13 Jul Citations G – L
1Harbison, Peter. Pilgrimage in Ireland: the Monuments and the People. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ., 1992. 77, 182.
The journal Archaeology Ireland suggests a more humorous definition: "Gallarus: British Christians who settled in Co. Kerry in the 7th century driven mad by the ceaseless talking by the natives in odd accents promised God that they would build an oratory for him if he would do something about their endless talking. He did and they named it ‘garrulous’ but the natives had the last word as they corrupted it to gallarus over the years." ("Spoil Heap: A ‘Dictionary’ of Irish Archaeology." Archaeology Ireland 10.1 (1996): 36.)
2Harbison, Peter. "How Old Is Gallarus Oratory? A Reappraisal of Its Role in Early Irish Architecture." Medieval Archaeology 14 (1970): 34.
In 1756 Charles Smith reported that "some think" Gallarus may have been constructed using an earthen mold: "…a heap of earth was first raised, in the form of the inside of the cell, and that they built over it, and wedged in the key-stones at the top, over which are a range of loose stones laid like a ridge; and the structure being thus finished, they carried out all the earth at the door; and lastly, smoothed the walls on the inside with chissels, &c." (Smith, Charles. The antient [sic] and present state of the county of Kerry: Being a natural, civil, ecclesiastical, historical, and topographical description thereof. Dublin: Printed for W. Wilson, 1756. 192.) This book may be read in its entirety here.
3Rourke, Grellan D., and Jenny White Marshall. "The drystone oratories of western Kerry," in Marshall, Jenny White, Claire Walsh, Grellan D. Rourke, E. V. Murray, and Finbar McCormick. Illaunloughan Island: an Early Medieval Monastery in County Kerry. Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wordwell, 2005. 119-120.
The authors acknowledge that the stone oratories cannot accurately be dated. But they present structural evidence that Gallarus "…represents the final phase of the development of the drystone oratory." Citing the carefully chosen and worked stones that provide the maximum contact area for stability, and the fact that the lateral walls, unlike the gable walls, rise straight up for a meter before they begin corbelling inward, the authors conclude that these modifications are the primary reason why Gallarus is the only such structure still completely intact.
4MacDonogh, Steve. The Dingle Peninsula. Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland: Brandon, 2000. 175-77.
While the cross-slab beside Gallarus is common to Christian settlements from the seventh and eighth centuries, the oratory was likely built atop an earlier structure at this site. Its refined construction, principally its east window with the rounded arch, suggest a later date.
H.G. Leask in 1955 observed traces of "very fine lime mortar" used to fill the internal joints and provide pointing for the stones of the interior. (Leask, Harold G. Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings. Dundalk, Ireland: Dundalgan, 1955. 41.)
5Ua Danachair, Caoimhghín. "Some Primitive Structures Used as Dwellings." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 75.4 (1945): 210-12.
While some of the chocháin have been stabilized with mortar, or have even been roofed with concrete, this does not always bode well for their survival. "One old gentleman complained bitterly of these innovations and pointed out a clochán, on his property, which fell in shortly after being capped with concrete, as the extra weight was too much for the old stonework to bear." There are still dry-stone clocháin being built today.
6Cuppage, Judith. Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula: a Description of the Field Antiquities of the Barony of Corca Dhuibhne from the Mesolithic Period to the 17th Century A.D. Ballyferriter: Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, 1986. 286-89.
Peter Harbison quotes from O’Donovan’s observations from his 1845 Ordnance Survey Letters: "This Cell or Little Chapel stands in a small graveyard now deserted. In this grave- yard to the North East of the building there is a standing stone with a cross sculptured on the West side of it. This stone is three feet six inches high, one foot one inch broad and four inches in thickness." (Harbison, Peter. "How Old Is Gallarus Oratory? A Reappraisal of Its Role in Early Irish Architecture." Medieval Archaeology 14 (1970): 36-37.)
7"Gallarus Oratory | Mysterious Britain & Ireland." Mysterious Britain & Ireland | Mysteries, Legends & The Paranormal. Web. 06 Oct. 2011. <http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/republic-of-ireland/kerry/ancient-sites/gallarus-oratory.html>.
