceann duine riamh,

Agus is mòr-am-beud a bhi uair 's am bith as aonais.

A request merits no reproof.

Cha toill iarratas achmhasan.

The hand that gives is the hand that will receive, Except when given to a bad man.

An làmh a bheir 'si a gheibh, Mar a d'thugar do dhroch dhuin'e.

Borrowing and lending have always been world-wide habits.

Bha iasad ga ghabhail 's ga thoirt riamh air feadh an t-saoghal.

‘Tis when food is scarcest it should be divided.

Is ann an uair as gainn’ am biadh as còir a roinn.

During the year when meal is scarce Let big bakings be few.

A bhliadhn' is gainne a mhin, Dean fuine mhòr aineamh.

Friendship is as it's kept.

Is ann a tha 'n cairdeas mar a chumar e.

A friend in court is worth more than crowns in the purse

’S fheàrr caraid sa chùirt na crùn san sporan

What is got by guile will disappear with the wind.

An rud a thig gu dona falbhaidh e leis a ghaoith.

The long clean road, and the short dirty road.

An ràthad fada glan, is an ràthad goirid salach.

Quickness and neatness do not go together.

Cha bhi luathas is grinneas còmhla.

Quick and fine don't combine.

Cha bhi luathas agus grinneas an cuideachd a' cheile.

The three dearest things there are: hen eggs, pork and old women’s praise.

Na tri rudan as daoire a th’ann: uighean chearc, feòil mhuc, glòir chailleach.

Honour belongs to old age.

Buinidh urram do'n aois.

He who won’t take counsel will take a roundabout way.

Am fear nach gabh comhairle, gabhaidh e cam-lorg.

Better be without being than without instruction.

B'fhearr a bhi gun bhreith na bhi gun teagasg.

If you are a man of skill, let us hear your masterpiece.

Ma tha thusa ‘nad fhear-ealaidh, cluinneamaid annas do làimhe.

Fingal's sword never had to cut twice.

Cha d'fhag claidheamh Fhinn riamh fuigheall beuma.

The man that went farthest from home had as far to come back.

Am fear as fhaide chaidh riamh on taigh, bha cho fad’aige ri tighinn dachaigh.

Neither seek nor shun the fight

Na sir 's na seachainn an cath

His shore of Paradise to him.

A chuid de Fhlaitheanas dha.

Fear is worse than fighting.

Is mios' an t-eagal na 'n cogadh.

Desperation will give courage to a coward.

Bheir eu-dochas misneachd do'n ghealtair àirde.

A day's work - getting started

Obair là - tòiseachadh

It's difficult to draw pure water from a dirty well.

Is duilich burn glan a thoirt a tobar salach.

You will never know a man, Until you do business with him.

Cha'n aithnich thu duine, Gus am bi do ghnothaich ris.

Where a good man is, he is a man, whether in company or alone.

Far am bi an deagh dhuine, is duin’e ‘n cuideachd ‘s na aonar.

What's done in the corner will come to the hearth.

An rud a nitear sa chuil, thig e dh'ionnsaigh an teine.

There is no concealment of evil, But by avoiding it.

Cha'n eil cleith air an olc, Ach gun a dheanamh.

The man who would strike my dog would strike me.

Am fear a bhuaileadh mo chù, bhuaileadh e mifhéin.

Do not judge by appearances, a rich heart may be under a poor coat

Na toir breith air réir coltais faodaidh cridh beartach a bhi fo chòta bochd

A wise man will form a year's judgement from one night's knowledge of another man

Bheir duine glic breith bliadhna air fear na h-aon oidhche

A man is known by his company

Aithnichear duine air a chuideachd

He that is courteous will be courteous to all.

Am fear a bhios modhail, bidh e modhail ris a h-uile duine.

Praise the good day at the close of it.

Mol an latha math mu oidhche.

Better the small scone with blessing than the large scone with cursing.

’S fheàrr am bonnach beag le beannachd na am bonnach mòr le mallachd

Better a small portion with a blessing than a large portion with a cursing

Is fhearr bloigh bheag le bheannachd, na bloigh mór le mallachd

Peace to your soul, and a stone on your cairn.

Sìth do d'annam, is Clach air do Chàrn

The world will pass away, but love and music will endure

Thig crioch air an saoghal, ach mairidh gaol is ceòl

Shun evil company.

Seachain droch-chuideachta

Pride with nothing to back it up

Bosd gun chur leis

A conceited fellow and a laird's tyke, Two who should not be allowed their own way.

