Category Archives: Cork

Starbucks Coffee (Mahon Point, Cork, Ireland)

Starbucks (Mahon Point, Cork, Ireland)
First Floor, Kiosk 7, Mahon Point Shopping Centre, Cork, Ireland
http://www.starbucks.ie/store/1010436/ie/mahon-point/first-floor-kiosk-7-mahon-point-shopping-centre

It always amazed me how Cork Ireland was always lacking a Starbucks. Cork has had its history with up and downs of Starbucks success, and finally at least this year (2015) a really nice Starbucks is readily accessible off the N40 and in close proximity to Cork City. This roomy Starbucks has a warm and bustling atmosphere with friendly servers. I put them to my Chai Creme Frappacino International test and they were successful … they knew how to make it. (Most International locations have difficulties with this drink – many of their employees don’t even know its a menu offering that is so popular in the States) There was very roomy space for the wee one to play and not get into much trouble while we were catching up with an old friend. The chai and pastries were delicious. Good times. Accessibility not bad as there is a car park below with an elevator up. However if there is rain or bad weather like we experienced during our visit, you’ll have a brief run-through the rain to get from the elevator to the Starbucks. Rating: 5 stars out of 5 Visited 1/1/2015

To read more about the Starbucks Corporation for history, links, and resources visit here: http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=2345.

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St. Finbarr’s Holy Well: Gougane Barra

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

Saint Finbarr’s Holy Well ~ Gougane Barra
* Gougane Barra * Macroom, County Cork, Ireland *
* Coordinates: N 51° 50′ 21.0″ W 009° 19′ 07.8″ * Grid Ref. W 09151 65974 * Elevation: 164 meters above sea level * OS 85 092 660 marked *

Just inside the gate crossing over to the Island with the Church that is known as Gougane Barra resides a stone enclosed holy well attributed to Saint Finbarr. Some claim this is one of the most potent holy wells in all of Cork known for its healing properties. Some say it is the source of the River Lee. There is also a Wishing Tree / Money Tree nearby. There used to be a old cross that stood in the middle of a field that had coins hammered all over it that fell down and rotted away.

May2312d-MaggieLandBlanckIllus-SportDramNews10-18-1879
Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, October 18, 1879
Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

The tradition of hammering money moved from this cross to the Wishing tree. This is because the cross fell over due to the weight of coins, and was removed by the Church in the late 1990’s and placed against a yew tree in the back of the settlement. Saint Finbarr was the founder of the monastic site and church on this island, Gougane Barra, the City of Cork, and its Sea. He was led by angels, chased off Lú, Gougan Barra Dragon who lived in the lake, and had a host of mysteries and miracles associated with his life. It is because of this, the magical waters of the well share in his fame. Catholics favored coming here for many years as it was a refuge from the Penal Laws due to its remoteness. Catholic/Christian Observations at the well include doing rounds, stations, or turas at the well before gathering a bottle of its magical waters to bring home with them. The fairy tale of Morty Sullivan and the Black Steed takes place near here.

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

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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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Binne’s Cairn: The Giant’s Grave, Curraghbinny Woods, Cork, Ireland

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Binne’s Cairn, The Giant’s Grave, Curraghbinny Hill, Ireland

The Giant’s Grave: Binne’s Cairn
* Curraghbinny Woods, County Cork, Munster, Ireland * Latitude: 51°48’41.35″ * Longitude: -8°17’52.72″ *

Atop the summit of Curraghbinny Hill in Curraghbinny Forest Recreation Area lies a mound of giant stones/ cairn that is locally called “The Giant’s Grave”. The grave overlooks Cork Harbour. It was excavated by an archaeological team in 1932 by archaeologist Sean P. O’Riordan. During this excavation, a large circle of giant boulders were uncovered beneath a spread of stones. Within the cairn was an arc of smaller stones closer to the center. In the center of the monument was a heap of stone and clay. That is all found within the cairn. Nearby however were found cattle teeth, cattle bone, charcoal, cremated human bone, a small bronze ring, and two collections of water-rolled pebbles imported from elsewhere. The cremated human bone found nearby was carbon dated roughly to be 4,000 years old. No one knows the exact date of the cairn, but it is estimate to be Bronze Age (2000 B.C.E. to 400 B.C.E.). The name of the woods “Curraghbinny” in Irish is “Corra Binne” named after the legendary giant called Binne. It is believed that this cairn is his burial chamber atop the hill (called a “Corra” in Irish). The stone most likely was deposited naturally during the Ice Age 20,000 years ago. The Giant’s Stone in Crosshaven went missing after the slob in the town center was filled in and was recently recovered and brought back to be displayed in the middle of Crosshaven.

