Rock and Roll and lots of soul was going on in Neolithic Ireland. In my A-Z of Things to See in Ireland I want to draw your attention to our very talented ancestors, who not only hauled rocks several tons weight to create tombs, they found spare time for creative artistic pursuits. In this A-Z of Things to See in Ireland, R stands for Rock Art.
The triple symbol or triskele is one of the most famous pieces of rock art at Newgrange in County Meath. However, if you visit any of Ireland’s Ancient Sites and look closely you are likely to see work that is not done by Mother Nature. The Neolithic period in Ireland ranged from 4,500 BCE to 2,500BCE. During that period the human inhabitants moved from a hunter gather lifestyle to one where blow ins from Europe introduced domestic animals and farming. By the end of the period the early Irish were making metal implements. But this burst of creativity may be even early for the megaliths – the court tombs and portal tombs – also known as dolmens were made by Mesolithic Irish. The earliest humans had the impulse not only to bury their dead in a respectful, even reverent way, they already carried the creativity gene to decorate or adorn.
Strolling around the Cavan Burren forests, it continues to amaze how our earliest ancestor urge was to ritualise the end of life and to also create object. This urge to make is one of the markers for being human. The geologists of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark have visited the Cavan Burren to view the megaliths in the 200 acre site. Over time they have confirmed that many of the indentations on the rocks are not the work of ice sheets or weather but human beings. The rocks are what are known as glacial erratics left behind as ice sheets slid there way across the earth’s crust and left in their wake.
This photo is of a boulder tomb on the Cavan Burren with evidence of rock carvings. Archaelogical investigations have been checking when the sun aligns to light up the chamber box in the tomb. While many tombs are aligned to sunrise at either winter or summer solstice this tomb is aligned to sunrise at Bealtaine, the May Day of prehistoric Ireland.
Here’s another image of some rock art discovered while wandering around the megaliths on the Cavan Burren. What is clear is that careful attention to all aspects of the rocks will reveal how our ancient ancestors, using only flint tools, were evolving towards the Michelangelo moment when artist and art are fused.
Fleadhs and Fairies work together not only because they both start with the letter F! In my latest blog in the my series An A-Z of Things to See in Ireland, both are inextricably connected. Fleadh is short for the fleadh cheoil, which translates as a music festival. And if you want to go fairy hunting in Ireland than music will help you in your search if fairies are on your list of things to see in Ireland.
There are many music festivals in Ireland, especially during the summer months. A quick internet check will show you that there is generally a festival going on somewhere in Ireland every month of the year! However, there is a long list to choose from if you are visiting Ireland in July or August. But when we say fleadhs then the kind of music you will be seeing played is traditional Irish or Irish folk music. This can include séan nos singers, rebel songs, as well as folk rock that has its roots in traditional music. It is also work checking for Summer Schools in the area where you are visiting because not only will you hear amazing sessions of music, you will also be able to attend classes and improve your own musical skills in tin whistle, fiddle, flute, bohran, mandolin, harp, bazooki and more!
Here’s a clip of Tony Cuckson singing the traditional song “My Lagan Love” just to get you into the fleadh mood.
But I have to draw your attention to the All Ireland Fleadh or Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann which will be held again in 2012 in Cavan Town. This is the third year in a row that Cavan has hosted this important national and international festival. It is the second biggest festival in Ireland and will be held this year from Friday, 10th August until Monday, 20th August, 2012.
Cavan is very handy for what I call Fairy Central in Ireland. But I have to warn you. The fairies like gifts. Some of us leave chocolate. Others leave a shiny coin. But some musically gifted visitors give them song! I was guiding some Fleadh 2011 guests from Cincinnati, Ohio around the Cavan Burren Forest last August and these musicians were moved to give the fairies living in the forest a song as an offering for wandering around their home turf.
The original fairy race, the Tuatha de Danaan, first landed in their ships of silver and ships of gold, on Iron Mountain, Slieve Anieran, in County Leitrim, which is the county to the south and west of County Cavan. With its holy wells, sweat houses and limestone geology it is not hard to view this landscape as sacred.
When the Tuatha de Danaan were vanquished at the Second Battle of Moytura they went underground and became the fairy or faerie folk. Legend tells us that after their defeat they headed back to their homeplace at Slieve Anieran and so this part of Ireland has a very palpable sense of fairy eyes, fairy music, fairy dust, fairy magic and fairy mischief. There is a very strong presence for those who want to go fairy hunting. If you have an open heart and are willing to make an exchange (for the fairies are strongly motivated by the principle of reciprocity) then they may deign to make themselves known to you.
But I caution you that you need to approach respectfully. The sceptics amongst you should be kindly advised to hold their opinions to themselves. Criticism or mockery is a heart scald to any species.