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Children and Family

in Gaelic Polytheism
by Annie Loughlin and Kathryn Price NicDhna

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Published by An Chuallacht Ghaol Naofa.

Published 31 January 2014.

First edition.

Copyright 2014 Annie Loughlin and Kathryn Price NicDhna.

All Rights Reserved.

Published in the United States of America.

Typography and interior layout by Aestas Designs.

Special thanks to Treasa N Chonchobhair, Pl MacAmhlaoibh, and Brandon Sweeney for the
initial read-through and feedback.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may
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People who come into Gaelic Polytheism as adults usually learn about our basic
beliefs and practices in a different way than do children who are raised as Gaelic Polytheists.
Adults adopting a new set of beliefs often have to do a lot of the leg work ourselves and it
can feel like getting thrown in to the deep end: It's up to us to figure out who our gods are,
what they want from us, and what we should be doing about any of it. So maybe we trawl
through reading lists and websites. We find communities online or in person to talk to
and exchange ideas with or seek guidance from. And of course, we also look inside ourselves
and listen to what our gut is telling us is the right thing to do.
Children who are raised in a religion may have a little soul searching to do as well, but
they also get to simply absorb and internalise a lot of the things that those of us who came to
Gaelic Polytheism as adults have had to consciously seek out and sift through. In that sense,
it might be easier for them to find their way, but it's also very important for us as parents,
aunts and uncles if we choose to raise our children with a religious practice 1 to make sure
they get the right sort of grounding. (No pressure...).
In finding an understanding of our beliefs and how we can articulate them, we often
break down the fundamentals into labels like "ancestor veneration" or "bioregional animism,"
and we call ourselves things like "hard polytheists" and talk about "virtue ethics." We talk to
other adults about our worldview and we read up on the lore and other foundational
materials. We might find we have to work out a few hangovers from our previous religious
upbringing or explorations, while we evolve and emerge into a new identity. As our

Some parents might wish to raise their children religiously, while others may not, and this is a decision that is entirely
personal. While we believe that the future of Gaelic Polytheism is at least in part dependent on our beliefs being passed
on from generation to generation, we realise that this is not something that will be possible or even desirable for
everyone especially for those in households where parents may be of different religious beliefs. However, even if you
decide to keep your children out of overtly religious practice, there are many cultural and secular activities that form the
foundations of our lifeway, and children can easily be involved in this level of practice, even if you don't consider those
things overtly "religious." We hope this article will provide inspiration no matter what you decide for your family.
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understanding of our spirituality deepens and evolves, so do our practices and, hopefully,
our relationships with the gods, spirits and ancestors. Just like anything in life, our religious
experiences are a work in progress.
Now add children into the mix (assuming you want to).
It can be difficult knowing where to start and how to articulate what you believe or
explain why you're doing whatever it is you're doing when your audience is a child. It
depends on how old your audience is, of course, but lengthy discussions about bioregional
animism or the finer points of mythology aren't really going to cut it when your audience is a
three-year-old Nor can we point them to an article or website and suggest they read it
when they have questions.
A different, simpler approach is needed, and it really doesn't have to be difficult: As a
general rule of thumb the best way to teach your kids no matter how old they are is in
showing rather than telling. Our lifeway is very practical and integrated with the activities of
daily life. So, if you are living this way, it's less a matter of deciding whether or not to "teach"
them about "religion," but rather a matter of simply including them in normal, daily
activities, bringing them to ceremony with you and praying and singing aloud so they can
learn liturgy, and explaining things in an age-appropriate manner when they ask (or when
you decide an explanation is needed).
Language acquisition is also easier for kids than adults. All you have to do is be a bit
ahead of the child's level of proficiency, and committed to sharing what you know. 2 With
small children, you can teach them the names for plants, animals, etc. in Gaelic at the same
time, or at times instead of, teaching them the English names. Every day you can say good
morning and goodnight, and simple blessings, building up to whole conversations. For a
group of children, having a "secret" language they can use with family and friends can be fun
and exciting, and provide a strategical advantage in games with larger groups of children.

Raising bilingual children can also be an excellent motivator to keep up your own language learning, so you can stay
ahead of them!
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Because many traditions survive today as children's games, it's fair to say that Gaelic
Polytheism is a very child-friendly religion and there is no shortage of things you can do
with your kids, either within a ritual context or outside of it. These practices encapsulate the
fundamental basics of our beliefs, too, so whereas adults have to consciously learn about
these things, children who are raised as Gaelic Polytheists can pick these things up naturally.
If you are introducing Gaelic Polytheism to older children then the same approach is just as
valid, but you will need to be prepared to answer any questions they might have. While this
can often be the harder part to deal with, older children are also capable of greater
intellectual analysis. While some adolescents will enjoy taking on more adult responsibilities
in the spiritual practice of their families and communities, other adolescents may well be in a
stage of needing to differentiate themselves from their parents, or exhibiting a combination
of both. Thankfully, we have traditional ways of addressing this and guiding them through
these changes in their lives, and honouring their need to spend some time figuring things out
for themselves.

The Fundamentals
As Gaelic Polytheists, we see the world through our own particular lens, our
worldview. This affects how we interpret the world around us and how we interact with
other people. Spiritually, our worldview gives us the tools and symbols that help us to
communicate with the gods, spirits, and ancestors effectively. It forms the foundations of our
ritual language, if you like, such as when we refer to the three realms in a blessing, or use
phrases like d ocus and ('gods and ungods'), An Tr Naomh (The Sacred Three),3 or we find

An Tr Naomh (Gidhlig), Na Tr Naomh (Gaeilge), Yn Tree Noo (Gaelg), "The Sacred Three." Our inspiration for this phrase
comes from the prevalence of triads in the Gaelic lore, and the use of the phrase (though with an archaic spelling, or
perhaps a spelling unique to Carmichael) in the Carmina Gadelica (For example, in 'Smaladh an Teine' [CG 84], "The first
peat is laid down in the name of the God of Life, the second in the name of the God of Peace, the third in the name of the
God of Grace. the name of the Three of Light. ...An Tri numh The sacred Three"). Gaol Naofa's use of the phrase to
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meaning in certain symbols or artwork from Gaelic cultures the triskele, the cros Brde, and
certain animals that we might see as messengers of the gods, and so on. In the language of
symbolism (which goes beyond words), our worldview dictates certain actions, like going in
a deiseal (sunwise) direction. We work with the sun, with nature. In doing so, we symbolically
articulate and acknowledge our place within the world, and the way of things as they should
So this worldview shows us how to interact with the world around us in a manner
that is appropriate to our beliefs. It underpins our values and ethics and informs how we
should honour and approach the gods, spirits, and ancestors in the most effective and
appropriate ways. It's the reason we call our tradition of Gaelic Polytheism a lifeway, 4
because we see the gods, spirits, and ancestors as being ever-present in our lives. Everything
we do from our daily prayers to our offerings and festival celebrations can be seen as
being a way of honouring them, and maintaining a right relationship with them. 5
In raising our children in our lifeway, we impart this worldview to them by our daily
actions and interactions, so they will also have the tools and the proper grounding to honour
the gods, spirits, and ancestors An Tr Naomh. Just like the pre-Christian Gaels before us, we
see the gods, spirits and ancestors as being a part of the world around us. They are in and of
the land, sea and sky, but beyond it as well, in the otherworld that is just a step away from
this one; we see all of this in the lore and the myths and legends that have survived through
the millennia, in the prayers we say, the songs we sing and the rituals we observe. In
involving children in these traditions and and practices, in sharing the myths and legends

apply to sacred triads in addition to this particular "three of light" is, as far as we know, a modern adaptation based on
these precedents.
Within Gaol Naofa, specifically: Our Gaelic Polytheist Lifeway (Gaeilge: r nDigh Bheatha Ildiach is Gaelach, Gidhlig: Ar
Digh-Beatha Ioma-Dhiadhach Ghidhealach). Gaol Naofa has coined this term to better describe our specific tradition and
beliefs, as practiced by the core members of our organisation. This is partly in order to distinguish ourselves from other
Gaelic Polytheist groups, but also to emphasise our commitment to our spirituality as a way of life. Although admittedly a
bit of a mouthful, we feel the phrase speaks to the heart of Gaol Naofa's philosophy and community.
For an introduction to why and how we make offerings, see "A Gift for a Gift: Offerings in Gaelic Polytheism" by An
Chomhairle Ghaol Naofa.
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with them, in teaching them a Gaelic language and giving them a grounding in traditional
music and song; in showing them how we as Gaelic Polytheists practice and live our religion,
we are already rooting them in our worldview.

Getting Started: Ritual

Kids pick up a lot of things intuitively that we as adults have had to learn (or re-learn)
consciously. This can make introducing ritual practice to them relatively easy. As they see us
pray or make offerings, they may wish to join in and can be encouraged to do so. From there,
you can introduce the basics: who they're praying to, what kind of offerings to make, what to
do with offerings, the kind of things they can say, and so on. These simple practices form the
foundations of all our rites and ceremonies, and so starting with them should make it easier
for children to take on board lengthier rituals and deeper concepts, which can be introduced
when they're ready.
Family practice should be fulfilling for everyone involved. If you're very new to Gaelic
Polytheism yourself it's probably a good idea to get to grips with the basics of practice
yourself before introducing it to the family as a whole. To begin with, it's only natural to be a
little uncertain about whether or not you're doing things right, and that can be enough to
deal with without having to add the responsibility of introducing children into the mix. For
some people, it takes time to figure out what works and what doesn't, so give yourself time
to grow into your practices, grow in confidence, and in your connection with An Tr Naomh.
There's no point in rushing things because you feel you should when you're just going to get
stressed out over things, but likewise there's no need to be overcautious either. Once you feel
you have a surer footing in what you're doing, then it's a good time to think about involving
the family, and introducing practices at a pace that's right for everyone involved.
Ritual formats can vary between different Gaelic Polytheist individuals and families.