Harbison adds, "A detailed study of the literature on Gallarus reveals that the opinions of earlier authors were taken over almost in their entirety by later writers, who apparently never stopped to consider whether what they were copying from earlier accounts was founded in fact. The notion that Gallarus is one of the earliest church buildings in Ireland began with Smith in 1756 and is still current…these old ideas have cemented themselves into almost complete acceptance." (Harbison, Peter. "How Old Is Gallarus Oratory? A Reappraisal of Its Role in Early Irish Architecture." Medieval Archaeology 14 (1970): 47.)
8Petrie, George. The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland: An Essay on the Origin and Uses of the Round Towers of Ireland. Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1845. 130.
9Harbison, Peter. Pilgrimage in Ireland: the Monuments and the People. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ., 1992. 77, 82.
The author asserts that it is wrong to assume that Gallarus Oratory must necessarily be the first building to occupy its site simply because there were no resources for wooden construction nearby. "It is quite possible therefore that wood grew in areas where oratories of Gallarus type are found, and the argument that such oratories must have been the first churches built on the site because there could have been no earlier churches of wood is manifestly untrue. Similarly, the suggestion that Gallarus was contemporary with wooden churches in other parts of the country where wood was plentiful cannot be proved." (p. 44-45) Harbison continues, "my purpose in suggesting that Gallarus could be even as late as the 12th century is to abandon the age-old idea that the 8th century is the latest possible date. In the absence of a more reliable chronological pointer the date of Gallarus must rest entirely on circumstantial evidence, and remains an open question although I lean towards a date later than that heretofore accepted. But if Gallarus cannot be proved to date from the 8th century and could even be as late as the 12th, then there is no longer any reason to believe that it represents the oldest type of stone church in Ireland and the first stage in the evolution of Irish church architecture in stone." (p. 58)
10Harbison, Peter. Pilgrimage in Ireland: the Monuments and the People. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ., 1992. 181.
11Chatterton, Georgina. Rambles in the South of Ireland during the Year 1838. London: Saunders & Otley, 1839. 133-35.
12Harbison, Peter. "How Old Is Gallarus Oratory? A Reappraisal of Its Role in Early Irish Architecture." Medieval Archaeology 14 (1970): 36.
13Hartnett, Henry. "Seamus Heaney’s Poetry of Meditation: Door into the Dark." Twentieth Century Literature 33.1 (1987): 9-11.
The author quotes Heaney (a non-believer) in an interview saying that if all churches were like Gallarus Oratory, "congregations would feel the sense of God much more forcefully."
14Heaney, Seamus. Door into the Dark. New York: Oxford UP, 1969. 22.
Gate of the Cow; Kilmalkedar’s Keelers Stone
1Curtin, Jeremiah. Hero-tales of Ireland. Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1894. 33-34.
An illustration from this edition is also used on our Voices from the Dawn page. The author notes: "As told to Jeremiah Curtain by Maurice Lynch, Mount Eagle, West of Dingle, Kerry." The excerpt used on our "Gate of the Cow" essay is very near the end of this tale of 34 pages. Curtin’s text may be read in its entirely here.
2Borlase, William Copeland. The Dolmens of Ireland Their Distribution, Structural Characteristics, (…). Vol. 3 London: Chapman & Hall, 1897. 762.
"At Slieve-na-Glaise, in Clare, is a dolmen, to which an old woman gave the name of Carrig-na-Glaise, that is, the Rock of the Sea-Green (Cow) – the word bo, "a cow," being understood, as it is in the name of the ancient MS., Leabhar na h-Uidhri, that is "Book of the Dun (Cow)." After she had told me the story of how the poor enchanted cow, from whose udders used to flow all the rivers on the mountain-side, had been tricked by an impious old hag, who, in place of a milk-pail, had milked her into a sieve, and how, in consequence, she had either died of grief or deserted that locality for ever." This now-ruined wedge tomb may be seen here. Other Irish versions of this story may be noted here. A similar tale from Shropshire in England may be found here.