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Binne’s Cairn, The Giant’s Grave, Curraghbinny Hill, Ireland

The legend of the Giant named Binne
According to Robert Day who told the tale in 1892 about a giant named Mahain who threw two stones from Monkstown landing in Ringaskiddy and the other in Crosshaven. It is believed this was the Giant named Binne. Another local tale tells a similar tale, but this time the Giant was called Binne, and lived locally in Currabinny. He was the giant who cast the stones into Crosshaven years ago. The stone apparently has a set of fingerprints embedded into the stone leading viewers of it to believe they belonged to a giant.

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Binne’s Cairn, The Giant’s Grave, Curraghbinny Hill, Ireland

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Prince August Toy Soldier Factory

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Prince August Toy Soldier Factory
* Kilnamartyra Village, Macroom, Co. Cork, Ireland * Phone + 353 (0)26 40222 * Fax + 353 (0)26 40004 * http://www.princeaugust.ie/ *

As we were driving around Ireland looking for stone monuments, dolmen, tombs, and holy wells we stumbled upon this toy factory in the small village of Kilnamartyra in Macroom, near Killarney town and Cork City. The parking lot was empty but the open sign was up. The outside of the building had beautiful artwork and painting of mythology, toy soldiers, and dragons. Inside we were greated by a mom and her son who showed us around the store, let us take a peek in the warehouse, and demonstrated lead casting of the toy soldiers. Apparently this is the only Toy Soldier Factory in all of Europe and one of the largest of its kind in the world. They offer tours of the facilities, demonstrations, school tours, family days, parties, and craft making sessions.

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They offer casting and painting workshops as well. The Factory creates a variety of start kits that contain moulds that can be used for home crafting to create your own toy soldiers or mythical beings. The selection ranges from toy soldiers, traditional soldiers, Romans, Vikings, Faeries, Mythological Figures, Chess Sets, Christmas Ornaments, and Teddy Bears. The factory was founded in 1976 by two new Irish residents from Sweden. They bought a factory building in Kilnamartyra, recruited local help, and bought mould making machines beginning production. They originally packed and distributed in Germany while manufacturing in Ireland at first, but as their resources grew in Ireland, moved operations completely into Ireland. We had a great visit, and enjoyed the figurines. Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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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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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.

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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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Cork Butter Museum

Cork Butter Museum
Cork Butter Museum

Cork Butter Museum
O’ Connell Square, Shandon, Cork, Ireland
+353 (0) 21 4300600 * www.corkbutter.museum

One of the most intriguing and interesting museums in Cork is the Butter Museum. My fiancee was quick to take me up the hill to this unsual museum that covers the history of Ireland’s most important food export and the world’s largest butter market. It’s definitely worth a gander and is enriching with the history of farming, commerce, and finance in Ireland. It doesn’t just focus on the food culture of early Ireland, but also covers the growth of Cork as a food trade center. The history of butter making is covered with a feature audio-visual presentation on Irish Butter, as well as a plethera of artifacts throughout history used in butter and food production. It can be done in about an hour, and only will cost you about 4 Euros to wander about. Rating: 3 stars out of 5.

Butter Churn
Butter Churn

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Shandon Center Samhain Dragon Parade 2011

http://www.dragonofshandon.com/ * Dragon of Shandon Samhain Parade in Cork, Ireland on Halloween * Monday, October 31, 2011. This year’s parade featured creations from hundreds of community group participants, Irelands largest articulated sellotape Dragon, scary characters, musicians and an illuminated river parade by Naomhóga Chorcaí and Meithal Mara up the River Lee.

