Category Archives: Christian Folk Practices

Spirits and Entities, spirituality of Alcohol

Spirits and Entities of Alcohol
by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Productions

It always amazes me how the world really doesn’t understand the “root” of all things, nor pay attention to the “history” of various items or substances that they use occasionally or daily in life. I strongly believe it is very important to know the “root” and “makeup” of anything one puts in their bodies. Regardless of whether one is religious, spiritual, or scientific – the role of religion and spirituality in all aspects of life has some intriguing elements that should not be ignored. The proverb “You are what you eat”; has a lot of elements of truth in that saying because what you put in your body affects it chemically, physically, mentally, emotionally, and yes, spiritually. I won’t debate between science and religion in this article and for those readers that are atheist and don’t believe in spirituality – while reading this – simply ignore the spiritual overtones of this article and focus on the chemical aspect of what is being put in your body and understanding the elements you allow into your temple. For those readers that are avid drinkers – think about the drink you are putting in your body and go for higher quality substances as one really should consider changing to “organic” and “triple distilled” spirits instead, and for the spiritual user – know the entity or “spirit” you are inviting into your being.

This is not a negative article on drugs, substances, or alcohol, but rather a spiritual understanding of why we use them, the benefits and the dangers associated with them. Alcohol use needs to be practiced responsibly, for abusing it can lead to serious consequences. There really is more to “being under the influence” than you can rationally understand. Historically and spiritually, in all world cultures and religions, in folklore and mythology, every substance, every herb, every mineral, and every plant has a “spirit” or “entity” or “deity” assigned or associated with it. Drugs – Alcohol, barbiturates, hallucinogens, chemicals, or what-not are made of compositions of plants, herbs, minerals, and living matter. Drugs are medicines as well as poisons, with positive and negative effects on a living host that ingest them. Side effects from these drugs create various moods, effects on the body, mind, spirit, and persona. Many of these effects are utilized for spiritual visions, trances, omens, oracles, prophecies, messages, or communication with the beyond in the realms of religion. When abused, they often consume the body and the soul and will create a degradation of a being. Regardless of the substance : alcohol, marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, mDMA, barbiturates, etc. – Each substance has its own entity or spirit that culture attributes certain persona and effects to. It is pretty important to understand what entities you are dealing with, and how to gain advantage from a temporary relationship with them, and how to avoid them taking advantage of you.

For this article, I’m focusing on “spirits” or “alcohol”, as it is the most common grouping of entities that the mass population deals with. Why is “Alcohol” given the name “spirits” in the annals of history? The words “alembic” and “alcohol” are metaphors for “aqua vitae” (Life Water) and “Spirit”, often refer to a distilled liquid that came from magical explorations in Middle Eastern alchemy. “Alcohol” comes from the Arabic “al-kuhl” or “al-ku??l”, which means “Body Eating Spirit”, and gives the root origin to the English term for “ghoul”. In Middle Eastern Folklore, a “ghoul” is a “evil demon thought to eat human bodies”, either as stolen corpses or as children.

Since the root of the name “alcohol” is related to the concept of “body eating spirit”, this is also one of the early roots to traditional taboos on imbibing alcohol in the beginnings of Islam and similar prohibition faiths. In Islam, consumption of any alcohol is punishable with 80 lashes. To many “Pagan” or “Heathen” faiths, the imbibing of spirits and the temporary relationship with these entities gives definition to the “aqua vita” beliefs or “life water” or “connection / communication with spirits” that can be quite beneficial. In fact, faiths that had its roots in Paganism, such as Christianity and Islam, have carried over beneficial beliefs about the consumption or imbibation of alcohol.


As Middle Eastern alchemists ingested alcohol they reported that their senses deadened and this is why they saw the elixirs produced as possessing “body taking” qualities. This is where the Europeans are believed to have derived the use of “spirits” for “alcohol”. What is ingested affects a living body spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Some believe it will affect the soul as well and that it is all about relationships. Some faiths and cultures have credible valid positive reasons to abstain from drugs and alcohol, while others have equal reasons to promote them. Many cultures see drugs and alcohol as negative, but if one looks into the history of these elementals, there exists many positive elements in their usage, especially when balanced with spirituality and religion. Many cultures and faiths traditionally ingest something in order to commune with the Divine, God/desses, and/or spirits. Whether the wine and bread of Catholic Mass, or the trance induction of peyote with South American Shamans, the use of these substances have a honored tradition throughout history. Shamanic use of trance-inducing drugs are not considered destructive, but rather gifts of the Gods that allow the body and spirit to commune with higher planes of existence. Peyote, ayahuasca, salvia divinorum, absinthe, psilocybin, and other substances are assigned to induce spirit communication, clairvoyance, and the ability to heal. Most forms of Christianity consume alcohol as part of everyday life and nearly always use “wine” (fermented grape juice) in their central rite with the Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper”. The beliefs surrounding this practice state that Christian Tradition and/or the Bible teaches that “alcohol” is a “gift from God that makes life more joyous, but that overindulgence leading to drunkenness is a sin”. The key of Christianity is “moderation”. 19th century Protestants attempted to move from this earlier position of thought and pursuing “abstention” or “prohibition” of alcohol believing its use to be a “sin” even to the extreme of a sip (i.e. Mormonism). The Bible repeatedly refers to alcohol in use and poetic expression, and while mainly ambivalent to it, still states them to be both a “blessing from God that brings merriment” and a “potential danger that can be unwisely and sinfully abused”. “Wine” is often portrayed in daily life as a symbol of abundance and physical blessing, and negatively as a “mocker” with beer being a “brawler”, and drinking a cup of strong wine to the dregs and getting drunk can be presented as a symbol of God’s judgement and wrath. As puritans often spoke in their sermons that “Drink is in itself a good creature of God, and to be received with thankfulness, but the abuse of drink is from Satan; the wine is from God, but the drunkard is from the Devil”. Bible warns that alcohol can hinder moral discretion, and that alcohol can be corrupting of the body and a substance that will impair judgement and distract one from God’s will of life.

While the Ancient Egyptians promoted beer and wine, they did warn of taverns and excessive drinking. However the Greek Dionysus cult promoted intoxication as a means to get closer to their Deity. Macedonians viewed intemperance as a sign for masculinity and were well known for their drunkenness. Alexander the Great was a proponent to the Cult of Dionysus and known for his inebriation. Ancient and Modern Roman celebrations on March 15th of Anna Parenna celebrates the Goddess of the Returning Year by crossing the Tiber River and “go abroad” into Etruria and picnic in flimsy huts made of branches, drink as much alcohol as they could, as it was thought that one would live for as many years as cups of alcohol one could drink on this date. Once finished they would return to their homes in Rome. Most Pagan religions encourage alcohol use and some pursue intoxication promoted as a means of fostering fertility. To Pagan faiths it is believed to increase sexual desire and to make it easier to approach another person for sex. Norse paganism considered alcohol to be the sap of Yggdrasil and drunkenness as an important fertility rite in this religion. Alcohol was also used for medicinal purposes in biblical times as an oral anesthetic, topical cleanser, soother, and digestive aid. Problems associated with industrialization and rapid urbanization were also attributed and blamed on alcohol including urban crime, poverty, high infant mortalities, though its likely that gross overcrowding and unemployment was the actual root cause. The modern world then started blaming personal, social, religious, and moral problems on alcohol. This led to modern movements of prohibitionism. A typical Buddhist view on Alcohol use is as a shortcut for the pursuit of happiness as it produces a short term euphoria or happiness and this is the reason millions of people drink it repeatedly every day. Buddha teaches alcohol as well as all drugs, lead to mis judgement, blocks rational thinking, and therefore preached against amongst its disciples even though in some Buddhist disciplines it is used as offerings to Deity and spirits. Islam, Jainism, the Bahai’ Faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, Scientist, the United Pentecostal Church International, Theravada, most Mahayana schools of Buddhism, some Protestant denominations of Christianity, and some sects of Hinduism – forbid, discourage, or restrict the drinking of alcoholic beverages for various reasons.

Science tells us alcohol releases dopamine into the brain, stimulating the pleasure sensation. There are a lot of “expectations” with alcohol, and many of these will still operate in the absence of actual consumption of alcohol, when the individual believes they are consuming alcohol. Research in North America shows that men tend to become more sexually aroused when they think they have been drinking alcohol, even when they have not been drinking it. Women report feeling more sexually aroused when they falsely believe the beverages they have been drinking contained alcohol. Men have show to become more aggressive in laboratory studies when they are drinking only tonic water but believe it contains alcohol, they also become less aggressive when they believe they are drinking only tonic water, but are actually drinking tonic water that contains alcohol.

In Magical Views, the use of alcohol, especially in ritual and rite, is a very powerful vehicle for altering states of consciousness, communicating with spirits, Deities, Ancestors, and entities. It aids in relaxation for ritual. It frees the mind of responsibility and control, and is a great aid to those very logical individuals that have to be “in control”. However it can be detrimental to those who have a lot of natural psychic or medium-ship abilities that have been raised in families or cultures that demonized or invalidated these gifts. As alcohol and drugs impair the left brain first (logical) and enhances right brain activity (where spirit communication and psychic abilities reside), thereby increasing psychic or mystical experiences while under the influence. The affects are dependent on the individual and their type, as it can be dangerous with some people – those susceptible to possession and toying by spirits, excessive drinking is similar to “throwing open the saloon door and calling out to a crowd of alcoholics – ‘Bar is open, drinks are on (in) me’”, which will attract lower astral entities to enter the body and soul to experience the alcohol vicariously through the person. It is easier for spirits to influence one when they are intoxicated, some of which are very “low life” or “demonic” entities. (Many are good and powerful, including Deities like Dionysus, Maeve, etc. but usually associate with the particular elixir being imbibed) Mixing of “Spirits” can be dangerous and very toxic on the body and spirit, as the doorway to the soul can be an orgy of spirits that the person cannot handle, often leading to alcohol poisoning, sickness, illness, and/or death.

Historical: Ancient China had wine jars in Jiahu dating to 7,000 B.C.E. and considered a spiritual food rather than a material food with high importance in religious life. Neolithic wine making was found to date from 5400-5000 B.C.E. as archaeologists uncovered a yellowish residue at Hajji Firuz Tepe in a jar that analysis determined came from wine making. Early brewing dates in Egypt showing alcohol was presided over by the God Osiris. Chalcolithic Era Indus Valley civilizations in India date from 3000-2000 B.C.E. with Hindu Ayurvedic texts describing beneficent uses. Babylonians in 2700 B.C.E. worshiped a wine Goddess and other wine deities. Xenophon (431-351 BCE) and Plato (429-347 BCE) praised moderate use of wine as beneficial to health and happiness, but were critical of drunkenness. Hippocrates (460-370 BCE) praised it for its medicinal properties (wine). Some Native American peoples developed an alcoholic beverage called Pulque or Octli as early as 200 C.E. that was used for visions, religion, and prophecy. The first distillations of spirits came from the Medieval Period, with the School of Salerno in 12th century, and fractional distillation developed by Tadeo Alderotti in 13th century. Distillation of whiskey first performed in Scotland and Ireland for centuries, and the first written confirmation of whiskey comes from Ireland in 1405, Scotland in 1494.

Alcoholic beverages are drinks that contain “ethanol” (a.k.a. “alcohol”). They are divided into three classes: beers, wines, and spirits. “Spirits” often related to distilled beverages low in sugars and containing a minimum of 35% alcohol by volume. These are often referred to as Gin, Vodka, and Rum. Alcohol is legally consumed in most countries, though regulated by over 100 countries in terms of production, sale, and consumption. In most countries and religions, alcohol plays a major role in social events, rituals, and traditional celebrations. Alcohol is a psychoactive drug with a depressant effect that reduces attention and slows reaction speeds. It can be addictive and those addicted are considered to be under the sickness called “alcoholism”. Science shows that alcohol is beneficial in moderate amounts, especially a glass of wine drunk daily as it aids in digestion. If food is eaten before alcohol consumption, it reduces alcohol absorption, and the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the blood is increased. The mechanism for the faster alcohol elimination appears to be related to types of food especially those with alcohol-metabolizing enzymes and liver blood flow. Consumption of alcoholic drinks during Medieval times was a method used to avoid water-borne diseases such as cholera as alcohol kills bacteria.

Beer:
is the world’s oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, and the third most popular drink after water and tea. It is produced by brewing and fermenting starches derived from cereal grains – most commonly by means of malted barley, though sometimes with wheat, maize, or rice. There are two main types of beer: Lager and Ale. Ale is classified into varieties such as pale ale, stout, and brown ale. Most beer is flavored with hops adding bitterness and as a natural preservative. Beer is usually 4-6% alcohol by volume, but can be less than 1% or more than 20%. It is a stipend of the drinking culture of most nations, and has social traditions such as beer festivals, pub culture, pub crawls, and pub games. The Christian Bible refers to beer as a brawler. Medieval monks were allotted about five liters of beer per day – allowed to drink beer but not wine during fasts. Many Saints and Deities were associated with Beer, such as: St. Adrian, the patron saint of Beer; St. Amand, patron saint of brewers, barkeepers, and wine merchants; and The Ancient Egyptians believed Osiris gave their people “Beer” as he invented it and it was a necessity of life, brewed in the home on an daily basis. In Ancient Egypt, Cellars and wine presses often had a God who was associated with each of the 17 types of beer they created. These were used for pleasure, nutrition, medicine, ritual, remuneration, and funerary purposes. Babylonians often offered beer and wine to their Deities as offerings.

Wine: Alcoholic beverages distilled after fermentation of non-cereal sources like grapes, fruits, or honey. It involves a longer complete fermentation process and a long aging process (months or years) that create an alcohol content of 9-16% by volume. Sparkling wines are made by adding a small amount of sugar before bottling, creating a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The Bible refers to wine as a symbol of abundance and physical blessing, bringer and concomitant of joy, especially with nourishment and feasting; as well negatively as a mocker. It is commonly drunk with meals, as the Old Testament prescribed it for use in sacrificial rituals and festal celebrations. Jesus’ first miracle was making copious amounts of wine at the wedding feast of Cana where he instituted the ritual of the Eucharist at the Last Supper during a Passover celebration that “wine” is a “new covenant in his blood”. Under the rule of Rome, the average adult male who was a citizen drank an estimated liter (1/4 of a gallon) of wine a day. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican monk and the “Doctor Angelicus” of the Catholic Church said that moderation in wine is sufficient for salvation but that for certain persons perfection requires abstinence and this was dependent upon their circumstance. Wine has been associated or assigned to various Saints, Deities, and Spirits such as St. Amand, patron saint of brewers, barkeepers, and wine merchants; St. Martin, the so-called patron saint of wine; St. Vincent, and patron saint of vintners. In Ancient Egypt, Cellars and wine presses often had a God who was associated with each of the 24 varieties of wine they created. These were used for pleasure, nutrition, medicine, ritual, remuneration, and funerary purposes. Babylonians in 2700 B.C.E. worshiped a wine Goddess and other wine deities. Babylonians often offered beer and wine to their Deities as offerings. In Greece the art of wine making reached the Hellenic peninsula by 2,000 B.C.E. – the first of which was Mead, and by 1700 BCE wine making was commonplace and incorporated into religious rituals. Balche’, a Mayan Honey wine, was associated with the Mayan deity Acan.

Spirits: Unsweetened, Distilled alcoholic beverages that have an alcohol content of at least 20% ABCV are called spirits. These are produced by the distillation of a fermented base product, which concentrates the alcohol, and eliminates some of the congeners. These can be added to wine to create fortified wines such as ports and sherries.
These are often Vodka, Rum, Gin, Whiskey, Whisky, Tequila, and other spirits.

Some commonly believed changes in personality with ‘types’ of alcohol:

  • Beer: Boldness, Braveness, Becoming Boisterous, Loud, Obnoxious, Lush behavior, Know-it-all attitudes, and Dumb-ness.
  • Wine: Romantic connotations, sexuality, relaxation, restfulness, tranquility, lush-ness.
  • Vodka: Bravery, Boldness, Invincibility, Strength, Attitude, Security.
  • Tequila: Boldness, wildness, sexuality, aggression, and lush behavior.
  • Absinthe: Creativity, Inspiration, Desire to do Art, Write, or Music; imaginative thought. Rumored to be psychedelic and produce hallucinations. Inspires oracles, omens, and prophetic thought.
  • Rum: Wildness, craziness, boldness, and lust.
  • Gin: Intellectual thought, healing, lethargy, and dumb-ness.
  • Whiskey: Aggression, testiness, boldness, violence, invincibility.
  • Irish Whiskey: Revitalization, Rebirth, Renewal, Invincibility, and Intellectual discussions.

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Gougane Barra

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

Gougane Barra (Gugán Barra)
* Macroom, County Cork, Ireland *
Article by Thomas Baurley, Archaeologist – Technogypsie Productions www.technogypsie.com © 2013 – all rights reserved.

Gougane Barra is a enlightening niche of history nestled in the woods within a lake along Ireland’s southwestern countryside. Gougane Barra means “The Rock of Barra.” Barra refers to Saint Finbarr, the patron Saint of Cork. My first visit was at night which was magically radiant. I look forward to the opportunity to visit the site during the day. This is the home of the hallowed shrine of Saint Finbarr and his oratory. The church resides on a small island in the lake. Next to the church are the historic ruins of St. Finbarr’s monastery and contains ancient prayer cells with remarkably ancient stations of the cross. The original monastery dates to the 6th century C.E. (common era) The original monastery can no longer be found. Behind the chapel are ruins that some purport to be the original monastery, but they were built in the 17th century. They consist of four stone walls surrounding a large wooden cross dotted with a series of prayer cells within which have crosses inscribed. These cells were built in 1700 by Reverend Denis O’Mahony who retired here dedicated to God. During Cromwell’s torment of Ireland, the possession of this land fell out of the O’Leary families hands and fell into ruin. It then passed to the Townsend family and used for farmland. This is the location by Christian myth that Saint Finbarr came to and communed with God, seeing the surrounding mountains as his personal cloister, and the lake mirroring God’s grandeur. It is here he built stone cells to commemorate his hermitage and commune with Deity. It has ever since been a backdrop for art, painting, photography, poetry, and spirituality. From here Saint Finbarr traveled along the Lee River to become the first Bishop and founder of Cork and its church. Saint Finbarr passed away at Cloyne in 633 C.E. His feast day is celebrated in his honor on September 25th. On site is also a Holy Well and Wishing Tree.

