GaelicUSA / Urras Gàidhlig nan Stàitean Aonaichte achieved a lot in 2016 to establish ourselves as a charitable organization. One of our accomplishments was the creation of a visual “brand” that represents us and our mission.
You might have noticed the Gaelic slogan on our logo, which features the first leaves emerging out of an acorn: Buan mar an darach. This can be translated as “Enduring like the oak.” This is a common Gaelic expression that is used of long-lasting people and kin-groups and closely related to the clan lore of plant badges (suaicheantas in the original Gaelic form).
Each clan group identified itself not by a tartan (a concept that only took hold in the post-clan period, about the mid-1800s), but rather by the leaf of a tree or plant from their local environment. There a long list of these, which no doubt varied over time and space:
Clann Domhnaill (MacDonalds) = Heather
Caimbeulaich (Campbells) = Bog Myrtle
Clann Ghriogair (MacGregors) = Scots Pine
Camshronaich (Camerons) = Oak
The oak has an ancient lineage in Gaelic tradition and mythology as a revered tree, no doubt because of its size, age, shape and tendency to be the last deciduous tree in the Gaelic zone to lose its leaves. Many of the early Christian sites in Scotland and Ireland were founded near or even on top of the site of sacred trees. Hence “Derry” (from Gaelic doire “oak grove”) as the name, or in the name, of many church sites. The tree is arguably the most enduring and powerful symbol in Gaelic tradition, having endured from Christian times to the present day.
Although the oak has the ability to live a long and healthy life, and enrich its eco-system in the process, it still needs some basic elements to survive, especially soil, sunlight and water. Gaelic tradition and cosmology often employs tree and forest symbolism and analogies to make assertions about the healthy operation of human clan society.
Likewise, we – GaelicUSA – cannot survive and thrive without soil (a human community in which to be planted) and nutrients: your direct support. We, in turn, are focusing our energies for the larger purpose of fostering the growth of the Gaelic language and culture for all those hearts and minds who want to plant it, nurture it, and let it thrive as part of the cultural diversity of our larger world.
We will soon be inviting you to join our efforts in an exciting opportunity to enable Gaelic to take root in soil that has not previously offered it sustenance: American academia. Keep shining a light on our garden.
PS. It is interesting to note that the term “slogan” is actually a borrowing from the Gaelic sluagh-ghairm “shout for hosting” into English. It owes its entry into widespread usage in English to the imaginative literature of the Lowland author Walter Scott, who popularized many words of Gaelic origin.