3Cuppage, Judith. Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula: a Description of the Field Antiquities of the Barony of Corca Dhuibhne from the Mesolithic Period to the 17. Century A.D. Ballyferriter: Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, 1986. 40.
"A pair of standing stones on the NE slopes of Croaghmarhin, commanding an extensive view over the crescent of lowlying land which surrounds Smerwick Harbour. The stones, set 4.15m apart in a NE-SW line, stand at opposite sides of the E-W running field wall into which they are incorporated. The NE stone is 2.17m high and measures 1.2m x at least .4m at base; the SW stone is .25m higher, and measures 1.3m x at least .5m at base. The stones are known locally as ‘Geata an Ghlas Ghaibhnigh’, from their traditional association with the miraculous cow of that name."
4O’Sullivan, T. (Tadhg) F. Romantic Hidden Kerry. Tralee: Kerryman, 1931.
A "keeler" is a vessel used for storing milk, from cilorn, meaning "cooler." Cuppage describes this stone thusly: "A multiple bullaun stone consisting of a large irregularly-shaped boulder, 2.41m x 2.54m x at least .34m high, with 7 depressions in its upper surface. These latter are irregular, oval or circular in shape and vary in size from .42m in diameter x .25m in depth to .22m in diameter x .04m in depth ." (Cuppage, Judith. Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula: a Description of the Field Antiquities of the Barony of Corca Dhuibhne from the Mesolithic Period to the 17. Century A.D. Ballyferriter: Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, 1986. 312.)
Another source names the stone "St Brendan’s Keelers," and notes "…a reflection in the story about this magical cow of the female deities of supernatural plenty, such as Anu, earth mother and goddess of the Tuatha De Danainn." (MacDonogh, Steve. The Dingle Peninsula. Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland: Brandon, 2000. 184.)
A 1959 journal article (quoting from An Seabhac, Trioeha Céad Chorea Dhuibhne. p. 117) notes that "keelers stones" may also be known as "beistí’ (milk-tubs). The local people say that the legendary cow, the Glas Ghaibhneach, was milked into the basins by the monks." (Price, Liam. "Rock-Basins, or ‘Bullauns’, at Glendalough and Elsewhere." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 89.2 (1959): 161-88.)
A perhaps less authentic source connects the magical cow to the warriors of Fionn Mac Cumhaill : "The miraculous cow at Kilmelchedor is said to have deposited her milk in these basins each day, in such an abundance as to supply Fin-MacCuile and his army." (Keane, Marcu. The Towers and Temples of Ancient Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Smith and Co. 1867. 340.)
5"Dingle Peninsula Standing Stones." Standing Stones. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.dodingle.com/Heritage/Standing_Stones.html>.
According to this source, the Dingle Peninsula has three stone alignments, and possibly once had another two which have been destroyed.
Cuppage describes the "Gates of Glory" thusly: "This pair of standing stones is the northernmost element in a complex of megalithic monuments which are grouped at the SE end of the townland of Milltown (formerly Kilbrack), less than 2km W of where the Milltown river flows into Dingle Harbour." (Cuppage, Judith. Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula: a Description of the Field Antiquities of the Barony of Corca Dhuibhne from the Mesolithic Period to the 17. Century A.D. Ballyferriter: Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, 1986. 43.)
A 1907 account of the stones records that "these stones were being carried by Fion MacCool’s labourers for a building in Ventry, but upon hearing the War-Cry for the battle of Ventry Harbour, they stuck them down like nine-pins and hastened to the fray." Foley, Patrick. History of the Natural, Civil, Military and Ecclesiastical State of the County of Kerry in Baronies. Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Walker, 1907.)
6Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. 39.
The author notes the sexual symbolism of some paired stones: "Where one of the stones is tall, thin and sharp-topped, while the second appears rather small, square and blunt-topped, the pair is often taken for a representation of a divine couple, or of the female and male principles."
7Danaher, Kevin. Gentle Places and Simple Things: Irish Customs and Beliefs. Dublin: Mercier, 1964. 86.
Another author claims that some farmers would insist standing stones impeding their cultivation were modern in order to remove them. (Michell, John. The Old Stones of Land’s End. London: Garnstone Press, 1974. 13.)