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

The church (also called the oratory) is of modern construct and design with infamous stained glass windows. Here pilgrims visit frequently, especially on September 25th, the feast day of Saint Finbarr. During Ireland’s Penal history, pilgrims came to Gougane Barra for Mass and is why there are numerous mass rounds in the area.
When we eloped in South Carolina we had plans of coming back to this church to get married at officially for our family and friends as it was always a dream wedding location for my wife. Alas though, an unexpected wee one changed our plans for that. It is however one of the most famous locations in Cork County to get married at

The Gougane Barra Lake formed in a rock basin that was carved out during the ice age with depths upward of 12 meters. The surrounding hills are made of old red sandstone. The park today is approximately 142 hectares in size. It was virtually without trees until 1938 when it was re-forested with Sitka Spruce, Lodgepole Pine, and Japanese Larch. The area now stands forested. The forested and bog areas are abundant with purple moor grass, bog mosses, cotton grasses, sedges, rushes, fox’s cabbage, butterworths, lichens, and sundews. The area is home to the otter, badgers, brown rat, fox, rabbit, field mice, pigmy shrew, pine marten, coal tit, wren, robins, wood pigeons, blackbirds, chiffchaff, willow warbler, pied wagtail, gray wagtail, dock dove, cuckoo, thrush, starlings, red buntings, cormorants, herons, moorhens, and swan.

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

Alot of legends surround Saint Finbarr, Gougane Barra, and its lake. It was here in the lake that Saint Finbarr chased off Lú, Gougane Barra Dragon. A dragon or a sea monster like Nessie, the legends vary in their descriptions. The creature’s expulsion is believed to be the source of the large channel that is now the River Lee flowing west to the sea at Cork City. A little sea monster is memorialized in the hedge along the isle’s road. Saint Finbarr was also believed to have been led by an angel from the source of the river Lee at his monastic site to its marshy mouth where he built a monastery “out of which grew the Sea and the City of Cork”. By placing the monastery here it made the River Lee to be the symbol of Cork City and Cork County. Legends tell of him going to Rome on a Pilgrimage and upon his return met Saint David who lent him a horse that miraculously helped him cross the channel. He was aided by Saint Brendan who signaled him in navigation during his voyage east. Some say Pope Gregory was going to make Saint Finbarr pope but didn’t because he was deterred by a vision. When Finbarr returned to Ireland, God created a miraculous flow of oil from the ground, sending him up into heaven and consecrating him as a Bishop. It was also told that he was visited by Saint Laserian and two monks who sat with him under a hazel talking about religion. They asked him for a sign that God was with him, in reply of which, Saint Finbarr prayed and the spring catkins on the bush above them fell off, grew into nuts, ripened, and poured them into their laps. The day he died and his body was moved to Cloyne, the sun failed to shine for a fortnight.

The fairy tale of Morty Sullivan and the Black Steed takes place near here where he was thrown off a cliff by a Pooka. Some believe because of legends such as these, inspire other drunken pilgrims to come t the site in the dark leading to disruption, vandalism, injury, and death. According to Thomas Crofton Croker in his book “Fairy legends and traditions of the south of Ireland” that “in deed this fact was so notorious that the Catholic clergy in the south of Ireland publicly forbade the customary pilgrimage on the 24th of June to the Lake of Gougane Barra as it presented an annual scene of drunkenness, riot, and debauchery too shocking for description.

How to get here: Located 5 kilometers west of Ballingeary on the R584 roadway to Bantry just at the Pass of Keimaneigh. Follow posted signs.

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Tobar Eoin Óg: St. John’s Well, Carrigaline – County Cork, Ireland

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St. John’s Well, County Cork, Ireland

Tobar Eoin Óg: St. John’s Well (Formerly St. Renogue’s Well)
Carrigaline, Co. Cork, Ireland
Official article: http://www.naiads.org/well/?p=377, archive article: http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=14325
Written by Thomas Baurley, Archaeologist – Technogypsie Research (c) 2013; http://www.technogypsie.com

Nestled into the woods between housing estates is a beehive shaped rock cairn covering a historical holy well that today is known as “St. John’s Well” or “Toberabbog”. Since Cork County has a few “St. John’s” Wells, it should be annotated as “St. John’s Well Carrigaline”. It is also called “Tobar Eoin Óg” or “St. Renogue’s” Well, an earlier dedication before St. John took over the well’s magic. The 1840 Ordinance Survey Map records the map as Saint Rinoge’s or Renogue’s Well. It is located to the northwest of Carrigaline, along a residential road and two-track between Ballinrea Road and Ballea Road (R613) and is surrounded by the Dun Eoin residential estates. Even though the well is watched over by parishioners and the local parish, many kids and trouble-makers vandalize and hang out at the site doing controversial activities.

The well is encased and protected by a bee-hive shaped stone structure that resembles a cairn with a small hole from which the water flows. Atop the cairn is a cross in disrepair with scratch etchings of crosses by pilgrims inscribed on the exterior walls. This mineral spring is for the healing of eyes and debilities. Next to the well is a large tree that is surrounded by a low circular wall upon which is a stone plaque that tells a short history of the site. Around the site are a number of benches and steps made of railroad ties. Opposite the well is a small stone altar upon which the name of the well is carved. According to local legend, the well was discovered by a blind man who upon visiting the well, had his sight restored. He was so ecstatic about this miracle, he built the corbelled stone beehive over the well to protect and honor it.

Christian/Catholic observations today at the well are celebrated here on St. John’s Eve which falls on the 23rd of June every year. This is the feast day of Saint John the Baptist. While earlier and older Pagan rites may have been held here celebrating the Summer solstice in similar practices, this well does not appear to be revered by Pagans much anymore. The Christian celebrations have been in practice since the early 19th century C.E. (common era) and consists of a gathering at the well that number in the hundreds of locals coming together to conduct prayers, hymns, and rites at this particular site. St. John’s Eve is derived of both Pagan and Celtic customs mixed with Catholic devotionals to the saints. Originally began by lighting a bonfire with attendees going to sites where Saint John is venerated. In modern day practice, the devotions at this well is organized by a small group of parishioners and Catholic parish clergy. The priest brings in the rosary and circles the well while someone scratch inscribes the cross on the stones of the beehive cairn with each mark representing a decade of the rosary. While the focus is on the clergy, a number of people individually circle the well as well and mark the crosses while praying. The Eucharist is then displayed and venerated during which the Parish choir and the Carrigaline Pipe Band accompany with music. A formal service is performed after which participants go to the well to drink of the waters, bless themselves, and collect some water to take with them for healing activities at home for themselves and loved ones. Some gather water from the flow out of the well while others will crawl on their hands and knees going into the well to get their water. To many, it is very essential to collect the water and touch it at is exact point of its source where it is the purest. To embrace the magic of the waters, it is custom for the pilgrims to say a decade of the rosary at each of the inscribed crosses found in the walls of the well stones for the miracles to be delivered.

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St. John’s Well, County Cork, Ireland

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St. John’s Well, County Cork, Ireland

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Pilgrim cross scratches / etchings

Catholic pilgrims to sacred monastic sites usually involving rounds, turas, or stations in southern Ireland have incorporated a practice of scratching / etching celtic and long-bodied crosses into stones at sacred positions on the sites. These are done with pebbles or small scratching stones. Good examples of this practice can be found at Tobar Eoin Óg: St. John’s Well, Carrigaline – County Cork, Ireland and Tobar Ghobnatan cross etchings.

Christian/Catholic observations today at the St. John’s well in Carrigaline are celebrated here on St. John’s Eve which falls on the 23rd of June every year. This is the feast day of Saint John the Baptist. While earlier and older Pagan rites may have been held here celebrating the Summer solstice in similar practices, this well does not appear to be revered by Pagans much anymore. The Christian celebrations have been in practice since the early 19th century C.E. (common era) and consists of a gathering at the well that number in the hundreds of locals coming together to conduct prayers, hymns, and rites at this particular site. St. John’s Eve is derived of both Pagan and Celtic customs mixed with Catholic devotionals to the saints. Originally began by lighting a bonfire with attendees going to sites where Saint John is venerated. In modern day practice, the devotions at this well is organized by a small group of parishioners and Catholic parish clergy. The priest brings in the rosary and circles the well while someone scratch inscribes the cross on the stones of the beehive cairn with each mark representing a decade of the rosary. While the focus is on the clergy, a number of people individually circle the well as well and mark the crosses while praying. The Eucharist is then displayed and venerated during which the Parish choir and the Carrigaline Pipe Band accompany with music. A formal service is performed after which participants go to the well to drink of the waters, bless themselves, and collect some water to take with them for healing activities at home for themselves and loved ones. Some gather water from the flow out of the well while others will crawl on their hands and knees going into the well to get their water. To many, it is very essential to collect the water and touch it at is exact point of its source where it is the purest. To embrace the magic of the waters, it is custom for the pilgrims to say a decade of the rosary at each of the inscribed crosses found in the walls of the well stones for the miracles to be delivered.

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Saint Ghobnatan (St. Gobnata) of Ballyvourney

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Saint Gobnait (ca. 5th – 6th century C.E.)
Other names: Saint Ghobnatan, Mo Gobnat, Abigail, Gobnata, Gobnaid, Ghobhnet, Deborah, and Saint Gobnat.

Counterpart: She is associated with Father St. Abbán moccu Corbmaic who she trained under. Some of his sites, monuments, and shrines have been shared with her or taken over by her. Some claim she is similarly named with the Tuatha de Danann’s Smith, a Faerie or Deity called Goibnui.

Matron/Patron Saint of: Bees, bee keepers, iron workers, Protection, Healing, and the village of Ballyvourney.

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History:
Her name is derived from “Gobba” and ‘Gabha’ which means “Smith”. There is evidence that her monastic site may have been a metalworking site first before its Christian use. Mythology suggests that Goibnui, the Smith of the Tuatha Dé Danann that might be whom St. Gobnait replaced. Due to excavations at her house finding iron working tools and slag, she became associated with the art of metal smithing, iron working, and metal works. In addition to iron, she was associated with bees. She most likely used honey a lot in her healing practices utilizing the health and medicinal properties of it which led people to believe she was in control of bees. She has also been called “Deborah”, the anglicized version of her name that means “Honey Bee”. St. Gobnait, who, it is said, was descended from O’Connor the Great, Monarch of Ireland. Saint Ghobnatan was the matron Saint of the Irish village of Ballyvourney (Baile Bhuirne). She was born in County Clare, Ireland during the 5th (or 6th) century of the Common Era (C.E./A.D.). Folklore suggests that she left Clare when chased by enemies and sought refuge at Inisheer in the Aran Islands. She studied under Saint Enda there and because of this, the Kilgobnet Church on Inis Oirr (Inisheer) is dedicated to her. While primarily seen as the Matron/Patron saint of Ballyvourney, she is held in high tribute and honor throughout southern Ireland as well as Scotland. She was declared a Saint as she was infamous for her ability to heal and for her miraculous protection of Ballyvourney. She was reputed to have passed away from physical body on February 11th, and is thereby celebrated every February 11th as a feast day for her contributions to the world. The year of her death is unknown, but believed to have taken place during the 6th century C.E. Several churches were dedicated to her and tribute can be found in Inis Oírr (Aran Islands), Dún Chaoin in West Kerry, and Waterford. What little is known about her comes from the writings on the life of St. Abbán moccu Corbmaic, her senior companion and Priest which was published in the early 13th century C.E. The dedication to her is not without controversy as writings about Saint Finbarr’s Life suggests that St. Ghobnatan’s church belonged to Finbarr’s foundation in Cork and states it was founded by one of his disciples.

    “Mo Gobnat from Muscraige Mitaine, i.e. a sharp-beaked nun,

    Ernaide is the name of the place in which she is.

    Or Gobnat of Bairnech in Món Mór in the south of Ireland,

    and of the race of Conaire she is; a virgin of Conaire’s race”

    –Note to the Félire Óengusso, tr. Whitley Stokes, p. 73

Lore and Legends:
While she was on the Islands, an angel appeared telling her to keep walking until the day she finds 9 white deer. It was in County Cork, at Clondrohid where she found three deer and followed them. They led her to Ballymakeera where she found 6 white deer. She continued on her path and came across nine white deer grazing in the woods at Ballyvourney. It was there at Ballyvourney that Father Saint Abbán moccu Corbmaic of Kilabban, County Laois installed her as an abbess and given land to create a women’s monastery. It is in the village of Ballyvourney that her church Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) was built. It was told and known locally that one of the reasons Gobnait received Sainthood was that she saved the village of Ballyvourney from being infected by the plague. She did this by drawing a line in the sand with a stick and declared the village to be consecrated grounds’. The Celts saw bees or butterflies as the vessel in which the soul leaves the body. She was skilled at commanding bees and sent them to attack a invading chieftain and his army who was destroying crops and driving off cattle in Ballyvourney. When invaders tried to take Ballyvourney, build forts, or erect shrines without her permission, she would command bees to attack them. One legend tells of soldiers coming to Ballyvourney to steal livestock after which she swarmed them with bees making them run off leaving the livestock behind. Another version tells of a band of robbers stealing cattle after which her bees attacked them, they returned the cattle to her. These tales are believed to have influenced artisan Harry Clarke from creating the stain glass window in the Honan Chapel located at the University College Cork. It was here at Tobar Ghobnatan that the fairy tale of Morty Sullivan and the Black Steed takes place nearby as the location where he sought to atone for his sins at St. Gobnait’s shrine.

Historical/Archaeological Evidence:
Excavation of her monastic site in Ballyvourney during the 1950’s revealed iron slag, a crucible, and metal working tools/artifacts in the discoveries. It was determined her hut was used in the smithing of metal. She gained an attribute of iron working from these results. This led to rumor and lore about her being associated by the similarly named Faerie / Deity Smith for the Tuatha de Danann called Goibnui. This is because of the (a) metal working / smithing / smelting artifacts found at her home, (b) roots in her name, (c) her being a patron saint for iron working, and (d) earlier evidence of the location being a Pagan shrine and/or site. Since there is no other evidence, most likely it is simply a hypothesis or conclusion derived in an internet blog online. The round circular stone hut north of the statue is the “House of St. Gobnait” or the “St. Ghobnatan’s Kitchen”. During construction of the statue, a container that is used with the production of metalworking or glass works was found there along with post holes found during the archaeological excavation of the site. It is believed the hut was a later addition and that the site’s original first use was for iron working. It is also around this time that the well in front of the hut was believed to have been dug (called St. Gobnait’s Well). St. Gobnait’s Holy Well, of which there are two on site, was revered as a site of healing waters and magic from their early beginnings to this very date. She is also associated with the Múscraige where her church and nunnery are located, bordering Múscraige Mittine and Eóganacht Locha Léin.

Monuments:
A huge statue of her resides at Tobar Ghobnatan monastic site that was erected in the 1950’s CE. Here she is depicted wearing a nun’s habit and stands calmly atop a beehive surrounded by bees. The Honan Chapel’s stained glass work of her located at the University College Cork depicts her adorned in blue robes surrounded by bees with two terrified men at her feet.

Relics and Artifacts:

  • The figurine of St. Gobnait – Within the parish church of Ballyvourney is a 13th century relic of a Saint Gobnait figurine made of wood. She is brought out every February 11th during her feast day by the parish priest and brought before the parishioners and pilgrims given the opportunity to approach it with a piece of ribbon. The parishioner or pilgrim holds the ribbon up to the figurine to measure against her length and around her circumference that is then taken home to be used for healing and other prayers required.

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Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Productions and Research Services: Technogypsie.com. © 2013: All rights reserved.

Article on the Church, Shrine, Graveyard, and Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=14339. Article on the Holy Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/chronicles/?p=7591. Article on the Tobar Ghobnatan Wishing Trees, Saint Ghobnatan, and Tobar Ghobnatan cross etchings.

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Tobar Ghobnatan Cross Etchings

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Tobar Ghobnatan Cross Etchings
* Tobar Ghobnatan * Ballyvourney (a.k.a. Baile Bhuirne), County Cork, Ireland *

An interesting custom I came across while visiting the Tobar Ghobnatan monastic site were these scratchings in the rocks of sacred sites of a Celtic Cross. They were done hundreds of times atop each other. Actually, the first time I saw this was at St. John’s Well in County Cork. I thought it was an anomoly, but that changed at Tobar Ghobnatan. Tobar Ghobnatan has an unlimited number of examples of this practice. This practice seems to have Pagan roots, but definitely absorbed by Catholicism in practice within County Cork, especially at the Stations while doing rounds or turas.

Throughout the Stations at Tobar Ghobnatan one can see that modern pilgrims have attended the stations and marked the stones around the shrine with Celtic crosses (equal armed crosses) with a stone by scratching the symbol over and over into the stone as part of their prayers. You first see this at the site when you enter the main entrance to the statue, hut, and well – the two gateway stones are marked by crosses, as are the modern cylinder shaped pillars found within the hut and church. This practice can be see at St. John’s Well outside of Cork, St. Declan’s Well at Ardmore, and many other sites around southern Ireland. The practice can be dated as early as the medieval period continuing to present day. It is unknown of how early the scratching of the cross began. Often small pebbles and rocks are left atop the stones so other pilgrims will continue the repetition and practice, each etching the sign of the cross as they say their prayers at the station shrine.

The etching in stone found at Tobar Ghobnatan are considered to be dedicated to the Matron Saint of Ballyvourney and sacred Bee-Keeping mistress, Saint Ghobnatan holy pilgrimage site and monastic settlement known as “Tobar Ghobnatan”. This is the legendary home of St. Gobnait/Ghobnatan. It is located a kilometer south of the village of Ballyvourney where her church Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) was built.

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Her purported grave can be found in the church yard opposite the hut. This is marked Stations 3 and 4 on the pilgrimage stations/turas map. This is a small artificial prehistoric mound that looks like most other megalithic cists. On its south end is a large stone slab which is the location where many believe her body to rest. Atop this stone pilgrims scratch the cross into the stone slab (Station 3). The slab atop the cist (Station 4) is also covered with scratched crosses. There are said to exist three Bullaun Stones here, the third of which may be in the station 3 stone slab.

