Gentlidecht – Finding The Dates of the Holy Days

Happy Solar New Year!

First post of the year 2015 on the Gregorian Calendar and I thought it should be about the calendar used in Gentlidecht na gCuanaigh.  In the article “Telling Time Through Worship” I talk a bit about what the Gentlidecht calendar should look like so in this article I am going to apply that information using the Notional Celtic Calendar. This is a lunar calendar so it is not as easy as just looking up the first of the month for November, February. May or August.  We have to look at when the moon phases fall and as this year will have 13 months instead of 12 (there is one interracial month this year) we will have to make an adjustment to our usual calculations of having a festival every third month (1st of the 1st month, 1st of the 4th month, 1st of the 7th month, 1st of the 10th month and three months later the 1st of the 1st month in the new year).

So let’s start with some terms.  Quarter Day and Cross Quarter Day, or as we call them Fíor Ráithí and Cam Ráithí, we follow the pre-Christian Irish usage of these terms so the quarter days are the main festivals commonly placed at February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1.  The Cross Quarter Day (crooked if you translated our Irish) would be the equinoxes and solstices and crooked as is better term in this instance as you will notice these dates will not fall at exactly between the quarter days.  I want to point out this is the opposite usage of the same terms by other Neopagan religions (and most English based calendars), which is why it is better to use the Irish as not to confuse folks.

As the Cam Ráithí are solar events they are easily identified on any calendar, so we don’t need to go into detailed explanation on how to find the dates.  To figure out the Fíor Ráithí using the Notional Celtic Calendar you have to go back to October 2014, as that is when the this year began, on 1 Samhain or October 24, 2014.  This is the point we start going forward to identify Lá Fhéile Bhríd.

What we are looking for are the New Moons as it is the day after each New Moon that the new month begins.  Knowing that the commonly accepted Neopagan date is February 1 and that the solar date would be the exact (English) cross quarter date, we jump ahead to February 2015.   We find the New Moon in February to be the 18th and the Winter Cross Quarter Day to be on the 4th, further we see that the 5th month of the lunar year begins on the 19th.  Which date is it?  Well, none of them.  What we want is the first day of the 4th month of the year.  Even though there is going to be 13 months this year, we want to stick as close to the usual 12 month cycle as possible, so we go back to January and find the New Moon to be on the 20th, making the 21st the first day of the 4th month and our date for Lá Fhéile Bhríd as it is not too far off from the expected solar date. 

Now we will do the same thing for Lá Bealtaine, and jump to May 2015.  We find the Spring Cross Quarter day on the 5th and the New Moon on the 18th.  Note that the 19th starts the eighth month, what we are looking for is the start of the seventh month so we jump back to April and find the start of the seventh month to be April 19th.  So this is the date of our lunar based Lá Bealtaine.

For Lá Lúnasa we again jump to the expected date in August and find the Summer Cross Quarter day to be the 7th and the new Moon to be the 14th.  With the start of the 11th month on the 15th we have to go back to July and locate the start of the 10th month which is July 17th.

Finally, we identify the start of the following year and Samhain.  Jumping to November this date is easily identified as November 12th.  Which seems odd as every other date occurred prior to the expected date and this one occurs after.  What occurred is what is called an intercalary month, or a leap month.  An entire month added in to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the common solar calendar.  As this month is added at the end of the year it created a larger space between festivals that what would usually occur.  We could have chosen to skip a month at any point to stay as close to the expected dates but as I started earlier, the idea was to keep as close to the every three lunar month cycle as possible.

Using the same method with different assumptions you may place your festivals at other dates.  This is perfectly acceptable as it is important for groups to establish their own methods of identifying their holy periods and ritual year.  What is important is consistency in method of identifying the dates.

Here is the resulting calendar with the lunar Fíor Ráithí and solar Cam Ráithí for 2015.

Lá Fhéile Bhríd – January 21st
Spring Equinox – March 20th
Lá Bealtaine – April 19th
Summer Solstice – June 21st
Lá Lúnasa – July 17th
Fall Equinox – September 23rd
Féile na Shamhna – November 12th
Winter Solstice – December 21st


Gentlidecht na gCuanaigh – As there are variations on Gentlidecht throughout the world this is the specific form of Gentlidecht as it is done by the Genti of Five Rivers Protogrove and myself.

New Moon – The creator of this calendar uses the term to give the date of the Dark Moon, the night the moon is totally dark. 

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Féile Manannán – Midsummer Ritual

 I put the following ritual together for my Protogrove to use as part of our Midsummer celebration for Manannan Mac Lir but due to vacation schedules performed it alone at the edge of the Chesapeake near my office.  Some parts of the ritual are taken from the “Paying Rent” ritual written by my friend Erynn Laurie.

