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This is your guide to get started in an Authentic Irish Pagan Practice, with native Irish Draoí (Druid), Lora O'Brien.

June 26, 2020

Do You Need Irish Ancestry To Follow Irish Paganism?

Spoiler Alert!

No. You don’t.

The Number One reason we hear for folk joining the Irish Pagan School comes down to an Irish heritage connection or Irish ancestry… which is grand, and good for you if you have that and want to explore it!

I’m here today to be the killjoy that tells you though – we don’t care.

Having Irish ancestry doesn’t make you Irish (see: ‘What Does It Mean To Be Irish’), but NOT having Irish ancestry doesn’t exclude you from engaging with Irish Paganism, or indeed, Irish culture.

The idea of family ties and bloodlines IS very important in Irish history, don’t get me wrong. We definitely have precedence on respecting the Clann connections.

And I don’t mean to imply for even a second that Irish (or any sort of ‘Celtic’) spirituality is up for grabs for entitled appropriation.

The usual rules are vital for everyone to consider, which include:

  • Respectful engagement and interaction.
  • Prioritising and platforming native voices.
  • Not profiting from the culture if you’re outside the culture.
  • Investing in what I call ‘Right Relationship’ with the native sources.

Where things start getting very fucking problematic is with the idea that whatever 23andMe or Ancestry.com told you about your DNA results is either accurate (sorry, the science they use is bullshit), or relevant to connecting to the Irish Pagan tradition today.

In my class – Your Irish Ancestry – I teach about three ancestral lines.

Your Bloodline is one of them, and that’s grand as I said. But it is certainly not the whole story.

There’s also your Social Ancestry (communities and groups that are part of your identity, which had leaders and teachers who paved the way for you), and your Spiritual Ancestry (if you believe in transmigration of souls, often called reincarnation, this should be an obvious one?!).

Speaking of problematic, if I ever see another US Pagan question a BBIPOC about whether they ‘belong’ in ‘Celtic’ Paganism, it will be too fucking soon.

STOP THAT.

  1. You don’t get to gatekeep Irish culture or heritage.
  2. You don’t fucking know what that person’s bloodline holds, and it’s not one bit of your damn business anyway.
  3. You obviously don’t understand actual Irish history or heritage in even the slightest way.

Why?

Because we are an island of immigrants and emigrants – right back to the Book of Invasions, bitches!

We have always held space and hospitality for visitors, and for family (whatever that family connection physically, socially or spiritually looks like) who want to come home.

Yes, those visitors, and returning family, will have to respect the hospitality offered, and not act with entitlement or ingratitude.

Yes, they will have to figure out what roles they can fulfil in our existing communities, and how to contribute meaningfully to the whole.

And Yes, to be completely honest and upfront – there are racist elements in modern Irish society that will actively work to exclude them if they “don’t look Irish”, as well as the ignorant casual racism born of our monocultural lack of exposure to BBIPOC. (We are just as actively working on all of that.)

But No.

You don’t have to be certified 53% Ireland/Scotland/Wales – or anything of the sort! – to authentically connect with an Irish Pagan spiritual practice.

In fact, as a formerly/still colonised culture, we have much in common with many similarly abused peoples, which can resonate and bring us closer, given the space and time to share stories and spirit.

(Hang on there now though, and don’t be buying into any of that ‘Irish Slaves’ myth crap while we’re at this.)

FactCheck: No, hundreds of thousands of Irish people were not sold as slaves in the 17th century.

So, all of that being said.

If you’re willing to Do The Work, to authentically connect and engage in Right Relationship with our living tradition of native Irish Pagan Spirituality… please come home.

We want to support you, and welcome you into our Irish Pagan School Tuath (tribe/community).

Fáilte Abhaile 💚

Related Posts

Question – Irish Ancestry and Cultural Appropriation?

The Beginner’s Guide to Irish Paganism (Series)

What is Paganism?

Táin Bó Cúailgne – Cattle Raid of Cooley: A Beginner’s Guide

About the Author

Irish Author, Educator, and Guide to Ireland. Co-Founder of the Irish Pagan School, Eel & Otter Press, and Pagan Life Rites (Ireland).

Lora O'Brien

  • I have Irish ancestors, I live in Nova Scotia Canada, my family immigrated in the 1700s. I knew all along I was not spiritually following the right path, my heart has always been pagan. My beliefs I have gathered by life experience alone, is beautifully aligned with Irish paganism, I am so excited to explore a spirituality that actually makes sense.

  • Hi lora. Yes I think I get the just of what your saying.dont wee on the grass on a hot day.. both .my mum and dad were from Ireland. They have left this planet now 2017..my dad sang songs..irish ones.and I know loads of songs ..too..I like to listen to john mcormac. Paddy riley.lists goes on..i agree with what your saying like being sorta stalked by the gods .or goddess. And I’m aware of the famine. I identify as irish… people aren’t stupid they pick up your attitude. And I dont come across as English. Or French. Or some other.trans girl boy….so .just to say .things are still a bit slow here in london..even though we are out of lock down..if I have to get wifi.then I will but staying in different places that dont have the wifi..I’m not homeless..anyway.enjoying being part of this online community soooooo….slaintia. cheers fiona cosgrove

  • “If you’re willing to Do The Work, to authentically connect and engage in Right Relationship with our living tradition of native Irish Pagan Spirituality… please come home.”

    This bit here just about made me cry, in a good way. There has been some massive cultural, social, spiritual void in my life and I’m only just now figuring out where my ‘home’ is. I think I’ve found it…and I’ve begun to Do The Work. The idea that there might even be a “home” for me is so incredibly emotional. I want to thank you (and those you work with) for making this clear, welcoming, and accessible.

  • I can’t deny that by the end of this post I had tears in my eyes. I’m in the US and absolutely what someone would call a “mutt” (I hate that term..). My mom is from UK (English, Irish, and Welsh) and Dad is Métis (unfortunately translating to Half-Breed, a North American indigenous peoples of French/Irish/Scottish and First Nations on the Red River) on the US side of the border. My father was in the military from the time I was born until I was 18. We moved often all over the US, as well as visiting family in England and Ireland for months at a time.
    I have to say that I’ve never felt like I’ve had a “home.” I was lucky enough to have my family though and the saying “Home is where the heart is” is very true when you feel don’t really have one physically. I feel that’s almost especially true for many who aren’t Christian or of a main world organized religion, a lot of us feel a bit outcast maybe. Sorry, I tend to ramble!
    So that last bit filled my heart ❤️ Thank you.

  • Those myths about the White slave trade are so old. I’ve heard them my whole life. There were several colonies that started as an excuse to clear out “Undesirables” from 1600’s version of Great Britain. The Tutors and Stuarts were still loping off people’s heads, burning humans alive, squashing pregnant women under doors, and other horrific atrocities. The people fleeing that mess were not exactly in the best financial situation, but they can not claim slavery because they owed portions of their harvest to the ship that carried them to the pasture. Which was stolen from the First Nations and given to white settlers.

  • […] As detailed in this blog post – I think anyone who wants to, with any ancestry, can pursue and practice an Irish Pagan Path. In fact, I base my entire life’s work around connecting people authentically to this form of spiritual practice, regardless of who their family was or is – Authentic Connection to Ireland is much more than just a business tagline for me! […]

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