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While we have basic protocols and traditions that we all observe, there is not a one-size-fitsall ritual script that is used for all purposes. Details of ceremonies can vary considerably,
depending on the purpose, spirits, and people involved, so there is a considerable amount of
wiggle room to find out what works for you and your family. Elaborate, formal, and lengthy
ritual is not a necessity, but some people find it the best way to connect on a spiritual level
with what they're doing. Others are more than happy to keep their observances less formal,
and that's fine too, but remember that what works for you might not work for the family as a
whole. Compromises might sometimes have to be made to find a middle ground that
satisfies everyone, especially when considering involving children in lengthier, more solemn,
and more formal ritual settings. Anything that requires an intense level of concentration like
lengthy meditations, vigils, and extended prayer are probably not going to be of interest to
younger children in particular, and they may become bored and disruptive. This will make
the ritual less effective for everyone involved, but it will also likely to be off-putting to the
children and discourage their interest in participating in future.
Another consideration with the kind of participation you might expect of children is
safety. There are practical concerns like making sure children are kept safe if fire is being
used, but there is also the matter of safety in spiritual terms as well. Some rites, like vigils
and lengthy meditation, or work with some less-gentle deities and spirits, may not be
appropriate for children because they will be exposed to energies that can be difficult to deal
with without proper training or experience. While simple, general rites of protection (such as
prayers and simple charms) are useful for all ages, in a situation where there is real danger,
more involved rites of a protective nature are best left to the adults, since in performing them
we risk exposing ourselves to the kinds of things that we are protecting ourselves and our
families from in the first place. As children grow older they can be taught the proper ways to
deal with these situations, starting with short meditations, learning some of the relevant lore,
and building from there.
Encouraging children to actively participate in ritual is a good way to keep them
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engaged in what's going on, but their level of participation and the responsibilities given to
them should be according to what might be appropriate for their age and abilities, in
addition to what they're comfortable with. Some people don't enjoy the spotlight and don't
like performing in front of others, and that's fine. Pushing children into taking an active role
when they're not ready won't benefit anyone.
While younger children may be happy with a simple prayer or song that everyone
joins in on together, or just a simple phrase to repeat, older children can sometimes do longer
meditations, or take more adult roles such as making the offerings, leading a song, or even
tending the fire. Older children may also be able to help with leading specific kids' activities,
or watching over sleeping youngsters, if the adults wish to do something more focused and
involved that, say, toddlers simply can't keep up with. In these situations, rituals can also
have multiple parts: the preparation involving crafts and cooking, the ritual for the whole
family, and a part for the older folks after the young ones have been put to bed.
One final point we'd like to make is: Be flexible. Dealing with a group of people in a
ritual setting can sometimes be very similar to trying to herd cats, so even without children
involved things might not always go to plan. Expect the unexpected and don't sweat the
small stuff; planning things in advance can help rituals run more smoothly, but sticking too
rigidly to the plan can cause more problems than solve them. Moms and aunties know this.
There will always be something that happens a little differently to how you might have
anticipated it, and it's not the end of the world if you don't get absolutely everything you had
planned ticked off your list. So long as you get the important stuff done, it doesn't matter if
you end up having to put a few of the other things you had planned on hold for another day.
Especially with younger children, whose attention spans and energy levels may be too
limited for so much activity in such a small space of time, spreading things out over a few
days can be a good idea.

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Sacred Space
Family devotions are one of the most obvious ways of building and maintaining a
relationship with the gods, spirits, and ancestors, and are a good starting point for
introducing children to spiritual and religious practice. These include things like daily
prayers, your regular offerings and devotions to An Tr Naomh, and new moon observances.
To facilitate this, you might find it helpful to make a devotional space or shrine in your
home and/or garden, which can act as a focus for family or personal devotions. While Gaelic
Polytheists hold the view that all space is sacred and doesn't need to be created or set aside,
we also see that there are some points or places in the world around us where
communication with the gods, spirits, and ancestors can occur more easily, as well as places
that have been made more sacred by significant things that have happened there. One of the
most obvious points is the sacred centre, a place where the mundane and the otherworld
meet. Traditionally, the sacred centre is represented in a number of ways in Gaelic belief in
physical places like the hills of Tara and Uisneach, which are symbols of the political and
spiritual centres of Ireland (respectively), 6 in the bile or sacred tree that represents the heart of
a particular territory or tath,7 or in the central point of the home. In traditional houses, the
hearth was always situated in the centre of the building, and instead of an enclosed chimney
the smoke would escape through the thatch and perhaps a small hole in the roof. These days
the hearth has in most cases moved to one side of the house and is more enclosed, if a house
is built with one at all, but regardless of where it's situated it still forms the natural focus of a
house for social and familial occasions and can still be considered the centre of the home. 8


Rees and Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales, 1961, p161; Mac Cana, The Cult of the Sacred Centre:
Essays of Celtic Ideology, 2011, p254.
Lucas, The Sacred Trees of Ireland, 1963, p17.
Glassie, Passing the Time in Ballymenone: Culture and History of an Ulster Community, 1982, p327. Glassie provides
invaluable insights into the way space within the home is treated: "The hearth is on center. Directions within the home
are set by motion around the fire. You are going 'down' when the hearth's open mouth is behind you, and 'up' when it is
toward you, and you go up toward the back wall, down toward the door through the front wall. Beyond the home you
go 'down' to the north and east and 'up' to the south and west. Like a swirling swastika, space spins, its four directions
extend, then curve, spiraling down or up, merging to embrace half the world, returning, turning through the house to
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Whether an open fire, chairs by a wood-stove or a candle on the kitchen table, the family
hearth provides warmth and light, giving comfort and casting light on the shadows. 9 As a
result, many Gaelic Polytheists make their own hearths into a devotional space, or create a
substitute as a sacred centre within their homes.
Many Gaelic Polytheists like to put things on their shrine that represent their devotion
to the gods, spirits, and ancestors, and how they see the world around them. In this respect,
the shrine is like a microcosm, reflecting the world around you, and your relationship with it.
There are few rules about how to lay out or position your devotional space (or spaces), but
there are some things that most Gaelic Polytheists tend to agree on, as well as things that are
suggested or proscribed by tradition. Following the traditional layout of Irish houses, some
Gaelic Polytheists like to position their shrine in the west, which is where pictures and
ancestral heirlooms are traditionally positioned, the west being the direction of the ancestors.
Others prefer to keep things separate, with a space devoted to the ancestors on the western
wall, and then one or more spaces focused on the spirits and deities, or particular deities, in
another area of the home or garden. Some choose a north-facing altar for the deities, based on
tales of how the Tuatha D Danann arrived in Ireland from the north or north-west of the
world. Another option is to position a shrine based on the features of the local landscape
facing a special hill, stream or well. How you arrange and group or separate things is up to
you, although the amount of space you have available is often a major consideration in this.
A special dish set aside for offerings and libations can be useful to keep on your
shrine, and items that represent your connections with the Sacred Three can be a good idea
too; these can include the brdeg or dealbh Brde you make at L Fhill Brghde, statues,
artwork or more abstract items that represent certain deities, along with things that you've
stumbled across on a walk, that you feel are gifts from the Sacred Three, perhaps. An
ancestor shrine can include heirlooms from your beloved ancestors and photos of them,

center precisely on the hearth."

For more on the importance of the hearth and fire in Gaelic Polytheism, see "Breath of Life: The Triple Flame of Brigid."
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though we advise that you not to use photographs of the beloved dead that also include
those who are still living (we will end up joining them at some point, but not just yet). Things
that represent the three realms can also be arranged on your shrine stones or fossils, shells
and a bowl of water, branches from sacred trees, materials for saining, images of animals or
birds connected to the spirits you honour, 10 and a candle to represent a sacred flame. If the
shrine is to be tended by very young children, you can also choose to represent the central
fire with another object a stone from a firepit, or a charred piece of wood from a fire, for
example. Over time, the child will develop stronger relationships with some of An Tr Naomh
than others, and a personal altar will probably change to reflect these relationships.
This space will need to be child-proofed to keep younger children safe from harm, but
older children might enjoy the responsibility of keeping the space in order, and seeing to
putting any offerings outside in a timely manner etc. Children could also be encouraged to
make decorations or artwork for the shrine, which can be brought out for the festivals, and so
on. There is no reason why individual shrines can't be set up either, so that children might set
up their own space if they wish. This can be especially effective in helping children deal with
death putting aside a place to remember their departed loved ones (including pets), to pray
and ask for comfort for the departed, themselves and their families.

Prayer, Offerings and Song

Without good communication it can become difficult to maintain a good relationship.
This is as true in life in general as it is with An Tr Naomh, and it is mainly through prayer and
offerings that we open up these lines of communication.
For many Gaelic Polytheists, simple prayer punctuates the rhythm of our day and

10 Feathers from special birds, or feathers that have been gifted to you may be a possibility, but be aware that in the US, for
instance, many birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and so it may be illegal to possess some kinds of
feathers regardless of how you came across them. Other countries may have similar laws so please be aware and be
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there's no reason that children can't do the same; prayers in the morning, or at night, when
going to bed, or prayers that are apt for certain activities or occasions. You might find it
easier to come up with family prayers or liturgy that follow a call and response format, with
one person leading the prayer and others joining in with simple lines that are easy to
remember this is something that can work well in group settings in general, no matter the
age of the participants, since it encourages active engagement without the pressure of anyone
feeling under the spotlight.
While children can easily be led through longer prayers, it's also a good idea to teach
them simple prayers they can fall back on themselves when needed, and to give them the
opportunity to have a more personal experience. For young children, especially, the most
successful kinds of prayers to teach them will most likely be short and simple ones. These
can either be adapted from sources like the Carmina Gadelica, or made up to suit their needs. 11
In many prayers we might ask for something blessing or protection for ourselves, our
families and loved ones, perhaps but one of the most important things to remember is that
the gods, spirits and ancestors aren't here to Do Stuff For Us and give us everything we want.
When we communicate with An Tr Naomh we should remember to give our honour, respect,
and thanks. With that in mind one of the first prayers a child could learn is a simple way of
saying hello and thank you to them, which could go something like this:
Filte dhuibh, a Thr,

Hail to you, O Three,

Mran taing, a Thr,

Thanks to you, O Three,

Slinte mhath, a Thr,

Good health (to you), O Three,

Gach latha agus odhche,

Each day and night,

Latha agus odhche.

Day and night.

Filte dhuibh, a Thr

Hail to you, O Three,

11 Further examples of prayer and how to make your own are given in the "Prayer in Gaelic Polytheism."
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Sth dhuibh, a Thr

Peace to you, O Three,

Beannachd leibh, a Thr

A blessing with you, O Three,

Gach odhche agus latha,

Odhche agus latha.

Each night and day,

Night and day.12

The Gidhlig should be simple enough for even young children to grasp if they are
learning the language, and the prayer could be used on its own, accompanied with offerings,
or as an opening prayer, and instead of addressing An Tr Naomh, specific deities could be
addressed instead. If your family is more comfortable with Gaeilge (Irish) or Gaelg (Manx),
these can also be done in those languages.
A simple Good Wish, adapted from Song 282 of volume three can be taught and can
be used for a variety of occasions:

Mathas mara dhuibh,

Goodness of sea to you,

Mathas talamh dhuibh,

Goodness of land to you,

Mathas nimhe.