How to get here: Drive West from Macroom to Kerry on the N22. As you pass through Ballymakerry (Baile Mhic Ire), you will pass a church on your right-hand side and will take the first left hand turn after the church that has a sign post. Follow the road 400 meters and you will see the first (and main) holy well on the right. You’ll need to go up the hill a bit for parking as it is a very narrow road. Take the next right hand road (near where you can park by a graveyard) up the hill to see the other holy well, statue, hut, church ruins, and main graveyard. There is also a modernized porta-toilet in this parking lot so you don’t have to use the bushes. The GPS coordinates are: 79: W 1967 7688. Longitude: 9° 10′ 5″ W, Latitude: 51° 56′ 18″ N.

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Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Productions and Research Services: Technogypsie.com. © 2013: All rights reserved.

Article on the Church, Shrine, Graveyard, and Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=14339. Article on the Holy Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/chronicles/?p=7591. Article on the Tobar Ghobnatan Wishing Trees, Saint Ghobnatan, and Tobar Ghobnatan cross etchings.

Continue reading Tobar Ghobnatan Cross Etchings

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Tobar Ghobnatan Wishing Trees

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Tobar Ghobnatan Rag Trees (Wishing Tree)
* Tobar Ghobnatan * Ballyvourney (a.k.a. Baile Bhuirne), County Cork, Ireland *

Main Article Here: http://www.naiads.org/well/?p=363

A grand example of a large wishing tree (or rag tree) can be found at Tobar Ghobnatan in County Cork Ireland. It is a magical space of charm and tradition, with holy wells, shrines, mythology, and magical spots. As you drive up to the Tobar Ghobnatan Statue, Well, Hut, Grave, Church ruins and yard, you will see on your right a wrought iron archway with the letters spelling “HOLY WELL” along its top. When I walked through this archway, I immediately spied a 3/4 large ring of mushrooms known as a Fairy Ring. A short walk down the path you will find the well at the base of a wishing tree. The tree is covered with rags or clouties as well as many other trinkets placed there or tied to the branches as offerings and prayers. These are often cleaned up and removed by the church. The well has steps down into it, but can often be difficult without crawling on your knees to get at the magical waters. There are two taps nearby where one can retrieve the water. All over this tree are paper and cloth rags, fabric clooties (cloughties), and plastic remnants tied to the branches. Sometimes these can be found in the hundreds of individual offerings and prayer petitions. However, according to gossip, the local Church cleans up the tree on occasion, removing the rags and tokens. Whether or not this is true is unknown, but not many items here look really old so it might be true. The concept is to leave behind something of yourself or someone that you love that is in need of prayers, healing, or petitions. The concept with the rags is that when it decays so will the illness that it represents. This is a kind of sympathetic magical rite. Unfortunately some pilgrims to the sites don’t realize how the spell or magic works. You can see this when they tie a piece of a plastic bag on the tree. Plastic will take forever to decay, so will the illness it is to represent. If only they knew! In addition to the rags, others leave coins, jewelry, rings, prayer cards, figurines, toys, personal effects, clothing items such as belts, shoes, garments, and trinkets. The cloutie and Wish trees found at Tobar Ghobnatan are considered to be dedicated to the Matron Saint of Ballyvourney and sacred Bee-Keeping mistress, Saint Ghobnatan holy pilgrimage site and monastic settlement known as “Tobar Ghobnatan”. This is the legendary home of St. Gobnait/Ghobnatan. It is located a kilometer south of the village of Ballyvourney where her church Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) was built.

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How to get here: Drive West from Macroom to Kerry on the N22. As you pass through Ballymakerry (Baile Mhic Ire), you will pass a church on your right-hand side and will take the first left hand turn after the church that has a sign post. Follow the road 400 meters and you will see the first (and main) holy well on the right. You’ll need to go up the hill a bit for parking as it is a very narrow road. Take the next right hand road (near where you can park by a graveyard) up the hill to see the other holy well, statue, hut, church ruins, and main graveyard. There is also a modernized porta-toilet in this parking lot so you don’t have to use the bushes. The GPS coordinates are: 79: W 1967 7688. Longitude: 9° 10′ 5″ W, Latitude: 51° 56′ 18″ N.

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Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Productions and Research Services: Technogypsie.com. © 2013: All rights reserved.

Article on the Church, Shrine, Graveyard, and Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=14339. Article on the Holy Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/chronicles/?p=7591. Article on the Tobar Ghobnatan Wishing Trees, Saint Ghobnatan, and Tobar Ghobnatan cross etchings.

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Tobar Ghobnatan Holy Wells: St. Abban’s Well and St. Gobnait’s Well

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Tobar Ghobnatan Holy Wells
* Tobar Ghobnatan * Ballyvourney (a.k.a. Baile Bhuirne), County Cork, Ireland *

1ST WELL: ST. ABBAN’S WELL OR ST. GOBNAIT’S WELL

As you drive up to the Tobar Ghobnatan Statue, Well, Hut, Grave, Church ruins and yard, you will see on your right a wrought iron archway with the letters spelling “HOLY WELL” along its top. Another sign labels it as the “Tobar Ghobnatan Holy Well”. When I walked through this archway, I immediately spied a 3/4 large ring of mushrooms known as a Fairy Ring. I had to walk around it 9 times to see if a gateway to the land of Fae would appear. Magical as the site was, alas, no gateway appeared that I was aware of. A short walk down the path you will find the well at the base of a wishing tree. The tree is covered with rags or clouties as well as many other trinkets placed there or tied to the branches as offerings and prayers. These are often cleaned up and removed by the church occasionally some say online. The well has steps down into it, but can often be difficult to access without crawling on your knees to get at the magical waters. There are two taps nearby where one can retrieve the water. This well is believed to be a lot older than the Christian occupation and creation of this monastic site, probably as a Fairy Well or Pagan Shrine. Today visitors claim it is either St. Abban’s Well and/or St. Gobnait’s Well. From the Cult followings, I would think it has more to do with St. Gobnait than St. Abban even though technically I’ve read it is primarily called St. Abban’s Well. The Other well is up the hill by St. Gobnait’s Hut and Statue. It’s unclear which Saint claimed which Pagan well when they took the land.

In Neo-Pagan practice and visitations of the site, the well is circled either three times clockwise, or in a trio set of three times three. It is conducted clockwise to gain something, pay tribute to the well, or to weave a certain kind of magic. It is done counter-clockwise to unwind something, to banish something, or to undo a spell, curse, or action. It is common then to make an offering to the well or tree. The participant then goes to the well, collects water, offers it back to the earth, then either takes a sip of the magical waters or splashes it on their face. It is common to fill a bottle with the magic waters to take home. A bin of empty clean water bottles is located along one of the rock walls for those who forgot to bring a bottle. This well is very common location for seamen to collect water from to bring to their boats used for safe passage during their expeditions. In Christian/Catholic observation of the rounds, the “Our Father”, the “Hail Mary”, and the Glorias are spoken at each of the stations. At this station, they do a decade of the rosary and drink the water from the Well. According to the stations, the rounds, or the turas, this is station 10: St. Abban’s Well. Every year on the 11th of February, the parish priest would bring out a 13th century wooden statue of St. Gobnait upon which pilgrims would measure a ribbon against the statue and wrap it around the figure, then take the ribbon home to use for healing magic.

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Next to the well is a large tree called a Wishing Tree which is part of any number of such trees found on this monastic site. Covering this particular tree are offerings to St. Gobniat (and the ancestral water spirits or Naiads of this well) in the form of rags (clouties/clooties – pieces of cloth tied around its branches), prayers, trinkets, tokens, pictures, charms, and/or a variety of personal effects from under garments, hair ties, belts, shoes, rings, jewelry, toys, prayer cards, or other effects. The belief behind pieces of cloth are that they are to get rid of an illness and once the cloth decays so will the illness. It is a concept of leaving something behind of themselves or their loved ones in need of healing.

Along the stone wall and around the well is an assortment of cups, jars, and/or bottles that someone can use to gather water from the well for drinking and/or blessing. As far as I know, the well water is not tested or certified, so drinking from such is at one’s own risk. Anything can get into these public wells and a variety of items from coins, pins, and garbage are sometime found thrown into them. When I visited there was a large bin of washed out plastic bottles for visitors to fill up with holy well water and take with them.

SECOND WELL: ST. GOBNAIT’S WELL (or ST. ABBAN’S WELL)

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Again, like the well above, no one is clear on who claimed this Fairy Well, but it seems to be primarily associated with Saint Gobnait since it is located in front of her house, hut, or kitchen. Both wells are part of the pilgrimage and rounds regardless. In Christian/Catholic observation of the rounds, the “Our Father”, the “Hail Mary”, and the Glorias are spoken at each of the stations. At this station, they do a decade of the rosary and drink the water from the Well.
To complete the pilgrimage the pilgrim walks down the road to St Gobnait’s well (Station 10). The pilgrim recites 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Mary’s and 7 Gloria, one decade of the rosary and drinks the water from the well. Like many holy wells in Ireland St Gobnait’s well is associate with a rag tree and there is a tradition of leaving votive offerings at this tree. Below is a photo of the tree taken when I last visited here in 2006, as you can see is covered rags and bead and tokens left be pilgrims. I think it looks quiet lovely. Since my last visit most of these offering have been removed but a few are still to be found. This well seems a bit questionable as to the safety of the water, but is still one apparently drunken from. This well in in front of the round circular stone hut north of the statue called the “House of St. Gobnait” or the “St. Ghobnatan’s Kitchen”. Earlier evidence suggests that the site was an early pre-Medieval to Medieval bronze and iron working site which operated out of this hut. Evidence for this comes from iron slag, a crucible, and other metal working artifacts found during the excavation of the site. With evidence that the wells were Pagan shrines pre-dating Christianity combined with the metalworking has led some rumors to run wild that it could be the metal working site of the Tuatha Dé Danann’s Smith known as Goibnui who share phonetic similarities to the name of Saint Gobnait. There is no evidence found to this ‘hunch’ someone probably weaved online in a blog, but it does add a sense of urban lore to the site that would make it an exciting tidbit of mythos. (Especially since there really exists no solid evidence of any of the Tuatha Dé Danann legend site locations except folklore) In this hut, pilgrims etch a cross into the stones atop this well as well as the entrance stones in the hut during their turas.

BOTH WELLS:

Both of the wells are named after the Matron Saint of Ballyvourney and sacred Bee-Keeping mistress, Saint Ghobnatan (a.k.a. Saint Gobnait) of the holy pilgrimage site and monastic settlement known as “Tobar Ghobnatan“. This is the legendary home of St. Gobnait/Ghobnatan. It is located a kilometer south of the village of Ballyvourney where her church Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) was built. There are two holy wells at this site, both of which are believed to pre-date St. Abban and Gobnait’s arrival to the land, most likely Pagan shrines or Fairy wells. Today these wells are called “St. Abban’s Well” (most likely ‘FIRST WELL’) and “St. Gobnait’s Well” (most likely ‘SECOND WELL’).

There are several wells throughout Ireland (and other countries) dedicated to Saint Gobnait. There exists a dry well known as St. Debora, Deriola, or Abigails Well that is north of Ballyagran in a high field on the left of the road to Castletown which is believed to be the original Saint Gobnait’s Well. It is currently dry. Legends run wild of a white stag that can be seen at this well especially during February 11th, the Feast day of Saint Gobnait. There are other wells and shrines such as the church site in County Kerry at Dunquin that has a well near Dungarvan in Waterford.

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Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Productions and Research Services: Technogypsie.com. © 2013: All rights reserved.

Article on the Church, Shrine, Graveyard, and Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=14339. Article on the Holy Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/chronicles/?p=7591. Article on the Tobar Ghobnatan Wishing Trees, Saint Ghobnatan, and Tobar Ghobnatan cross etchings.

How to get here: Drive West from Macroom to Kerry on the N22. As you pass through Ballymakerry (Baile Mhic Ire), you will pass a church on your right-hand side and will take the first left hand turn after the church that has a sign post. Follow the road 400 meters and you will see the first (and main) holy well on the right. You’ll need to go up the hill a bit for parking as it is a very narrow road. Take the next right hand road (near where you can park by a graveyard) up the hill to see the other holy well, statue, hut, church ruins, and main graveyard. There is also a modernized porta-toilet in this parking lot so you don’t have to use the bushes. The GPS coordinates are: 79: W 1967 7688. Longitude: 9° 10′ 5″ W, Latitude: 51° 56′ 18″ N.

Continue reading Tobar Ghobnatan Holy Wells: St. Abban’s Well and St. Gobnait’s Well

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Tobar Ghobnatan (St. Gobnait’s House, Church, Cemetery, Statue, & Well)

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Tobar Ghobnatan
* Ballyvourney (a.k.a. Baile Bhuirne), County Cork, Ireland *

Named after the Matron Saint of Ballyvourney and sacred Bee-Keeping mistress, Saint Ghobnatan, this site is a holy pilgrimage location and monastic settlement known as “Tobar Ghobnatan”. This is the legendary home of St. Gobnait/Ghobnatan. It is located a kilometer south of the village of Ballyvourney where St. Ghobnatan’s church Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) was built. The site is believed to have been a pre-Christian Pagan site used to smelt bronze and iron. There are also two holy wells at this site, both of which are believed to pre-date St. Abban and Gobnait’s arrival to the land, most likely Pagan shrines or Fairy wells. Today these wells are called “St. Gobnait’s Well” and “St. Abban’s Well”. This Christian site was believed to have been founded first by St. Abban who founded a convent here and giving it to Saint Gobnait. It is however, primarily attributed to St. Gobnait, and both wells seem to carry her name and reputation, even though there is controversy as to which well belongs to which Saint.

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The Statue of St. Gobnait

St. Gobnait’s cult and laity, as well as the Catholic population of the area, often come to the site for recreation, hiking, prayers, petitions, and doing the rounds or turas. However, every February 11th, the date that St. Gobnait was believed to pass away (year unknown), has become her official “Feast Day” which calls for tribute and celebrations for her. Pilgrims to the site do these rounds on the feast day by coming to the statue (station 1) and processing in a clockwise direction around the site scratching crosses on the stones of each station as they do their rounds. Just to the left of the statue the pilgrims begin reciting three sets of prayers seven times each at each station making a very long day to the rite and ritual involved. These are seven “Our Father” prayers, seven “Hail Mary’s” prayers, and seven “Glories of Christ”. The statue was erected in 1950 C.E. The turas however are believed to be done in the general vicinity of the statue for at least since the 17th century. No date is certain when the pilgrimage and practice began.

St. Gobnait’s Kitchen or House
Next to the statue is a round stone circular hut that is believed to have been either the kitchen or house of St. Gobnait. During construction of the statue and excavation of the site, post holes were found suggesting that the site was used for production of various crafts. From the 1800’s until 1950’s the hut and site was in complete ruin. The hut and site was restored after the site was excavated in 1950 by M.J. O’Kelly who rebuilt it to its current state. The excavations suggested that the site was used for metal craft working up to the early medieval period based on large amounts of iron smelting slag, a crucible, and other metal working artifacts found on the site. There are also Bullaun Stones found on the site. These were believed to have been used to grind metal ores in. It is believed the hut was a later addition and that the site’s original first use was for bronze or iron working. The circular hut, which has been restored, has an internal diameter of 6 meters. It was believed to have been used by iron and bronze smelters. It is also around this time that the well in front of the hut was believed to have been dug (called St. Gobnait’s Well). The House or Kitchen was deemed the second station of the turas. Here is the best example of the crude crosses scratched into the stones and markers during the turas on the site. This is done on the portal stones when they enter the hut, and on some of the stones atop the wall. Since this hut has evidence of an earlier site for smelting iron and bronze, folklore ties it to an earlier being or Deity … that of Goibnui, the Smith of the Tuatha Dé Danann that might be whom St. Gobnait replaced. One of the holy wells stands before the entrance to the hut. This one is definitely listed as St. Gobnait’s Well. The main well, found on the right hand side of the road down the hill before one comes up to the right side of the road as one drives up to the site. This main well is also called St. Gobnait’s Holy Well, of which both were revered as a site of healing waters and magic from their early beginnings to this very date.

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The Graveyard / Church yard
The cemetery is a fabulous find just in of itself. Some of the grave markers are fantastically carved and decorated. Celtic crosses dot the landscape. There is a large sculpture of a woman believed to be a Goddess standing on an egg with a snake curled around her feet that is interpreted by some modern day Pagans as being a sculpture of the White Goddess. There is no documentation to authenticate this however. St. Gobnait’s purported grave is located here. This is marked Stations 3 and 4 on the pilgrimage stations/turas map. This consists of a small artificial prehistoric mound that looks like most other megalithic cists. On its south end is a large stone slab which is the location where many believe her body rests. Atop this stone pilgrims scratch the cross into the stone slab (Station 3). The slab atop the cist (Station 4) is also covered with scratched crosses. There are said to exist three Bullaun Stones here, the third of which may be in the station 3 stone slab.

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The Ballyvourney Church – Stations 5-9 is the medieval church that is located in the graveyard. It is one of the major stops for pilgrims doing their rounds and is a location of more cross scratchings/etchings that are made during the turas/stations/rounds. This church was built atop an earlier church that may have been the original Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) church of St. Gobnait. Pilgrims begin at the northwest corner of the earlier foundation noted as station 5 and cite seven “Our Fathers”, “Hail Marys”, and “Glories” at each station. They go in a clock-wise direction circling the church saying a decade of the rosary visiting station 5 four times and all the other stations once. Station 6 can be found in the east wall window of the chancel where the altar was believed to first had rested. After prayers were made, they circle the church, re-enter, and pray at station 7 – rubbing the Sheela-na-gig carving above it which many believe is an image of St. Gobnait. Near the Sheela-Na-gig is the Flagstone of the Thief. The Flagstone of the Thief found in the graveyard and church ruins is believed to represent the tale when St. Gobnait fastened the thief and the cows he stole to the flagstone on which they were standing when they were caught, and the feet/hooves imprinted themselves upon the stone. There is a tale of this flagstone that states a robber once came to the church yard and tried to erect his own shrine here. Once Saint Gobnait learned of this, she took her bowl and threw it at the shrine, thereby destroying it. Since then, the bowl has been located along the west wall of the church and is a place where pilgrims go to touch it with a personal item used to gain healing.

