We visited the Shannon Pot, the source of the river Shannon, a very spiritual place in Ireland, yesterday. The rain was lashing but despite the weather it was magical. We spotted the first May blossom on the hawthorn this spring- and we have waited a long time for spring to arrive in Ireland in 2013. Hawthorn is a tree sacred to fairies. But since fairies come in all shapes and sizes we had more magic in store to witness. They’ve even been known to shape shift, often into animals who then communicate subtly with us.
The other magical sight was a solitary white horse in the pasture beside the the first flowing of the Shannon river as it rises from ‘the pot.’ In the rain it was sheltering beside the hawthorn in full flower. This reminded me of the story of the fairy horse, or eoiche uisce, that is associated with a lough within the Cavan Burren forest.
There is a fairy horse legend associated with a nearby lough on the Cavan Burren that inspired me to write a poem. This poem of mine tells the tale of why you need to be wary of the water horse who is, of course, a fairy horse.
Cautionary Fairy Tale
Young women, beware handsome men
with slicked back watery hair, ken
their fetching grins that show a lot of teeth.
For once in your ever young lives
defer to those older and more wise
who can read the reality beneath.
Handsome men that go wandering lough side,
all snake hipped swagger in full lust cry,
need heeding . Fleet foot yourself away!
For once in your ever young lives
defer to those older and more wise.
Head for home without further delay!
Handsome men wandering lough side
often lure with kisses and love sighs,
tempting young women to get carried away.
Yet at least once in your young lives
defer to those older and more wise.
Don’t yield and be led well astray.
Handsome men with their slicked back, watery hair
have a habit of making young women care.
Don’t be fooled – he’ll have you at his call and his beck.
Please for once in your ever young lives
defer to those older and more wise.
That devill’ll shake your life clear off its track.
That handsome man will turn to faerie beast.
That stallion will seek you for his own mortal feast.
He’ll love you. He’ll lave you, but never’ll leave you.
So for Heaven’s sake of your ever young lives
would you not defer to those older and more wise
who’d save you from riding to your doom?
For the skin turned water horse has only one true enclave.
Tullygubban Lough will always be his current consort’s grave.
© Bee Smith 2011
Storytelling, poetry, music and good conversation are all part of our Betwixt & Between Walks with Bee (and Tony) as we walk the Fairy Ireland landscape of West Cavan, South Fermanagh, Leitrim and Sligo. Charges are 30 euro per hour. Book your walk by emailing email@example.com.
Help us share the beauty and spiritual power of Ireland with others. Please click on one of the social networking buttons if you believe in fairies.
First thing that all prospective fairy hunters need to understand is this: fairies are earth elementals or nature spirits. So if you want to connect with fairies you need to get outdoors.
Woodland walks are exceptionally good places to hunt for fairies. Gardens that are a bit wildish and left to nature rather than pruned and manicured may prove good hunting grounds. Because fairies are of this world and the other betwixt and between places – shorelines, boundaries of all kinds, bridges- may be the place where you will connect.
The primary reason for embarking on a pilgrimage or a spiritual journey is this. At some point in life we just have to cross a threshold, go through the doorway, open the window and let the light in for our soul to stretch and open up and out.
Walking connects our bodies to our spirits. If you walk long enough all the endless internal chatter quiets down; your breath deepens and becomes regular. Your eye will roam; you will notice but not judge what you observe. With the body being in contact with a quieter mind the spirit begins to relax and expand. We encounter inspiration on our pilgrim way – not just as we exercise our bodies and tone our lungs – but also in the mind and spirit.
Early Christian monks were called peregrini; this is where we get the word peregrinations. These solitary spiritual seekers wandered abroad to places that were foreign as a way of opening their hearts and minds to the divine. Australian aboriginals walk their ancestral song lines to connect with their soul. Europeans have also taken spiritual walks. We just call them pilgrimage or a spiritual journey.
Irish Blessings Tours is pleased to announce the 2014 Brigit Tour. This eight day tour will meet in Dublin on 30th January to participate in a tour that will burn with Brigit’s proverbial flame of inspiration. An evening reception at our Dublin hotel will give everyone an opportunity to meet and be greeted by the tour leader and escort, Bee Smith. Bee is a Brigit expert who led a tour for the Celtic Women International in 2011.