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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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The Rock Close:

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Rock Close

Rock Close
* Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * www.blarneycastle.ie *

A mystical portal in the heart of the castle grounds of Blarney Castle is Rock Close, a place where faeries dance, Witches’ bless and answer wishes, Druids weave magic, stone monuments made, and magic is alive. The Rock Close garden is not only a site of myths and legends, but of romance and art. A dolmen greets you as you walk along the river after walking through a weaved willow tunnel, with misty meadows, moss covered rocks, and waterfalls. As you walk up the Witches Wishing steps to the Witches Kitchen and where the Witch is trapped in the stone, overlooked by the Druid Cave and by the Druid Ceremonial circle where you can walk around where the faeries play. This is one of the most fun and condensed folklore heavy sites I’ve encountered in Ireland – of course its history is a mystery in of itself. It is also a great romantic getaway from the tourist heavy section of Blarney Castle. Prehistoric dwellings adapted by 10th, 13th, and 19th century adaptations lead a lot to the imagination in this garden. In 1824, Croften Croker wrote in his “Researches in the South of Ireland” about the mysteries of this spot.

    “In this romantic spot nature and art (a combination rather uncommon in pleasure grounds) have gone hand in hand. Advantage has been taken of accidental circumstances to form tasteful and characteristic combinations; and it is really a matter of difficulty at first to determine what is primitive, and what the produce of design. The delusion is even heightened by the present total neglect. You come most unexpectedly into this little shaded nook, and stand upon a natural terrace above the river, which glides as calmly as possible beneath. Here, if you feel inclined for contemplation, a rustic couch of rock, all festooned with moss and ivy, is at your service; but if adventurous feelings urge you to explore farther, a discovery is made of an almost concealed, irregularly excavated passage through the solid rock, which is descended by a rude flight of stone steps, called the “Wishing Steps,” and you emerge sul margine d’un rio, over which depend some light and graceful trees. It is indeed a fairy scene, and I know of no place where I could sooner imagine these little elves holding their moon-light revelry. ~ Croften Croker, 1824

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It was a highly popular in the early 19th century with antiquarians. The mysteries of the Blarney Witch, the Fairies, the Druids, and the Dolmen are sure to enchant you. Blarney Castle does document that this was a place for Druidic worship. The sacrificial altar of course is hearsay, the Druid’s circle is probably, the hermit’s cave or Druid’s cave is a mystery as is the Witches’ kitchen and wishing steps. It has been documented that in the late 1700’s C.E. (Common Era) that the Rock Close was made into the garden area upon which foundations are walked upon today. Apparently the castle owners landscaped around already existing prehistoric dwellings, stone monuments, and Druid circles to make the magical faerie glen it is today.

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Rock Close: Druid’s Cave and Circle

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Druids Cave and Circle
* The Rock Close * Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * http://www.blarneycastle.ie *

Right next to the Witch’s Stone and Kitchen is the Druid’s Circle and Sacrificial Altar that is believed to be a traditional Celtic stone circle that was once used by Druids who practiced on the grounds long ago. The Senior Druid Priest was reputed to have lived in the Druid’s cave. Nearby is the Faerie Glade, round the hill from the Witch’s Kitchen, underneath giant gunnera leaves and it is reputed to have lots of faeries. Across from the Faerie Glade is the Druid’s Circle.

Not much is known of these rock monuments, circles, and cave – but they are believed to be prehistoric dwellings and ritual sites. The Rock Close Dolmen is believed to be 4,000-5,000 years old. The Druid Circle and Cave are not officially dated nor is the Witches’ Kitchen. We do know that the castle owners in the early 1800’s landscaped around these features making the Rock Close as it is today with the myths and legends surrounding it. As Druidism in this era was word-of-mouth and oral traditions and no archaeological surveys, excavations, or artifacts – the guesses of the use of these remains are hypothetical and guess work. There is still little known about the ancient Druids even though the revivalistic Meso-Pagan and Neo-Pagan Druid faiths are very abundant today throughout the world. We do know the Druids were classed as “Bards”, “Ovates”, and “Druids” – all of whom shared similar functions albeit the Druids were the administrators and leaders, the Ovates the diviners and healers, and the Bards the story tellers, musicians, and keepers of the oral wisdom. Most of what we do know about the ancient Druids is from writings by Julius Caesar and the Romans, all biased from the enemy perspective. In that the Romans never really conquered or inhabitated Ireland like it did the rest of the Celtic world, there is no telling what the Irish Druids were up to outside of myths and legends found in the Mythological Cycle. There is a purported “sacrificial altar’ here that Blarney Castle labels as such, but it purely deduced from basic knowledge that Druids performed rituals that involved sacrifice in the ancient days.

The Echoe Ghost Hunters investigated this area in 2010-2011 and claimed very strong EMP’s were recorded in the area of the Witches’ Kitchen. Most of the lore in this area is centered around the Witch of Blarney.