8Gregory, Isabella Augusta (Persse). Gods and Fighting Men. London: J. Murray, 1904. 20. This story may be read in its entirety here.
10"Augusta, Lady Gregory." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusta,_Lady_Gregory>.
12Harbison, Peter. Pilgrimage in Ireland: the Monuments and the People. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ., 1992. 86.
The author (quoting William Wakeman) offers that the word derives from the Irish word bullaun meaning "little pool." But the Sites and Monuments Records definition of a bullaun is: "…(from the Irish word Bullá, which means a round hollow in a stone, or a bowl) is applied to boulders of stone with artificially carved, hemispherical hollows or basin-like depressions, which may have functioned as mortars. They are frequently associated with ecclesiastical sites and holy wells and so may have been used for religious purposes. They date to the early medieval period (5th-12th centuries AD)." (Kelleher, Matthew, and Caimin O’Brien. "Between a Rock and a Hard Place." Archaeology Ireland 22.3 (Autumn, 2008): 8-9.)
An 1846 text reports a "respectable farmer" declaring "that he was not above saying a prayer at the ‘blessed stone’ when he came that way," and noted that "the water found in hollows of bullan stones was held good for bad eyes." (Bonwick, James. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. London: Griffith, Farran & Co., 1894. 80-81.)
The author also notes the "Deer Stone" found at the ruined monastic site of Glendalough. The legend tells how in response to St. Kevin’s prayer to save the lives of twin newborns whose mother had died, a wild doe came down and filled the bullaun with its milk. "The water in the Deer Stone is reputed to have the power of healing, but in order for the cure to be effective the pilgrim must crawl round the stone seven times before sunrise, fasting, and saying the necessary prayers." (p. 108)
14Westropp, Thomas Johnson. "Notes on the Antiquities of Ardmore." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 33.4 (1903): 375.
Another author give more latitude to his imagination regarding the potential usages of the bullauns: "The libations that were poured out were of various kinds, milk and wine, or oil and wine, which were merely symbolical representations of blood and fat." (Ffrench, J. F. M. Prehistoric Faith and Worship: Glimpses of Ancient Irish Life. London: D. Nutt, 1912. 9-11.) This may be read here.
15Kelleher, Matthew, and Caimin O’Brien. "Between a Rock and a Hard Place." Archaeology Ireland 22.3 (Autumn, 2008): 8-9.
16Dolan, Brian. "Bedrocks and Bullauns: More than One Use for a Mortar?" Archaeology Ireland 23.1 (2009): 16-19.
The author includes photographs showing shallow depressions in a rock from industrial sites in Karnatka and Rajasthan in India resulting from crushing gold-bearing quartz using small hand-held hammers.
17"Kilmalkedar Monastery." Kilmalkedar Monastery. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nd.edu/~archire/sites2005/KilmalkedarMonastery2.html>.
"The present remains , situated near the E end of the graveyard, consist of a nave and chancel, the latter a subsequent addition replacing the original altar recess. The Nave: The walls survive to full height and rise to gables of steep pitch. The lower courses of a corbelled stone roof are preserved, springing externally from a projecting chamfered eaves course. Recesses for substantial purlins are visible on the interior of the E and W gables and suggest that an internal support structure of timber may have existed. The walls are built of dressed sandstone blocks, well- jointed and approaching ashlar construction in places. A band of yellow stone, at least 1m thick, is visible on the W gable, commencing at a height of c. 2m, and is returned on all sides of the nave. Above this, the walls are of more random construction, with coursed flags of thin section being widely used. A gap at the E end of the S wall has been repaired in modern times."
19Keane, Marcu. The Towers and Temples of Ancient Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Smith and Co. 1867. 23.