Goodness of sky.13

This kind of prayer can be simply a way of communicating with the gods, spirits, and
ancestors, to show respect and honour, or it can be accompanied by offerings as well. As they
grow older, children can learn more of the verses of the original, or perhaps add their own.
Alternatively, a blessing from an Old Irish tale (given here in Gaelic) could go:

12 This is an original composition, but carries a number of elements from traditional prayers such as those found in the
Carmina Gadelica, such as the opening and the couplet at the end of each verse. It could easily be simplified for very
young children, or else be adapted to address particular deities, or the gods in general ("A Dhiatha"), guardian spirits ("A
Shail-Spioradan") or spirits in general ("A Spioradain"), and ancestors ("A Shinnsirean") in separate verses, which may be
a bit too much of a mouthful for younger children but fine for older ones. Addressing each one separately could be a
good exercise in encouraging mindfulness for children and adolescents.
13 While the original uses the singular/familiar "dhut," we feel it is more appropriate to use the plural/formal "dhuibh."
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica Volume III, 1940, p232-233.
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Beannachd nimhe, neul-beannachd,

Blessing of sky, cloud-blessing

Beannachd tre, toradh-beannachd,

Blessing of land, fruit-blessing

Beannachd mara, iasg-beannachd.

Blessing of sea, fish-blessing.14

Being afraid of the dark is natural and happens to a lot of children, especially when
they're young. Smaller children in particular tend to find comfort in prayers that help them
feel safe at night, such as:

Caimich mi a nochd

Circle me this night,

Anam agus corp

Soul and body,

Caimich mi a nochd

Circle me this night,

Agus gach odhche.

And every night.15

14 This prayer has an ancient pedigree and can be found in a number of different versions in various sources. The Gaeilge
given here has been rendered into modern Gidhlig from Myles Dillons' restoration of the Middle Irish original, which
reads: "Bendacht nime nl-bendacht, Bendacht toraid tr-bendacht, Bendacht mara iasc-bendacht," with reference to the
version found in Lebor na Cert as well as Dennis King's Sengoidelc. The modern spelling nimh could be alternately used in
the first line; here we have used the slightly older spelling of nimhe, as this gives a better flow to the piece over all,
making it two syllables as tre and mara in the following lines. While most translations interpret nimh/nimhe and the
Gaeilge equivalent as "heaven," the word still retains secondary meanings of "firmament, sky, the skies," although they
are now rarely used. However, as a more neutral meaning and still valid interpretation, we have chosen to go with "sky"
rather heaven, especially since it is more fitting with neul-beannachd, "cloud-blessing;" in addition to this, while most
translations give the second line as "earth blessing," tr/tre/tre is more accurately defined as "land." Overall, explicitly
referencing land, sea, and sky in the translation seems simpler and more transparent for children to get to grips with
when dealing with the concept of the three realms. A modern Gaeilge rendering would go:
Beannacht neimhe, nal-beannacht,
Beannacht tre, toradh-beannacht,
Beannacht muir, iasc-beannacht.
In all cases, toradh refers to "fruit" in the English translation, which is its primary meaning in dictionaries. In this context
"fruit" can be interpreted as both the fruits of the field (trees, bushes etc), as well as the fruits of one's labour in a more
general sense. Its other connotations include "essence, produce, yield," and so it has general associations with prosperity,
as reflected in the customs and beliefs connected with the concept in the lore skimming the toradh of the well at
Bealltainn to preserve it for the family, or the belief that the toradh (i.e., its essence, the inherent goodness of it) is taken by
the spirits when an offering is given. For the Irish original see Dillon, 'The Story of the Finding of Cashel,' in riu 16,
1952, p69; Dillon, Lebor na Cert, 1962, p120-121.
15 Carmichael gives "compass" instead of "circle" in his translation, which is more accurate to the meaning of caim but a
little clunky; we have changed it to "circle" which may be easier for young children to get to grips with, but "encompass,"
"encircle," or "surround" could work just as well. Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica Volume III, 1941, p340-341.
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This is a verse taken from a slightly longer prayer in volume three of the Carmina
Gadelica, (Song 332) a prayer of "Repose." The Gidhlig is simple enough for even young
children to learn, and it can easily be adapted for different purposes for example, Don mi
could be swapped in for Caimich mi to change it to "Protect me," for a more explicit prayer of
protection when needed, or else could be changed to a morning prayer:

Beannaich mi an latha

Bless me this day,

Anam agus corp

Soul and body,

Beannaich mi an latha

Bless me this day,

Agus gach latha.

And every day.

It can also be adapted to encompass more than one person Caimich sinn a nochd...
"Circle us this night..." And so on. According to Alexander Carmichael, caim means
"encompass," and in many cases these kinds of prayers were said while drawing an
imaginary circle about oneself (going sunwise). 16 Children could be encouraged to imagine a
simple circle about themselves, or perhaps envisage the mantle of Brigid about them.
Another prayer that could be useful is one that is simply called Fuigheal or "Fragment"
from volume two of Carmina Gadelica, and while its original purpose is unclear, it articulates
a number of concepts that are very fitting for a Gaelic Polytheist context:

Mar a bha,

As it was,

Mar a tha,

As it is,

Mar a bhitheas

As it shall be

Gu brth,


16 Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica Volume III, 1940, pp102-103. The use of such a circle can also be found in Irish tradition,
with a stick or branch of hazel commonly being used. It is difficult to say how old this tradition is.
16 |

A Thr Naomh

O Sacred Three

Nan grs!

Of grace!

Ri trghadh,

With the ebb,

S ri lonadh!

With the flow!

A Thr Naomh

O Sacred Three

Nam buadh!

Of virtue!

Ri trghadh,

With the ebb,

S ri lonadh!

With the flow.17

The opening, "as it was, as it is, as it shall be" can serve as an affirmation and a
reminder of the importance of the traditions we observe and uphold in terms of maintaining
a right relationship with An Tr Naomh. "With the ebb, with the flow," offers a number of
interpretations as well, linking with the passage of time referred to in the opening lines, but
also perhaps referring to the easier and harder times in life that we all go through at times. In
that sense, it can be seen as an affirmation that through tradition, we honour An Tr Naomh
and they are with us no matter the trials and tribulations we might go through. As such, the
prayer may be appropriate to accompany offerings, the closing of more formal ritual, or else
to offer some comfort when needed especially for older children or adolescents who may
have a lot of difficult emotions and stresses to deal with.

17 From Song 216, with adaptations:

Added graves dropped in the transcription of Carmichael's notes.

"An Tr Naomh" Carmichael's original is "A Thrithinn" gen sing of Tritheann ["Trinity"]. For consistency with
GN's other ritual materials, we have used An Tr Naomh "The Sacred Three" (in this piece used also in the
genitive case).

Ri trghadh,S ri lonadh! alt: "to the ebbing, to the fullness."

The second instance of "Nan grs" in Carmichael's original has been altered here to buadh, meaning "virtue,
excellence, skill," and reflecting the associations with the gods found in the myths. While the original, grs has
better assonance with the piece, and is used in the expanded version below, feel free to use what works best for
your family.
Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica Volume II, 1900, p216-217.
17 |

As your children become more comfortable with the Gaelic concepts and wordplay,
the fragment above can be expanded into a meditation or word game on the various cycles in
our cosmology. This can be done as call and response, with an adult or older child leading, or
switching off parts as children become more adept with the words and structures. Here is an
expanded version we have composed:

A Thr Naomh nan Grs

Mar a bha,

As it was,

Mar a tha,

As it is,

Mar a bhitheas

As it shall be

Gu brth.


A Thr Naomh
Nan grs!
A Thr Naomh
Nan grs!

O Sacred Three
Of grace!
O Sacred Three
Of grace!

Ri trghadh,

With the ebb,

S ri lonadh!

With the flow,

A Thr Naomh
Nan grs!

O Sacred Three
Of grace!

Ri lonadh

With the flow,

S ri trghadh!

With the ebb,

A Thr Naomh
Nan grs!

O Sacred Three
Of grace!

Bho ghealach r

From the new moon,

do ghealach ln

To the full moon,

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A Thr Naomh
Nan grs!

O Sacred Three
Of grace!

Bho ghealach ln

From the full moon,

do ghealach r

To the new moon.

A Thr Naomh

O Sacred Three

Nan grs!

Of grace!

Bho Fhis Shamhainn

From Samhainn Fest

do Fhis Bhealltainn

to Bealltain Fest

A Thr Naomh

O Sacred Three

Nan grs!

Of grace!

Bho Fhis Bhealltainn

From Bealltain Fest

do Fhis Shamhainn

to Samhainn Fest

A Thr Naomh
Nan grs!

O Sacred Three
Of grace!

Mar a bha,

As it was,

Mar a tha,

As it is,

Mar a bhitheas

As it shall be

Gu brth.


Mar a bha,

As it was,

Mar a tha,

As it is,

Mar a bhitheas

As it shall be

Gu brth.


18 Original fragment is from Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica Volume II, 1900, pp216-217. The additional verses and this
arrangement are of our composition, in the poetic form of the original.

Added graves dropped in the transcription of Carmichael's notes.

An Tr Naomh Carmichael's original is "A Thrithinn" gen sing of Tritheann ["Trinity"]. For consistency with
GN's other ritual materials, we have used An Tr Naomh "The Sacred Three" (in this piece used also in the
genitive case).
19 |

As you can see, many cycles can be used in this form. By ending on the same phrase as
the opening, we complete the cycle, and signal to others in the prayer or word game that the
piece is finished.
While prayer and song form the foundation of many of our practices, learning to say
the words, whether from the heart or by memorising traditional pieces, is only half of the
process. Communication is a two-way street, therefore we need to teach children how to
listen and recognise when we are receiving messages from An Tr Naomh as well, and get a
sense if what we are doing is right, or if it needs to be improved, or even remedied. This
process can take many forms, such as omens or signs that might present themselves to us;
these can come as dreams, or as occurrences in nature, synchronicities and coincidences that
seem to form a pattern. In order to get to that point, however, we need to learn how to be
mindful, to still our minds, deepen our perceptions and open ourselves up to feel the
presence of the spirits here with us. When we pray, when we make offerings, we should take
a moment to slow our breathing and calm our minds, to look around us; to get a sense of the
gods, spirits, and ancestors, and whatever it is they might want to tell us, expect, or ask of us.
From the outset, this mindfulness and calm listening needs to be taught to our
children, and a simple way to begin this is with relaxation and breathing exercises. 19 With
Ri trghadh,S ri lonadh! alt: "to the ebbing, to the fullness." A similar traditional blessing, Beannachadh Taighe (Carmina Gadelica, Vol I, Song 45) uses the formula,
"" If you prefer you can go with that one, though the fact bho lenites the following word and gu does
not may confuse learners a bit. We plead poetic license with this, to keep the lenition consistent and preferring
the sound of "do ghealach" to the hiccup of "gu gealach." Your mileage may vary.