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Rock Close: The Witches’ Kitchen and Stone

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The Witches’ Kitchen

Witches Kitchen
* The Rock Close * Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * http://www.blarneycastle.ie *

In the enchanted grounds of Rock Close in the fabled lands of Blarney Castle is the infamous Kitchen of the Blarney Witch. Archaeologically it is believed to have been a prehistoric dwelling potentially as old as the Neolithic (3,000-5,000 years old) if there is any connection of it to the The Rock Close Dolmen (Blarney Castle) or the Druid’s Cave and Circle. Atop her wishing steps is her kitchen. It has a chimney and fireplace within.

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The Witches’ Kitchen

Offset from the kitchen is her stone. Apparently by legend she is bound and entrapped in the rock in servitude to bestow wishes upon those who walk up and down backwards the wishing steps while thinking only of their wishes and not letting any other thoughts drift in. In exchange, the Blarney guardians provide her firewood for this very kitchen so she can continue her spell craft and crazy brews while staying warm at night for when darkness falls she is magically released from the stone she is trapped within. Some say if you arrive early enough you can still see the dying embers of the fire as she lights a fire every night. Many believe that it was the Blarney Witch who really told McCarthy about the power of the Blarney Stone while others claim it was her who enchanted the stone as a “thank you” to McCarthy for saving her from drowning in the river. No one seems to know how she was entrapped into her rock. The Echoe Ghost Hunters investigated this area in 2010-2011 and claimed very strong EMP’s were recorded in the area of the Witches’ Kitchen. Most of the lore in this area is centered around the Witch of Blarney.

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The Witches Stone

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The Wishing Steps of Rock Close

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Wishing Steps

Wishing Steps
* The Rock Close * Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * http://www.blarneycastle.ie *

Onwards with the quest for charms and blessings, just after kissing the legendary Blarney Stone for the gift of gab we wandered into The Rock Close of Blarney Castle. It was time to visit the wiley old witch of Blarney for a endowment of wishes. The witch requires the wisher to walk backwards up and down the steps with their eyes closed without stopping for a moment or thinking of anything other than the wish – then that wish will come true within a year. Of course I did it, and those who know me can only guess what my wish was … The roughly hewn 21-24 limestone steps climb up through an archway of limestone rocks. The steps can be wet and very slippery. Legend states that the witch was forced to do these blessings on the steps as a way for her to pack for her firewood she uses in the Witches kitchen located at the top of the steps. It is believed that if you go up the stairs early in the morning you will see dying embers in the fire pit of the Witches’ Kitchen and Stone which is supposedly lit every night by the Blarney Castle Witch.

The witch supposedly grants the wish within a year’s time. Others say a “year and a day”. My wish came true in precisely a year and 2 months. On June 28, 2010 I wished to be united with my soul mate and twin flame that previous prophecies said I’d meet. I also always had dreams as a child I’d marry an Irish woman. A year later in 2011 I was supposed to go to Ireland but while in Scotland ran out of money and called to tell my Irish friends I wasn’t able to come for a visit. They asked if I was going to Burning Man to which I replied, “I couldn’t afford it”. They had a position open for me as staff in helping build the Celtic dragon effigy for Ireland at Burning Man, so I went. I had a theme camp set up called “Tir na nOg” and was a base camp for the Irish crew. The night of the Effigy burn, I was a fire guardian and while watching the perimeter, had a friend from Colorado come fire spin for the event and she needed a safety person – unable to assist as I was already tied up with the boundary, I looked around the audience and saw a woman dressed like a leprechaun who was sober – I asked her to assist and she did. Afterwards I invited her back to our Tir na nOg camp, fed her fairy food and drink, and we fell in love. It turned out she was from Ireland, via the Pacific Northwest after working a summer on Vancouver Island, and lived in Cork – a stone’s throw from the Blarney Witch. She was looking for other Irish to hang out with. I moved to Dublin with her, two months later at the Stone of Destiny was inspired to propose to her, and we soon after married and gave birth to a beautiful son. So every year we return to the Blarney Witch to thank her for playing cupid. In our experience, we believe the wishing steps work.

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The Blarney Badger Cave

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Badger Cave
* Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * http://www.blarneycastle.ie *

A feature of the Blarney Castle are the caves below the fortress called “Badger Cave”. This was the escape route used by the garrison when Cromwell’s general Lord Broghill besieged the castle and fired down from Card Hill above the lake and broke through the tower walls. He found only two trusty old retainers and the garrison gone. He was hoping to find the fabled golden plate but appeared that it was taken through the caves to escape his capture. Some say the plate was sunk in the lake. There are believed to be three passages in these caves – one that leads to Cork, another to the lake, and another to Kerry. However, no one seems to be able to find these legendary passages ….

