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.
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.
The days are lengthening. The rushes in the boggy, sodden fields are greening. Snowdrops are popping their heads out from under snow. Yesterday, 2nd February was Imbolc and a group of us gathered at Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim in the Cultural Quarters.
Brigid, whether in her manifestation as the saintly abbess of Kildare or ancient Celtic goddess Brigid, gives us healing, craft and art. So it makes sense to celebrate this return of spring with arts and crafts activities, song and poems. So the group that gathered wove the traditional St. Brigit’s Cross. The stories and legends of both the goddess and saint were shared as we concentrated on making the crosses.
Brigid also a patroness of innovation so we took the Brat Bhríde, the cloth that is hung out on 31st January to capture Brigid’s Blessing as she walks abroad on the reawakening earth. Her blessings cling with the morning dew on the cloth which is used for healing -fevers, headaches, any ailment that family livestock might suffer.
My idea was to create prayer flags with the Brat Bhríde to send prayers and blessings that are more collective – families, communities, wildlife, world peace. St. Brigit in the 21st century is invoked by people working for social justice and environmental issues.
St. Brigit was famous for her hospitality and no authentic Irish gathering is complete without cups of tea and a bit of cake or brown bread. Over that past few years it has become a personal tradition and way of honouring the reawakening of Spring to bake Seed Cake. So if you want to celebrate the arrival of Spring here’s my recipe. The recipe is in Imperial and American cup measurements. Sorry, I’m still struggling to get my head around metric!
Bee’s Seed Cake
Heat the oven to Moderate/Gas Mark 4/350F/180C
1. In a bowl cream together 4 oz/1 cup butter with 4 oz/1cup of golden caster sugar
2. Add a generous dessertspoon of vanilla extract.
3, Then beat in two large eggs.
4. Sift in 6oz/1.5 cups of self-raising flour. Get it well combined and then add 2 TBSPs poppy seed.
5. Lastly, stir in 2oz/0.5 cup of thick plain or vanilla flavoured yoghurt
6. Get the batter smooth and pour it into a 1 pound loaf tin that has been greased and lined with either baking parchment or flour.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes (it will be less for fan assisted ovens.) Check with a skewer that the cake is completely baked. Dust the top with sifted confectioners/icing sugar.
Beannacht Bhríde! Brigid’s Blessings!
First of February might be mud season or even the depths of winter elsewhere but here in Ireland we are celebrating the beginning of spring. The Irish word for this month is Imbolc and it is thought to refer to the first flow of ewe’s milk with the birth of the first spring lambs.
Now the snowdrops begin to appear all over Ireland even though there may be some flurries, some frost and snowfall on the mountains. But spring is in the air for sure and this celebration of Ireland’s matron saint, and the Celtic Goddess who pre-dates her, reminds us of the earth’s ‘quickening’ as the daylight increases. We celebrate Brigit in various ways. Although the saint is associated with Kildare and Faughart in Co. Louth there are Brigit Holy Wells everywhere in Ireland. She is celebrated in every corner with localities having their own ways of expressing honour and devotion.
It’s also quite a domestic event. On the evening of 31st January you can open your door and say good bye to winter. Then you hang a cloth – anything from a hankie to a sheet – out to collect the first dew on the morning of St. Brigit’s Feast Day, 1st February. The dew is said to offer her blessing for healing and in particular useful for fevers, headaches, eye problems and whatever ails your cattle or fowl.
St. Brigit is one of a triumvirate of saints that are honoured in Ireland. St. Brigit’s Feast Day is the first on the calendar that will interest spiritual travellers. St. Patrick’s Day, although a spiritual feast and a Roman Catholic Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland, is also a national holiday and a day where many a Lenten intention is relaxed on the day. In June there is the less well known St. Columcille of Derry, this year’s European City of Culture, who founded a monastery on Iona in Scotland.