Féile Manannán

The participants gather the following offerings 
Local River Goddesses
Corn meal
Manannan Mac Lir
Mighty Dead
Spirits of Place
honey/sage smoke
Tuatha de Danaan
Manannan Mac Lir
Rushes, yellow flowers, meade or food.
The folk

to the ritual the participants should light the flame, fill the well with fresh
water, and place whatever tools are needed on the altar.  

A bell is tolled three times calling the folk to the nemed.
Opening Prayer

In the honor of Manannan mac Lir, to the fruitfulness and profit
of our plantings and our work, in the name of the gods and ungods we offer
blessings to those gathered here.
Centering Meditation

D1: Clear your mind and focus on your
breathing. Breathe in and out slowly visualizing the spiral of the cosmos
around you.
All: We are at the center of An Thríbhís Mhór.    
As you exhale lower yourself and place a palm of your hand on the
All: We stand firmly upon the Sacred Land.
As you inhale, rise to your feet, moving the hands behind at hip
height, palms up, cupping. Exhale and move the hands in an arc until they meet
in front.
All: The Eternal Sea always surrounds us.
As you inhale, move your hands to the sides, spread the fingers
wide, palms forward. Exhale and raise the arms, bringing the hands together
above the head, thumb & forefinger meeting to create a triangle.
All: The Endless Sky spreads itself above us.
Inhale; lower the hands to the heart again.
All: We are at the center of An Thríbhís Mhór. 
Exhale; lower the hands to the sides
Honoring the Local Land Goddesses
D2: We honor the Five Rivers, the goddesses of
the land; Potomac Patapsco, Susquehanna Gunpowder, and Patuxent.  Givers
of life that flow from the mountains and form estuaries of the Chesapeake.
We honor you and make this offering to you in gratitude for your
waters that nourish this land.
D2: makes an offering and says: Mighty
goddesses of the land accept this offering.
Statement of Purpose

D1:  At Saint John’s Eve, near Midsummer on
the Isle of Man, the people paid rent to Manannán mac Lir, the first king of
the island. The Manx Traditional Ballad says:
“If you would listen to my tale
And if you thought the narrative pleasant
As best I can with my mouth
I shall speak to you of the blessed Isle
Who was the first man who possessed it
And how came it to him
How Patrick sent the first Christian
And how it came to Stanley
Young Manannán, son of Lir
That was the first man who possessed it
As far as I can see
He was nothing but a heathen
Not with his sword did he defend it
Nor with his arrows nor his shield
But when he saw ships a-sailing
He would hide it round about with mist
Some would go, bearing their rushes
Up to the summit of the great mountain Barrule
Others used to leave their rushes below
With Manannán upon Keamool
Until Patrick came among them,
Who was a mighty man filled with magic art,
He drove Manannán into the sea
With his evil company, unjustly”
The ballad was written by Christians, yet Patrick is described as
driving out Manannán unjustly. To this day Manannán’s name is regarded with
reverence on the Isle. Rent for the Isle of Man was paid to him in rushes,
though the word may also translate as flags or wild irises. Some went to the
top of Barrule, Inis Man’s holy mountain. Others paid their rent at the
Though we do not live on the Isle of Man, Manannán is for us the
keeper of the gates between the worlds, the lord of mists who allows us passage
in our journeys through the Otherworlds, and teacher and guide for our tribe.
And so it is at this time that we pay for our passage by giving honor and
offerings to Manannán mac Lir. We bring him food and drink, and we bring him
yellow flowers to symbolize gold and jewels for his pleasure.
Establishing the Sacred Grove

Sacred Hearth Fire
Druid 1:
I make sacred the fire,
The first fire born of lightning
from which all fires are lit.
The hearth fire which warms our homes
and binds our people.
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,

Let the flame be the hearth fire,
Lets the water be the Well of Knowledge       
Let the tree be the bile,       
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,

D1: puts oil on the fire, then says:
I light the sacred fire of inspiration.  Sacred fire, burn
within me.
Well of Segais
Druid 2 says:
I make sacred the well,
From which the five rivers flow,
Salmon swimming, hazels hanging high.
Bubbling brightly Segais, source of wisdom,   

I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,
Let the flame be the hearth fire,
Lets the water be the Well of Knowledge       
Let the tree be the bile,       
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,
D2: taps the well then says:
In the depths flow the waters of wisdom. Sacred waters, flow
within me.
World Tree
Druid 3 says:
I make sacred the branch/tree,
Towering high, hanging heavy with hazel,
Spanning and connecting the Three Realms,
The mighty bile of the grove,
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,
Let the flame be the hearth fire,
Lets the water be the Well of Knowledge       
Let the tree be the bile,       
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,
D3: dresses the bile, then says:
From the depths to the heights spans the world tree. Sacred tree,
grow within me.
D1: raises arms
D1: With the Flame of the Hearth, the Well of
Knowledge, and the Sacred Bile the grove is erected and hallowed.
Parting the Mists

D1: prepares an offering for the gatekeeper and
D1: says: We honor Oirbsen (orib-sheen),
Manannan, Patron of our tribe, Lord of the Mist, Ruler of Tir na mBan (
na man), Guardian of the gate of the Otherworld.  Oh Lord of the
Otherworld, bearer of the silvered apple branch, hear us this day and aid in
the passage of the ancestors through the misty veil.
D1: makes an offering and says: Manannan mac
Lir, accept our offerings and gratitude as you part the mists.

