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The Giant’s Causeway

The first time you see it, you think there’s no way it can be real. The otherworldly rock ireland-914207__180formations of The Giant’s Causeway look like something out of a movie set. In fact, they have been a set location for the hit show Game of Thrones and the movie Dracula Untold.

The Giant’s Causeway, located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland is a formation of interlocking, basalt columns that have an unusual, geometric shape, or rather shapes. The columns are usually perfect hexagons, but you can also find pillars with anywhere from four to eight sides.

giants-causeway-1182945__180“Formed 50 to 60 million years ago, during the Paleogene Period, the Giant’s Causeway resulted from successive flows of lava inching toward the coast and cooling when they contacted the sea. Layers of basalt formed columns, and the pressure between these columns sculpted them into polygonal shapes that vary from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm) in diameter and measure up to 82 feet (25 metres) in height. They are arrayed along cliffs averaging some 330 feet (100 metres) in elevation.” –Encyclopedia Britannica

So, now that we’ve covered the sciency stuff, we need to talk about the really cool, totally true legends of The Giant’s Causeway.  From Wikipedia “According to legend, the columns are giants-causeway-539869__180the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner.[9] In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow.[10] Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.[11]

giants-causeway-539867__180The Giant’s Causeway was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986, and in 1987 it was named a National Nature Reserve. It became a tourist destination in the 1800’s and a magnificent new visitor’s center was opened in 2012, making this a must see, bucket-list vacation spot.


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The Tree of Life

tree-338211__180

Tree of Life Cluster Pendant with green accents

Tree of Life Cluster Pendant with green accents

The tree of life is such an evocative symbol that is neither masculine nor feminine. It is revered by all faiths and seems to tug at the spirit, reminding us that we’re connected to the earth, to the sky, and to all mankind. It’s a primitive symbol that can be found in every culture, on almost every continent.

Maybe it’s because it’s such a simple symbol, one of the first things most children draw, something that we all recognize and connect

An 1847 depiction of the Norse Yggdrasil as described in the Icelandic Prose Edda by Oluf Oulfsen Bagge

An 1847 depiction of the Norse Yggdrasil as described in the Icelandic Prose Edda by Oluf Oulfsen Bagge

with, or maybe it’s because trees are life sustaining, creating the very oxygen we breathe and the fruit that we enjoy. Perhaps it harkens back to our primate nature that we found comfort in the security of trees, where we were safe from saber tooth tigers. Whatever it is, the tree of life speaks to us.

The tree of life is a sacred symbol in most of the world’s religions. Zoroastrians, Jews,Gilded tree of life doors in Chotyniec Poland Christians, Muslims, Bahai’s, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Mormons, Pagans, Wiccans, and many Native American tribes all have a tree of life of some sort in their traditions.

The Celtic Tree of Life or Crann Bethadh in Gaelic is one of the more prominent ancient Druid symbols that found it’s way into modern iconography. The Druids believed that the tree of life was a link between heaven and earth, the

Keith Jack Sterling Silver and 18k gold Tree of Life pendant

Keith Jack Sterling Silver and 18k gold Tree of Life pendant

dead and the living. The ancient Celts worshiped trees and recognized that trees provided shelter, food, firewood, warmth, etc. In Celtic culture, it was forbidden to clear an entire area of trees moon-165487__180and they would always leave one sacred tree standing in the center of their communities. The Celts believed that trees were their ancestors and the most sacred tree of all, the oak, called “daur” (root word of door) was believed to be the Axis Mundi or center of the earth. The word Druid literally means “Oak Seeing” or “Oak Knower” .

 

Whatever your heritage, religion, politics, race or gender may be, we are all united by the tree of life. When you wear a tree of life necklace, you carry a link to all of human history, to life, death, the earth and sky next to your heart. It’s comforting. It’s home.

 


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Claddagh, a Ring, a City, a Legend.

Shanore Claddagh Ring with 10K Gold Heart

ShanOre Claddagh Ring with 10K Gold Heart

Few symbols are recognizable, more quintessentially Irish than the Claddagh. The hands clasping a crowned heart, symbolize love (the heart), loyalty (the crown), and friendship (the outstretched hands).

The Claddagh originates in the fishing village of Claddagh, which is now in the center of Galway, but was once just outside of the city walls.