Central to the tour is spending three days – from 31st January – 2nd February- where we will be delegates at an international gathering at Brigit’s Garden in Rosscahill, Co. Galway. This Celtic themed garden dedicated to the spirit of Brigit is the ideal place for this Gathering .
The Gathering takes as its theme “Spreading Brigit’s Mantle: Brigit’s Vision for the 21st Century.” Mary Condren, author of The Goddess and the Serpent will give a keynote address as well as launching her latest book. The gathering will offer facilitated workshops, community and an evening ceilidh over the course of the weekend.
The final four days of the tour will take us to sacred spaces – holy wells, cursing/blessing stones, fairy woodland, and dolmens as we head towards northwest Ireland where the Tuatha de Danaan, the fairy race from which the goddess Brigit sprang, first landed in Ireland.
We will end the tour by visiting Solas Bhríde in Kildare where the eternal flame that had burned for centuries was rekindled in 1992. We will visit both holy wells and the cathedral where you will need keen eyes to spot the Sheela-na-gig.
This tour will be of special interest to women and men who have an interest in the spiritual heritage, traditions and devotions that surround Ireland’s matron goddess and saint. Whether your interest is in pagan or Celtic Christian spirituality, we will visit places that have remained sacred to all spiritual traditions in this island.
Your guide, Bee Smith, is a a regular contributor and former Sagewoman columnist and long-time Brigit devotee. She is a published poet and is included in Goddess Ink’s anthology”Brigit: Sun of Womanhood”, editted by the late Patricia Monaghan and Michael McDermott.
Tour costs will include entrance fees, shared room, breakfast and evening meals.
For full tour itinerary and costs email firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch the blog for regular updates and follow this event on our Facebook page.
This summer if you are travelling to Northwest Ireland – especially West Cavan and Fermanagh – walk with Irish Blessings Tour guides Bee Smith and Tony Cuckson to some of the betwixt and between power places of this unique border region. With many visitors arriving in Ireland this summer for The Gathering 2013 walk the places where our ancestors have lived continuously since the times of the Megalith Makers.
Irish Blessings Tours creatrix, Bee Smith is a Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark trained tour guide. Her talks with walks will enhance your understanding of the ancient sites, natural heritage, mythology and local history. Storyteller and musician Tony Cuckson embellishes the walks with his beguiling Armagh accent and humour.
Allow poet, writer and storyteller Bee Smith to lead you on a fairy hunt in the magical places within the ancient Irish kingdom of Breifne. Bee’s tours will show you places where modern and mythic Ireland meet, sharing those ‘betwixt and between’ places of Tir na nÓg, the rainbow bridges between time and the timeless. No tour of Ireland is complete without that ‘tingle factor’ that this part of Ireland never fails to deliver.
So come walking Betwixt & Between with Bee to places where the fairies still thrive, where you can feel the ancestors watching your back and feel peace dropping slowly upon your soul.
Pricing- €30 per hour
Book via email to email@example.com or by phone 071 964 3936.
Payment should be made via PayPal upon receipt of confirming email or text message.
Groups up to eight people, children with focus welcome
Seeking the Source at Shannon Pot
This one hour tour of the source of Ireland’s longest river, the Shannon, includes storytelling and music with Tony Cuckson. Meadows, fairy trees, story and song. This walk is completely accessible.
Crossover with Crom Cruich
The Ancestors at our Back
This walking tour of the Cavan Burren is a minimum two hours and includes the guide’s own poetry inspired by the landscape and the folklore associated with it. A half day could be easily spent exploring dolmens, cairns, wedge tombs and boulder formations. A longer tour with a picnic included can be negotiated.
Those of us who have a devotion to Brigid, as a saint or goddess figure, are really excited that there is a walking pilgrimage, the Slí, Bhríde, or Brigid’s Way, that is launching as part of The Gathering Ireland 2013. A nine day pilgrimage walk will take place from 7th – 16th July this year.