Both of these particular carvings are believed to date from the 15th century C.E. From here the pilgrims would proceed to station 8 just outside of the south wall where the Chanel meets the wider nave. They would circumambulate the church again stopping at station 9 on the south side of the west wall just above the top of the steps at St. Gobnait’s Bowl. Pilgrims would reach into the bowl and touch the stone. Folklore states this bowl was used by St. Gobnait to defeat a local chief who was building near her monastery by destroying his fort. The final station is at St. Abban’s Holy Well (station 10). Here at the church each year on the 11th of February, the parish priest would bring out a 13th century wooden statue of St. Gobnait upon which pilgrims would measure a ribbon against the statue and wrap it around the figure, then take the ribbon home to use for healing magic.

No one knows for sure when the pilgrimages began at this site. Many believe early Pagan faiths came to this location for other reasons, most likely to pay tribute and make offerings at the fairy wells. Once Christianity took over the site, pilgrimages probably did not occur until after the death of St. Gobnait in the mid to late 16th century C.E. The earliest written accounts of pilgrimages to Ballyvourney date to the early 1600’s C.E. The Pope Clement VIII in 1601 granted a special indulgence of 10 years to those who came here on the feast day, went to Confession and Communion and prayed for peace among the “Christian princes”, for the expulsion of heresy, and for the exaltation of the church. Other works of art such as the poetry of Dáibhidh Ó Bruidar, the writings of Don Philip Ó Súilleabháin and Seathrún Céitinn clearly demonstrate that by the late 16th century the Saint Gobnait cult was strong and thriving. Donal Cam Ó Súilleabháin during his escape from Béara came to this monastic site in 1603 C.E. with his men to pray to Saint Gobnait offering her gifts asking for her protection. In 1645 C.E. the Papal Nunico Rinuccini wrote about the Cult as well from descriptions of his visit. In 1687 C.E. Sir Richard Cox wrote about Ballyvourney as being home to the Gobnait cult and location of the holy relic that makes cures and miracles to the pilgrims there, referring to the 13th century figurine of St. Gobnait used by the parish during the feast day. Traditionally the relics of Saint Gobnait were in the care of the O’Hierlihy family. It was cared for by this family until 1843 when it was passed on to the Parish priest. Today, the figurine is in care of the local Parish priest.

It is worthy to note that a ring fort that could have had ties with the Pagan pre-Christian use of the site, was destroyed by a local farmer. Information about this incident can be found at http://corkarchaeologist.wordpress.com/destruction-of-ringforts/. There are other wells dedicated to Saint Gobnait throughout Ireland. A magical well in Dunguin exists by the school house that consists of a shrine and well. Another is in Kilgore called the “Tovar Ghobnait” that is enclosed with two pillar stones and a cross stone. It is an ancient stone with a water mark impression that holds rainwater, and is said that the bowl never goes empty. During the summer months it is also said that the wild roses growing around the site will never root if transplanted elsewhere. It was here that the fairy tale of Morty Sullivan and the Black Steed takes place nearby as the location where he sought to atone for his sins at St. Gobnait’s shrine.

How to get here: Drive West from Macroom to Kerry on the N22. As you pass through Ballymakerry (Baile Mhic Ire), you will pass a church on your right-hand side and will take the first left hand turn after the church that has a sign post. Follow the road 400 meters and you will see the first (and main) holy well on the right. You’ll need to go up the hill a bit for parking as it is a very narrow road. Take the next right hand road (near where you can park by a graveyard) up the hill to see the other holy well, statue, hut, church ruins, and main graveyard. There is also a modernized porta-toilet in this parking lot so you don’t have to use the bushes. The GPS coordinates are: 79: W 1967 7688. Longitude: 9° 10′ 5″ W, Latitude: 51° 56′ 18″ N.

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Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Productions and Research Services: Technogypsie.com. © 2013: All rights reserved.

Article on the Church, Shrine, Graveyard, and Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=14339. Article on the Holy Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/chronicles/?p=7591. Article on the Tobar Ghobnatan Wishing Trees, Saint Ghobnatan, and Tobar Ghobnatan cross etchings.

Continue reading Tobar Ghobnatan (St. Gobnait’s House, Church, Cemetery, Statue, & Well)

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Paul Koudounaris’ lecture on Heavenly Bodies : Spectacular Jeweled Skeletons

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Paul Koudounaris: Heavenly Bodies
* Lecture, Slide Show, and Book Signing * The Strange Factory * Albuquerque, New Mexico * Friday, November 22, 2013 *

A race from Taos to Albuquerque to visit a friend’s lecture on his amazing discoveries about decorative skeletons was a whirlwind by itself, but would up to be an incredible night of magic, gold, jewels, and folklore. We wandered into the Strange Factory a little late as a snow storm slowed our travels on site, but were warmed with awe as we saw some of the works that Paul Koudounaris exhibited in his presentation. A astute author and photographer from Los Angeles, California; Paul K was presenting at the oddities shop called “the Strange Factory” in the University district of Albuquerque. Paul K’s charnel house and ossuary research has broken research milestones in folklore, oddities, and macabre art. This evenings lecture covered those of human skeletons found in Catholic churches adorned with gold and gemstones. He is a leading expert on bone-decorated shrines and religious structures.
Paul Koudounaris, PhD in Art History (UCLA 2004) is an author and photographer from Los Angeles that specializes in Baroque-era Northern European Art. His charnel house and ossuary research and photos have made him a well-known figure in the field of macabre art, and he is a leading expert in the history of bone-decorated shrines, human remains, religious art, and religious structures.He obtained a PhD in Art History from UCLA in 2004, with a specialty in Baroque-era Northern European Art. He began his research in 2006 studying the use of human remains in religious ritual and as a decorative element in sacred spaces, especially within the context of the Catholic Church. He began researching the existence of these pieces, photographing them, writing about them, and publishing the results in the Prague Post, Fortean Times, and other such publications. He compiled a premiere work on bone-decorated religious structures taking field trips to over 70 sites along four continents, many of which had never been seen or photographed. He released this book as “Heavenly Bodies” in 2013 through Thames and Hudson. This story told the tale of a group of skeletons removed from the Roman catacombs during the 17th century decorated with jewels by various nuns. These bones were at first mistakenly identified as Christian martyrs and shipped to Germanic churches, decorated, and placed in the altars. Through time, most of these were removed, disposed of or thrown into storage during the Enlightenment. He tracked down the corpses’ locations, documented them, and photographed them for for book. This book followed his successful masterpiece “The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses” in 2011. The presentation was well spoken and masterfully done to a full house in attendance.

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Monster Quest: Season 2 – Vampires in America (2008: NR)

Monster Quest: Vampires in America
* www.imdb.com * August 6, 2008 * NR/Documentary * The History Channel * Creator: Doug Hajicek * Writer: Joe Danisi * Starring: Stan Bernard and Konstantinos * 45 minutes *
Monster Quest is a History Channel Documentary look into the strange and unknown creatures that are believed to be lurking in the shadows of time spotted around the world. In Season 2, Episode 11 they explore “Vampires in America”. Focusing on the 18th century Vampires scare in New England, focusing on vampire legends and graves in Connecticut and Rhode Island, the investigators excavate the purported grave of J.B. the Vampire and hunt for the vampiric Johnson children. They make the rational link that many purported vampires that were dug up and had their graves desecrated were indeed victims of consumption or tuberculosis. Hysteria and fear affecting the communities making it a widespread practice in New England as well as Europe. As they explore European influences, including Bram Stoker, Nostferatu, Elizabeth Bathery, and Mercy Brown. They then address modern day people who claim they are vampires. Testing the blood of a modern blood drinker as well as gauging energy exchange of a self-proclaimed energy vampire. The episode was captivating and interesting: Rating 4 stars out of 5.

Continue reading Monster Quest: Season 2 – Vampires in America (2008: NR)

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Mercy Brown, the 19 year old 18th Century Vampire

Mercy Brown

The Rhode Island 18th century Vampire, RI Historical Cemetery No 22 in Exeter, RI on Route 102

In the heart of what has been nicknamed “The Vampire Capital of America” lies the grave of sweet 19 year old “Mercy Brown”. Her family and neighbours however didn’t think she was that sweet. Especially after she died. She had been deemed a vampire. Not only then, but her reputation continues hundreds of years later as being one of the most popular vampire burials in North America. The good citizens of Exeter Rhode Island firmly believe she was rising from her grave as a blood sucker and literally feeding on the blood and energy of her sick brother. She was in a line of female family members that had died from consumption (tuberculosis), following her mother and sister to the grave. Then her brother fell ill and the community was strong in the belief that she was the cause. They convinced her father who was desperate to do anything to save his son from the death bed. He and his accusing neighbours dug up the remains of his daughter Mercy to see if she was a vampire. Sure enough they found she had shifted in her coffin, there was fresh blood in her mouth as well as in her heart. She looked like she was rejuvenating, growing hair, nails, and teeth. Her skin was light and looked new. She had to be a vampire. They tore her heart from her chest, and burned it on a large rock near her grave to stop her from coming out of her grave. It was believed that those ashes would have magical properties to heal the brother, so they were fed to him as a cure. He still died two months later. He was staked in the heart and tied in his coffin to make sure he didn’t catch the vampire virus like believed of the rest of his family. Or so goes the legend. She was one of many in the area that gave Exeter the status of Vampire Capital. It was quite commonplace in this era to dig up the remains of the dead, make sure they were dead, dismember, behead, or burn the corpse to prevent vampirism. Oddly in Rhod Island, most of those accused of being vampires were 19 year old girls who died of consumption. There is also the story of 19 year old Nelly Vaugn. Her epitaph is rumored to state “I am waiting and watching for you”. Apparently grass nor moss would grow on her grave and numerous haunting apparently take place at her grave site. Her headstone was victim of so many anti-vampire hate crimes they had to remove it to stop the vandalism. Then there is Juliet, the daughter of William Rose, who after her mother, died of consumption. Vampirism was blamed, exhumed her corpse, cut out her heart, and bladed her chest. Her grave was reputedly moved to an unmarked location to stop hate vandalism. There was also Sarah Tillinghast of 1799. Her fate was revealed in a prophetic dream, that was had by her father Stuckly “Snuffy” Tillinghast. After her death, many of the neighbours reported seeing her each night pressing on their chests. As later children began to become ill, Sarah’s body was exhumed, heart removed, and burned. Clippings about Mercy Brown were discovered in possession of Bram Stoker after his death leading to the speculation that he based many items in his novel Dracula on Rhode Island vampires. Mercy Brown and Sarah Tillinghast were stories used by H.P. Lovecraft in his short story “The Shunned House”. Reuben Brown, descendant of Mercy Brown, tells tales that there were unexplained deaths, young girls, six or seven on one side of the Brown family, died of consumption, all of them with a mark on their throats, leading people to believe they had been bit by a vampire. Many blamed Mercy for this. After burning her heart the deaths had stopped.

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Vampires / Vampyres


St. Michan’s Church Crypt, Dublin, Ireland
legendary inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Vampires
A creature of lore, legend, folktale, and myth that is believed to be an undead human (human brought back from the dead) that either feeds on the blood or life force of living humans in order to survive. There is much controversy in the folkloric record on whether vampires either drank blood or just fed off the life energy of others. Some believe that “blood” is the best representation of “life essence” and is therefore what vampires need to survive. Vampires are mentioned and recorded in numerous cultures around the world, described in history as old as man him/herself. Older parallels of similar creatures in legend, such as the Old Russian “????? (Upir’)” seem to date much earlier at 1047 C.E. mentioned in a colophon in a manuscript of the Book of Psalms written by a priest who transcribed the book from Glagolitic to Cyrillic for the Novgorodian Prince Volodymyr Yaroslavovych calling him “Upir” Likhyi which translates to “Wicked or Foul Vampire”. Local and associated Pagan mythology suggests there was Pagan worship from the 11-13th centuries of “upyri”. There is mention of similar creatures throughout history in Greek mythology, Mesopotamian lore, Hebrew records, and Roman stories placing demons and spirits who fed on the life force of humans perhaps being the earliest vampires. Numerous world mythologies described demonic entities or Deities who drank blood of humans including Sekhmet, Lilith, and Kali. The Persians were the first to describe having blood drinking demons. Greek/Roman mythology spoke of the Empusae, the Lamia, the striges, the Gello, the strix, and the Goddess Hecate as demonic blood drinkers.

The documented case of Elizabeth Bathory who killed over 600 of her servants and bathed in their blood led to the reputation of her being a vampire. Same as with Vlad the Impaler of Count Dracula mythology of Transylvania who would impale his victims alive on upright stakes and would eat dinner while watching them suffer and slide down the poles in shrieks of torment. The Istrian (Croatia) 1672 legend of Giure Grando, a peasant who died in 1656, but was believed to have risen from the grave to drink the blood of the villagers and sexually harass his widow became a vampire-like legend. He was stopped by having a stake driven through his heart and then beheaded by the local village leader. Shortly after this legend, during the 18th century, a frenzy of vampire sighting in Eastern Europe went rampant including some notorious vampire hunting in Prussia (1721), Habsburg Monarchy (1725-1734), and the tales of Peter Logojowitz and Arnold Paole in Serbia.

Arnold Paole was a soldier who was attacked by a vampire. A few years later he became a farmer that died during harvest of his hay crop. He was buried and believed by the local villagers to be rising from the grave feeding off of them. The documented case of Plogojowitz, of a man who died at 62 only to return from the grave asking his son for food. Upon being turned down, the son was found dead the next day. Plogojowitz apparently had killed him as well as various neighbours by draining their blood. The Serbian tale of Sava Savanovic told of a man who lived in a local watermill that would kill the millers and drink their blood. This tale led to the creation of the 1973 Serbian horror film called “Leptirica”.

The term itself as “vampire” however was not utilized until the early 18th century during a time when vampire hysteria was rampant. The first use of the term “Vampire” came from a 1734 travelogue titled “Travels of Three English Gentlemen” published in the 1745 Harleian Miscellany according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The English term “Vampire” may have come from the french term “Vampyre” or the German term “Vampir”. These terms may have derived into the Serbian “??????/vampir”. During the early 18th century tales of vampires throughout Eastern Europe became rampant. Vampires were often associated as revenants of evil beings, suicide vicims, or witches; or from malevolent spirits possessing a corpse or being bitten by a vampire. It was during this time that the hysteria caused individuals, families, and communities to dig up the graves of suspected vampires and them mutilating the corpses, staking them, or conducting rites of exorcism. In 1718, after Austria gained control of northern Serbia and Oltenia, officials recorded local practices of exhuming bodies and “killing the undead”. Official recording of these practices from 1725 to 1732 led to widespread publicity of vampires. It was from this that led to many of the original vampire myths we have today that described vampires as either being in the form of a human, as a resurreced rotting corpse, or a demon-like creature roaming at night. Much of the hysteria was similar to the Witch Craze of the Inquisition. Neighbours would accuse the recently deceased for diseases, deaths, plagues, and tragedies that cursed the local village. Scholars at the time were steadfast that Vampires did not exist attributing the incidents to premature burials, rabies, or religion. However, the well-respected theologian and scholar Dom Augustine Calmet composed a 1746 treatise with reports claiming vampires did indeed exist. This was supported by Voltaire who claimed vampires were corpses who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomaches, after which they would return to the cemetery. This would lead the victim to wane, pale, and fall into consumption while the vampire would bloat, become fat, rosy, and become rejuvenated. They were disputed by Gerard van Swieten and the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria who passed laws prohibiting exhumation and desecration of bodies ending the vampire epidemics in Austria.

The “18th Century Vampire Controversy” or “Hysteria” gave birth to many fabricated myths and legends that lent stories about blood suckers evolving to the image we imagine of today when we think of “vampire”. Many of these images today come from writers, authors, and film. John Polidori’s 1819 novella “The Vampyre”, Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula”, and the film “Nosferatu” are the main culprits for much of today’s image of a vampire, especially the pointed teeth, the sleeping in daylight, the drinking of blood, and sensitivity to sunlight. Stoker based much of his imagery and lore from former mythology of demons, faeries, and werewolves that he fit into the fears of late Victorian patriarchy. His book gave birth to a trend of vampire fandom that has lasted for over 100 years and still flourishing.

From Europe the vampire craze spread to parts of New England in the Americas, particularly Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut. Paranoia and hysteria went rampant in the same manner as Eastern Europe’s 18th century Vampire Controversy. Documentation of cases with families accusing vampirism being the cause of the plague of consumption that devastated their communities. Families would dig up their dead to remove the hearts of suspected vampires. A very popular documented case was of the 1892 Rhode Island incident of Mercy Brown who died at age 19 of consumption, believed to be a vampire returning from the grave and feeding on her family and neighbours, was dug up by her father, had her heart cut out and burnt to ashes, only to be fed to her dying brother in attempts to save him from the rotting disease.


St. Michan’s Church Crypt, Dublin, Ireland
legendary inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Continue reading Vampires / Vampyres

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The Eight Fold Path

© 1986-1990; 1990-2000; 2001-2010; 2011: Technogypsie.com/Treeleavesoracle.org/Leaf McGowan. Edited and adapted earlier versions for use in training a magical apprentice rite/workshop on Monday, 16 August 2010. No portion of this text may be copied or reproduced without permission from author: technogypsie@gmail.com.

The Eightfold Path to Altered States of Consciousness

In Ritual or spellcraft, the ritualist/magician/witch/Druid needs to incorporate the altered states of consciousness in order to tap into a higher consciousness and the field of energy from which to do magical workings. This is also the method utilized for connecting with otherworldly entities on their levels of existence – whether that be the otherworld, the faerie world, the spirit realm, ancestral realm, or Realm of Deities. The more elements that can be implemented for altered consciousness from the 8 fold path, the stronger your altered state of consciousness will become, and the stronger, more dramatic, and serious the working will be. Including all 8 forms of the Eight Fold Path will ensure complete success with your working – however, sometimes it is not logistically possible to include all 8.

By mastering your state of consciousness at will with intent helps focalize the energy and controls the magical current, opening communication with Deity and entities, and finding successful results. Altering one’s consciousness is not always safe, so one needs to be aware of what they are doing, the process by which they are operating within, and what methodology they utilize to achieve various results. It is the means to achieving Prana, Mana, or the Magical Life Force.