Fis Shamhainn and Fis Bhealltainn are a bit iffy grammatically. In some usage it may be more colloquial to say
Fis Samhainn, or the more commonly used L Samhna and related forms that use the genitive case. We chose
this form to make it scan better with the rest of the piece. (Again with the poetic license!)
19 While we don't have much explicit material detailing meditation in a Gaelic context, there are some references that
suggest breathing and sensory deprivation was utilised to produce altered states in ritual. Martin Martin describes the
practice of bards retiring to a darkened hut with a rock placed on their belly and their heads covered by a plaid "I must
not omit to relate their way of study, which is very singular: they shut their doors and windows for a days time, and lie
on their backs, with a stone upon their belly, and plaids about their heads, and their eyes being covered, they pump their
brains for rhetorical encomium or panegyric; and indeed they furnish such a style from this dark cell, as is understood
by very few..." The stone on the belly would (in theory) help to regulate the breathing to a point where it could produce a
trance state, and possibly keep a tired meditator from falling asleep. This would be helped along by the darkness and
lack of distractions from others, via both the darkened room and the cloth over the head. Martin, A Description of the
Western Isles of Scotland.

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energetic children, the best time to do this may be when they've had a chance to burn off
some physical energy, whether in the normal course of the day, or after activities designed to
tire them out a bit. Some like to try this at nap time or before bed, or after an active period of
exercise, singing and dancing, or drumming. 20 The best time will vary with the children in
question and the activities of the family.
Encourage the child to sit or lie down in a comfortable position and still their body,
breathe deeply and calmly, and relax. Calming music might help children who find it
difficult to do this on their own, or else they might find it easier to sit outside and listen to
the sounds of nature the song of birds, the trickle of a stream, the roar of the sea, or the
gentle breeze tickling leaves into laughter. The child may find it helpful to concentrate on
their breathing, slow, steady, and calm. To begin with, the aim of these exercises is to help
calm the child down a little and get them comfortable with sitting still for a while. Calm pets
may turn out to be your allies in this, if they like to lie down and nap next to the children. A
gently snoring dog, breathing deeply and fully, or a content and purring cat can help set the
tone of calm and comfort. Just as you can breathe deeply and slowly, and the child can
imitate you, they can also follow these rhythms of the animals and natural world to relax
their bodies and deepen their awareness.
As their ability to concentrate develops, they may be open to some simple
visualisations that can help them explore different kinds of symbolism and cosmological
concepts that underpin our lifeway, such as the one detailed in The CR FAQ, which
concentrates on centring oneself within the three realms. 21 Meditations exploring each realm
individually can be useful too, and if children have an affinity to a particular realm, then

20 Less verbal, less visual children might respond best to rhythm and music as a way of opening to intuition and
inspiration. And while no one wants to be driven crazy by hyper children with unlimited access to drums, children with
rhythm may take naturally to supervised, sacred use of a bodhrn or hand drum, or other musical instrument.
21 "Contemplate the world as a cosmology of land, sea and sky, everpresent around you. Feel how you are connected to the
three realms. Meditate on the well and tree that are at the center of the worlds and which link all things together; and
upon the gateways to the otherworlds that can open in the center or at the edges. Meditate on the fire that arises from the
well signalling the presence of the Deities, and the awakening of iomas (inspiration)." The CR FAQ.
21 |

meditations based on the imagery of that realm might help them feel more connected. A child
who may especially love the ocean, for example, could be guided through a visualisation that
takes them on a journey out to sea. As the boat they are in is gently rocked by the waves, as
the sun shines down on them, and a breeze plays gently on their face, they can spend some
time relaxing and experiencing the stillness of peace that spreads over them. After pausing
for a while, the person guiding the visualisation can change the scene to the one that
Manannn describes to Bran in the tale Immram Brain;22 what is a typical ocean scene to Bran
is a fertile plain to Manannn, and as the otherworldly nature of the realm of the sea is
revealed to Bran he opens to new knowledge and new experiences. At this point, perhaps the
child might feel a presence with them, or they might wish to explore. Once they begin to feel
restless and indicate they've had enough, they should be encouraged to return to their senses
and leave all of the things they've seen behind now, 23 with some gentle prompting and some
deep, cleansing breaths can help, and to make sure they're fully in the present. They can be
encouraged to wiggle their fingers and toes, limbs and then whole body, feeling the ground
beneath them, the way the earth supports them and takes away any hyperactivity or overexcitability, and normality resuming. Jumping about and being silly can help normality
return, and some food and drink can help as well; as the children are having a snack it is
always good manners to leave some as an offering to any spirits or deities they may have
encountered. Drawing pictures and telling stories about what they experience in their

22 Immram Brain. The verses that Manannn proclaims, beginning with:

"Bran deems it a marvellous beauty
In his coracle across the clear sea:
While to me in my chariot from afar
It is a flowery plain on which he rides about."
This passage gives plenty of prompts to incorporate into a description for the child to visualise; this can be as detailed or
as simple as the child may be capable of handling without getting restless or overloaded. Don't try to stretch out
something like this longer than a child may be capable of, or may want to; it won't be beneficial to anyone.
23 This is important to do properly and carefully, even with simple breathing exercises, because otherwise children may feel
out of sorts and become grumpy. Disturbed dreams and difficulty in sleeping might follow, so if this happens further
breathing and grounding exercises may help, imagining all the restlessness flowing out and being washed away or
sinking into the ground.
22 |

meditations and dreams, besides being a fun activity, can help them remember the important
parts and build an ongoing frame of reference for further explorations.
These kinds of meditations can be done with the guidance of an adult to start with and
then once they've got to grips with the basics of coming back to their senses properly the
child might want to do them by themselves, if they wish. The prayers given above could also
be used to encourage this in the form of a sort of meditation, especially if the child finds it
easier to concentrate on words or finds it difficult to engage with more structured forms of
meditation. As the child says the prayer they can be encouraged to think about the meaning
of each line, or to repeat the prayer with a focus on the rhythm and flow. Following the
rhythms can help them open to the stillness and quiet within themselves, and bring about a
state of mind that can encourage spiritual receptiveness.
It's important for children to learn from the outset that we don't always have mindblowing experiences through prayer or ritual every time. Sometimes we receive very clear
messages from the gods, spirits and ancestors; other times and for many people, perhaps
most of the time we might get a sense that they are listening and accepting what we might
say or offer, but not much more tangible than a "sense" of their presence, approval, or
acceptance. Not every time we pray or perform rituals will be accompanied by dramatic
peels of thunder and lighting, the appearance of sudden flocks of birds or something falling
at our feet as a gift; we pray and make offerings, we celebrate and give our honour and
respect because it is right, not because of what it gives us, or because it makes us feel special,
and this is something that children need to be gently guided through to avoid falling into the
trap of becoming Special Snowflakes, especially if the child is very open and sensitive.
It's also important to remember that not every person is sensitive to these kinds of
things, but even the most mystically "dense" person (if you will) can often learn enough to at
least get a general sense of when things are going right or wrong, even if they don't get much
more, so this kind of training and practice is important for everyone. Those who are
particularly gifted in this area need to be guided with care, in order to make sure that their
23 |

talents are nurtured and developed in a positive way for their benefit as much as the
community's.24 Many children can learn to close their eyes and follow their breathing, to still
themselves and focus to some extent (even if they can't do this for as long as adults). If they
can manage even a bit of this meditative deepening, it is a skill that will help their sense of
self-control, and their ability to interact with older kids, adults, and animals as well as An Tr
Even for adults sometimes the messages we receive can be difficult to understand or
figure out, so we also need to make sure that children learn to discern between what might
be a true interpretation of a message, and wishful thinking or deception. 25 This is another
way in which companion animals can be your allies some animals are particularly sensitive
to spirits and energies, and their reactions (or lack thereof) to mystical events can provide
valuable reality checks. Divination can also be a useful tool here, and many Gaelic Polytheists
look to traditional forms such as frth or divination by clouds, birds, or ogham. It is also
important to seek out different perspectives, and Elders and more experienced members of a
group or community can offer crucial guidance. Just as we stress for adults, our lifeway
happens in community healthy spiritual development requires feedback, and checks and
balances. We want to build stable, humble, and honourable spiritual lives for our children.
Just as we need to keep ego and self-aggrandisement in check among the adults, and be on
the lookout for mental illness masquerading as spirit contact, we need to guide our children
with humility and respect. This is one of the ways that having an extended family for the
kids to interact with is essential, as sometimes the aunties and uncles and grandparents will
see things more objectively than will a parent.

24 It has been our experience that those of us who are more open to energies and spirits in particular experience a number
of difficulties growing up. We feel that those who are gifted in the more mystical aspects of practice will benefit from
careful guidance and encouragement rather than being left to figure things out by themselves, and so community
support and guidance is essential. Everyone has a particular talent and skill, however; those who aren't gifted may well
be suited in other areas of practice. See p59-60 of The GN FAQ.
25 Such as self-deception or deception from tricksy spirits...
24 |

An Tr Naomh
As anyone with experience of being around children for more than five minutes
knows, a favourite question of theirs is WHY? Including children in ritual and practice is all
well and good, but without teaching them about our beliefs and values, ritual would be
rather empty and meaningless for them. We need to think about these whys, as well as who
and what, in addition to how.
There are many different opportunities to teach and explore the basics of our
worldview that underpins our beliefs and provides the reasons for our practices. For
simplicity's sake we'll split them into separate subheadings in this section, for the gods,
spirits and ancestors respectively. Bear in mind, however, that there is often very much an
overlap to be seen; the boundaries between gods, spirits, and ancestors are not always
distinct. Before we get into all of that, however, it might help to start with another important
area, our values.