The route begins in Faughart, Co. Louth, alleged to be the birthplace of St. Brigid, the daughter of a nobleman and slave woman. This iconic figure of the divine feminine has now become the leading ‘light’ inspiring a walking pilgrimage way that can be compared to Spain’s Camino, which starred in the Martin Sheen film, “The Way.”
Dolores Whelan, author of “Ever Ancient, Ever New” will facilitate this pilgrimage walk with Karen Ward. The route will take pilgrims south from Faughart to Kildare, where as an abbess St. Brigid founded one of the most important monastic communities of the early Celtic Christian era. As well as visiting these prominent Celtic Christian shrine the route will tread an ancient path passing the Hill of Tara before taking to Ireland’s Grand Canal at Maynooth.
This walking pilgrimage will allow participants to ponder your life’s soul journey, shed what you are ready to leave behind and to allow Brigid’s eternal flame to light up and align your vision for your soul’s journey.
It’s been unseasonably cold in many places. It’s hard to believe that it is Easter! Here is Ireland the meteorologist say it’s the coldest in fifty years, but last Easter was balmy . Yet my sister-in-law can remember with the past fifteen years having a caravan holiday on the Antrim coast and waking up to snow! March can be a bit temperamental weather-wise.
Out in our garden I noticed that the mild winter had seemed to quell our hellebores. My ‘Christmas Rose’ has taken on a more North American identity and become a ‘Easter Rose’. It felt more like Spring in February.
The daffodils bravely shiver and trumpet the coming of spring. It has dawned sunny and cold but without a frost this morning. As I write you this Easter greeting I look out a winter onto our garden and notice that the willow trees have sent forth catkins.
Living in this corner of Northwest Ireland in West Cavan, close to the boundaries of Leitrim and Fermanagh is a great blessing. When Tony and I left England nearly thirteen years ago, leaving behind a business, job security and good friends, many thought we were mad, feckless or both. Yet we have never regretted it. To be able to live out in the country on a little acre of fertile peaty ground is like living on a diamond mine – but you rarely have to dig. The fairies just toss jewels at you left and right.
I am daily mesmerised by the every changing sky both day and night. It is just past the full moon. In the absence of street lighting the soft LED effect of moonlight makes you want to go out and moon bath. We have witnessed magenta sunrises over the Playbank on a winter dawn and equally spectacular sunsets in all seasons. In autumn we wake to see a bank of mist.
Before we moved here I came across a book by an Irishman called “ I Could Read the Sky.” It was about a passing culture or , more accurately, the effect of transplanting a countryman to an urban environment with its light pollution and tall buildings obscuring a good view of the sky. Over our time hear I’ve learned the meaning of interpreting the signs in the sky.
When one feels blessed there is a deep connection to gratitude. I wake up each morning grateful to have been guided to this very special corner of Northwest Ireland. It doesn’t have a lot of interpretation centres, museums or heritage villages – a few – and many open their doors at Easter.
What Northwest Ireland does have is pristine land that you can walk and if you listen to the land and look up to the sky you will be blessed with the most wonderful insights, inspiration and profound awe for the marvel of this good earth who deserves our respect and devotion.
The Celts, both pagan and Christian, knew that Spirit speaks to us through nature. This is what is so distinctive about the Celtic Spiritual heritage. When I walk the glens and woodlands, the stony Cavan Burren, when I look into the Source at Shannon Pot, I am persuaded that Celtic Spirituality is a great legacy gift to us in our post-modern age of hurry and haste.
This Springtime may you be blessed with the promise of rebirth
where ever you are and whoever you may be.
May the birds carol and rejoice that we are all alive under one sky
May your spirit unfurl like a sunflower following the arc of light
And may we all feel the blessing of this good earth
Irish Blessings Wishes you a Happy Easter and a Joyful Springtime
I was at a network meeting the other night and was chatting with the manager of the Marble Arch Caves, Richard Watson. Given that I originate from the USA we were talking about the North American tourist market. He told me an anecdote which I would have thought was past its sell by date.