1. MEDITATION OR TRANCE

“Path of Breath” – The first of the Eightfold Path is accomplished by altering state of consciousness through specific forms of breathing. This is often achieved by emptying the mind, embracing a state of stillness, encompassing a state of serenity, and inducing a state of tranquility. Implementation of visualization, focused thought, projection, intention, concentration of intention, and trance work are all elements of this path. The highest point in the first path is projection of the astral body.

2. RITUAL/CHANTS/SPELLS/CHARMS

The second of the the Eightfold Path is the creation of sacred space and by doing deliberate intentional activities imbued with symbology, meaning, and projection. By creating a space in which to do the sacred, you achieve altering a point in time, space, and continuum. When you utilize symbols, spells, chants, tools, amulets, talismans, and mantras – it creates focus, rhythm, rhyme, replication, and circulates the energy achieved within and without.

3. RHYTHM, MUSIC, AND DANCE

The third of the Eightfold Path is by incorporating rhythmic repetitive motions, dancing, drumming, or music making. Dancing repetitively or wildly, ecstatically, or frantic rhythmic moving or motion of the body, spirit, and/or soul creates trance-like states, altered states of consciousness, and chemical/physical changes in the body, mind, and spirit. Circle dances, spiral dances, cone of power raising, drum circle dances, etc. will circulate, build up, and propel energy within and without.

4. ASCETIC PATH: FASTING, DEPRIVATION, PURIFICATION

The fourth of the Eightfold Path is accomplished by placing the physical body into an extreme state of deprivation, deprival, or change of environment from the usual comfort zone. This can include fasting, sensory deprivation, purification ordeals, etc. Some physical environments that can induce these atmospheres are sweat lodges, saunas, hot springs, isolation tanks, and/or pure darkness. By deprivation, the physical and mental body will react with its own energy fields creating visions, omens, oracles, prophecies, and hallucinations. The mind will generate images, ideas, thoughts, and processes that will assist the body to survive or transition.

5. IMBIBING SACRED PLANTS, “SPIRITS”, OR ALTEROGENS

The fifth of the Eightfold Path is communing with Spirits or entities that can include a “chemical” nature that poisons or possesses the physical body and mental state of the brain. Utilizing the “Spirits” or entities of plants and substances to chemically alter the mind/body into a state of consciousness. Drugs, alcohol, ethnobotanical plants with shamanic side effects are common instruments for this alteration. This path is onne of the most notorious instant methods for altering the state of consciousness, especially when one has difficultly doing it by means of their physical body without the introduction of a separate substance/spirit into the body. One needs to have a good relationship (or develop one) with the plant or spirit in question. Every plant, alcohol, or drug has a “spirit” – this is why alcohol is often referred to as “spirits”. It has a consciousness and by blending together that spirit with yours, will alter the state to the consciousness one seeks. This can include food and drink – as anything entering into the body alters its chemical and biological state. Cakes and Ale, Waters of Life, hosts, Body & Blood of Christ, sacrements, etc are common found types of this path in most religions. This can also include incense, oils, scents, and fragrances that can alter one’s being by the senses. Read my article on “Spirits” of Alcohol here: http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=1080.

6. PATH OF THE FLESH / SEX

The sixth path is the Path of the Flesh or Sexual Magic / Tantra / Love / Lust. The utilization of “sexual energy” as a means to open one’s self to the spirits. Sexual energy, generated alone or with a partner, raises the strongest forms of magical power, contact with prana, mana, the akh, the ba, the ka, and instantly alters the state of consciousness by a natural means of chemicals with reaction in the body that can even overpower the fifth path of the plant or altergen. This is accomplished with masturbation, Sexual thought, Sexual play or stimulation, Intercourse and/or interaction with others that can introduce this state instantly. This is often accomplished in ritual with Sex Magic, The Great Rite, Tantra, etc. The rituals of love and lust can also tap this energy and be embraced to alter the state of consciousness with which to connect to spirits, Deities, the Otherworld, and prana.

7. PATH OF ORDEALS/PAIN

The seventh path is by going through an ordeal, a tragedy, embracing or experiencing pain or physical/emotional trauma. This, like chemicals or spirits, sex or deprivation, chemically and physically alters the mind, body, and spirit and launches a state of altered consciousness. By embracing this altered state – it becomes easier to focus that manifestation of power into projected will to focus on what is willed to be achieved. The intentional or careful use of pain to place the body into an altered state of consciousness is the most common ordeal one can manifest. Pain and endurance, trials, or challenges will effect change in state sometimes as powerfully equal as the path of the flesh or sex. This is often done in ritual or ceremony by means of flagellation, BDSM, tattooing, blood-runes carved into the flesh, the Sundance, cutting, wounding, or self infliction.

8. POSSESSION/EVOCATION/PATH OF THE HORSE

The final path of the Eight is Possession, Evocation, or allowing oneself to be ridden like a horse. This is the intentional act of permitting direct spirit-possession to bring Deities or spirts into the body for a short period of time. This can also be the most dangerous form of altering one’s consciousness. Some individuals are wired to do this, others are not. Much study and focus must be achieved before embracing this method.

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Prana, Mana, The Life Force

Spirit Force, Life Force, The Force, Mana, Prana, Spiritual Energy

Many see this as the all creating and destroying eternal force in the universe from which all life – whether biological or spirit comes from or departs to. Some call it the Creator, some see it as above any Creator or God/desses. Some call it a Supreme Being, others call it the Universe. Some call it “Energy” while others call it “Magic”. Some give it a consciousness while others see it as a energy field. Every religion, cult, belief system, form of spirituality and even alternative medicinal practices embrace and address it. It is seen as a variety of phenomena that is observed or experienced by some observers in a particular faith, spirituality, or religion. It is seen as the “energy” that is the life force that flows within and between all things. It is Life. It is the “breath of life”. It is seen as the continuum that unites body with the mind and spirit. It is what makes a animal be “alive”, or a plant “grow”, or a lightning bolt scream across the sky. It is the force behind gravity, science, and magic. Some see it as “vitality” or “vitalism”, “subtle bodies”, “qi”, “prana”, “mana”, or “kundalini”. Some say you can see this energy force as “vibrations”, “rays of light”, “fields”, or “auras”. It is the web of life that connects all life together. PRANA is the Sanskrit term for “vital life”. It comes from the roots “pra” meaning “to fill” and Latin “plenus” meaning “full”. It is seen as one of the five organs of vitality or sensation, as “breath”, “speech”, “sight”, “hearing”, and “thought”. It is the notion of the vital life sustaining force of all life and vital energy. Mana as a Oceanic term for the impersonal force or quality that lives within animals and inanimate objects. It is seen as the “stuff of which magic is formed” as well as the substance from which souls are made.

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Wishing Trees


Wishing Tree @ Brigid’s Well in Kildare, Ireland

Wishing Trees
“Wishing Trees” are very common throughout Ireland, England, and Scotland. They are usually individual trees upon which “folk magic”, “folk spells”, “faerie offerings”, or “prayers” are offered. Sometimes it is particular to a specific species, where the tree lives, or how it looks. Many times they are associated with faeries or a particular Deity. They are very common alongside sacred wells in Ireland and the UK. The practice usually involves petitions or offerings made to the tree, a nature spirit associated with the tree, a Saint, a God/dess, or the ancestors with a request for a wish to be fulfilled. Coin trees involve offering of coins to a particular tree. These are often hammered into an old trunk, branch, or small tree. Sometimes these are oaks, rowan trees, hawthorns, ash, or thorn trees. Some hawthornes serve for fertility magic such as a common one in Argyll, Scotland by the Ardmaddy House. Sometimes hundreds of coins are hammered into the bark and wood with the belief that a wish will be granted for each of the coins added. A similar one that is well known is by the sacred well of ST. Maree in Loch Maree, Gairloch, Scotland that has hundreds of coins hammered into it. Also all over the Yorkshire Dales, such as in the pictures shown here I took during a hike, are found with hundreds of coins offered to nature spirits and/or faeries for a granting of a wish. Clootie Wish Trees are found next to sacred wells throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland. This involves the practice of tying a piece of cloth, often called “clouties”, “clooties”, or “cloughties” to ask for a answer to a prayer, a wish, and/or a petition. One of the most well known “wishing trees” is the Madron Well in Cornwall. With the Madron well, a sacred well of healing, it is believed that as the cloth rots, the ailment that one is seeking a cure for disappears. Even Charles Darwin recorded the finding of a “wishing tree” in his travels in Argentina called “Walleechu” which was treated by the local inhabitants as a Deity. It was festooned with offerings such as cigars, food, water, and cloth hung from the branches by bright strips of colored thread. Popular wishing trees in Hong Kong is the “Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree” near the “Tin Hau Temple” in Lam Tsu where paper tied to an orange and thrown up in the trees that stick will grant the petitioner a wish. The wishing tree next to Brigid’s Well in Kildare is a common tree for petitioning healing requests.


Penny offerings for good luck
and as gifts to the Fae

“Wishing Tree”
Yorkshire Dales, England

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Brigid’s Sacred Wells in Kildare, Ireland


Brigid’s Well #1, the “Wayward Well”, Kildare, Ireland

Brighid’s Holy Wells in Kildare
*
Kildare, Ireland

The Goddess or St. Brigid has two holy wells in Kildare? She certainly does. Some say that one of the wells belongs to the Ancient Goddess Brigid while the other well belongs to St. Brigid. Both are sacred, both are holy, and both hold Brigid’s magical healing waters. Well #1 is the ancient “original” sacred well of Brigid. Well #2 is the dressed up sacred shrine and park of Brigid with her well. They were two distinctly different entities … an Ancient Goddess who’s ethereal Godly presence can manifest as a human female and the actual magical human nun turned Saint who was the personification of the Deitie. One in the same? could be. Two differently distinct entities who share the common thread? very possibly. Two wells … that seems to be the case. One for the Goddess and One for the Saint? I would say “both” wells contain “both” the Saint and the Goddess in them. I’ve come to notice a pattern with this, that the “ancient” Pagan “original” well is often offset from the “Christian” one. This seemed to be the case when I went to see the Madron well in Cornwall, England (though technically that one had “three” – the original one buried in the marsh, the Pagan “original” one offset from the one underwater, and the Christian well house.). There are many Brigid wells in Ireland as well as Britain. As wells were the sacred sites of veneration in the Druidic faith, many also have an associated sacred tree with them that are covered with votive offerings. These are often called “Wishing Trees”. Trees covered with “clotties” or ribbons of cloth done as a prayer for healing or a spell to obtain something. Pilgrims come here to get in touch with the well inside themselves. Wells are sacred places where people for thousands of years have come to pray, worship, and reflect. Pagan and Holy wells are often seen as the entrance to the womb of Mother Earth, the source of life. Each holy well usually is always related to healing, and each well usually has a specialty that it performs. Brigid’s wells are pretty powerful for healing sore eyes. Brigid is associated with all healing. Her girdle is capable of curing all disease and illness and this well is rumored to make “the blind man seeing, the dumb girl speaking, etc.”

Brighid’s Holy Well #1 a.k.a. “The Wayside Well”

The first well is the ancient Pagan sacred well of the Goddess Brigid. It is located just next to the car park of the Japanese Gardens. This well / spring itself feeds and nourishes the Gardens themselves. This is the spring source whose waters run off and feeds the newer well. It’s not really decorated and is simple, rustic, ancient, and silent. Seemingly forgotten. I has only an inscription sign in Irish that translates “St. Brigid, Mary of the Gael, pray for us.” However it is still a major focal point for pilgrimmages and ceremonies. The Brigid Eve ceremonies (January 31st) start at a small fire set up just outside the Japanese Gardens car park with a chanting to the Goddess Brigid which is followed by a candlelit journey of contemplation about the Goddess and the Saint and the spirit that weaves them together. The candle lit journey goes to this well and ends at the second well. It is customary to gather this well water in a bottle because of its strong healing properties and in exchange to leave an offering for the spirits and faeries who dwell there.


“Tobair Bride” / St. Brigid’s Well, Kildare, Ireland

Brighid’s Holy Well #2 a.k.a. “Tobair Bride” (St. Brigid’s Well)

The second well is the “supposed” Christian well of St. Brigid. It’s the tourist one. It’s the “Official” one. This is the one in the tourist guides, sign posts, and advertisements. It is located in a landscaped grotto at the end of a short lane close to Well #1. The local Catholic clergy moved Christian devotion and practices to this site in the 1950’s supposedly out of concern for people’s safety in accessing the original well which was at the bend in a narrow busy road. It is here that the Roman Catholic healing well is located. While pilgrims often visit both wells, this is the well where an involved ceremony, similar to the “stations of the cross” is conducted. Pilgrims reflect on the Goddess and/or Saint Brigid and how they weave together.

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Brigid’s Sacred Flame at Kildare


Brighid’s Flame
* Kildare, Ireland *

For well over 1,000 years, if not 2,000 years or more, the sacred fire of the Goddess Brigid (now St. Brigid of Ireland) has existed and kept holy / sacred by her followers, priestesses, and/or members of her Order. In Ancient times, the Priestesses of Brighid kept her flame eternally lit with 19 Priestesses keeping vigil that the flame was never extinquished. As Christianity spread through Ireland, the Goddess Brigid was so integral to the Irish population that She could not be eradicated and thereby made a Saint by the Catholic Church. In the 6th century C.E., A nun iconified as “St. Brigid” came to Kildare and built a nunnery/monastery and school on the same site where the Brigid Priestesses were keeping vigil at the Fire Temple eventually absorbing and taking over the duties of the Priestesses now brandishing the torch for Christianity while keeping the Pagan faith alive just hidden. Through many Viking conquests, raids, and wars, the original wooden church, monastery, and foundation was eventually rebuilt as a stone Cathedral by the 13th century. Giraldus Cambrensis wrote in the 12th century that the Flame was attended by twenty “servants of the Lord” at the time of St. Brigid with Brigid herself being he 20th. When she died, the number went down to 19 with each of the nuns taking their turns at night and on the 2oth night, the nineteenth nun would put logs on the fire and St. Brigid would miraculously tend the fire which never went out. By the time Giraldus wrote that, the fire had been continually burning for 600 years, and thereby never had its ashes cleaned out, nor did the ashes ever seem to increase in size. Surrounding the fire was a legendary hedge that no male could ever cross. By Legend, one of Strongbow’s men attempted to cross the hedge and wound up going mad. Another had attempted but just as his leg crossed the threshhold, his comrades pulled him back. Unfortunately the leg that did cross became maimed and he was crippled for the rest of his life. The magical hedge no longer exists, but in times of legend, protected the flame from male invaders by cursing them to go insane, die, become maimed, or have their penis wither. The Sisters of Brigid (Catholic nuns) continue the work in safeguarding the eternal flame in Solas Bhride which means “Light of Brigid”.

Once during the 1200’s the Eternal flame was briefly extinquished by Henry of London, the Norman arch-bishop of Dublin who ordered it to be put out as he considered the tending process to be a Pagan practice and not to be tolerated. It was quickly relit by the locals and the Sisters continued doing this until the 16th century’s British Reformation. During the Reformation, King Henry XIII had a campaign to destroy Catholic monasteries and in this process, attacked the St. Brigid foundation at Kildare, thereby extinquishing the flame. On February 1st of 1807, the Bishop of Kildare, Daniel Delany, restored the Sisterhood of St. Brigid and thereby re-lighting the Eternal Flame of Brigid. The Sisterhood of St. Brigid’s mission was at this point to restore the Ancient Order and bring back the legacy and spirit of St. Brigid to Kildare (and thereby the world). The town center saw the Flame rekindled in the heart of Kildare’s Market Square once again as well, in 1993 by Sister Mary Teresa Cullen, the leader of the Brigidine Sisters at that time. From that point, the Perpetual flame was monitored and kept alive in their home and on February 1, 2006 – the flame was brought back to the center of the Market Square where it has been permanently housed in a large glass enclosed vessel (and numerous flames kept alive in the Sister’s houses). The St. Brigid’s Flame monument, centered in the photo above, was unveiled by President Mary McALeese on St. Brigid’s Day, February 1st, 2006.

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Brigid’s Cross

Brighid’s Cross
* Kildare, Ireland *

Another blessed part of my pilgrimage to Brigid and Kildare was learning more about Brigid’s Cross. I had the pleasure of Faerie Moe as a guide, a local friend giving me the tour of Kildare and the sacred wells as well as giving me an on-hands explanation on how to weave a Brigid’s Cross. As a dedicant to the Goddess Brigid for over 20 years, in my early years i fumbled at making them, but never made anything as intricate and powerful as the crosses I saw at St. Brigid’s shrine and Sister Mary’s house. Amazing. Many say that the St. Brigid’s Cross, a.k.a. Cros Bríde, Crosóg Bríde or Bogha Bríde, is actually an Irish symbol of sun worship representing the sun in the center with rays of light coming from it in the shape of the arms of the Cross. Some say it represents a Brigid legend where in the story St. Brigid miraculously hung her wet clothes to dry on a sunbeam. It is also considered a Pagan sun wheel. They are traditionally made on February 1st for Lá Fhéile Bhríde (St. Brigid’s feast day). It is also a symbol of Ireland and its provinces. Ireland has four provinces, but in ancient Ireland there were five – an invisible one in the center of Ireland. To some, the Brigid’s cross represents the four provinces (in the modern standard design) and in the 5 handed cross like shown in these pictures, representing the 5 provinces. The arms represent North, South, East, West, and Center. The 5th Province, the invisible one, is the province of healing and reconciliation. Brigid’s Cross probably first appeared in Ireland between the 2nd century B.C.E. and the 2nd century C.E. It is a folk magic tradition of weaving together straw to create a equal-armed Celtic cross that represents the Goddess Brigid, or modern day St. Brigid. Taking rushes that are woven together into a swastica-like /Celtic cross-like ornament, with a central square and four spokes protruding from each corner of the square in opposing directions, that has some variations found in Celtic art both ancient and modern. Brigid’s cross appears often traditionally on February 1st, the eve of St. Brigid’s feast / Imbolc / or Candlemas. In some traditions, the Brideoga or Biddies, young virgin boys who would carry a churndash (post used to churn butter) that is dressed up as a woman or an effigy of St. Brigid, and would go door-to-door through their neighborhood collecting alms for the poor. While collecting alms, they would leave bundles of straw and rushes outside the homes that they visited. At nightfall, young virgin girls would pick them up and ask to be admitted to the homes in the name of Brigid and would weave the rushes into crosses. After traditional prayers and a meal at the homes, the crosses would be placed under the eaves in the house or in the outhouses and sometimes blessed with holy water. The leftover rushes would be woven into a girdle called a “crios” or a tie for cattle or sometimes as a Brid’s bed or mattress for the Saint. Just as cattle were traditionally led through holy lakes or doused in water from Brigid’s well, they were often led through uplifted arches of these girdles. The Brid’s bed or holy mattresses were often placed at specific sacred wells and believed to possess curative powers to counter barrenness and to protect families and animals from natural calamities, especially lightning and fire. Some see the Brigid’s cross as symbolic of the evolution of the Goddess into the Saint. The Brigid’s Cross magically is believed to protect a house where it hangs from evil and from fire. Because of this, it is often hung in kitchens.