Even more imaginative may be this story related by Keane: ""In reference to the custom of wrestling with human victims before offering them in sacrifice, which Bryant notices in general among Cuthites, I would observe that a curious tradition exists among the peasantry of Kerry of a wonderful wrestler named Deargan O’Dunne, who lived in ancient times at Kilmelchedor in the peninsula of Dingle, and who was gifted with supernatural power from the evil one; so that, although a small man, he never failed to overcome those whom he engaged in wrestling, and he invariable killed every man who he overcame. The high antiquity of this tradition may be inferred from the fact that several townlands and ancient monuments are called after the name of this celebrated wrestler. There can be, I think, no doubt but that the significance of the tradition refers to the period when human sacrifices were offered to the Golden Molach at his temple of Melchedor." (p. 217-18)
20O’Connor, Bosco. "Church Built in One Night." Personal interview. 22 June 1979.
In support of this legend, Marcu Keane adds, "… the tradition of the common people in this place is that it was erected by supernatural agency in one night. I may also remark here that this legend, of being erected in one is night, is never applied to Gothic ruins but only to Round Towers, Irish Crosses, ‘Norman’ Churches and such Cuthite relics, which may perhaps be accounted for by the fact that after a long period of the dominion of the Celts, who had no stone buildings, these beautiful Cyclopean remains could only be explained by the peasantry as the result of supernatural agency." (Keane, Marcu. The Towers and Temples of Ancient Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Smith and Co. 1867. 24.)
Another account of the folklore regarding the window states that on Easter Sunday the faithful would pass through it nine times with the belief that by doing so they will be assured of going to heaven. ("Kilmalkedar Monastery." Kilmalkedar Monastery. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nd.edu/~archire/sites2005/KilmalkedarMonastery2.html>.)
21Kilmalkedar Monastery." Kilmalkedar Monastery. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nd.edu/~archire/sites2005/KilmalkedarMonastery2.html>
The translation of the ogham inscription was noted here.
This is also noted in McNally, Kenneth. Ireland’s Ancient Stones; a Megalithic Heritage. Belfast: Appletree, 2006. 116. The original source is given as William Wakeman’s Archaeologia Hibernica (1881).
23Ó Conchúir, Doncha. "The Keelers Stone." Personal interview. 26 May 2001.
The Giant’s Causeway
1Thackeray, William M. The Irish Sketchbook of 1842 and Character Sketches. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1889. 325.
The unabridged quote: "It looks like the beginning of the world, somehow: the sea looks older than in other places, the hills and rocks strange, and formed differently from other rocks and hills—as those vast dubious monsters were formed who possessed the earth before man. The hill-tops are shattered into a thousand cragged fantastical shapes; the water comes swelling into scores of little strange creeks, or goes off with a leap, roaring into those mysterious caves yonder, which penetrate who knows how far into our common world. The savage rock-sides are painted of a hundred colours. Does the sun ever shine here? When the world was moulded and fashioned out of formless chaos, this must have been the bit over—a remnant of chaos!"
The book may be read in its entirety here.
2"Giant’s Causeway." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 10 June 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant’s_Causeway>.
3Wilson, William. The Post Chaise Companion, Or, Traveller’s Directory through Ireland. Dublin, 1813. 42.
4"The Giant’s Causeway." The Dublin Penny Journal 1.5 (1832): 33.
5"Giant’s Causeway." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 10 June 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant’s_Causeway>.
6"Fingal’s Cave." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 10 June 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fingal’s_Cave>.
Just as with the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, some authors insisted that Fingal’s Cave in Scotland was a manufactured, rather than a natural phenomenon. This excerpt is from a popular science magazine of 1882: "Until it is shown that a thousand yards of landlocked, iron-bound coast can be cut and tunneled in utter disregard of every known law of mechanical action, the caves in Staffa, on the west coast of Scotland, driven into igneous rock, not modified by local conditions, or in the weak places ‘of an exposed cliff,’ can not be classified as merely remarkable instances of caves worn by the sea." Whitehouse, F.C. "Is Fingal’s Cave Artificial." Popular Science Monthly 22.12 (1882): 240. The article may be read in its entirely here.
7"Finn MacCool" Causeway Coastal Route. Web. 10 June 2011. <http://www.causewaycoastalroute.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=76&Itemid=61>.
8Kennedy, Alasdair. "In Search of the ‘True Prospect’: Making and Knowing the Giant’s Causeway as a Field Site in the Seventeenth Century." British Society for the History of Science 10.10 (2007): 21-22.