Balach, is balgaire tighearna, dithis nach còir a leigeil leòtha.

He thought the ocean his own under his spells.

Shaoil leis gum bu leis fhein an cuan fo gheasaibh.

Good sword has often been in poor scabbard.

Is minig a bha claidheamh math an droch thruaill.

Timely advice is better than a late gift

Is fhearr còmhairl na thrath, na tiodhlac fadalach

Often has wise counsel comes from a fool's head.

Is minig a thainig comhairle ghlic a ceann amadain.

Council can be given, but not conduct.

Bheirear comhairle seachad ach cha toirear giùlan.

Silence is consent.

Is ionnan tosd is aideachadh.

Say that, when you have spent a stack of peats along with it.

Abair sin, nuair a chaitheas tu cruach mhòine còmhla ris.

What is well done will be shown by results.

An rud a nithear gu math, chithear a bhuil.

The oar that's nearest at hand, row with it.

An ràmh is fhaisg air laimh, iomair leis.

One hapless act may undo a man,

And one timely one will re-establish him.

Cuiridh aon bheart as an duine gu lom, is gun bhonn fo cheill,

Is cuiridh beart eil' e ann, ach a bhabhail am féin.

It's better to try than to hope.

Is fhearr fheuchainn na bhith san duil.

It is not the nodding of heads that does the rowing.

Chan e gogadh nan ceann a ni an t-iomradh.

I would know your gift by your graciousness.

Dh'aithnichinn air do sheirc do thabhartas.

That were a star on a dark night.

B' i sin reul 's an oidhche dhoilleir.

Better to hear the evil than see it.

Is fhearr an t-olc a chluinntinn na fhaicinn.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tad's Top Ten Books for Healing Whiteness

Over the past decade, I feel like I've been somehow guided to just the right book at the right time. Each one taking me deeper in my own understanding and further along my own life path. Not in any linear sense, but more in a spiraling shape. Each one peeled back a different layer and allowed me to see new things. I've listed them in roughly the order I read them.

Of course, each of our journeys is so unique and the books that mean so much to one may not to another. Indeed, books themselves may not be useful to some.

But for what it's worth . . .

The Mist Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers and Seekers - Frank MacEowen

This was one of the first books I read on Celtic spirituality and one of the most meaningful to me. It was neither abstract nor academic, but deeply personal. It shared Frank's profound story of reconnecting with his roots. Given that i was looking into my roots from a frame of healing racism and whiteness, the fact that Frank spoke directly and clearly to these issues in his book meant a great deal to me. Frank and I have since become dear friends. This is the book that convinced me a Celtic Indigenous Path did indeed exist.

A Handbook of the Scottish Gaelic World - Michael Newton

This book was a god-send. As I read it i kept thinking, "YES! I can't believe someone has written this book." It seemed to speak to every question i was living with. Right from the start he challenges modernism, racial contructions, and speaks directly to the dynamic of colonization as it existed for the Highlanders. With impeccable and detailed research he lays out the Gaelic worldview on a wide range of issues from: nature, to language, to belief, tradition and the structure of society, the oral tradition and a kick ass first chapter with some very good thoughts about "thinking about culture". This book delivers what too many lack - a political analysis for the historical and current realities of the Gael and how it all relates to the "modern" world in which we live.

A Language Older Than Words - Derrick Jensen

You will notice that Derrick takes four spots on my top ten list. There's a reason. Derrick is perhaps the most skilled, artful and powerful author I have ever experienced in his weaving together of some many of the strands of questioning i was living with: racism, indigenous issues, how did it all come to this? what's the way back home?, environmental issues etc. This is the book that truly broke my heart open and showed me the state of the world more clearly than i'd ever seen it. Devastating in its implications for civilization but brimming with hope in its belief of the higher possibilities in humanity. For me, the core of this book is how violence requires silence to continue - to abuse others, indigenous people and the natural world - they must be silenced in our experience.

The Culture of Make Believe - Derrick Jensen

Immediately after reading LOTW i read this. I think that this was the book that convinced me that there was no hope for modern civilization. Zero. It's the book that helped me see The Machine more clearly than ever and what it does to us - how it dehumanizes us. It helped me see that trying to save civilization is not only impossible but undesirable. It helped me see - contrary to new age claims - that the masses were not going to suddenly shift, voluntarily, to a sustainable way of life. Given that, the solution had to lie somewhere else. As the review says, "The book makes clear that it is only through understanding these atrocities, and by feeling the sorrow and despair caused by them, then moving through that despair, that we will be able to make significant movement toward halting them."