The Brigid’s cross is commonly woven on February 1st or 2nd, the date of Celtic Imbolc or Candlemas, a time to celebrate Brigid in her maiden form – the winter elder “cailleach” is reborn the maiden in her phase of collecting kindling for winter fires and warming the hearth for spring when she becomes young again. (After serving the winter as the aged woman still collecting kindling to keep the fire going to rejoice the flame for her rebirth) As the inventor of “caoineadh” or “keening”, from the mourning of her son Ruadán’s death, she inadvertently created the art form to keen. Some say this is tied into the creation of the Brigid’s cross. At this time when the night sky turns to the North star, the big dipper turns through the seasonal year, creating patterns in the sky that the Brigid cross is said to invoke. To tie into the warming for spring, Brigid is the fire keeper of the eternal flame always burning in Kildare, keeping the people of Ireland eternally warm. During her conversion to becoming a nun led to the practice of the Brigid’s cross, a craft many children and adults partake of weaving the kindling into a spiral form of the Brigid’s cross.

Here is a great web site with diagrams of the weave: http://www.fisheaters.com/stbrigidscross.html

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Sister Mary and the Shrine to St. Brigid (Goddess Brigid)

Sister Mary and the Shrine to Brighid
* Private Residence / Kildare, Ireland *

Probably one of the most enlightening and blessed experiences on my pilgrimmage and quest to Ireland in June of 2010 was meeting, visiting with, and being passed Brigid’s Eternal Flame from Sister Mary, the Brigidine Sister – one of the 19 sacred guardians of Brigid’s Flame. A call to see if she was home, me and Faerie Moe headed down the hill to Sister Mary’s private residence. A very humble, peaceful, and vibrant woman, Sister Mary welcomed us into her house and took us into the back room where the Shrine to Brigid was and one of the protected eternal flames of Brigid stay lit. We admired the numerous Brigid’s crosses, the artwork, and the spiritual offerings/dedications to St. Brigid (aka. Goddess Brigid). I was tingling with excitement and had an overwhelming ecstatic experience just standing in the room – in the presence of two of my favorite women – The Goddess Brigid (St. Brigid) through Sister Mary and the Shrine, and my friend Faerie Moe. What more could one ever ask for? If ever a glimpse of enlightenment, it was this particular moment in space and time for me. Being shown around Kildare by Faerie Moe who lives in the area and getting indepth local’s tour of the sacred sites that mean so much to me, learning about the work of Cairde Bhride, and being passed St. Brigid’s flame was an overwhelming experience. I did my best not to let it show, but i know I clumsily stumbled around from the feelings of awe I was in.

Sister Mary Minehan: A humble, peaceful, and shining powerful spiritual woman that embodies the illumination of the Goddess Brigid/St. Brigid. She is one of Brigid’s guardians of the sacred Eternal flame, a Brigidine sister who lives in Kildare, Ireland. Her life is dedicated to the work of Cairde Bhríde, the Catholic Order of St. Brigid that embraces both the Christian Saint and Goddess aspect of Brighid. The Order has an outreach community of 50 men and women who call themselves the “Cairde Bride” or “Friends of Brigid”. The Group do circle dances, rituals at the wells, greet pilgrims, watch over the wells, guard the Sacred Flame, teaches about Brigid, throw the “Feile Bride – Brigid’s Festival”, promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation. Sr. Mary Minehan grew up in Puckane, a small country village where she was boarded at a private boarding school and the Brigidine secondary school in Mountrath. During her last year in secondary school, on a retreat, and had a revelation to become a Brigidine sister. She joined the convent and live sacredly dedicated to God and Brigid at the Novitiate in Tullow. From there she became a teacher and worked in various Brigidine schools around the country before ending up in Kildare in 1992. (Brigidines work throughout Ireland, the UK, US, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Kenya, and Papua New Guinea) She chose Kildare upon being asked to come there to explore her Celtic Heritage and to reclaim Brigid of Kildare for the new millennium. Sister Mary was first exposed to Brigid at an early age through her grandmother who used to make Brigid’s crosses with rushes. She remembers her mother’s leg ulcer being cured by Brigid and came to know her as Brigid the Healer and Brigid the Protector. Sister Mary is one of the Protectors of the Flame and one of the Brigidines who will pass the flame to pilgrims to Kildare. Sister Mary Minehan can be reached at Solas Bhride at solasbhride@eircomnet and is a must for anyone on a pilgrimmage to Kildare for Brigid to meet.


Me receiving Brigid’s Eternal Flame from Sister Mary

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St. Brigid’s Cathedral – Kildare


St. Brighid’s Cathedral

St. Brighid’s Cathedral
* Kildare, Ireland * Open May-September, Mon-Sat 10 am – 1 pm; 2 pm – 5 pm; Sundays from 2-5 pm. Cathedral closes October thru April.

In the heart of Kildare lies St. Brigid’s Cathedral. This is the place in 480 C.E. that St. Brigid renamed as “Cill Dara” (modern Kildare) which means the “Cell or Church of the Oak” and built her Abbey on the hill beside a great Sacred Oak Tree. The present day stone Norman Cathedral is a restored 13th century version rebuilt numerous times after many fires, desecrations, and ruins of the originals that existed as early as 500 C.E. The Cathedral is likely built atop the Original Pagan Shrine to the Goddess Brigid and the later early Christian foundation and Church of St. Brigid. Brigid was the Goddess of Poetry, Magic, Muse, Inspiration, Healing, Smithcraft, and the Harvest. As a Saint she is the provider of plenty, giver of life, nurturer, fertility, and fire. The current structure seen in these photos was built in 1223 by the Norman Bishop Ralph of Bristol in an early Gothic style with a square central tower. Because of the history of invasions and plunders, especially by the Vikings, the current Cathedral was built for defense as well as worship. The Cathedral continues to serve the townspeople of Kildare as well as Brigid devotees from around the world and has for centuries. After the Reformation the Cathedral fell in disrepair and in complete ruins after the Confederate Wars by 1649. It was rebuilt in 1686 and restored to its present form from 1875-1896. In the 19th century it was rebuilt and restored back to its illuminated origins. Additional major restorations took place in 1996. The interior of the Cathedral has numerous stone carvings ranging from Pagan and early Christian to Norman period or later. It also houses numerous artifacts ranging from a 16th century vault, religious seals, a medieval water font, and shrines. It is here that the Nunnery originally founded by St. Brigid in the 5th century once stood as well as her original wooden Church. The churchyard has a graveyard, Celtic Cross, St. Brigid’s Fire Altar and Firehouse, Vaults, and a 105 ft high Round Tower (one of the last to be erected in Ireland). The Cathedral contains numerous medieval tombs, the most famous of which is one of the Fitzgeralds of Lackagh ( 1575 ). It is here that the Priestesses or Sisters of Brigid kept the flame eternally lit. This required 19 Sisters or Priestesses that kept vigil and made sure the flame never went out. Now Christianized, the Sisters / Nuns tend to her flame and continue the work the ancients once started. It was extinguished between the Reformation and its re-establishment in 1807. In 1993 the Perpetual flame was re-kindled in Kildare’s Market Square by Sister Mary Teresa Cullen.

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The Pagan Goddess Brigid, or the Christian Saint Brigid


St. Brighid

The Goddess Brigid
a.k.a. St. Brigid of Kildare, Brigid of Ireland, “Brigit”, “Bridget”, “Bridgit”, “Bríd”, “Bride”, “Mary of the Gael”, or “Naomh Bríd”
As a Saint and Actual Living Person: St. Brigid – c. 451 – 525 C.E. (A.D.)
Goddess of Poetry, Magic, Healing, Smith craft, Learning, Common People, Flocks/Stock/Yield of the Earth, and Inspiration.
Patron Saint of Ireland along with Saint Patrick and St. Columba. Early Christian Nun, Abbess, and Founder of several Monasteries.
Holiday: February 1st as “Saint Brigid’s Day, Candlemas, Imbolc, or Oimelc.

“As the Goddess: ” Throughout Europe, especially in England and Ireland, was the Pagan worship of the Goddess Brigid. She was the Goddess of Poetry, Magic, Healing, Smithcraft, Learning, Common People, Flocks/Stock/Yield of the Earth, and Inspiration. She is identified in Lebor Gabála Érenn as the Daughter of Dagda and a poet; a half sister of Cermait, Aengus, Midir, and Bodb Derg. In the Cath Maige Tuireadh she is responsible for inventing keening while mourning as well as the whistle used for night travel. Her British Counterpart Brigantia was the Celtic equivalent of the Roman Minerva and the Greek Athena. She is also the Goddess of all things perceived to be of higher dimensions such as high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts, upland areas, activities depicted as lofty or elevated such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship, healing, Druidic knowledge, the home, the hearth, and skills with warfare. When the Celts came to Ireland in 500 B.C.E. they brought with them the Druidic religion. Druidism was polytheistic with many Deities who interacted with humanity for good and for bad. It was a common practice for various Deities to be assigned to certain regions or places where a cult site would be established. One was established, as early, if not earlier than, 500 C.E. in what is now known as Kildare. The shrine and cult was dedicated to the Goddess Brigid. In the Celtic cosmology, the chief God was The Dagda Mor (God of musicians, magic) who ruled over the people of Dana (the Tuatha de Danann or the Faerie folk). Dana was the Mother of Irish God/desses. She was also associated as “Brid” the “Poetess” which is identified with the Goddess “Brigantia” who ruled over the Brigantes – a powerful Celtic tribe in North Britain. Brigantia ruled over water and the rivers – the Brighid in Ireland, the Braint in Wales, and the Brent in England. “Brid” meant “exalted one”. She is often referred to as a “Triple Goddess” – the Three Sister Goddesses named Brid: (1) Goddess of poetry and traditional learning; (2) Goddess of the Smith’s Art; and (3) Goddess of Healing. Through time, these three Goddesses and their attributes were merged into one figure – the Goddess Brigid. With the coming of Christianity, Paganism became absorbed and purposely phased out by the mainstream populace until eventually it was not tolerated. The Gods and Goddesses of old were diminished down to the same rank as faeries, angels, Saints, and royalty. Many of the ancient Gods and Goddesses were converted to Christian Saints by the Catholic Church as a means to dissolve Pagan belief systems. In Christian times she was converted to a Saint, after the actual St. Brigid of Kildare.

    Ni bu Sanct Brigid suanach
    Ni bu huarach im sheirc Dé,
    Sech ni chiuir ni cossena
    Ind nóeb dibad bethath che.

    Saint Brigid was not given to sleep,
    Nor was she intermittent about God’s love of her;
    Not merely that she did not buy, she did not seek for The wealth of this world below, the holy one.
    ~ Saint Broccan Cloen

“As the Saint and Historical Person:” St. Brigid was the “Mary of the Gael” and only second in popularity to the people of Ireland next to St. Patrick. She was primarily associated with Kildare, the Curraugh, and the whole region of the Liffey Plain known as “Magh Life”. St. Brigid was born to Dubtach or Dubhthach, the descendant of Con of the Hundred Battles, a Pagan Chieftain of Leinster; and to Brotseach or Brocca, A Christian Pict of the house of O’Connor who was a slave baptised by St. Patrick. St. Brigid was believe to have been born somewhere between 451-458 C.E (453 most common) at Faughart near Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. Some accounts state that Dubhthach, her father, was from Lusitania and kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave in the same regard as happened with Saint Patrick. Her mother, Brotseach, was also believed to be a slave of Dubtach who was sold off shortly before Brigid’s birth to a Druid who lived at Faughart a few miles from Dundalk. Apparently much of this regard in her life affected Brigid’s views on things, especially with the concept of people being property.
Dubtach, her father, and his family, were natives of Leinster and Fr. Swayne, the late Parish Priest of Kildare, who claims they were from Umaras between Monasterevin and Rathangan in County Kildare. She was baptised in the Christian faith under the name of “Brid” or “Brigid”. Legend has it though that she was weaned on the milk of a white red-eared cow, the color of the beasts of the Tuatha De Danann. Through her life Brigid was especially kind to the people she encountered and was notorious in legend for miracles to be associated with her. One legend tells of her as a child in charge of the dairy by her mother that she gave away so much milk and butter to the poor people where they lived that none was left for her family. She knew her mother would be furious so resorted to prayer. As an answer to her prayers, when her mother visited the dairy she found an abundance of milk and butter. She was also known to be a lover of animals and had many tales of her kindness to stray and starving dogs. In childhood she supposedly encountered St. Patrick. Supposedly she was brought to hear him preach and when she listened to him she fell into ecstasy. She was so dedicated to charity, taking care of common people, healing the sick, and her faith that when she reached marriage age, she instead decided to dedicate to religious life. Pagan lore states she was one of the guardians of the Sacred Flame and Shrine of the Goddess Brigid in Kildare.

Christian tales tell of her leaving home with seven other young girls and traveling to County Meath where St. Maccaille the Bishop resided. The Bishop was hesitant to instate the girls because of their young age into the order. During prayer, it was here that they experienced a column of fire that reached the roof of the church resting on Brigid’s head. The Bishop gave the veil to the eight young girls upon hearing of this miracle. St. Maccaille’s Church was on Croghan Hill in County Westmeath and it was here that St. Brigid founded the first convent in Ireland which attracted many ladies of nobility as postulants and it was here that Brigid and her sisters completed their novitiate. After completion, they journeyed to Ardagh where they made their final vows to St. Mel, the Bishop of Ardagh and nephew of St. Patrick. Brigid founded another convent here and remained for 12 years. At the Bishops request, she sent sisters to various parts of Ireland to establish new foundations including herself. As St. Brigid traveled around Ireland, she visited with St. Patrick when he was preaching at Taillte or Telltown in County Meath to obtain his blessing. Throughout her travels she conducted blessings and miracles along the way gaining Sainthood. The Leinstermen knew Brigid was from their province and constantly asked for her to return home amongst them and was offered any site in that province. She decided to make her foundation on Druim Criadh near the Liffey in what eventually grew into Kildare. She chose a spot on the ridge of clay near a large oak tree and decided to build her oratory beneath its branches. Purportedly there was already a Shrine to the Goddess Brigid here. The new foundation prospered and grew quickly. Girls from all over Ireland and even abroad came to St. Brigid’s foundation to join the community. The foundation was named after the “Church of the Oak” or “Cill Dara” which evolved to modern day Kildare. The poor, the afflicted, the sorrowful came to Kildare for Brigid’s healing, advice, and guidance.

Besides a church, Brigid built a small oratory at Kildare which became a center of religion and learning and developed into a Cathedral city with two monastic institutions, one for men and another for women with St. Conleth appointed as spiritual pastor for both of them. She also founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination that St. Conleth presided over as well. From this was produced the “Book of Kildare” which was praised by Giraldus Cambrensis as having every page fantastically illuminated with interlaced work and a harmony of colors that it was the work of Angels and not of Humans, but it has long since vanished since the Reformation.

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Kildare, Ireland


Kildare, Ireland

Kildare, Ireland
* http://www.kildare.ie/ * http://www.kildaretown.ie/ *
The visit I took in July to Kildare was one of the most sacred pilgrimmages I’ve made in my life. The Goddess Brigid has been my Matron and principle Deity since 1990 (20 years). I sought out Brighid’s flame, her holy wells, and to see the town that centers around the belief of this ancient Goddess and now Catholic Saint. “Kildare” is also known as “Cill Dara”. It is one of the oldest towns in Ireland. It originated in pre-Christian times with a shrine to the Celtic Goddess Brigid. After Christianization, it became the site of the great Christian foundation of St. Brigid. The town and area is full of legends, lore, historic buildings, and ruins dating well over 1500 years. Kildare was a town even before the Vikings colonized the coast and building towns, as even though towns are believed not to have existed prior to the Vikings. We know that Kildare fit the definition of a town as Cogitosus, a 7th century monk from Kildare, described it as a “vast metropolitan city” with a street of stone steps and urban characteristics existing before the Vikings arrived in Ireland. It is on these facets alone that it can claim to be the oldest town in Ireland. Kildare owes its existence to St. Brigid who founded her monastery here in the late 5th century C.E (484). There is evidence of older Pagan shrines to the Celtic Goddess Brigid that were served by a group of young women who tended a perpetual fire that was kept alit here. Brigid was the Goddess of ars, poetry, healing, childbirh, magic, livestock, and the yield of the Earth. The earliest shrine is believed to have been built over by St. Brigid’s Cathedral and may have been associated with a particular sacred oak tree growing on the site. Some believe that the Christian St. Brigid was a convert from the Pagan women who tended the Pagan Shrine to the Goddess Brigid. Regardless of the roots, by the 5th century, a unique Christian foundation was established by St. Brigid. She chose a site at the ancient shrine, under a large oak tree, on the ridge of Drum Criadh (Ridge of Clay) and built her church. Its foundation was renamed Cill Dara (The Church of the Oak) which is where the modern name Kildare comes from. St. Conleth, another Saint popular in the area, died in 520 C.E. Brigid’s Shrine was erected by 523 C.E. St. Brigid passed away at age 70 in 528 C.E.

Kildare flourished from the early 7th century to this day. It became a grand center of learning and a school was established for students from abroad as well as the sons of the Gaelic nobility. As the foundation grew, the requirement for artisans, traders, and tillers of the soil increased until Kildare reached a proto-town status. Kildare and its political / secular powers were watched very closely by the local kings of Leinster who were based in the nearby town of Naas. There is mention in the Annals that in 710 C.E. the monastery was burned. In 756 the Bishop Eghtigin was killed by a priest at St. Brigid’s altar in Kildare as he was celebrating mass which at that time was forbidden for a priest to do in the presence of a Bishop. The Annals mention the building of a wooden church in 762 but by 770 Kildare and the monastery was burnt down again. By 772 it was burnt again on the 4th of Ides of June and again in 774. By 799 St. Conleth was placed in a shrine of gold and silver.