(mah-nuh-nahn’ mak leer)
D1: Let the mists be parted!!
All: Let the mists be parted.
Inviting the Gods and Ungods

An Sinsear  (en shen-shoor)
D2: Mighty dead, you who have come before,
Ancestors of our blood,  Heros of our people
We offer you this gift with love and loyalty and invite you to witness this
D2: makes an offering and says: Ancestors,
accept this offering.
Aos Sí  (ees-shee)
D1: Great nature spirits, you who frolic in the
wild world,
Spirits of this place,
We offer you this gift in friendship and invite you to witness this rite.
Spirits of family and the people that came to this land from
faraway lands.
We offer you this gift in friendship and invite you to witness this rite.
D1: makes an offerings and says: Aos Sí ,
accept this offering.
Tuatha de Danaan (tooah-de-danyan)
D3: Great gods, you who are mightiest in all
Deities of my faith,
We offer you this gift with reverence and honor and invite you to witness this
D3: makes an offering and says: Gods and
goddesses accept this offering.
Key Offering

D1: Manannán mac Lir, Lord of Mists, Lord of the Sea and of Change,
Rider of Aonbharr the Splendid-Maned, hear us.
Shapeshifter, holy trickster,
Keeper of the Gates between worlds, hear us.
Manannán mac Lir, Lord of Wisdom
Father of Mongán, armorer of Lugh,
Keeper of the Crane Bag of Wisdom and Secrets, hear us!
Patron of our grove, protector of our tribe.
Guardian of wisdom and knowledge, hear us.
Manannán mac Lir, King of the Land of Women.
Husband of Fand, lover of Aine,
Keeper of the Cloak of Mists that drowns all sorrow, hear us.
Husband, lover,
Guardian and beloved of women, hear us.
D1: makes an offerings and says: A Mhanannán,
accept our offerings! Hear our prayers and share in our joy and celebrations on
this night that is dedicated to you.
The Omen 
Seer: Ritually washes their hands then forms the
left hand into a tube and blows through the tube then says:
Gods over me, gods under me,
Gods before me, gods behind me,
I am on your path oh gods.
    You, my gods, are in my steps.
I am going within
To the doorstep of the sí
in the name of Finn
Stronger in sight then all.
The augury made by Finn to his men,
That Bride blew her palm,
Did you see the augury gods of art?–
    Said the gods of art,  they saw.
Message of truth without a message of falsehood
That I myself shall see
The semblance, joyous and mild
Of all that is hidden to me
Good spirits and gods of my people,
Give me the sight to see all I need,
With vision that shall never fail, before me,
    That shall never quench nor dim.
Seer: then takes the omen, interprets it, and
records it.
Receiving the blessings of the Gods and Ungods
D1: raises the blessing plate/cup high and says:
Tuatha de Danaan (tooah-de-danyan), Aos Sí , (ees
she) and An Sinsear  (en shen-shoor), we have praised you and made a
sacrifice. A gift calls for a gift, and we pray to you and ask that you give us
your blessings.  Make sacred these apples and infuse them with your
vitality, strength and inspiration.
Lo, the blessings of the Gods and Ungods are upon us.
D1: Slices and eats the blessed apple and passes
it around.
Thanking the Gods and Ungods and Closing the Mists
D1: We have called upon the Gods and Ungods and
they have answered.  With love and loyalty we carry the blessings into our
daily lives.  As we prepare to depart let me give thanks to those who have
aided us.
D3: Tuatha de Danaan, gods of our tribe, we thank
you for your presence and blessings.  
D1: Aos Sí, these are your lands and here you
shall remain.  We thank you for attending and accepting our offerings of
peace and respect.         
D2: Mighty Dead, thank you for attending and
accepting our gifts.  Pass back through the mists and return to the
Otherworld.  .
D1: Manannan, today we celebrated you and gave you
praise and offerings.  We thank you for your attendance and parting the
mists.  We ask that you allow the mists to fall as our ancestors pass back
into your realm.    
D1: Let the mists return and the veil be whole.
D1: Mighty Rivers, these are your lands and here
you shall remain.  We thank you for attending and accepting my offerings
of peace and respect.

Taking down the Sacred Grove
D1: We came and honored the Gods, the Spirits
and the Ancestors and now the Sacred Grove must be taken down. We honor the
Hearth Fire and restore it to flame.  We honor the Well of Segais and
restore it to water. We honor the bile and restore it to branch.  All is
as it was and the Sacred Grove is dismantled. The ritual is ended.

All: Biodh Se!    (bee-shay)