Listening to the Land - Derrick Jensen

This was actually Derrick's first book. It
is a collection of interviews with environmentalists, feminists, theologians, philosophers, and Indians centering around the question: If the destruction of the natural world isn't making us happy, why are we doing it?" Starhawk, Jerry Mander, Ward Churchill etc. The wide range of responses from such elders and luminaries is incredible and gives so many lenses through which to look at the current situation.

The Four Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary - Angeles Arrien

This book is a weaving together of many spiritual and indigenous approaches from a cross cultural standpoint of "what is the common ground?" I can not speak to its accuracy but i can speak the the simple power of it. This is a book I will return to throughout my life for it's core wisdom on right living with a good heart.

Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom - Taiaiake Alfred

I got an email from my friend, Shalene Jobin, who told me about the booklaunch for this is Edmonton and described Taiaiake's philosophy as "anarcho indingenism". I went to the website (www.wasase.org) and was blown away. There were PDF's, audio files and ten hours of video of Taiaiake teaching at his Indigenous Governance (iGov) program at UVic. I was blown away. I've never heard a more lucid analysis of colonization and what is required for decolonization. He unpacks and dismantles the economic, legalistic and armed resistance approaches and suggests another paths based on returning to the original teachings and engaging in a process of non-violent contention with the settler society. Taiaiake's work not only gave me a deeper understanding of the north american indigenous reality but also gave me so many frame works and goof thoughts for the process of decolonization that whites must go through as well.

Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing - Deena Metzger

I have many issues with the new age movement - it's dismissal of worldly, politica engagement as negative, people getting a week's worth of reiki training and opening a practice etc. Much of the new age seems to be a way for white folks to justify and maintain their current lifestyle. Deena (an american jew) delves deeply into the recovery of her indigenous mind and an indingeous perspective on healing. She lays out a view of healing that suggests a truly healing gesture is one that heals on every level. "Any one individual who is suffering a disease such as cancer or environmental illness, is also carrying it for the community, or as a member of the community. Their suffering reveals what is awry in the country at large." This book reminded me of the importance of spirit in this work. I've never read a more integrated perspective.

The Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature and Place in a Hypermodern World - Charlene Spretnak

As I've read these books, the question has always been, "What is the heart of this all? What is the seed from which this sprouted? And what is the name for this illness that has changed us so deeply?" I think that modernism is as good a name as any. Charlene unpacks the modern worldview in the clearest and most explicit way i've ever seen done.

endgame: the collapse of civilization and the rebirth of community - derrick jensen

Of course, once we understand how very deep the problem is, what do we do about it? If civilization is inherently violent - then by not doing anything we are allowing that violence to continue.

This book deals directly with the question, "how do we stop the juggernaut?". My favorite part of this book are the 16 premises he lays out in the beginning. This book pushes you to agree or disgree. If you want a book to take you off the fence - this is it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A World Gone Mad

I think the world has gone crazy.

To be more specific: I think humanity has gone crazy.

Maybe that’s not specific enough: I think those raised within western civilization are crazy (with “extra special” crazy status reserved for those who most benefit from its exploitations).

And I’m not trying to be humourous. I have come to believe that the vast bulk of us (and by “us” I’m referring to those of us who fit the last set of criteria above and, specifically, this piece will speak to those of primarily Celtic descent) are truly not well. We are sick.

By any measure you can point to, we’re doing insane things to ourselves and to the planet.

If any alien invader came and did what we are doing they would be fought, resisted and a war waged against them. If aliens came and: enslaved 27 million humans (creating more slaves than have ever existed before on Earth), rapidly deforested our planet to create fuel for its ships, worked to destroy our ozone layer, created and then deposited nuclear waste - which would last up to 500,000 years (in barrels that, being optimistic, might last 200 years) – near our water supplies, if they polluted our air, water and food supply and depleted our topsoil while intentionally creating the 5th great wave of extinction the planet has ever seen there’d be revolution in the streets over night.

If, in order to rule us, they worked to destroy our unique cultures and languages and make us conform to their own (one that was totally and literally alien to us) we’d resist (just as indigenous people’s around the world resisted the onslaught of civilization).

If, to weaken us, they intentionally addicted us to toxic substances that would result in the vast majority of the population dying of painful and debilitating diseases well before their natural time (in fact doing this to such an extent that “death by natural causes was no longer considered statistically significant) we’d never take it. Especially not, if as an instrument of torture, they ensured that we lived longer – so that we’d suffer more (prolonging not so much our living but our dementia and dying).