The Annals of Ireland referred to Kildare alot especially from the 9th-11th centuries in relation to raids and plunderings of Vikings and the Native Irish. They recorded that in 835 C.E. a Danish flet of 30 ships arrived in Liffey and another in the Boyne where they plundered every church and abbey in the region and destroyed Kildare with fire and sword carrying off the shrines of St. Brigid and St. Conleth. However the Brigidine order had removed the remains of St. Brigid and hid them in Downpatrick before her shrine was destroyed. In 868, Queen Flanna, wife of Finliath, the King of Ireland, rebuilt the Church. In 883, Ceallach Mac Bran, the King of Leinster gained a battle over Kildare in their church and slayed many in the churchyard. The same year the Danes laid spoil upon Kildare, its religious houses, and took the abbot and 280 of his clergy plus family captive. By 895 the Danish raided Kildare again. In 926 Kildare was ransacked by the son of Godfrey of Waterford and again by the Danes of Dublin in the same year carrying away numerous captives and rich booty. They ransacked Kildare again in 953. By 962 Kildare was almost completely destroyed by the Danes of Dublin and most of Kildare’s inhabitants were made slaves, yet the Collegiate School of Kildare continued teaching and the professors remained in residence. In 992 Kildare was yet, once again, destroyed and preyed upon by the Danes of Dublin. They plundered it again in 998 and 1012. In 1013 the Danes burnt Kildare down to the ground. In 1016 It was again plundered by the Danes. In 1018 it was recorded that all of Kildare except one house was consumed by lightning. According to the Annals, the Monastery was burnt through the negligence of a very bad woman. In 1040 Kildare was destroyed by fire. By 1050 Kildare and its great stone church was burnt down again and again in 1079. In 1089 the town was destroyed by fire. In 1135 the Abbess was forced from her cloister by Dermot McMurrough and made to marry one of his followers. In the course of that event, approximately 170 of Kildare’s inhabitants were slaughtered.

After the Normans landed in 1169, they came to Kildare with Strongbow using it for the center of his campaign to conquer Leinster. Giraldus Cambrensis, the Welsh chronicler of the Norman Invasion recorded his impressions of Kildare, its round tower, its marvelous manuscripts, and the Legends of St. Brigid. It was also here the very first mention of a castle in Kildare which was probabl a motte and bailey castle. The first stone castle to be built was done by the Earl Marshal on the site of the present castle in the early 13th century. Strongbow died in 1176 and by 1189 his daughter and her husband William Marshal Snr inherited Kildare castle. In 1295 John Fitzthomas quarrelled with Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster causing unrest in Kildare. Calbach O Conchobair Failge captured the castle and burnt many of its documents, the followers of William Donyn broke into the castle and robbed it of money, cloth, wheat, oats, malt, oxen, cows, sheep, and pigs. In 1297 William de Vescy surrendered the castle to the king. The same year, Walter, son of Nicholas the chaplain, broke into the Cathedral and stole treasures from the Church. In 1032 the Inquisition claimed the Bishop of Kildare built the Castle of Kildare on church lands without permission. The Castle was sieged in 1315/1316 by Edward Bruce after a 3 day siege. Kildare and the region, being on the frontier lands of the Pale, were centrally attacked not only through history by the Vikings but dispossessed native Irish. The town went into the possession of the Fitzgerland family and by the Confederate Wars in the 1640s was garrisoned and the Cathedral stood in ruins. At this time Kildare was believed to have been abandoned and no longer inhabited. By 1798 Kildare got involved in the Rebellion and was where Lord Edward Fitzgerald, leader of the Rebellion, lived and some 350 men were massacred in Gibbet Rath when they were trying to surrender. The Jockey Club was founded in the 1700s and brought in horse training stables at the nearby Curraugh adding prosperity to the town and region with horse racing. By the 1800s the British Army artillery barracks were strongly rooted in the area and the Curraugh. With ease of access to Dublin by road and rail it became a dormitory town of Dublin and also declared a Heritage Town. Kildare’s major attractions are St. Brigid, her Cathedral, her wells, her flame, the Irish National Stud and Horse Museum, The Japanese Gardens and Visitor Center, and the Round Tower.


Cill Dara

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Donnelly’s Hollow, Giant Footsteps, and Circle Dancing

Donnolly’s Hollow, Giant Footsteps, and Circle Dances

The Curraugh, Kildare, Ireland

The Curraugh is speckled with natural bowl-shaped amphitheaters known to be dancing locations for Pagan and Christian groups. One of these is known as “Donnolly’s Hollow” where the Irish champion boxer Dan Donnelly defeated the English champion George Cooper in 1815. He was quite locally famous and the remains of his arm were shown until recently in the Hideou Pub in the nearby town of Kilcullen. Daniel Donnelly was born at the docks near Townsend Street in Dublin 1788 C.E. He was viewed by many to be a actual “Giant”. Over 6 foot tall his arms purportedly could touch his knees without him bending over. He was born into an Ireland that was suppressed with colonial oppression, acute agrarian poverty, and burning patriotism. He took on the carpenter trade and often frequented taverns where he was a legend for holding his own at hard drinking or hard hitting. A horse trainer from Maddenstown named Captain Kelly discovered him at a coffee shop brawl and upon recognizing his potential, lured him into boxing as a career. His first recorded fight took place on the Curraugh in 1814 against the famed Tom Hall. The fight drew an estimated 20,000 spectators and was won by Donnelly in 20 minutes. His second famous fight took place here in the Hollow against the mighty George Cooper. The spectators took meaning of that fight to epitomise the national struggle and championing their seemingly hopeless cause against the intransigent representatives of the Crown. Everyone crowded into the Curraugh to watch this spectacle and see history be made. The fight lasted 11 rounds with the first 3 involving Donnelly sledge-hammering blows upon the Englishman, though retook by Cooper until the 7th and 8th rounds when Donnelly’s strength and “giant” stature gave him the edge back striking at the head and temple and by round 11 knocked Cooper senseless, breaking his jaw-bone. The fight gave an enormous amount of spirit to the Irish. From 1815-1819 Donnelly lived a reckless life. When he was introduced to George IV, Prince Regent remarked “I am glad to meet the best man in Ireland” to which Donnelly replied “I’m not, your Royal Highness, but I’m the best in England.” This made a strong friendship with the Prince who later Knighted Donnelly. Donnelly died penniless at age 32 on February 18th, 1820. He had an enormous funeral, with thousands in attendance, his gloves carried on a silken cushion, and was laid to rest in Bully’s Acre, Kilmainham, Dublin. His corpse was then dug up and stolen by medical students which instigated riots amongst the Irish. His body was purchased by the Dublin Surgeon Hall who removed the right arm to study the muscle structure and respectfully reburied the body. Surgeon Hall then transported the arm to Scotland where it lay undisturbed until a roving circus purchased it for their “peep show”. Eventually it came into possession by Hugh ‘Texas’ McAlevey, a boxing fan and affluent Ulster bookmaker. When ‘Texas’ died, Tom Donnelly an affluent wine merchant and sportsman, procured the arm and presented it to the Hide-out pub in Kilcullen where it was displayed for roughly 43 years until Jim Byrne died. Eventually he believed the arm might be frightening off customers and then stored it in his attic. The arm made it back to Kilcullen in the 1950s. Upon Jim’s death, the pub was eventually sold. In 2005 it was sent for an exhibition called “Fighting Irishmen: A Celebration of the Celtic Warrior”. It was smuggled into America and became the centerpiece of the Fighting Irishmen Exhibit, Donnelly’s arm went on display at the Irish Arts Center in New York City, in the fall of 2006. The show traveled across New York to the South Street Seaport Museum in 2007. It was then displayed at the Boston College’s John J. Burns Library in 2008. The arm returned to Ireland in 2009 displayed at Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh. By 2010 it was exhibited at the Gaelic Athletic Association museum at Croke Park in Dublin.

Giant Footsteps

As Donnelly was seen as a “Giant” there is a long trail of giant footsteps in the ground going up the hill from his monument in Donnelly’s Hollow. This gives physical play with the legends of literal metaphorical super-humans who were believed to walk alot around the Curraugh. Throughout history, many Giants, Faeries, pilgrims, Celts, and Vikings left their marks on these Irish hills including legends like Cuchulainn and Brian Boru.

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Hellfire Club Dublin

Hellfire Club Tour – Dublin, Ireland
* http://www.hiddendublinwalks.com/ghost-tour-dublin.php

I really wanted to experience this ghost tour – but unfortunately Hidden Dublin Walks cancelled the tour sometime between me waiting at the Brazenhead and the 20 minutes it took for a representative to show up to tell me it was cancelled. So its on my list of things to do for my next visit to Dublin in 2011. For €22 the Hidden Dublin Walks will bus you out to the infamous ruins of the Hellfire Club and tell you haunted tales. They do the tour every thursday at 7 pm meeting outside the Brazenhead tavern at 20 Lower Bridge Street in Dublin. However, best to book online or make reservations for if they don’t have enough attending, they won’t do the tour. The also offer private larger group excursions upon reservation request. On the dark road to the Hellfire Club they will tell more legends and lore, ghostly tales, and stories about St Patrick’s Cathedral, Rathfarnham Castle and Kilakee House as well as the dark Dublin Mountains range that you will be entering. A walking tour through the haunted hunting lodge that dates to 1725 C.E. that is a rumored location for Satanic rites, supernatural tales, and Occult practices. The storyteller tells the tale of its history, the destruction of ancient megalithic monuments on the site, the exhumation of the demonic statue and dwarf statue as well as the presumed evil rituals, events, and black masses, rumored human and animal sacrifices, and the infamous card game called “cloven-hoofed visitor”. Travel time and tour takes about 2 and a half hours.

The Legendary Hellfire Club a.k.a. Club Thine Ifrinn is a ruin located on Montpelier Hill that stands about 383 metres high in County Dublin, Ireland. The building is an Palladian architecture designed old hunting lodge built in 1725 by William Conolly, a Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Conolly purchased Mountpelier Hill from Philip the Duke of Wharton, the founder of the first Hellfire Club in 1719. The upper floor consists of a hall and two reception rooms, on the east side was a third timber-floored level with sleeping quarters. The Ground floor hosts a kitchen, servant’s quarters, and the stairs to the upper floors. The house had a semi-circular courtyard enclosed by a low stone wall and entered by a gate. Originally on this summit was a cairn with a prehistoric passage grave that was desecrated and used to construct the hunting lodge formerly called “Mount Pelier Lodge”. A standing stone that was on the hill was used for the lintel over the fireplace. Shortly after its completion, a storm blew off the roof, which locals blamed was the work of the Devil as punishmen for destroying the cairn/passage tomb. Conolly rebuilt the roof which remains today. Connoly died in 1729. The Connolly Family let the lodge to the Hellfire Club. Members of the Irish Hell Fire Club, an elite social group of occultists, have been said to actively used the lodge as their meeting place from 1735-1741. Rumors and local imaginations ran amiss claiming wild parties, debauchery, occult practices, human/animal sacrifices, Satanic rites, and demon manifestations took place at the location. No accounts of how much the Hellfire club actually used the estate as it was pretty remote. Many publications such as Robert Chamber’s Book of Days (1864) and the Gentleman’s Magazines (1731-1922) states there was heavy use of the estate by the Club. The lodge was damaged by fire so the members of the Hellfire Club relocated down the hill to the nearby Steward’s House which is also rumored to be haunted by a massive black cat. Today Montpelier Hill and much of the surrounding lands are owned by the State forestry company Coillte and are open to the public.

The Hellfire Clubs internationally were the name for several exclusive clubs of high society rakes that were established in Britain and Ireland in the 18th century. These were related to the “Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe”. Supposedly these clubs were the meeting places of “persons of quality” who wished to take part of immoral acts. Most of the members were politicians. The very first Hellfire club was founded in London in 1719 by Philip Duke of Wharton. The Club motto went with the philosophy of “Fais ce que tu voudras” (Do what thou wilt) – a philosophy of life associated with François Rabelais’ fictional abbey at Thélème and later used by Aleister Crowley. Practices were believed to be rigorously Pagan with Bacchus and Venus as the Deities of honor who were legendarily sacrificed to while nymphs and hogsheads were laid in against he festivals of the new church. The Irish Hellfire Club was founded in 1735 by Richard Parsons, the 1st Earl of Rosse and Colonel St. Leger. The president of the club was Richard Chappell Whaley, a descendant of Oliver Cromwell and was known as “Burn Chapel” Whaley since he had the thirst for setting fires to Catholic churches. Most of their meetings took place either at the Eagle Tavern on Cork Hill near Dublin Castle or at Daly’s Club on College Green. Legend has it that the members drank “saltheen” – a mixture of whiskey and hot butter and that they left a chair vacant at each meeting for the Devil. Their mascot was supposedly a big black cat. One of the legends is of a stranger who arrived at the Club on a stormy night. He was invited in and joined the members in a card game. One player dropped his card on the floor and when he bent down under the table to retrieve the card he noticed the stranger had a cloven foot. Shortly after the visitor disappeared in a ball of flame. Another tale tells of a priest who came to the house one night and found the members engaged in the sacrifice of a black cat. Supposedly the priest grabbed the cat and uttered an exorcism upon which a demon was released from the cat’s corpse. Another tale tells of Simon Luttrell, the Lord Irnham later Earl of Carhampton and once Sheriff of Dublin has supposedly made a pact with the Devil to give up his soul within seven years in return for settling his debts, but when the Devil came to the Hellfire Club to claim his due, Luttrell distracted the Devil and fled. Luttrell is also the man referred to as “The Diaboliad” in a 1777 C.E. poem dedicated to the “Worst Man in England”. Another legend states there was a sacrifice of a dwarf on this site. The Hellfire Club was revived in 1771 and active for another 30 years and called “The Holy Fathers”. They too supposedly met at Mount Pelier Lodge. One legend has it the members kidnapped, murdered, and ate a nearby farmer’s daughter. At this time its most notorious member was Thomas Buck Whaley the son of Richard Chappell Whaley. When he passed away in 1800, the Irish Hellfire Club supposedly died with him. Supposedly in 1970 a dwarf human skeleton was found below the floor of Killakee House, another location for Hellfire Club meetings.

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The Mummies of St. Michan’s Church

St. Michan’s Church of Ireland and it’s Mummies
* Church Street * Dublin, Ireland * Hours: Nov-Feb: Mon-Fri 12:30-2:30pm, Sat 10am-1pm * Admission: Free to Church; Guided tour: €3.50 adults, €3 seniors and students, €2.50 children under 12 *

A little hidden secret to Dublin tourism is St. Michan’s Church. St. Michan’s was named after a Danish Bishop. The Church is most famous for its ancient Viking origins, it’s 18th century organ, its mummies in the basement that were an inspiration for Bram Stoker in doing Dracula. The Church was built on the site of a Danish chapel that was originally founded in 1095 C.E. by he Danish colony in Oxmanstown, located near 4 Courts, and for many centuries was the only parish on its side of the Liffey River. It served the Viking population that was expelled from within the city walls. It was rebuilt in 1685 to serve a more prosperous congregation by Sir Humphrey Jervis and restored in 1998 and is now under control of the Protestant Church of Ireland. Church may have been designed by Sir William Robinson, Ireland’s Surveyor General. The Church has fabulous woodwork, a large 1725 organ which is legendary to have been played by Handel for his “Messiah”, has a 1516 chalice, a Penitent’s Stool, and and 18h century font and pulpit. Its biggest attraction is in its crypt where the dry climate created by limestone walls has preserved centuries old bodies intact like mummies. The Church runs guided tours down into the stone tunnels that are lined with decaying coffins, haunted burial chambers, and crumbling corpses can be seen up front and maybe even touched. Amongst the Deceased are the notorious Four: a 400 year old Nun on the left, A woman on the right, a thief – as he is missing a hand and both feet in the center, and towards the rear – A 6 and a half foot man believed Possibly to be a Crusader who was sawn in half to fit into the coffin – he’s the most intriguing as one of his hands is lifted slightly in the air. Folklore states that Bram Stoker visited this crypt and it is responsible for part of his inspiration for Dracula. The last room in the corridor holds the coffins of the Sheare brothers who were executed for the 1798 Rising as they were hung, drawn, and quartered by the British. Also buried here is Oliver Bond, another 1798 Rising participant; the Mahematician William Rowan Hamilton; and maybe even the remains of Robert Emmet who was executed during the 1803 Rising.

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The Blarney Castle

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Blarney Castle
* http://www.blarneycastle.ie * Blarney, Ireland * 021-438 5252 *

The Blarney Castle and its estate is an amazing magical playground of myths and legends, faeries, and fantastical beliefs. It is one of Ireland’s most infamous hot spots and tourist locations which is most notorious for The Blarney Stone. Even the grounds in its gardens have their attractions and history, as small caves and structures in the Rock Close garden may have neolithic habitation possibilities, and potentially the home to a mythical witch that was trapped in a rock. The Blarney Witch is said to have servitude to the Castle to grant wishes for those walking up and down the Wishing Steps backwards with their eyes closed focusing on only their wish. The Close also has a Dolmen, Fairy Circle, as well as a Druid’s cave and ceremonial circle. The Martin River that runs through the estate is believed to be possessed by ghosts of salmons leaping for ghosts of flies. Enchanted cows walk from the depths of the lake to graze on the meadows below the castle. There is also a glade where Faeries are believed to be at play. The famous castle itself was built in 1446 and has ever since become one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations and is located in Blarney Village, just 8 kilometers from Cork City in Southern Ireland. The castle stands at around 90 feet high boldly overlooking the castle estate, grounds, and gardens. Of course the biggest draw for tourists to the castle is the magical act of hanging upside down and kissing the Blarney Stone … the action of which will endow the kisser with the gift of gab according to the legend. It is documented that more than 300,000 visitors come to kiss the stone every year. It is recorded that Queen Elizabeth I required the Irish chiefs to agree to occupy their own lands under her title. The current castle’s builder, Cormac Teige MacCarthy, the Lord of Blarneys, built this third castle incarnation in 1446 C.E. (common era) he abided by Queen Elizabeth I’s request without actually “giving in” by promising loyalty to her and handling every royal request with subtle diplomacy, just as kissing the Blarney Stone afforded him. The Queen was said to remark on McCarthy that he was giving her “a lot of Blarney” which gave rise to the saying.