Gaelic Polytheism places a lot of emphasis on what we could call virtue ethics. These
are values that encourage positive forms of behaviour, and the cultivation of particular
attitudes, rather than simply proscribing against negative behaviours. In other words, instead
of a list of "Don'ts," we adhere to a list of "Do's," which is kind of handy because as every
parent knows, telling a child not to do something is often like waving a red rag in front of a
An in-depth view of the kind of values that Gaelic Polytheists adhere to can be found
here, but in general, it's probably fair to say that things like honour, truth, and wisdom are
some of the most important ones. Being truthful and upholding Truth is at the heart of our
values, for without it we have no honour and any so-called wisdom is just falsehood: In this
25 |

sense, Truth is much more than simple honesty; it is striving to see the way of things as they
really are, rather than how we might want things to be.
These are recurring themes in the myths in particular, and in a practical sense they are
the rules we should live by. Honour is not just how we behave, but how we interact; we don't
strive to just be honourable, but to give (or perhaps one might say, "do") honour to those who
deserve it, as well. In the sense of how we might approach An Tr Naomh, and teach our
children to do the same, we must remember that respect is an important part of honour, and
that we must give respect to An Tr Naomh as much as we should give it to others, or expect it
for ourselves. In that sense, we don't make selfish demands of our gods, nor do we take them
for granted or approach them with a sense of entitlement. We give them their due, and we
give them thanks and gratitude for what we receive and the lessons we might learn. We
encourage a loving, respectful, and reciprocal relationship, much as we do with the human
members of our family.
We also teach our kids that they have the right and responsibility to stand up for
themselves, their loved ones, and what they believe in. They have a right to bodily integrity,
and to demand that others respect their boundaries. We don't say this to encourage our kids
to be demanding or arrogant, but to know that along with respecting their elders and the
health of the community, they have a valued role in community and a responsibility to
If we live by the values we espouse, and do as we should in our devotions and
practices, we might build and maintain a balanced and reciprocal relationship with An Tr
Naomh. Raising our kids with the same values will hopefully result in the same, in addition to
turning out decent human beings who are mindful of their place in their family, community,
and the world around them.

26 |

To begin with, our children's experiences with the gods and goddesses will most likely
be through family devotions, where the gods, spirits and ancestors are addressed generally,
or specific deities that you yourself are closest to are addressed (and as such could be termed
"household gods," which might include ancestral deities, local deities, or ones that have
chosen you for one reason or another). At certain times specific deities that are appropriate to
the occasion may be addressed, such as Brigid, ine, Manannn, Lugh, or Tailltiu at certain
festivals, or the Cailleachan during bad weather. Over time, however, children will probably
develop and explore interests in a number of deities who have a personal meaning and
significance to them, and these may or not be the same deities with whom you have
developed a relationship. It's important to encourage and allow such exploration and include
them in family devotions if it feels appropriate. If a child is drawn to a deity you do not have
experience with, it is good to call in the assistance of another, respected member of the
extended family or community who does have a relationship with that deity or spirit, and
ask them to help provide your child with guidance.
Perhaps the best and most obvious way to get to know who the gods are is through
story-telling, since this gives us a sense of their personalities, their associations, and which
ones we might identify with the most. There are many re-tellings of the myths and legends
available today that are aimed at children, along with graphic novels that older children
might enjoy, and these can be a good starting point until they're old enough to get to grips
with the more literal translations that have more detail and symbolism (and naughty bits) to
consider. (See our reading list at the end for more on this.)
Encouraging older children to look at the original myths (as original a form as we
have, at least) is important, just as it is for us as adults. Myths embody the culture, values,
and beliefs of the people they come from; they aren't usually meant to be taken as literal, or
historical, but in their seemingly simple plots and fantastical happenings they articulate

27 |

deeper meanings to us, which tell us things of religious and spiritual importance. They aren't
just stories, but are layered in symbols and symbolism, hidden meanings, and clever double
meanings (or double entrendres). In that sense they hold the keys to many different
revelations for us today, but this is something that's rather complicated when we consider
their history and how they've survived and reached us, via the medium of the Christian
monastics who recorded them. This is something that children need to be aware of and
encouraged to explore as much as anyone should, but it's something that can be difficult to
articulate to very young children. Older children, however, will probably understand that not
everyone interprets things in the same way, and that how we see the world effects how we
relay things to others. Understanding this about the ancestors will be easier once they have
experience with these variations among people they know. As with everything else, it may be
best to start simple and then build from there over time.
One way to discuss the basics of symbolism and symbolic language is through
artwork, or in thinking about how we ourselves might tell a story to children. For example,
the use of colour in myths can be very deliberate, with red in particular often being used to
signify otherworldly beings, or otherworldly threats, and so mention of the colour in
describing a character in a story their having red hair, or wearing a red dress clues us in
to something less than ordinary being afoot.26 In this respect it's important to remember that
sometimes seemingly incidental details carry a much deeper meaning, which help to add
layers upon layers.
Certain animals are frequently associated with particular deities, like the Morrgan's
association with ravens, Badb's association with hoodie crows, Flidais's association with deer,
or Brigid with her favourite cow, which she takes with her as she goes from house to house to
bestow her blessings at L Fhill Brghde, while birds like swans with silver or gold chains
around their necks signal the fact that they are otherworldly beings. In traditional lore as well

26 Crualaoich, The Book of the Cailleach: Stories of the Wise-Woman Healer, 2003, p39; p209.
28 |

as myths we also see associations between deities and plants or certain foods the dandelion
being sacred to Brigid, or Manannn's love of blackberries. All of these details are significant
in some way, and help us to build a picture and get a sense of who we're dealing with. These
symbols and associations then become ways in which we can communicate with the gods, or
they with us, whether it's giving the Dagda some porridge as an offering because we know
he likes it, or getting the sense that an unusual or unexpected encounter with a deer or a
hoodie crow is a message from particular deities, and so on.
Many of the tales include alliances between a human protagonist and animals, or
tricksy bargains between the characters involved. In these ways the tales can transmit some
of our values of honour, reciprocation, loyalty, and keeping our word. Some tales centre
around the idea that things are not always what they seem, and that we should be kind to
others as they may be a god or powerful spirit in disguise. Other tales are stark reminders
that there is danger in the world, and that we must keep our wits about us as well as know
who our true allies are.
By steeping ourselves and our children in the lore and the myths, we find a set of tools
with which we can come to an understanding of our beliefs and communicate effectively not
just with the gods, but also the spirits and the ancestors.

The spirits are all around us; they are in and of the land. In sharing a space with them,
we must treat them with honour and respect, looking after the land around us, and
maintaining a good relationship with the spirits.
While some spirits are happy to share their space with us and might even help out if
they feel so inclined, others may not be so keen to bother themselves with us, and on rare
occasions may even be antagonistic or downright nasty. This is an important thing to
29 |

remember when introducing children to the idea of spirits because an awful lot of literature
and toys aimed at girls especially promote "flower fairy" stereotypes and the like which
can lead to the idea that every spirit wants to be your friend and ooo! butterflies and
snowdrops! What could possibly go wrong?
This is not to say that the spirits should be feared or avoided, but they should be
approached with the same kind of respect as the gods and ancestors, or as a human stranger
who has not yet earned our trust. Some spirits may be friendly, but this doesn't automatically
mean they're our friends and have our best interests at heart. When we look at the lore
associated with the daoine sth, we see that in many ways they dance to the rhythm of their
own drums, and making ourselves too familiar with them can be dangerous. Because
children tend to be quite open and susceptible to certain spirits in particular, which can lead
to all sorts of mischief (or worse), it's important to gauge your local surroundings and make
sure you're on good terms with the spirits before introducing your kids to practices that
might attract attention from them.
If you feel that the spirits in your area would rather be left alone then it's often better
to make offerings of non-interference, showing your respect to them and aiming to come to
an agreement that if you leave well alone, so will they. 27 Some spirits might eventually
become more friendly if they feel they are being treated properly, but if you're concerned that
this may not be the case, or that your child might be particularly open to interference, then
it's best to play it safe. Sain regularly, hang up protective charms in your children's rooms
(especially younger children), and put protective trees and plants in your garden if you can. 28
Whatever the kind of relationship you might have with the land and spirits around
you, it's important to do your bit to look after your surroundings, and this kind of attitude is
27 An important consideration to take into account in all of this is whether or not the spirits are Gaelic in origin or not. In
the diaspora, different rules may apply when approaching local spirits (although there is plenty of evidence to suggest
that the daoine sth can and do travel or live beyond the Gaelic homelands, this is not the case for everyone's experience
with spirits in the diaspora). For more on this see "KILLYOUANDEATYOU" and "A Gift for a Gift: Offerings in Gaelic
28 See for example "Saining" and "Rowan and Red Threads."
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easily instilled into children. When the land is treated with respect, and allowed to thrive, the
spirits tend to be happier and that benefits everyone. It's a good lesson for kids to learn,
whether you live in the middle of the city, or in the middle of a wilderness. If you have a
garden (or yard), you can encourage your kids to help you keep it nice and tidy, and make it
a good habitat for wildlife; if you don't have much space, then growing plants indoors, or
getting some window boxes are good alternatives. Sowing native wildflowers that attract
bees and butterflies, putting up bird boxes, insect hotels, bird feeders and baths will help
wildlife thrive, as will avoiding the use of pesticides or herbicides. Children might enjoy
choosing colourful decorations to put in the flowerbeds or hang in the trees. Learning about
the bioregion you live in is a good way to get a feel for the land and the spirits, too teach
your children how to identify plants and trees that grow in the wild, and identify local
wildlife; choose plants for your garden that are suitable and sympathetic to the area you live
in, and so on. You could make or designate a space in your garden where you can make
offerings to the nature spirits, and encourage children to do so as well.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables is a great way for children to get involved in
gardening and learning about where our food comes from, and how people used to live in
the days when most would subsist on whatever they could grow. Children can be included in
the rites of consecrating and sowing the seeds, 29 as well as harvesting, in addition to the work
involved in tending to the plants. Choosing traditional plants that tie in with the festivals
cowslips and primroses to herald Bealltainn, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry bushes to
herald Lnastal, and so on, can also be a good way to connect the space around you with
your spiritual practices. This is easy enough to do if you live in the Gaelic areas, or in a
diasporic bioregion that's similar to the kinds you find in Ireland, Scotland and Man, but
adaptations will have to be made if you live in a place that is very different; just as pumpkins
took the place of turnips at Samhainn in North America, other kinds of local produce may be

29 As described in the Carmina Gadelica, for example. Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica Volume I, 1900, p242-243.
31 |

more suited to where you live.