But, because it is Western Civilization doing these things, and worse, then OH! all the above are, of course, signs of great progress and a booming economy.

And it really is that bad. There's an old saying "if one person calls you a horse’s ass, punch them in the face. If two people call you a horse’s ass, think about it, three people call you a horse’s ass -- get a saddle." If one person were depressed that would be one thing. If it were only 100 or thousand people that's another -- but when it's so many that it's impossible to count because it's become normal, it's time to look at the system producing that.

I think we’ve gone crazy.

* * *

"The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

Milan Kundera

"We must never cease our exploring. For perhaps the end of all our exploring will be to return to the place where we first began in to truly know that place for the first time."

-- T.S. Eliot

How can one understand one's place in the world without understanding the world? And what good is it find one's place in a world gone mad? And, what if the world we are normally shown is not, indeed, the real and natural world? Just as fictional characters like Superman have no place in this world, nor do real people ever truly have a place in the fictional world. And, what if we live in a culture of make-believe?

And what if its synthetic soil sustains us only at the barest levels? What if, like any plant, we only grow in proportion to the soil in which we find ourselves? What if the depleted soil of civilization is growing depleted people? What if civilization is not the beginning of our story is humanity but merely the latest [and hopefully not last] chapter? And what if we're so miserable because we have only read this last chapter [it's not a very happy chapter -- it's full of slavery, rate, depression, oppression and abuse of all kinds]?

Is it possible that civilization itself – the very thing that was supposed to make us all happier, healthier and wealthier - is making us miserable, sickly and impoverished (in all the ways that matter most)?

And here’s a question that will keep you up at night: How have we collectively created a world none of us wants individually? No one wants polluted air, water, land or energy sources. That’s not anyone’s end goal for their life. Is it possible that we don't want the ends but were addicted to the means? We don't want air pollution but we are addicted to cars?

Is it possible that we misunderstand our place in the world and what it is to be human because we understand too little of our history? And what, I wonder would happen if we knew?

I am beginning to suspect that we are not who we were. Perhaps, who we think we are is not even really who we are. And if that’s true then what has become of us? How did it get to this? How did we become such domesticated sleepwalkers?

I am beginning to suspect that what we consider normal is far from what is natural. And I’m beginning to suspect that the problem goes deep to the very heart of what call civilization - to the heart of the Western Mind.

* * *

I don’t think we understand where we fit anymore. I think we’ve lost any real sense of the greater story of which we are a part. I think most of us sense the craziness in the world (and have experienced it in our own ways) and are actually living in trauma.

But we don’t know where the pain is coming from. In our darker moments, and perhaps our sanest ones, just before we fall asleep, many of us secretly hold a variation of the last sentiment of Tolstoy’s Ivan Illich, “Is it possible that our whole world has been wrong?”

* * *

Caitlin Matthews, Celtic scholar and author, poses the question like this:

"How can the soul or the world be re-enchanted once it is lost the enchantment? Only by returning to the story of the soul and retelling it up to the point of fracture; only by placing our story within the context of the greater song.

She tells that when Merlin is exposed to the terrible carnage of the battle of Arfderwydd "he becomes mad and runs into the depths of the forest. Within the forest's embrace, he becomes one with the trees and seasons and puts aside the terrible sights he has seen to focus upon the gifts of the wild world, becoming rusticated and "uncivilized."

Ever pertinent and prophetic, he sees through the pretexts and pretensions of those who come to lure him back to civilization with the sure instinct of an animal,”

He does not respond to anyone except his friend, the Welsh poet, Taliesin who comes to sit with him. Only then “does Merlin respond, asking the odd question, "why do we have weather?" This seemingly trivial query is all that Taliesin needs to help his friend. He begins to recite the creation of the world. At the end of Taliesin's recital, Merlin is restored as the sacred context of his story is given back to them." - The Celtic Spirit, Caitlin Matthews, page 70 and page 225

Except for most of us - there has been no Taliesin. There has been no grandmother. No one has rewoven us into the fabric of creation. So, what the hell are we supposed to do? Can the sick heal themselves? Can the traumatized un-traumatize themselves? Can the sleeping wake themselves? Can the dead resurrect themselves?

Who saves us when we’re all in trouble?

“Child go off from the herd

go beyond the lowlands

leave the valley of shed antlers

the elders are sick

it is your time now.”

- “Listen to the Wind”,

Barnie McCormack, Bard of Craigencalt