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
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.
In this series “An A-Z of Things to See in Ireland“ I am now forging towards the middle of the alphabet. If it is ‘I’ and you are thinking of things to see in Ireland than you’d be hard pushed to not consider islands. Here is my rationale for making a visit to one of Ireland’s off shore islands. But let us also not forget that Ireland has many islands inside the country, too.
Ireland is, of course, an island in itself. You have only to land in Ireland and there you are already on a very large island facing the North Atlantic to the west and the Irish and Celtic Seas to the east. Lawrence Durrell noted in Reflections on a Marine Venus that there are some people who suffer from islomania. He defines them as people who find islands “somehow irresistible”. These “little worlds surrounded by the sea” – or a lough – “fills them with indescribable intoxication.”
For spiritual tourists an island has an especial allure.
In this article series of my A-Z of Things to See in Ireland H has got to stand for Holy Wells. For anyone interested in the spirituality of this island then you need to visit holy wells. The Celtic spiritual consciousness is deeply respectful of nature. Water is, of course, essential to our health and well being. Both pre-and early-Christian Celts knew that water – all water- was sacred. Before the conversion to Christianity the many springs were sacred to a local deity or goddess. With the coming of Christianity the matronage or patronage of the holy well passed from a god or goddess to a saint.
St. Brigid’s Holy Well, Kildare
Celtic Spirituality is not about doctrine but spiritual experience and was a way of life practiced by many everyday mystics for centuries. It is very much a part of Irish spiritual heritage and was practiced right up until the 7th century. It is said that those early Irish monks with their Celtic spiritual practices saved western civilization. While Rome was being sacked by barbarians and the great classical libraries of Alexandria burned, Irish monasteries were busy copying all the manuscripts in the known world. The people practiced a unique form of Christianity known in the 21st century as Celtic spirituality. Perhaps in our fast and furiously paced world we rediscover a heritage to help us encounter the divine. Celtic Spirituality created a culture for all, whether those lived in monasteries, villages and towns or beehive huts, could hope to have an everyday mystical encounter with God.
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.
And yet no other corner of this land
offers in shape and colour all I need
for sight to torch the mind with living light.
John Hewitt, 1907-1987, “The Glens”
I am blessed to live in the loveliest of places. The light here in this corner of the land of Ireland Is, as Hewitt writes, a living light that invites the experience of delight.
It is, I think, a place that will remain largely untouched by the rollercoaster of progress. It offers me its shape- the rolling hills and drumlins- and the colour – ever changing – for the insight I long to receive and express.
In folk tales of Ireland it is told that the magical people called the Tuatha de Danaan arrived on the mountain where I look out at each morning from our small cottage living room window. Slieve Anierin, or Iron Mountain, is a magical landscape, especially in the early morning when the mist rises from the earth as the sun moves to bless the land with warmth.
The Tuatha de Danaan were called the Shining Ones and the exemplify the living light in the land. As the legend tells us, after being defeated at Moytura they literally went to ground and live in the fairy forts and raths that are scattered over the Irish landscape. The legacy of their magical light which is heart felt is especially strong in this part of the world.
The purpose of taking a vacation, or holiday (holy day) as we call it in Ireland, is to connect with a sense of wholeness. A vacation or holiday offers the possibility to see the beauty within yourself. It occurs on a day when you feel whole and the shape and colours of your life are reflected all around you. I
The part of Ireland has the pervasive spirit of those Beautiful People the Tuatha de Danaan who were driven underground. That is a metaphor that resonates with many a person’s life story. Many people find that they lock away their own light. If you decide to have a wholistic holiday or vacation, the attitude one journeys with can become infused by the living light of this place, and inspire you with delight. Delight is a great souvenir.
The ability to see the living light requires that you receive your sight. The eye of the heart looks onto Creation and is said most aptly by American poet e.e. cummings:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping green spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes.
e.e. cummings is looking through the experience of the living light. This moves from inside out. I requires a certain kind of stillness of mind and a certain kind of willingness to be colourful.
I invite you to come to this corner of Ireland so that it might offer you what you need. What we all need in these changing times is a kind of certainty. There can be certainty experienced within the journey to who we are as the wonder tale that is a living light.
This storyteller will tell you that this living light is all around you waiting for you to see it and feel it and be it. Some places invite your awareness of this living light more than others. Such is the corner of this island of Ireland where I live in awe of the amazing shapes and colours; all that is needed is for me to have the sight and allow that living light to touch my mind and delight my heart.