Two American tourists arrive at the Marble Arch Caves gift shop. Marble Arch Caves is right on the Fermanagh Cavan boundary. Cuilcagh Mountain at its back is the the border. When they are told that they are in the sterling zone the American tourists went rigid with panic that they are in Northern Ireland. A mild bickering match erupted between them with one accusing the other, “You told me we wouldn’t be going into Northern Ireland!” They immediately turned tail and fled to the carpark, presumably back into the Republic of Ireland.
Hearing this made me feel both mad and sad. Having lived here for twelve years and travelled to Northern Ireland since 1980 I know that there is no reason not to come and discover the wonder of Northern Ireland. All those images you have of Northern Ireland from your television screens are things of the past.
The thing is if those fleeing tourists headed east it would be inevitable that they would be weaving in and out of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There is no visible border since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The only way you can tell whether your in one or the other is that the speed limits are in kilometres in the Republic and in miles in Northern Ireland. The same would be true of some of the westerly routes. Shops along the border use both sterling and euro and always know the daily exchange rate.
Although the actual anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in 10th April, here in the northern part Ireland we cannot help but thinking of how radically lives have changed since the peace process began and the historic agreement struck. There are no army foot patrols. The fortified police stations in border towns have been decommissioned. There are no Customs & Excise or passport controls. Co-operation exists to an extent that the Marble Arch Caves became the very first cross border, international global geopark, an official UNESCO designation acknowledging the unique importance of this region to the world. The geology that formed this land did not distinguish borders and the wealth of built and natural heritage in the Geopark is outstanding.
Because there was a light footfall in this region for thirty years or more we have incredible biodiversity and many rare species, sites of scientific interest. We have rare bugs, moths, protected mammal. We have blanket bogland. The Geopark has the largest ribbed moraine on earth shaping the landscape of the Cavan-Fermanagh border land.
People of good will have been working away at repairing the border rift since the Good Friday Agreement and to get more cross community interaction after the segregation imposed by the threat of violence. I belong to the Together One Voice Choir which meets in Derry, Omagh in Tyrone, Enniskillen in Fermanagh and Manorhamilton in Leitrim, which is in the Republic of Ireland. Last night we participated in the opening of an art exhibition featuring artwork from all over Ireland at the William Jefferson Clinton Centre in Enniskillen. That centre was named for Bill Clinton as a measure of the gratitude toward the American president for brokering the deal that has improved lives immeasurably since 1998.
I’ve been travelling in Northern Ireland since 1980, even in the dark and troubled times. I felt less threatened and vulnerable here than as a woman walking alone in most American cities. And even having visited during the worst of modern times I still developed an abiding love for the land and people of Northern Ireland – their extravagant hospitality, the warmth of their welcome, their legendary Ulster fried breakfasts, the amazingly vitality in the land herself.
Northern Ireland is a safe travel destination. Sure aren’t all the G8 countries’ leaders meeting in Fermanagh this June? If it is safe enough for Obama you can bet it is safe enough for you. But what Obama probably won’t have the opportunity is to travel about and see all that amazing natural habitat, the peat bogs and wildflowers, the early Christian sites, the stone circles and dolmens, the castles and cairns. He’ll be too busy. Which is a shame. But you can avail of this authentic slice of Ireland anytime. Come and visit us. This is a truly inspirational part of Ireland.
Over the mountain from me lives a filmmaker, Johnnie Lawson, who loves this landscape in Northwest Ireland – Leitrim, Sligo, North Roscommon, Fermanagh and West Cavan – as much as I do. Part of his mission is to share the relaxation of nature in this special powerful place in Ireland. We have an abundance of woodland, water and rock – all part of Mother Earth’s bloodlines and bones. This wildish natural landscape makes it the perfect habitat for nature spirits – or fairies as they are better known.
Water we have in abundance in Northwest Ireland. And I’m not talking about rain! Yes, we do have rainy weather, as do other parts of Ireland, but what we also have is Atlantic coastline in Sligo and North Leitrim,and hundreds of lakes in Fermanagh, Leitrim and Cavan. The limestone landscape of this region also means that we have many sacred springs and holy wells. Cavan even has the distinction of having turloughs – disappearing and reappearing lakes! Does that sound like magic?