According to Wikipedia: There are many legends about the origins of the ring, particularly concerning Richard Joyce, a silversmith from Galway circa 1700, who is said to have invented the Claddagh design as we know it.[3][4] Legend has it that Joyce was captured and enslaved by Algerian Corsairs around 1675

ShanOre Mens Claddagh Ring

ShanOre Men’s Claddagh Ring

while on a passage to the West Indies; he was sold into slavery to a Moorish goldsmith who taught him the craft.[11] King William III sent an ambassador to Algeria to demand the release of any and all British subjects who were enslaved in that country, which at the time would have included Richard Joyce. After fourteen years, Joyce was released and returned to Galway and brought along with him the ring he had fashioned while in captivity: what we’ve come to know as the Claddagh. He gave the ring to his sweetheart, married, and became a goldsmith with “considerable success”.[15] His initials are in one of the earliest surviving Claddagh rings[16][6] but there are three other rings also made around that time, bearing the mark of goldsmith Thomas Meade.[6]

ShanOre Birthstone Claddagh Ring makes an excellent Birthday gift

ShanOre Birthstone Claddagh Rings make an excellent Birthday gift

Today, Claddagh Rings are worn throughout the world by the Irish

Keith Jack Claddagh Diamond Ring

Keith Jack Claddagh Diamond Ring

and people of Irish decent and can have many meanings. It’s a common practice for parents to give their daughters Claddagh rings as birthday or first communion gifts, and friends or sisters sometimes exchange Claddaghs as a token of eternal friendship and loyalty.  Of course, Claddaghs are also often worn as engagement rings or wedding bands and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more fitting token of true love.

Knowing how to properly wear a Claddagh can get confusing and you might hear mixed information on which finger you should wear the ring. Let us help clear things up with these simple, Claddagh traditions.

-Worn on the right hand, with the heart facing out, indicates that the wearer is single.

-Worn on the right hand, with the heart facing in, the wearer’s heart is taken.

-Worn on the left hand, with the heart facing out, indicates that the wearer in engaged.

-Worn on the left hand, with the heart facing in, shows that the wearer is married.

 


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What is Peat?

Cut peat, drying in sun in Ireland

Cut peat, drying in sun in Ireland

Peat has been used as a heating and energy source, in construction, horticulture, agriculture and in whisky production for centuries. But have you ever wondered what peat actually is?

According to WikipediaPeat (turf) is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, or mires.[1][2] The peatland ecosystem is the most efficient carbon sink veenpark-848705_960_720on the planet[2] because peatland plants capture the CO2 which is naturally released from the peat, thus maintaining an equilibrium. In natural peatlands, the “annual rate of biomass production is greater than the rate of decomposition”, but it takes “thousands of years for peatlands to develop the deposits of 1.5 to 2.3 m, which is the average depth of the boreal peatlands”.[2] One of the most common components is Sphagnum moss, although many other plants can contribute. Soils that contain mostly peat are known as histosols. Peat forms in wetland conditions, where flooding obstructs flows of oxygen from the atmosphere, slowing rates of decomposition.[3]

There are peat bogs in over 170 nations around the world and it is estimated that around 60% of the Earth’s wetlands are peat bogs, but only a fraction of them are harvested for peat.

In Ireland peat is used in most rural areas as a heating and cooking fuel and you can still find small communities gathering to cut peat every summer. The Republic of Ireland has a public utility named Bord na Móna that is in charge of the bulk of Ireland’s peat harvest, production and the sale of peat for commercial and domestic use.

The peat kiln at Laphroaig Distillery

The peat kiln at Laphroaig Distillery

laphroaig-10-year-old-islay-malt-whiskyAnother use for peat is in the production of whisk(e)y. From Whisky.com: The old Scots used peat to heat the pot stills. However, this doesn’t lead to the smoky flavour of the whisky. Only download (3)drying the damp malt over a peat-heated fire brings the smoke into the barley grain. The level of smokiness of a whisky is determined by the time the barley grain is exposed to the pungent peat smoke during drying. Damp malt is usually dried for approximately 30 hours. Laphroaig dries its malt over peat fire for about 18 of these 30 hours, while Glengoyne uses only unpeated fire. Thus you get a broad variety ranging from extremely smoky whisky to almost completely smokeless whisky. Malt grains are peculiar in that they lend a hint of smokiness to the whisky even without a peat fire.

Most of us are familiar with the subtle peatiness of our beloved Scotch, but there is one lone wolf in Ireland delivering a delicious peaty punch in the form of Irish Whiskey. The brandImageConnemaraKilbeggan Distilling Company produces the delightful Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey using traditional if not antiquated Irish distilling methods.