Taking your kids for walks to look for signs of the season changing is a good way to
expand your focus to a wider area, and when visiting a place like a local woods or forest, a
beach, a river, a mountain or lake (etc.), it's a nice gesture to leave an offering of thanks to the
spirits of the place before you leave. All of this can be lumped under "bioregional animism,"
and exploring the ideas and principles of that further can help you develop a good
relationship with the land spirits as well as deities. 30 Buy local foods if you can, make your
own compost, and so on. Invest in your surroundings in whichever way you're able. Give

Ancestor veneration is a large part of Gaelic Polytheism, as it is with many traditional
lifeways. It may be stating the obvious but our ancestors are the reason we're here; for this to
happen, most of them had to make sacrifices, suffer hardships, and achieve rare and
unthinkable things. For this and this alone we can easily say that they are deserving of our
respect. One day we'll join them, but in the meantime we can give the thanks and respect
they deserve for having played their part in who and where we are today, both directly and
In general, Gaelic Polytheists are encouraged to learn about their family history and
trace their genealogies in order to get a solid sense of our ancestors. Passing on this
knowledge to our children is one way of giving them a grounding in who they are and where
they come from, and as they grow older and mature, this is the sort of thing that can help
shape their own identity and help them develop a strong sense of self. It also helps make the
idea of ancestors more tangible knowing their names, seeing pictures of at least some of

30 See for example Treasa N Chonchobhair's "Cornerstones of Wisdom: Poetry, Permanence and Wildness in Gaelic
Polytheism," in Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics, Volume II, 2012, p50-53.
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them, recognising any family resemblance, viewing or visiting the lands where they lived,
and so on. Perhaps the mistakes our ancestors might have made can be valuable lessons for
us to learn from, so that we might not repeat them; or else we might learn from their
successes, too.
Honouring our ancestors can be done in many different ways. Learning about them
and keeping their memory alive is a very simple way in and of itself, but more than that we
can make offerings and prayers to them, just as we do with the gods and spirits. These
offerings can be traditional foods, or the kinds of food and drink that you know certain
ancestors in particular enjoyed; it is often the case that when we begin opening the lines of
communication with our ancestors we get a sense of particular offerings that we should give,
or perhaps even avoid, and it's important to adapt accordingly.
Gaelic Polytheism places a lot of emphasis on tradition doing as those have done
before us. The word for "custom" in Old Irish is bs, which can be found in the word for
morality, bstatu;31 this tells us that keeping the customs of our ancestors, preserving the lore,
is not only morally the right thing to do, but it is fundamental to what we do and who we
are. In observing and upholding the customs of our ancestors we honour them, and show
that we value the wisdom of their ways.
Talking about our ancestors provides the opportunity to talk about how we as Gaelic
Polytheists view the afterlife as well, and what that means for us when we make offerings
and prayer to them. Many Gaelic Polytheists see the afterlife as being situated out to west,
across the sea, an Otherworldly idyll; reincarnation is a possibility as well, but sometimes we
get the sense that some ancestors remain close by (sometimes for good, sometimes for a space
of time), taking an interest in their descendants and watching over us. 32 This sense is
reinforced by the fact that it is common even today for people to leave offerings at local
fairy hills or prehistoric burial mounds, or to add a stone to a cairn as it is passed by.
31 See eDIL.
32 For a more detailed discussion of the various options for the afterlife in Gaelic belief, see "Afterlife and Ancestors."
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Family is important, but it isn't always perfect. For some of us, family is what you
make it, and there might be people who've become an adopted sort of family, and influenced
our lives in important ways. These too can be incorporated into our ancestor veneration
when the time comes, and children can also be encouraged to follow suit if it seems
appropriate. Similarly, if we have ancestors who did shameful things, we can pray to the
gods and other ancestors to help the problematic ancestors learn from their mistakes, and do
better next time, while understanding that we will not honour that particular ancestor or
follow in their footsteps.
For those of us with Gaelic ancestors, we might trace back our lineage to certain
deities or spirits (bearing in mind there are often blurry lines between the two), or find that
they have adopted certain families in some way many Irish families associate themselves
with particular gods and goddess like Nuadu, Badb, Lugh, and ine. 33 Some of these
traditions see particular goddesses acting as guardians, heralding the deaths of certain family
members by their keening, as mnathan sth.34 Other deities are associated with particular
families as being the literal progenitor of that line: the ultimate ancestor. While they might
not be traditionally seen as being particularly involved in their descendants' lives, it makes
sense to encourage our children to learn about them. Older members of the family might
have experiences with them to share, or else there are plenty of myths and folktales to look
to. In this way, we may find ourselves continuing a commitment that was carried by one of
our polytheistic ancestors, and the taking up of this kind of inheritance can be enriching,
providing a new level of meaning to our lives and our family lines.
For adopted children, this can be a bit complicated. Anyone adopted into your family

33 See for example "Gods as Ancestors."

34 Bean sth (plural, mnathan sth) means fairy woman, which is given as bean sidhe in Gaeilge and is typically anglicised as
"banshee." Her wailing foreshadows the death of a loved one close to the person who hears the cries of the bean sth,
though not the death of the person who might hear it themselves. In Scotland, the bean nighe, or "washer woman" is a
closely related type of fairy woman, who is encountered at rivers or fords washing the bloody clothes of those about to
die; this is also found in Irish myth. Badb, ine, and the Morrgan are several such goddesses who may take on these
roles according to myth and tradition.
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is now also watched over by your ancestors. Your ancestors are now theirs, as well. But as a
matter of respect for the physical ancestors, we feel it is also important for a child to take
pride in where they come from, even if it is a very different place than us. Adopted children
often struggle with issues of identity and belonging, and doing their genealogy can be
important and carry the same benefits as it does for our biological children. If the child is
from another ethnicity, it will also be important for them to know others who look like them,
and to know the unique and honourable things about their ancestors and biological relatives,
even if the ways of those cultures are not part of your family's regular cultural practices.
Some of the members of our community have been fostered in, and along with teaching them
about our ancestors, we have been polite guests at cultural events with their biological
relatives. As long as occasional participation in another culture doesn't have conflicting
values to ours, we feel it is our responsibility to make sure all our children are proud of who
they are. Similarly, for our community members who have diverse backgrounds, ancestor
reverence may be one of the times an interfaith approach can be appropriate, at least some of
the time.35
In situations where a child may have step-parents, and perhaps also step-siblings to
add into the mix, things can also be more complex. At the very least, if a family is practicing
together then it would be considered good hospitality to include the step-parent's family in
prayers and offerings, and make space for heirlooms or pictures that the step-parent might
wish to include on the family shrine; this may also provide the opportunity for the child and
step-parent to bond through learning about their new relatives. In other cases, the close
friends of the parents may be adopted as family members and participate in raising the
children, and the child themselves may choose to consider these relatives their other parents.
For some children their step-parents, or adopted aunts and uncles, can be as much a mother

35 We strongly recommend that if you want to teach an adopted child some of the ways from a culture that you are not part
of, that you turn to the experts and Elders of those cultures for advice. Just as we have community standards and
responsibilities, and awareness that there is a lot of misinformation out there, so do they.
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or father to them as their biological parents perhaps even more so, in some ways and
including the ancestors of these other parental figures in practice may come naturally. For
other children, the process of accepting a step-mother or -father (and any step-siblings) as a
part of the family can take time.36 As such, parents will have to approach the situation as they
think is appropriate to the particular circumstances.
Ancestor-related activities for children can include having them set up photographs
and memorabilia for the ancestors, whether on a Samhainn altar or ongoing ancestors shrine.
As we do this, stories can be told about the ancestors we remember. For the more distant
ancestors, we can read books about the times these ancestors lived in, and the challenges and
adventures they may have experienced. We can share stories about what their lives may have
been like, and what we can learn from what they went through. This can be augmented by
visiting the places where they lived, looking at pictures of those landscapes, and examining
artefacts from those times.

Children and Festivals

Because many of the traditions associated with the festivals have survived in the form
of children's games or entertainment trick or treating from guising, Hallowe'en games from
divinatory games, the gatherings at bonfires, and so on getting children involved in
festivals is easy. These traditions are also a good way to involve the family as a whole in
cultural practices even if they are not going to participate in religious practice.
In general, the most important thing to remember especially with young children
is not to bite off more than you can chew. Plan ahead, but bear in mind that it's not the end of
the world if you don't manage to fit everything in, or decide to do a few things in advance in
36 This can depend on a variety of circumstances, and it's possible that the partner of a parent may never be fully accepted
into the child's view of their family circle, especially if the parent and partner in question are not so actively involved in
the child's daily life.
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order to make sure you get some of the more time-consuming things out of the way. Juggling
work and school schedules means that sometimes it's best to do things at the weekend as a
family, and seeing as festivals are supposed to be festive, there's no point stressing out about
doing ALL THE THINGS and ending up frazzled and exhausted.
The quarter days are as much about the ending of a season as they are about heralding
the start of a new one, so as a family, as the time approaches, it can be fun for younger
children especially to look out for signs that changes are afoot. If they enjoy creative activities
they might enjoy making a picture that represents the coming season, and this is a good way
to help them be mindful of their surroundings and talk about how each season brings
different things longer or shorter nights, colder or warmer weather, trees gaining or losing
leaves, and so on. Decorations can be made that tie in with the festival, to adorn the house or
the family shrine, and songs can be sung and seasonal tales can be told.
Overall, there are a number of recurring themes that can be found at the festivals,
which form a rhythm from one celebration to the next. Ideally the house should be tidied and
cleaned, fresh and orderly for the new season and any Otherworldly visitors who might
make an appearance (it's only polite);37 saining and other rites are a strong feature of each
festival, to protect against the Otherworldly forces that might be afoot, to start the new
season off with a clear focus, and rites of blessing and devotion are performed as well.
Feasting forms a central part of the celebrations, reinforcing familial and communal bonds,
and many Gaelic Polytheists take omens for the coming quarter.
While rites such as saining are best left to a responsible adult (given the protective
nature of the rite, and the possible use of flame and smoke), 38 children can be encouraged to
take part in other parts of the ceremonies and preparations for the festivities as you think is

37 We're not saying things should be absolutely spotless, but an effort at some sort of orderliness can be thought of as a way
of encouraging the same in the coming season, perhaps.
38 The designation of who is mature enough to help with spiritual functions such as saining can also be rites of passage for
children and young adults; such as the first time an older child is trusted to do a basic saining with water, with adult
supervision, up until the first time a young adult takes a full role in the ceremonial life of their family and community.
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appropriate, and as they might want to. The followings ideas are just some thoughts on the
kind of things that children can be involved in during festive celebrations:

L Fhill Brghde
On the eve of L Fhill Brghde, Brigid walks the land with her favourite cow, going
from house to house to impart her blessings. During the evening, after the feasting, it is
traditional for the family to gather together and go to the threshold and invite Brigid in to the
house, letting her know that she is welcome. As part of this rite a brdeg or dealbh Brde39 an
icon that represents the goddess herself as well as a leaba Brde (or "Brde's bed") is needed,
so that Brigid is symbolically brought into the house after the invitation is made, and laid in
her bed to show that there is a comfortable place for her to stay if she wishes to take a rest. 40
In the lead up to the festival younger children can learn about the festival through
storytelling how Brigid will come and visit with her cow, and the tale of Angus and Bride,
which tells of how Brigid and her husband defeated the Cailleach, who had held Brigid
captive and kept the land in a prolonged winter. With Brigid winning her freedom at L
Fhill Brghde the first signs of spring appear, and although the Cailleach escapes and tries to
bring back the winter, she is ultimately defeated. 41 In preparation for Brigid's visit, children
might like to make her some cakes or whatever else they think she might like, as an offering
to leave out for her (don't forget the cow, too).
The family can also choose an item (clothing, or a ribbon, a piece of cloth or shawl etc)
to leave out overnight, so that Brigid can bless it when she visits. Pregnant women (or
women who are trying to conceive) might wish to put something out for blessing that they
can wear during labour, since this is said to ensure a safe and easy birth. In some parts of

39 See "Making a Dealbh Brde."

40 See for example, Carmichael's description.
41 As described in "The Coming of Angus and Bride," in MacKenzie's Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend.
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Ireland it's traditional for a particular item such as a shawl to be left out year after year,
with the idea that its healing properties imparted from Brigid's own blessing will increase. 42
Seeing as children grow out of their clothes so quickly, it might be a nice idea to put out a
favourite soft toy each year instead, something they are likely to take to bed with them, and
have with them as a keepsake even when they've outgrown playing with them. A rite of
passage for older children may be the first time they choose a shawl, wrap, scarf or tie to
leave out for her to bless.43
Dishes with lots of dairy in them are a traditional part of the feast, since the coming of
spring brings the promise of fresh milk. Children might enjoy churning butter as part of the
preparations, and everyone can join in with a traditional churning song. 44 They can also take
part in making a cros Brde (Brigid's cross), which can be hung on the hearth (or family
shrine) to protect the house from fire.
Traditionally, L Fhill Brghde is the time when older children, notably the girls of a
community,45 parade an icon of Brigid throughout their neighbourhood, knocking on doors
and asking for donations of food and drink for the sake of Brigid herself. The proceeds are
then used for their own celebrations. While it isn't necessarily possible for children to do this
in their own neighbourhoods today, the tradition could be adapted and older kids could have
their own party once the group celebrations are finished.

With the summer season seeing the land fertile and green, we celebrate the potential

42 "The Festival of Brigit the Holy Woman" is an especially helpful article for gleaning ideas on family practices that can be
incorporated into celebrations.
43 Rites of passages and other important occasions in life will be explored in further detail in a forthcoming publication.
44 See for example, "Thig, a' Chuinneag, Thig."
45 As well as the young women who still live with their parents or guardians; the change that marks the passage from
girlhood to womanhood has traditionally been when she sets up her own household, independent of her parents.
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of its bounty at Bealltainn and perform rites of protection to safeguard our household and
community for the coming quarter.46 A needfire forms the focus of the festivities, which is
traditionally lit by friction rather than the use of matches or a lighter, 47 so younger children
will need to watched out for with extra care. While the lighting of the bonfire is traditionally
something for the adults to do, children can always offer encouragement or sing songs while
the adults take turns to light the needfire.
Children can help with the preparations for the feast, and make decorations or collect
flowers for the house and the May bough or bush if you're bringing one in. Brightly coloured
ribbons, streamers or bits of cloth can be used to decorate the May bough, and children can
take the lead in decorating it. The family can then gather together when it's ready to be set
out, with blessings said for the household.
With the summer season traditionally associated with butter churning, it can be a fun
activity for children to take part in and the resulting butter and buttermilk can be used for
the festival bannocks and caudle, which can be used as part of the offerings to the spirits to
ensure protection in the coming season. 48 It's traditional to make a bannock for each member
of the household as well, which can be blessed individually, for its intended recipient. Older
children might like to take on the responsibility of making and cooking them, taking care not
to break the bannocks as they cook (traditionally considered to be a bad sign). 49
Adolescents making their passage into adulthood may go out together to bring in the
May. Whether this involves getting up at dawn or being allowed to stay up all night is up to
the discretion of the parents and age of the youths. The same can go for deciding who might
'skim the well,' collecting the first water of the day which is then kept safe for the coming
year. This water contains the "cream" or toradh ("essence" or "produce" the essential
goodness or essence of something) of the well, effectively representing the future prosperity

For a historical overview of Bealltainn see: "Bealltainn Part One" and "Bealltainn Part Two."
For more on the needfire, and fire in general, in Gaelic Polytheist ritual, see: "Breath of Life: The Triple Flame of Brigid."
For more on this see Pennant, A Tour of Scotland, 1776, p110-11.
See for example: "Festival Bannocks and Caudle."
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of the household, and can be used in rituals that may call for water, like saining or healing
rites. The water would originally have been collected from a communal well in most parts of
Ireland or Scotland, and it was usually a task given to the eldest girl of the household, who
would compete with the other girls to skim the well first, usually right after midnight. As
wells fell out of use in favour of household water supplies, the skimming transferred from
the well to household taps so the practice is relevant today. Anyone of the right sort of age
(old enough to stay up late, and able to recite a simple blessing over the water as it's collected
and then stored safely for future use) can be given the task.50

As a festival that celebrates the social bonds of a community, as well as celebrating the
harvest and the first fruits of the autumn season, Lnastal has a lot to offer children. 51 Many
of the celebrations can centre round a day out if the weather allows for it a trip to pick
berries, or to somewhere like a local beauty spot, such as a hill or mountain, river, lake or
beach, with a picnic in tow, perhaps. If possible, this is an excellent, traditional time to
schedule family reunions and gatherings with friends from afar, either hosting at one
family's place or meeting up at a campground for a few days. If there are scheduling
concerns, sometimes families choose the closest long weekend for that part of the festivities.
One of the major focuses of the celebrations is on games and competitions races and
feats of strength, or any sports or games of a competitive nature which children can be
encouraged to take part in. These can include the usual kinds of races or competitive sports
like sprints, high or long jumps and other kinds of athletics, the kind of events you find at
Highland Games, along with team sports. Displays of martial skill if children (and adults) are

50 Especially if you're in a group or making a night of it, be mindful that somebody doesn't flush the toradh down the toilet
before you have a chance to collect it!
51 The best treatment of Lnastal can be found in Maire MacNeill's The Festival of Lughnasa, (1962, 2008) and is highly
recommended for every Gaelic Polytheist. A briefer overview of the festival can be found here.
41 |

learning martial arts are also appropriate, as is sparring if everyone is amenable. Younger
children especially might enjoy party games as well, and since Lnastal is traditionally said
to have been instituted as a funeral for Lugh's foster-mother, Tailltiu, these sorts of games fit
in neatly because of the overlap with the kind of games that are common at wakes. For those
who may be less physically able, card games, dominoes and board games can make good
alternatives, as can poetry and song competitions. Prizes can be given out to the winners, one
of which could be the "champion's portion" the best bit of the meat (or whatever kind of
food may be on offer for the feast) that is given to the person who wins the most games.
If you have been maintaining a vegetable patch, now is the time to start harvesting;
kids can help with that and your harvest can form part of your feast. If it's legal in your area
you could take them out to pick berries that might be available; hunting out blaeberries is a
traditional Lnastal activity, but if you don't have them in your area, you might be able to
find suitable substitutes, like wild raspberries or blackberries which have often ripened by
this time in slightly warmer climates. In many areas of America this is when the blueberries
are ripe. These can be served fresh as part of the feast, and a traditional method of serving
them is to crush them, sweeten with a little sugar and mix with freshly whipped cream.
Churning your own butter and making cheese are again appropriate, and the butter can be
used for baking treats like fraughan cakes; 52 dishes that everyone can dip into and share are
especially appropriate given the social focus of the day.
Flower garlands are a traditional decoration, and they can be worn as well as hung up
around the house.53 If you have access to the appropriate materials you could have a go at
making some corn dollies, too, and one of these dollies or garlands could be made by the
children as an offering. Some of the most obvious tales for the festival include the
Dindshenchas of Tailltiu and Carman, and the story of Macha might also be appropriate, along

52 For some recipe ideas see: "Wild and Slow Wicklow: The Wild Bilberry."
53 Do NOT pick wildflowers, unless you know for a fact which varieties are and are not protected species in your area.
Depleting endangered species is not a spiritual act; acting to make sure these species survive, is.
42 |

with the legends of Crom Cruach or Crom Dubh, and these can be told while the craftier
sorts of activities are going on.
Some contemporary groups have also instituted a tradition of praying for peace at this
time, and while younger children may prefer the more active observances, older, quieter
children may also like to participate in the peace ceremony.54
As usual, once the formal celebrations are finished, adolescents and young men and
women can be encouraged to go off and enjoy their own celebrations into the night,
continuing the games and entertainments in honour of Tailltiu and the ancestors. 55 In
Scotland, a test of strength was traditionally used as a measure to determine when boys were
old enough to join the guising groups at Hogmanay, 56 and the same idea could be adapted
here to determine whether or not kids may be old enough to join in with the young adults, as
a sort of rite of passage.