The mountains that range the boundaries of Fermanagh, Cavan and Leitrim provide us with many spectacular waterfalls, many of which have a connection with ancient Irish legends. Fermanagh’s Sillees River flows in two directions. St. Brigit’s Waterfall near Glencar, in Sligo doesn’t fall down. She ‘falls’ up!
If you are in need of some wilderness – or even some wildishness get out in Nature and commune with the spirits. Fairies have this reputation of being ‘fluffy.’ That they are not. They can be mischievous, especially when they want to get your attention or sway you from being what I call a Fairy Agnostic. There are plenty of people who sit on the fence about fairies. They don’t want to say that they disbelieve because they don’t want to risk perhaps offending what they are not completely certain exists!
But fairies do exist – in nature – and they are shapeshifters. Often they appear as moths, butterflies and dragonflies which we have in abundance. They unleash themselves when we delight in wild orchids, cowslips and meadows that have never known a lashing with a herbicide.
But to contact the fairies you need to get close to them and what they certain like is the wildish terrain of Northwest Ireland.
Irish Blessings Tours can guide you to special fairy habitats in many places around Northwest Ireland. If you are visiting Ireland and would like to do some fairy hunting, do contact us. Our guiding rates are 30 euros and hour with special rates for half days and full days itineraries for groups up to eight people.
But if you aren’t able to get over to Northwest Ireland for the The Gathering 2013 then I think you deserve to treat yourself to one of Johnnie Lawson’s wonderfully relaxing videos filmed here in Northwest Ireland. Clear here for a taster Johnnie Lawson Relaxation.
While many know that Ireland’s three patron saints are Patrick, Brigid and Columcille, each locality of Ireland has local and lesser known saints. These saints and scholars contributed to the high culture of Ireland in the first millenium of Christianity.
If you are interested in Celtic Christian heritage then do explore the lesser known Irish saints. Celtic spirituality flowered in Ireland while the Roman Empire crumbled and the Dark Ages descended on continental Europe. In many respects much of the scholarship that survived those dark times is down to the flourishing of Irish monasteries.
In the early Christian era in Ireland they didn’t get around by road they used the intricate and extensive networks of rivers and loughs. In particular the Erne-Shannon waterway system has a host of important relic Celtic Christian era sites of importance. It was also the equivalent of a medieval motorway. It’s how folk got around.
St. Mogue is a great example of a little known saint that has a great deal of regional significance. Born of noble lineage his mother felt the pangs of labour and took refuge on an island near what is now Templeport, Bawnboy, Co. Cavan. Her son, whom she had visions of doing great work for God, was born that night on what is now called St. Mogue’s Island. The mother was frantic to have her son baptised immediately, life expectancy of infants in the early Middle Ages being rather a roll of the dice.
St. Killian happened to be travelling and was on the opposite shore. The only boat on the island wasn’t available. However, they received the divine inspiration to float the baby across the lough on a flagstone.
Yeah, a flagstone taken from the cottage hearth.
Today Child Protection Services and the Police would be there in a heart beat. But did you know that pumice will float? And Bawnboy is in the the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, with a wealth of geological finds behind when the Ice Sheets melted. Including pumice as it happens.
St. Mogue was duly baptised, survived and became well known up and down the monastic settlements along the Lough Erne waterway system. He is associated with Devenish Island near Enniskillen, in Fermanagh which is also home to one of the best examples of a Round Tower in Ireland. There is also a holywell dedicated to St. Mogue near Rossinver, Co. Leitrim, which is also home to Ireland’s Organic Centre.
On St. Mogue’s Island itself there is reputed a holy clay that is a great preserver from fire and accidents. You only need a tiny pill size. I know local residents who swear by St. Mogue’s clay. One, who spent some years in London as a taxi driver, always made sure he had some in the boot or glove box of his vehicle. His faith in St. Mogue was not unfounded.
Do explore the localities of some of Ireland’s lesser known saints. They are a rich vein in Celtic spirituality and Irish heritage. If you follow the Erne-Shannon Waterway you will find many surprises.