So, enjoy a glass of peaty whiskey or whisky and savor the flavor that only peat can deliver, knowing that centuries, if not millennia of perfect climate and undisturbed conditions in ye old peat bog are at play in the flavors swirling around on your pallet.

If you’d like to try any of these fine whisk(e)ys, we’d be delighted to pour you a dram in the Whiskey Snug at The Celtic Ranch.

We’d also love for you to join us at any of our  informative Whiskey Tastings. It’s a great way to raise your whiskey IQ and try some rare and delightful whiskeys before investing in an entire bottle.


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The Dog Days of Summer

When we talk about The Dog Days of Summer, what images do you conjure in your head? dog-715545__180Cicadas buzzing? Lemonade? Time seeming to slow down in the midday heat? Sidewalk sales and parades? All of the above? Did you ever wonder about the origin of the term?

From Merriam-Webster Dictionary :

dog-1224267__180Simple Definition of dog days

  • : the hottest time of the year

puppy-1207816__180Full Definition of dog days

  1.  the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere

  2.  a period of stagnation or inactivity

                                                 

dog-1310545__180So why the Dog Days of Summer? It’s not like dogs are the only animals suffering in the midsummer heat. As it turns out, the canine in question isn’t a pooch at all, but a constellation and the story takes us back to ancient Greece and Rome.

According to National Geographic, “To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year.

“If you go back even as far as Homer, The Iliad, it’s referring to Sirius as Orion’s dog rising, and it describes the star as being associated with war and disaster,” said Jay B. Holberg, author of Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky and senior research scientist at the University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory. “All throughout Greek and Roman literature, you found these things.”

Today the Dog Days of Summer tend to be associated with great deals at your local, Mom and Pop stores and fun summer activities meant to distract us from the sweltering heat. Which leads us to The Weston Dog Days of Summer Pet Photo Contest and Doggie Parade. doggieParade_page1 (1)

 So send in your best pet pics and leash up Fido for the spectacular parade. All proceeds benefit the ASPCA. huron-1120505__180


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Father’s Day

21 copyFather’s Day falls on June 19th this year, and it’s rapidly approaching.  If you already have gifts for Dad wrapped and a day planned, you’re well ahead of the game and deserve a cold drink and some sort of medal or trophy, or maybe a trophy filled with a cocktail. If you’re like most of us and are only part way there, then we’ve got you covered.

Father’s Day is a day of celebration of all things Fatherhood. A day to let husbands, fathers, step-fathers, father in laws, and the men who are just always there for us know that we value them, respect them and are grateful for the time they have invested in us and our children.

Father’s Day presents can be tricky. If asked, Dad might say that he doesn’t want anything, or maybe he wants a nap or he may even say that he has everything that he needs. Here’s a pro-tip, Dad is lying. Well, he’s probably telling the truth about the nap, so go ahead and plan a good hour for that. After he rests a little, that’s when you present Dad with his real presents. We have some suggestions for you. You can thank us later.

-Whiskey 

Does Dad love whiskey? Why not upgrade Dad’s cocktail a bit and buy him a bottle of Top Powers_John_LaneShelf Whiskey? We have some suggestions for you and would love to assist you in your purchase. Come check out the Whiskey Snug at the Celtic Ranch. We have an entire room filled with some of the most amazing whiskeys that man has ever made and we can help you find the perfect bottle and you can even get a sip for yourself, for quality control purposes, of course.

We also have a Father’s Day Whiskey Tasting  on Saturday, June 18th.  Show Dad your love with a day of Top Shelf Whiskey Tasting. This Fathers Day tasting we are pulling out everyone’s favorites! The Irishman Single Malt, Tullamore Dew 12 yr Select, Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, Red Breast 12 yr Cask Strength Irish Whiskey and Powers Johns Lane Single Pot Still. Nothing but the best for Dad. June 18th 3PM in our upstairs formal tasting room. Complimentary cigar for each attendee. $10% off all purchases. Reservation required.

 

The Kerry Cap from Mucros Weavers at The Celtic Ranch

The Kerry Cap from Mucros Weavers at The Celtic Ranch

-A Hat

Fathers wear many hats. Nurse, dishwasher, coach, chauffeur, storyteller, Tooth Fairy, chef, monster hunter, boo boo kisser, etc. Why not give Dad a hat worthy of his weary head? We have some of the finest, handmade, Irish hats and we’re not shy about it. We have an entire wall of them in fact. Think of a hat like a crown for your Pop’s head. This will totally make up for that time you made fun of his bald spot. You know that he had a luscious head of hair and fewer grey hairs before you came along, right?