Of all the festivals, Samhainn57 is probably the one that most kids look forward to, and
in many ways it's the festival that offers the most in terms of things to do with children. The
modern practice of Hallowe'en trick-or-treating has evolved from the custom of guising, and
the ubiquitous pumpkin lanterns are thought to have their origins in the humble turnip
lantern.58 Celebrations can easily be framed around a good old Hallowe'en party, with
traditional games like dookin' for apples, or concealing charms in a cake or dish of

54 For more on this see "Prayer in Gaelic Polytheism" by Annie Loughlin, Kathryn Price NicDhna & Treasa N
Chonchobhair, as well as forthcoming materials on the topic.
55 Or other local goddesses, such as Carmun or Bu whose plains are also traditional enach sites.
56 "On Hogmanay, New Year's Eve, the boys of the South Side would gather at the house of Alasdair MacDhubhghaill and
try to lift a weight. Those with strength enough were regarded as fit to join the older lads in their journey from house to
house." Shaw, Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist, 1977, p23.
57 See: "Samhainn" for a historical overview.
58 See: "Turnip carving."
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cranachan.59 In the case of cranachan, which consists of whipped cream mixed with honey
and toasted oatmeal, everyone can join in with helping to whip the cream, mix in the other
ingredients and add the charms. A savoury alternative of mashed potatoes or turnip can be
used in the same way, if preferred.
As usual, decorations can help set the tone for the festival, which children can be
encouraged to join in with, and tales like Echtra Nerai and Cath Maige Tuired can be told. With
the festival heavily associated with being a time when the ancestors might return to their
families, Samhainn is a good time to tell children stories about them as well; going through
photo albums and reminiscing about the dearly departed is one way to remember the more
recent members of your family, along with stories about ones that go further back many
people find that some of their ancestors are renowned or famous in some way. Food and
drink can be left out for the ancestors over night, so they are given good hospitality.
Adolescents usually enjoy the bonfire festivities, and the traditional divinations and
games can be very popular. Just like at other festivals, they may prefer to separate off and
enjoy some time to themselves. In some areas, bonfire parties are held by colleges and high
schools, and even sometimes for younger teens at junior high schools. In other areas the
community bonfires are all-ages affairs. These events are often preferred by teens who feel
trick or treating (or the more traditional guising) is for the younger kids (they will let you
know when they feel they've outgrown these things). As with Bealltainn, older youth may
have earned the respect and responsibility to be trusted to keep the vigil with an all-night
bonfire and may wish to remain with the adults or return to the main group at some point.
While many teens like to explore their freedom at this festival, others enjoy the responsibility
of taking the younger children guising or trick or treating. In the way that adolescents hold a
liminal role in community, this is sometimes a way to for them to still participate in children's
activities while feeling they are in a more adult role.

59 Further games and divinations are detailed in "Samhainn Divination," for example.
44 |

Other special occasions

Not every Gaelic Polytheist celebrates the lesser festivals like L na Cailliche,
Midsummer (traditionally dedicated to Manannn or ine in a Gaelic context), and so on,
but children can easily be involved in them as well. Offerings, songs, devotions, saining rites
and the usual kinds of decorations or bonfires may all form part of the observances and
children can help with preparations of food and decorations as usual. Given the associations
of specific deities at many of these festivals, they can provide the opportunity for children to
learn more about them through tales and traditions surrounding them, and as with the
quarter days there is the opportunity to remind children of the changing of the seasons and
the different things the time of year might bring.
There are also certain days that aren't necessarily religious celebrations for us, but can
be seen as an opportunity to celebrate Gaelic heritage and culture Burns' Night or national
days of celebration like Tynwald Day (Man), St Patrick's (Ireland) and St Andrew's Day
(Scotland). Celebrations for these occasions tend to be a more secular affair, with a good feast
and culturally-based entertainment music, dance and song, as well as games or stories.
Younger children might enjoy craft-related activities that tie in with the day, like making and
colouring in or painting the national flag, along with learning about the history of the
country and trying out traditional foods like haggis, neeps and tatties etc.
A rite of passage for adolescents could be trusting them to go as a group to one of the
outdoor concerts or festivals that happen at these times, or if the whole family is attending a
larger festival, for the youth to spend time exploring on their own.

New Moon Gealach r

Based on surviving traditions found throughout Ireland, Scotland and Man, some
Gaelic Polytheists make a ceremonial observance of the return of the new moon each

45 |

month.60 While the rite itself can be as formal or informal as the group or individual prefers,
observance of the new moon accompanied by formal rites and liturgy can be a good way to
teach and encourage children to become more actively involved in ritual. With younger
children, rites such as this can help expose them to formal situations and can help develop
their concentration and get to grips with the appropriate kind of behaviour expected of them
in other kinds of rituals where such things are essential (vigils, extended meditations etc). As
you decide that they might be old enough, children can be given the responsibilities of
performing parts of the rite until they may be old enough to go through the whole thing, and
perhaps even coming up with their own liturgy if they so wish, laying the foundations for
their own household practices when the time comes.

The decision to raise your children within your own religion and cultural traditions
or not is a personal one. It's a decision that only you and your family can make based on
what's right for your circumstances, whether you feel strongly that you want your children to
be raised within your own spiritual tradition, or whether you feel it's best to let your children
choose their own religion when they are older and capable of making their own, informed
decision. For many of us, we must consider the beliefs and wishes of our partners as well,
which means compromises may have to be reached.
Even if you decide against raising your children religiously, there are still cultural and
traditional elements that you can share with them learning the language, reading myths
and legends together, enjoying music, and teaching them about the history of where they
come from and how people used to live. At the very least, if they decide to explore Gaelic
Polytheism further when they are older, then they will already be familiar with many of the
60 See for example: "Gealach r."
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basics that underpin our Gaelic Polytheist lifeway.

As outlined in this article, most of the activities appropriate for children are the more
cultural elements and simple festival customs. Deeper ceremonial work and responsibilities
are more the subject matter for youth and young adults, and by that age they are reaching a
level of maturity where they can be entrusted to make their own choices about their spiritual
lives and religious involvement (or lack thereof).
Whatever you decide, this article has hopefully given some pointers in where to start,
whether you are looking to involve your kids in practice, or simply need to answer some
questions they might have. There is still a lot more to delve into, however, and where would
be without the inevitable reading list?

Reading List
The following suggested reading list is given with the family in mind, either as resources for
the whole family or reading specifically aimed at children. There is also Gaol Naofa's full reading list
that's worth taking a look at.

History for Kids

Campbell, Ewen (1999): Saints and Sea Kings (The Making of Scotland Series)

Carver, Martin (2005): Surviving in Symbols: A Visit to the Pictish Nation (The Making of
Scotland Series)

Driscoll, Stephen T. (2002): Alba: The Gaelic Kingdom of Scotland AD 800-1124 (The Making of
Scotland Series)

Hingley, Richard (2005): Settlement and Sacrifice (The Making of Scotland Series)

Deary, Terry (2009): Horrible Histories: Ireland

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Deary, Terry (2009): Horrible Histories: Scotland

Fullman, Joe (2010): Celts (Hands-on History)

Myths, Legends and Stories

Scotlands Stories Scottish tales for kids from Foghlam Alba (Education Scotland)

Buonocore, Maire and Arsenault, Isabelle (2011): The Children of Lr

Byrd, Robert (1999): Finn MacCoul and his Fearless Wife: A Giant of a Tale from Ireland

Cowl, Joy (2006): The Wishing of Biddy Malone

Doyle, Malachy and Sharkey, Niamh (2005): Tales from Old Ireland

Fitzpatrick, Jim (1978): The Book of Conquest61

Fitzpatrick, Jim (1999): The Silver Arm

Green, John (2003): Celtic Gods and Heroes (Dover Colouring Book)

Gregory, Lady (1904): Gods and Fighting Men62

Heaney, Maire and Lynch, P.J. (2000): The Names Upon the Harp: Irish Myths and Legends

Mac Uistin, Liam (1989): The Tin: The Great Celtic Epic

De Paola (1981): Fin MCoul: The Giant of Knockmany Hill


Brooks, Felicity and Litchfield, Jo (2007): Very First Words in Irish (Usborne First Words Board

Brooks, Felicity and Litchfield, Jo (2005): Usborne Everyday Words: Irish Flashcards

Litchfield, Jo (2005): Everyday Words in Irish

An Droichead Irish language website with games

61 Perhaps more appropriate for young adults.

62 Bear in mind that Gregory leaves a lot of important stuff out, but it's suitable for a PG audience so it's not so bad as a
starting point for a younger audience.
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An Siopa Gaeilge Irish language resources

Babogbaby Interactive Gaelic-medium toys for kids

Cl Iar-Chonnacht Children's Books in Irish

Cluich Teanga Irish language learning from the BBC

Digital Dialects Games for learning Irish

Easy Irish Language course from RT

Malamor Interactive Irish language learning aimed at kids

Talk Irish Interactive online Irish course (subscription needed)

Gaeltalk Perhaps more for adults, but may be good for older kids wanting learn Irish, too


Ablekids Publishers of bilingual and Gidhlig-medium books

Acair Books Publishers of Scottish Gaelic books, including books aimed at children

Brd na Gidhlig Promoting Scottish Gaelic in Scotland

Comhairle nan Leabhraichean The Gaelic Books Council (Scottish Gaelic)

Foghlam Scottish Gaelic for kids, from the BBC

LearnGaelic Scottish Gaelic site with resources for children as well as adult learners

Gaelic4Parents For Scottish Gaelic

An Sgeulachd Ghoirid The Short Story; an online Gidhlig resource for learners through
short stories

Memrise Interactive website, good for older children


Learn Manx For adult and children learners, there are some nice resources for both here

Gaelg Some additional resources here

Annie Loughlin, Uachtarn of Gaol Naofa, is mother to two young children as well as

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an auntie and great-auntie, and lives with her family on the west coast of Scotland. She has a
Joint Honours MA in Archaeology and Celtic Civilisation, and has been writing about Gaelic
Polytheism and Celtic Reconstructionism since 2006 for her own website, blogs, and Gaol
Naofa. The Angry Crayon Fairy lives in her house, with her son, husband, and menagerie of
Kathryn Price NicDhna, Comairligtheir of Gaol Naofa, lives in Taukkanackcoss,
territory of the Wabanaki Confederacy. She grew up in an extended family and
neighbourhood where everyone takes responsibility for the younger children. As a teenager
she was a full-time staff member for a national youth group, editing their newspaper,
planning and running conferences, and leading spiritual circles with and for other youth.
Later, she lived in a communal setting, where all the women tended and taught the
community's kids. She is an active auntie and great-auntie, helping to raise several
generations of children and young adults in her extended family.

Special thanks to: Treasa N Chonchobhair, Pl MacAmhlaoibh, and Brandon Sweeney
for their initial read-through, feedback, and support, and in particular, thanks must go to
Treasa for her design skills, Pl for his proof-reading and excellent eye for detail, and
Brandon for his Irish language assistance.

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Language Note
For the sake of consistency with the prayers we have excerpted from the Carmina
Gadelica, the predominant Gaelic language used in this article is Scottish Gaelic (Gidhlig).
Official materials by Gaol Naofa may in other cases default to Irish (Gaeilge), based on the
relevant source materials and the preferences of the authors.

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