In order to provide public access to one of the passageways in the cave archaeologists had to evaluate the passage before tourist entry. The 2007 Excavation report of Badger Cave, Site 07E0672 / CO062-177 / 16080 07531 report concluded that this main 35 meter long passage interlinked with two short connecting fissures (7 meters long and 13 meters long respectively) extending from its south-eastern wall. This main passage was excavated with a trench 23 metes long by 1 meter wide by .8 meter deep with 50% of excavated deposits wet-sieved. Within the findings were over 340 naturally occurring recent animal bones and a proximal end of a flint flake that potentially dated to the Neolithic.

There are some myths and legends about paranormal activity in the caves, castle, and grounds. The Echo Ghost hunters investigated the site from 2010-2011 and captured an image of a man in the 3rd floor window of the castle (no stairs or access to that window) and recorded strange Kll hits in the caves.

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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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Cork YHA Hostel (Cork, Ireland)

Cork International YHA Hostel
* Cork International – Cork City YHA * 1 & 2 Redclyffe * Western Road * Cork * Republick of Ireland *
Tel. +353-21-4543289 * Fax. +353-21-4343715 * jheaney@anoige.ie

A comfy 5 star Hostel located in the heart of Cork city. With 96 beds, its a perfect place to lodge when exploring Cork and experiencing the city life as its located only a few minutes from the city center. The hostel has 24 hour access, self catering kitchen, private parking in the back, wifi, dining, and lounge areas. Rating: 3 stars out of 5.

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Cork, Ireland

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Cork, Ireland
“The Rebel City”, “Leeside”, “A Safe harbour for Ships”* www.corkcity.ie *

Cork comes from the Irish name “corcach” which means “swamp”. It was founded in the 6th century of the Common Era as a monastic settlement by Saint Finbarr. It gained city rights in 1185. It hosts a population of over 119,000 (2006). It is Ireland’s third largest city, and the 2nd largest in the Republic of Ireland. Cork is known for its rebelliousness through the ages, starting with its support of the English Pretender Perkin Warbeck in 1491 after the War of the Roses. The ciy is built on a island atop the river Lee which is created by the division into two channels at the western end of the City. Cork Harbour is one of the world’s largest natural harbours making it also one of Ireland’s largest seaports. The city gained urban character in the early 900’s when Viking settlers founded a trading port supporting the global Scandinavian trade network. Once as fully walled city during the Middle Ages, only a few sections and gates still stand today. City received charter by King John in 1185. 1491 Cork played a big role in the English Wars of the Roses when Perkin Warbeck was a pretender to the English throne had landed in the city and tried to recruit support to overthrow Henry VII of England. Because of this, the city gained reputation of being incestuous as written in 1577 described as “so encumbered with evil neighbours, Irish outlaws, hat they are fayne to watch their gates hourly … they trust not the country adjoining and only marry within the town so that the whole city is linked to each other in affinity.” The climate is the common Irish abundant rainfall and lack of temperature extremes as temperatures below 0 °C or above 30 °C are rare. Cork is known for its Glucksman Gallery at UCC with major influences in music, art, dance, theater, film, and poetry. It is also home to the RTE Vanbrugh String Quartet and many musical acts including John Spillane, The Frank And Walters, Sultans Of Ping, Singer songwriter Cathal Coughlan and Sean O’Hagan of The High Llamas, short story writers Frank O’Connor and Sean O’Faoláin, opera singers Cara O’Sullivan, Mary Hegarty, Brendan Collins, and Sam McElroy, Simple Kid and the late Rory Gallagher. Contemporary writers include Thomas McCarthy, Gerry Murphy (poet), and novelist and poet William Wall are from Cork. Cork is notable for gaining cultural diversity as a high threshhold zone for immigration from Western Europe, especially Spain and France in the late 90’s and more recently from Eastern Europe such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia,and Hungary. Cork and Dublin are competitive rivals. Cork has alot of industry, most notable for Murphys Stout, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Viagra production, European headquarters of Apple, home to the Heineken Brewery, and most recently as one of AMazon.com’s European headquarters.

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