 

 

The Kiltman Kilts Pub Kilt from the Celtic Ranch

The Kiltman Kilts Pub Kilt from the Celtic Ranch

-A Kiltman Pub Kilt 

Buy Dad a Kiltman Kilts Pubkilt for Father’s Day and you’ll have the coolest Dad around.

We know, he’s already the bee’s knees, but now his knees can be liberated while he enjoys nature’s air conditioning. Let’s face it, the alternative is Dad in his tighty whities, ala Walter White. While that might entertain your friends and neighbors, sometimes Dad needs to leave the sanctity of his home to do things and pants just won’t do. Plus, the Pubkilt has deep pockets for Dad’s enormous keychain, a ham sandwich, his flip phone and his overstuffed wallet. You can always buy him additional pockets if he’s prone to carrying around a hammer or a transistor radio.

 

So, come see us and take care of you and your Dad. Or, give Dad yet another macaroni collage. …you know, those were really cute when you were 7.

 

 


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Celtic Languages

Celtic Languages are seeing a revival among people of Celtic descent around the globe in an effort to reclaim and retain an identity and culture that was once outlawed by the English crown.

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”  -Marcus Garvey

The Celtic languages, or languages of Celtic origin are Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Cornish and Manx, all of which descend from Common Celtic which was spoken by the ancient Celts in Ireland and Britain. All of these versions of Gaelic are considered endangered by UNESCO with the exception of Welsh, which is still commonly spoken throughout Wales.

Ogham Stones / Clocha Oghaim by Isabel Bennett via goKerry.ie

According To Wikipedia: “The history of the Irish language begins with the arrival of an ancestral Celtic language in Ireland. It is highly unlikely that the Mesolithic language of the first settlers (hunters and gatherers) or the Neolithic language of the first farmers was related to Irish. Given that there is no archaeological evidence for a “Celtic invasion,” it would initially have been an introduced language of prestige, belonging to important social domains associated with hillforts, a warrior elite and Iron Age ritual centres. There is also evidence for Celtic tribal names in Ireland in this period. From these domains the language spread, just as English was to do later.[2]

The date of introduction continues to be debated by linguists and archaeologists. Some scholars put the earliest date at ca. 1200 BC,[3] while others posit dates between 2600 and 2000 BC.[4] 

The earliest written form of the Irish language is known to linguists as Primitive Irish.[5] Primitive Irish is known only from fragments, mostly personal names,[6] inscribed on stone in the Ogham alphabet. The earliest of such inscriptions probably date from the 3rd or 4th century.[1] Ogham inscriptions are found primarily in the south of Ireland as well as in Wales and Cornwall, where it was brought by settlers from Ireland to sub-Roman Britain,[7] and in the Isle of Man.”

And According to  The Guardian “Gaelic was introduced to Scotland from Ireland in the 5th century and remained the main language in most rural areas until the early 17th century. It was outlawed by the crown in 1616, and suppressed further after the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Less than 100 years ago children were beaten into speaking English at school.”

The term “Gaelic Revival” is used to describe a period in the 19th century when Gaelic sports, culture and language were given renewed interest in Ireland. But although the movement tried to reestablish all things Gaelic in daily Irish life, Most Irish people had begun to associate Gaelic with poverty and Irish Gaelic was mainly only spoken in rural Irish homes and was forbidden in schools.

The Easter Rising and and the subsequent Constitution of the Irish Free State declared Irish the official language of Ireland and all Irish children are required to learn Irish Gaelic through both their primary and secondary education. It is estimated that somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 Irish speak Gaelic as their native language and the regions

Irish road signs with Irish first, of course.

Irish road signs with Irish first, of course.

where Irish is spoken as a first language are called the Gaeltacht.

Throughout the Republic if Ireland today, you will find most signs written in Irish first and in airports, tour buses and museums you will always hear Irish Gaelic spoken first.

For those of us who can’t immerse ourselves in a Gaelic speaking community to teach ourselves Irish, we have to settle for learning Gaelic Irish through apps like Duolingo, or find classes in our communities. For those of us in the Kansas City area, we are fortunate to have the resources of The Kansas City Irish Center who offers classes in Irish.

