Ireland Notes 1996

12 May 1996

Aran Island. As I sit here on a stone bench out the back of the Lodge, sun caressing my body and playing hide and seek among the clouds, views of green fields diced up by stone walls, listening to Irish love songs on my walkman – this is contentment! These Aran Islands have a stark and barren beauty that touches the soul. The feeling here is one of wholesome living. On our first day here – Wednesday – I cycled to the northwest end of the island, a 12 mile round trip. The day seemed timeless. Together with Niroshini and Ayala, I lingered on beach, flat-rock, volcanic sea shore and cliff – a perfect day!

Subsequently, we had meetings with the island Cooperative and Credit Union, both inspiring modes for community empowerment and self-reliance. Time spent with our hosts, Dara and Tess, has been interspersed with discussions of Celtic Christianity, Island culture, and engaging in life in spiritual, academic and pragmatic ways. These have confirmed my sense that rootedness and involvement is one of the most effective ways and authentic means of responding to the issues of the contemporary world.

aran island

Yesterday, we all created a special ritual, consisting of walking seven times around a well (in accordance with ancient Celtic tradition), chanting “This is sacred ground on which we walk, for the spirits/nature/people are with us, which makes it sacred”, followed by a cleansing and blessing drink from the well. We then acknowledged the beauty above, below, around and within us in a Native American adapted chant, as well as imagining ourselves rooted to the earth and connecting our energies with it and each other. Finally, we made a procession down to the ocean to drum beat, where we symbolically cast our “baggage” upon the waves to be cleansed and washed away, ending with a vocal expression of the chakra energies.

Last night we joined the locals in the pub to soak up and join in with the music making – flute, whistle, fiddle, drums, accordion, banjo – a sound sensation! Today, we leave by ferry for the mainland. Before coming to Aran, we travelled via Belfast and Dublin. Most worthwhile was a visit to New Grange, a 5 000 year old prehistoric burial site with exquisite swirling patterns carved into the rocks, 18th century graffiti, and a special Winter solstice sun-lighting effect. Being in the chamber, as well as walking among the standing stones around it, was simply awe-inspiring; almost a mystical connecting experience back through the millennia of time.

18 May 1996

I am on the ferry from Belfast heading back to Edinburgh. The field trip is over. Yesterday, I walked the 23 mile ancient pilgrim trail of St Patrick, from Ballintuber Abbey to the top of the Croagh Patrick mountain, passing over field, bog, road and rock, through sun, rain, wind, hail and mist. On the way we saw ancient burial sites and inscribed standing stones. We witnessed death and life in the same field – the skeletal remains of a sheep and a newborn lamb only hours old, swaying on wobbly legs trying to get its first suckle. I can imagine how such a pilgrimage might serve as a spiritual journey also – the ecstasy and the pain, losing the way and re-finding the path, the seasons, the cycle of life, the nourishment from the grove streams and the panoramic view from the mountain summit.

In my time in Ireland, I’ve come to appreciate the potentially dynamic role of music in culture and community, the value of roots and discovering one’s past, as well as finding ways in which to make a unique contribution to the world. Also, I have

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