The history of the land and place stretches back over two centuries before the current castle’s construction. There are remains of prehistoric sites and Druid ceremonial remains. No one knows for sure when the Blarney Stone came to the grounds, but it was believed to have arrived sometime around 1602 C.E. It is believed that the Blarney Stone, was a magical stone that was the rock that Moses struck with his staff to create the water for the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. Another myth states it was part of Jacob’s pillow and that the prophet Jeremiah brought it to Ireland on this very plot of land. Others say its the stone of Ezel behind which David hid when fleeing from King Saul and was brought to Ireland during the Crusades. The most popular myth was it being a portion of the Stone of Scone which was used by St. Columba as a traveling altar during his missionary quests in Scotland. Upon his death it was believed to have returned to this place in Ireland to serve as the Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny atop Tara.

The first castle to be built on the land was a wooden one manifested around 950 C.E. This was replaced by a stone construction in 1210 C.E. but was torn down because of foundation problems.

The current castle is the third structure to be built on site built by Dermot McCarthy in 1446 C.E. The castle was then occupied by Cormac McCarthy, the King of Munster, who sent 4,000 men to hold Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn – and it was there that he a legend rumors that he received half of the stone of Scone from Robert the Bruce in gratitude and was then incorporated into the Castle as the “Blarney Stone“. Queen Elizabeth the I in 1586 C.E. began confiscating land in Ireland. She wanted the Blarney Castle and its ground thereby commanding the Earl of Leicester to take the Castle as she was tired of all the Blarney, and these attempts were always defeated by Cormac’s gift of gab, distracting the take-over with a feast or party, never successfully taken. A reputed treasure of a golden plate was believed to be held within the castle. The castle was besieged during the Irish Confederate Wars. In 1646 C.E. Cromwell’s General Lord Broghill broke into the Blarney Castle’s walls by placing a large gun atop Card Hill opposite and above the lake below the current castle. When they attacked and entered the keep, they discovered the main garrison had fled through the three passages known as the Badger’s Caves – one passage led to Cork, the other to the lake, and the third to Kerry. His men were not able to retrieve the legendary treasures such as the golden plate. A later landowner drained the lake thinking it was sunk within. It was not found. The Estate was then forfeited by Donogh Mccarthy, the 4th Earl of Clancarthy and the McCarthy’s reinhabited the castle in 1661 C.E. The Property was then passed to the Hollow Sword Blade Company who eventually sold it in 1688 C.E. to Sir James St. John Jefferyes, the Governor of Cork and by the 1690’s the MacCarthy’s left the castle for good.

Near the Castle is the Georgian Gothic styled Blarney House and the Rock Close was built at the beginning of the 18th century by St. James St. John Jefferyes in 1703 C.E. The court was built by 1739 C.E. and the model estate village of Blarney in 1765 C.E. The Rock Close was landscaped around the ancient Druid remains in 1767 C.E. The house was destroyed by fire in 1820. In 1825 Sir Walter Scott came to kiss the blarney stone. Father Prout in 1837 spread word of the wonders of the Blarney Stone making it even more of an attraction amongst the nobility and curious. The Irish Famine took place from 1845 and 1852. In 1846 the Jefferyes family married into the Colthurst family. The house was rebuilt in Scottish baronial style in 1874 and is still occupied by the family lineage, though through the inter-married line of the Colthurst family. In 1883 the future President William H. Taft of the United States came to kiss the Blarney Stone. By 1887 the new railway into Blarney afforded many travelers the opportunity to kiss the stone, including boxing legend John L Sullivan, at that time the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. In 1893 during the World’s Fair in Chicago the Blarney Castle and stone was mimicked with the promoters billing that it was the real stone people were kissing, this of course was false. In 1912 Winston Churchill came to kiss the stone. In 1938 American businessmen offered the Colthurst family a million dollars to allow the stone to go on tour in the U.S. but the offer was rejected. The House’s wings were reformed in the 1980’s for a better view of the castle and grounds. In 1984 Ronald Reagan claimed to have kissed the stone.

Beneath the castle lies the Badger Cave and dungeons, in its courtyard is the infamous The Blarney Poison Garden, and within the grounds are the magical fantasy land known as The Rock Close. The castle is open daily except Christmas Day and Eve. Adults are €10.00; Child €3.50; Student/OAP €8.00; Family €23.50; and newly weds wanting pictures at the Castle are admitted free. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.

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Common Rue: Ruta Graveolens

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Ruta Graveolens / RUE
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Rue: Ruta Graveolens
Ruta Graveolens [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Rosids: Sapindales: Rutaceae: Rutoideae: Ruteae: Ruta: Ruta Graveolens ]

Common Names:

Localities:
Commonly found throughout the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, Macaronesia, and southwest Asia.

Description:
Rue is a hardy evergreen shrubby plant that is highly scented disagreeble odor, ranging from 20-60 cm tall, with upwards of 8-40 species. The most popular “Rue” is “Common Rue”. Stems are woody in the lower part, Its leaves are alternate tripinnate or bipinnate with feathery appearance, green to blue green in color hosting yellow flowers with 4-5 petals that are approximately 1 cm in diameter usually from June to September, eventually forming 4-5 lobed capsulated fruit that hosts numerous sees.

Species:
Ruta angustifolia – Egyptian Rue; Ruta chalepensis – Fringed Rue; Ruta corsica – Corsican Rue; Ruta graveolens – Common Rue; Ruta montana – Mountain Rue

Cultivation:
Grows anywhere, but thrives best in partially sheltered and dry areas. It can be propogated by seeds sown outside and scattered in spring, raking and beds kept free of weeds so that the seedlings when 2 inches high can be transplanted into fresh beds. Best to allow 18 inch spacing. With cuttings done in the spring, insert in soil until well rooted in shady borders or by rooted slips taken in spring until readily grown. Poor, dry, rubbishy soil is very good.

Common Uses:
Often used to ward off fleas and other biting insects and a common herbal insect repellent.

Culinary Uses:
Rue is very bitter with a nauseous taste, but utilized in many Middle Eastern cuisines, especially as an additive to grappa in Italy. It was a common element to ancient Roman recipes. Often added to salads.

Medicinal Uses:
Used for much medicine in England, it is a main ingredient for poison antidotes. Piperno the physician in 1625 recommended Rue to combat epilepsy, vertigo, and malady – often to be worn around the neck of the sufferer. Pliny claimed it was good to improve eyesight and focus. Believed by Italian artists to make eyesight sharp and clear aiding in detailed drawings. Juice of Rue is often utilized to fend off ear aches. It was seen early to ward off contagion, attacks of fleas, and other insects. Culpepper recommends it for sciatica and pains in the joints, also for shaking fits of agues, etc. Volatile oil made from rue contains caprinic, plagonic, caprylic, and oenanthylic acids as well as rutin. Often distilled from the fresh herb used as a wine, decoctions and infusions for medicinal usage or tea as an emmenogogue. In large quantities it is an acro-narcotic poison. Used sometimes to address hysterical affections, coughs, croup, colic, and flatulence as it is a mild stomachic. On the skin its an active irritant and sometimes used as a rubefacient, helping ease the severe pains of sciatica. it can risk dermatitis on the skin and cause rashes, especially if under the hot sun when oils are rich on the outside, it can blister skin like a poison ivy rash. Taken as a tea often used to combat nervous nightmares and leaves rubbed to the temples are said to relieve headaches. However, taking the plant intself internally has been known to produce vomiting, convulsions, and stomach pains. The compresses of the leaves applied to chests can combat chronic bronchitis. Leaves chewed are believed to calm nervous headaches, giddiness, hysterical spasms, and palpitations.

Magical Uses:
The Ancient Greeks see it as a “anti-magical herb” because it served as remedies to nervous indigestion they suffered when eating before strangers which was blamed on witchcraft. Throughout the Middle Ages it was seen as a powerful defense against witches and a main ingredient in many spells. Crushed herb is known to ward off evil spirits and witches. Rue is also believed to summon second sight. Holy water was sprinkled with rue brushes at ceremonies preceding Sunday celebrations of high mass, giving it the name Herb of Repentance or Herb of Grace. Often boiled together with treacle, conserving the rue, and used to cure croup in poultry or to fend off diseases in cattle.

Folklore and History:
The name comes from “Ruta” (Greek ‘reuo’) meaning “to set free” as the herb is known to be very good at affecting various diseases. Used by many ancient cultures, it was written about by Hippocrates who commended it as a chief ingredient for combating poisons in antidotes. Said by Gerard that “If a man be anointed with the juice of rue, the poison of wolf’s bane, mushrooms, or toadstooles, the biting of serpents, stinging of scorpions, spiders, bees, hornets and wasps will not hurt him.”, it was commonly sprinkled in houses to kill all the feas and as an insecticide. It is one of the ingredients in the “Vinegar of the Four Thieves”. It is the floral symbol of repentance, sorrow, and of regret.


Rue
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Legend of the Blarney Stone

Legend of the Blarney Stone
Blarney Castle, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland * Phone: 00 353 21 4385252 * http://www.blarneycastle.ie/
One of Ireland’s most valuable and mesmerizing mythical collections is the infamous Blarney Stone. Called “Cloch na Blarnan” in Irish, it is the legendary stone for the gift of gab. “Blarney” means “Clever, Flattering, or coaxing talk”. The Blarney Stone is a block of bluestone that is built within the battlements of Blarney Castle, located approximately 8 kilometers from Cork, Ireland. It is believed that whoever kisses the stone is endowed with the gift of gab, great eloquence, or the skill at flattery. It allows the gifted to impart the ability to deceive without offending. Its not an easy task to kiss the stone, as one needs to be held upside down atop a drop of a tall tower to reach the kissing spot. The stone became part of the tower in 1446 and has become one of Ireland’s most notable tourist sites.

Where does the stone come from? There are many myths and legends surrounding the stone and its origins, the earliest of which involves the Goddess Clíodhna. It is believed that the Castle’s builder, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, was in a lawsuit and sought out Clíodhna for her assistance. She told him to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court, and as he did, he gained eloquence and won the court case. Flabbergasted by this magical event he took the stone and added to the castle’s stones. The history of the land and place stretches back over two centuries before the current castle’s construction. There are remains of prehistoric sites and Druid ceremonial remains. No one knows for sure when the Blarney Stone came to the grounds, but it was believed to have arrived sometime around 1602 C.E. Many believe that it was a piece of the Stone of Scone. Others believe it to be the rock that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. Others believe it to be the stone that Jacob used as a pillow and was later brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. It is said that it then became the Lia Fail, or ‘Fatal Stone’ and was used as an oracular throne of the Irish kings. Some say its the Stone of Ezel which David hid behind on Jonathan’s advice while fleeing King Saul and brought to Ireland during the Crusades. Others believe it to be the rock pillow used by St. Columba of Iona on his death bead or his portable altar he took with him while doing missionary work in Scotland. Some believe that the stone was first presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314 to recognize his support in the Battle of Bannockburn. Lore dictates that the stone was previously in Ireland then taken to Scotland and brought back to Ireland in 1314. It is also said that during the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Dermot McCarthy, had been required to surrender his fortress to the Queen as proof of his loyalty. He told her he would be delighted to do so, but something always happened at the last moment to prevent his surrender such as throwing a dinner party or event for the officers charged in the takeover. Many believe this was the charm of the Blarney Stone in effect. The Queen replied to this as “Odds bodikins, more Blarney talk!”

Kissing the Stone has been performed by literally ‘millions of people’ in the world, including world statesmen, literary giants, and legends of the silver screen. Kissing the stone is kissing all of these people by proxy, and by the magical law of contact – gaining the gift of gab that all these people possess. Its not an easy kiss and its important for the lips to touch the bluestone. This quest involves ascending to the castle’s peak, leaning over backwards on the parapet’s edge, entrusting a stranger (Castle guard) with your life by holding on to you. Today, safety wrought-iron guide rails and protective crossbars help prevent death or serious injury. Prior to these installations, the kisser was in danger of serious life risk as they were grasped by their ankles and dangled from the plummet. According to the Sherlock Holmes radio dramatization in “The Adventure of the Blarney Stone” (March 18, 1946) reported a man attempting the kiss plummeting to his death – but determined to be a murder as his boots had been greased before the attempt. The cautious and germ phoebic consider the Blarney Stone to be the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world, as ranked as such by Tripadvisor.com in 2009. It is documented that more than 300,000 visitors come to kiss the stone every year. When I attended in 2010, I watched the guards use antiseptic wipes after every kiss and had hand sanitizer on the spot. Urban legends are amiss that claim locals go up to the Blarney stone at night and piss on it. Of course, anyone who has ever been to the Blarney stone, knowing the tight and tiny ascension up the treacherous tower (that is locked after hours and guarded) that even with breaching security and risking royal criminal punishment, would have to be damn good aim to hit the Blarney stone. Much of the urban legend comes from the incident in the film “Fight Club” where the narrator urinates on the Blarney Stone during his visit to Ireland as his first act of vandalism.

    ‘Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses
    He never misses to grow eloquent;
    ‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber, Or become a member of Parliament.
    “A noble spouter he’ll sure turn out, or An out and outer to be let alone;
    Don’t try to hinder him, or to bewilder him, For he is a pilgrim from the Blarney stone.”

In 1825 Sir Walter Scott came to kiss the blarney stone. Father Prout in 1837 spread word of the wonders of the Blarney Stone making it even more of an attraction amongst the nobility and curious. In 1883 the future President William H. Taft of the United States came to kiss the Blarney Stone. By 1887 the new railway into Blarney afforded many travelers the opportunity to kiss the stone, including boxing legend John L Sullivan, at that time the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. In 1912 Winston Churchill came to kiss the stone. In 1984 Ronald Reagan claimed to have kissed the stone.

Many nation’s around the world have attempted to obtain the Blarney Stone. There are quite a few imposters out and about. The one and true stone is in the Blarney Castle.In 1893 during the World’s Fair in Chicago the Blarney Castle and stone was mimicked with the promoters billing that it was the real stone people were kissing, this of course was false. According to a tradition at Texas Tech University, a stone fragment on display since 1939 outside the old Electrical Engineering Building claims to be a missing piece of the Blarney Stone. In 1938 American businessmen offered the Colthurst family a million dollars to allow the stone to go on tour in the U.S. but the offer was rejected.

The Blarney Stone is just the “icing of the cake” when it comes to the magic and myths of Blarney Castle. Even the grounds in its gardens have their attractions and history, as small caves and structures in the Rock Close garden may have neolithic habitation possibilities, and potentially the home to a mythical witch that was trapped in a rock. The Blarney Witch is said to have servitude to the Castle to grant wishes for those walking up and down the Wishing Steps backwards with their eyes closed focusing on only their wish. The Close also has a Dolmen, Fairy Circle, as well as a Druid’s cave and ceremonial circle. The Martin River that runs through the estate is believed to be possessed by ghosts of salmons leaping for ghosts of flies. Enchanted cows walk from the depths of the lake to graze on the meadows below the castle. There is also a glade where Faeries are believed to be at play.

One can kiss the stone from Monday thru Saturday, 9 am to 6:30 pm in September and May, 9 am to 7 pm from June through August, and 9 am to sundown from October to April. On Sundays, kissing can commence from 9 am to 5:30 pm during the summer, and 9 am to sundown during the winter.

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Dunseverick Castle

Dunseverick Castle
* Along the Giant’s Causeway / Coastal Causeway Route, Northern Ireland *

Near the Giant’s Causeway, on an isolated rock surrounded by the sea in a small bay, is the crumbling remains of “Dunseverick Castle”. A maritime fortress of Dalriada, built by Sovaric, son of Eberic mythically in the year of the world 3668 a.m. once off the royal road from Tara, and once of the seats of the Kings of Ireland. It was stormed in 870 C.E. and then plundered again by Mave, the QUeen of Connaught at a uncertain date, starting a bloody war between Ulster and Connaught. When the castle was in the hands of Kinel Owen, in the 12th century, another disaster struck. When Turlough of Dunseverick returned from the Crusades, the castle was ransacked and massacred by Norwegian ships sparing only Lady O’Cahan, sister of Turlough. This beautiful young girl with dark hair and blue eyes, won the heart of the Norsemen, sparing her, and wedding him until the Norseman was slain by Turlough. The melee between the Norseman and Turlough caused the castle to catch fire, and the bride to plunge to her death off the cliffs resulting in the castle falling into ruins.

    “And the villagers of olden times oft heard the wailing cry
    Of the Norseman and brave young Turlough when waves were running high,
    And old Dunseveric, gaunt and bare, has no sadder tale of woe
    Recorded in its annals of the years of long ago.”

The castle was later made the family residence of the O’Cahan family who were branched from the Kinel Owens, from about 1000 C.E. until 1320, regained again by the family in the mid 16th century. Was in the family hands until the 1641 rebellion when chief Gilladuff O’Cahan was taken by General Munro and hanged at Carrickfergus years after the rebellion. Munro destroyed all the castles in the area along the coast except Dunluce where he garrisoned English soldiers for the Cromwellian army. By 1662 most of Dunseverick was demolished except a piece of wall at the entrance six feet thick which his men were unable to remove. On the north side of the castle, is a well about three yards from the edge of he cliff, over 100′ above the sea, that legendarily “Never goes dry”. It is named the “Tubber Phadrick” or “St. Patrick’s Well” and was considered one of Ireland’s holiest wells as St. Patrick visited Dunseverick on several of his travels through the North. St. Patrick used to sit on a stone located by the well, named “St. Patrick’s Rock”, but this stone was tumbled into the well by General Munro’s soldiers. Last to own and reside in the castle was Giolla Dubh O Cathain who left it in 1657. Now in ruins, only a small residential tower survived until 1978 until taken by the sea. Now just ruins of the walls remain. The castle is located in County Antrim near the small village of Dunseverick and about a mile and a half from the Giant’s Causeway. Now part of the National Trust (1962) as passed on by local farmer Jack McCurdy.

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