The St. Brigit’s Cross is one of the best known symbols of Ireland. The harp is another famous symbol so I will share with you harpist Aíne Minnogue’s harp piece entitled “Brigit’s Feast.”
In 2014 Irish Blessings Tours will be leading a Tour Celebrating Brigit, both as saint and Celtic goddess. If you are interested in a guided and escorted, week-long tour email email@example.com
I can proudly say that I have real fairies for my closest neighbours. While the fairies dispersed throughout Ireland, I feel that the real fairies live close to their homeplace. Real fairies were originally the Tuatha de Danaan, a race of immortals that mixed with mortal inhabitants in Bronze Age Ireland. They shared their godlike qualities but, as is the way, conflict occurred. The Tuatha de Danaan, the children of the goddess Danu, won the first bout. But they were vanquished at the Second Battle of Moytura. The real fairy folk, the Tuatha de Danaan, headed back to the place where they had originally landed in Ireland. It was here that they they ‘went to ground’ and became the earth spirits that then dispersed throughout Ireland. But at their home place their presence is particularly potent.
December Sunrise, Cuilcagh Mountain, County Cavan
To understand Celtic Spirituality we must suspend the normal way of looking at the world and ‘sense’ the other worlds around us.”
– Donald McKinney, Celtic Spirituality for the 21st Century
If you live, as I do, deep in the beautiful Irish countryside, with only the moon lighting the lane and a wide night sky with Venus glimmering brightly, with wind and weather your close allies, there is a shift in perception. It is easy to believe, nay, know that the fairies are your close neighbours. Even in the depths of midwinter the beauty of the Irish landscape leaves me gasping. In this context it is relatively easy to shift one’s perception and open all the senses to apprehend Celtic Spirituality.
For travellers interested in living a spiritual life there are many spiritual places in Ireland to visit to make your vacation a true holy day ( or holiday as we call our vacations in Ireland.) I will introduce you to a few lesser known spiritual places in Ireland over a series of articles. But first off, I invite you to alight your vision so you may wholly live your one wild and precious life. Our first stop is the Sculpture Park on the shores of Lough MacNean in County Cavan.
Imagine standing before a sculpture that is a series of three pillars or standing stones. Celtic spirituality is fond of trinities so it is in keeping with this tradition that this sculpture fits into the landscape in this spiritual place in Ireland. Each stone has a circular hole drilled through it close to eye level. In order to see into the distant horizon one has to align ones’ sight to look through all three holes at the same time. The sculpture asks us to align physically so that we can see the shore on the opposite side of the lake in Northern Ireland.
You stand before these holy trinity of standing stones, which I often feel are the embodiment of prayer. I offer a silent prayer of intention as I do as a practice when I visit spiritual places in Ireland. The sculpture faces north. It allows me to look out across the lake where there is a border between the north and south of Ireland. When you align your vision you can see that in reality there is no border, only the border that is in the mind that creates labels and develops an attachment to labels.
There is an inscription on this rock sculpture by Louise Walsh, which is entitled “Imagine.”
an island where people live in peace
Make it Real
That is a real vision that this beautiful sculpture invites us all to envisage and to come into alignment. This is a true work of art because its intention is to invite the connection to the eye of the heart rather than the myopic idea of the separate sense of self.
One of the ways to embody your vision is to connect to a physical representation like this sculpture and other great works of art. You stand before them and they invite you into a presence that exists beyond time and space. They invite you to connect with a vision that is more universal than the limited time space identity that one calls me, my or mine. These spiritual places in Ireland can take you into that kind of presence. They are also sometimes called ‘thin places.’
This writer and storyteller is blessed to live nearby to this beautiful sculpture. I stand in silent and prayerful attention before it. I look through the three holes in the hope to bring my vision into alignment as the other shore comes into view. This is the shore of sacred unity. It is an inward shore, too, that can be reflected in the outer world. This is a practical visionary endeavour.
Come and see for yourself. Visit this and other spiritual places in Ireland and align your vision. It will be a souvenir to last a lifetime.