The Celtic languages are a fundamental component to retaining and understanding one’s Celtic origins and culture. Most of us will probably never become truly fluent in Gaelic, but it might not be a bad idea to learn a bit more Gaelic than “Eirinn go Brach” and “slainte!”

 

 

 


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Summer Food In Ireland

When you think of Irish Food, do hearty dishes like mutton stew, shepherd’s pie and coddle come to mind? While most of us love these Irish classics, they are not fit for a hot summer day in America, or even a warm, rainy day in Ireland. So what do the Irish eat in the summer months? Summer food in Ireland isn’t all meat and potatoes, although you’re still likely to see both on an Irish table.

Summer food in Ireland tends to be on the lighter side, with fresh ingredients like salmon, trout, berries, mussels, crab and summer greens, along with staples like lamb, beef, and berries-1225101_960_720chicken. Additionally, Ireland has all the same global influences as America, so modern Irish food tends to have exotic notes of far away lands, such as Greece, India, Spain, North Africa, Southeast Asia, Mexico and even The United States. So, it’s not surprising that you might find lamb kabobs, beef burritos, or even hot wings at an Irish picnic.

Some of the more traditional Irish summer food that you might find are simple, delicious and wholesome dishes like steamed mussels, smoked salmon, Irish potato salad, assorted Irish cheeses, grilled or roast lamb and of course, or a simple sandwich and a bag of crisps.

Here’s the perfect traditional Irish Potato Salad Recipe courtesy of Irish Central

The Perfect Irish Potato Salad Recipe from Irish Central

The Perfect Irish Potato Salad Recipe from Irish Central

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Serves 5 / 6 people (as a side)

Ingredients

500g/1 lb small new potatoes

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Salt and a little freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives to garnish

Method

– Put the potatoes on the boil for 20 to 25 minutes. Until they fall off the knife when you stab them

– Strain them and cut them into bite-sized pieces if needed. Pour into bowl

– Add butter and stir until melted

– Add mayo, and salt and pepper and stir until potatoes are coated

– Garnish with chives

– Clean off the side of the bowl and add a spoon to serve

Enjoy!

 


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Irish Road Bowling

Have you heard of Irish Road Bowling? Irish Road Bowling is a sport played, quite literally in the middle of the road. According to Wikipedia:

Road bowling (Irish: Ból an bhóthair) (also bullets or long bullets in Armagh) is an Irish sport in which competitors attempt to take the fewest throws to propel a metal ball along a predetermined course of country roads.[1] The sport originated in Ireland and is mainly played in Counties Armagh and Cork.

Spectators often bet on the outcome and proffer advice to their favoured competitor in the course of a match or “score”. Road bowling in Ireland is governed by the voluntary Irish Road Bowling Association (Irish: Ból Chumann na hÉireann). The 2016 All-Ireland Series will take place in Madden, County Armagh

Irish Road Bowling. Image courtesy of The Telegraph UK

Irish Road Bowling. Image courtesy of The Telegraph UK

The rules of the sport are surprisingly simple and delightfully Irish.

-The game is played with an iron and steel cannonball, three inches in diameter, called a bowl or a bullet on a predetermined course, which is usually a country lane, which may or may not be paved, and can be curvy or straight, flat or hilly of more than a mile length.

-Competitors can be individuals or teams, but will most likely have a “road shower” giving advice and another person down the road to give the bowler something (I told you it’s delightfully Irish) to aim at.

-The player who bowls or throws the ball is called the thrower and while there are two styles of throwing, Cork style and Armagh style, both are versions of an underhand, cricket style throw. The thrower runs up to his mark and throws the bullet before stepping over the mark.

-A chalk dish called a butt, is placed wherever the bullet lands on the road to mark where the next shot will be bowled from.

-On intersections, curves and corners, the bullet may be thrown overhand or lofted, but must land on the road. If the bullet lands off-road, then it counts as one shot and the shot is taken again from the same spot.

-The bowler or team with the fewest shots taken wins, but if both bowlers reach the end line with the same amount of shots, the one who’s bullet travelled the farthest past the finish line wins.

Sounds simple enough, right? It’s also so much fun to watch.

So if you find Irish Road Bowling to be a fascinating sport (how could you not) and would like more information, I will refer you to The Irish Road Bowling Association. If you are in the Kansas City area, you can contact the Kansas Ancient Order of Hibernians for more info. They had a tournament in April, but perhaps if we pester them enough, they will let us have another soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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