An earlier article with the same subject was published in 1896: "No mention is made of this marvellous work of Nature in the Four Masters, the Chironicon Scotorum, or the Annals of Ulster, nor does any medieval author apparently allude to it, although other objects of curiosity in Ulster are described…The learned antiquaries of a later date—Camden, Boate, and Ware—alike seemed ignorant of its existence. Equally do the geographical map makers—Mercator (1594), Speed (1610), and others, down to the I8th century—omit it in their various publications…So late as 1727, when Les Délices la Grande Bretagne et de l’Irlande was published in 8 vols. at Leydern, no mention occurs of its existence. A more remarkable circumstance, however, is its omission by Richard Dobbs in his description of the natural features of the County Antrim, which he wrote for Pitt’s Atlas in I683. This was printed for the first time in extenso in the Rev. George Hill’s Macdonnells of Antrim. Dobbs mentions Dunluce, Bushmills, and Ballycastle, and was particularly fond of natural history and mineralogy. It may be possible that he had intended to add an account of the Giant’s Causeway to his other notices of County Antrim, but certainly he has not done so. This strange omission of any mention of such a remarkable natural phenomenon is the more curious, when we consider how very fond our ancestors were of tabulating natural wonders, and how many pages in old books are filled with descriptions of trivial objects of interest." "Early Notices and Engraved Views of the Giant’s Causeway." Ulster Journal of Archaeology Second 3.1 (1896): 41-42.
10"Early Notices and Engraved Views of the Giant’s Causeway." Ulster Journal of Archaeology Second 3.1 (1896): 43.
11Pococke, Richard. "An Account of the Giants Causeway in Ireland, in a Letter to the President from the Rev. Richard Pococke." Philosophical Transactions 45 (1748): 124-27.
Lord, Richard. "An Account of a Production of Nature at Dunbar in Scotland, Like That of the Giants- Causeway in Ireland;." Philosophical Transactions 52 (1761): 98-99.
Strange, John. "An Account of a Curious Giant’s Causeway, or Group of Angular Columns, Newly Discovered in the Euganean Hills, Near Padua, in Italy." Philosophical Transactions 65 (1775): 418-23.
As a refutation to all suggestions that the Causeway was not a work of nature, the author of Hibernia Curiosa in 1764 wrote: "The romantic supposition of its having been a causeway from Ireland to Scotland is ridiculous and absurd at first view. The nearest coast of Scotland to this place is at least 30 miles; if any use or design of this kind can be imagined ever to have taken place, it must to have been to some island not far from the shore, which the sea has swallowed up. But the general form and construction of the several parts is at the utmost distance from favoring such a supposition. Nor is the ridiculous opinion that is met with in some of the old natural histories of this kingdom less absurd, on a comparison that is made of this to Stonehenge on Salisbury-plain, that this, as well as that, may have been originally a monumental pile, or some ancient place of worship, for there is no more likeness in the comparison than would be found between two of the most dissimilar productions of art, or nature. Into such ridiculous fancies will men suffer themselves to be led, who have never seen the originals, of which they pretend to give a description; but implicitly write from the authority of others, equally with themselves, unacquainted with them." Bush, John. Hibernia Curiosa: A Letter from a Gentleman in Dublin, to His Friend at Dover … :. London, 1764. 59-60.
12"A Guide to the Giants’ Causeway." The Dublin Penny Journal Supplement 2 (1834): xiv-xv.
13"The Causeway Court Case" Causeway Coastal Route. Web. 10 June 2011. <http://www.causewaycoastalroute.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=77&Itemid=61>.
The Glencolumbkille Turas
1Pochin Mould, Daphne D. C. "The Irish Pilgrimages." The Furrow, 5.3 (1954): 131.
2Herity, Michael. Gleanncholmcille: A guide to 5,000 years of history in stone. Dublin: Na Clocha Breaca, 1998. Introduction by Fr. James McDyer.
Fr. McDyer in his autobiography writes of his experience with the turas on Tory Island prior to his tenure in Gleann Cholm Cille. He doesn not, however mention the turas in Gleann, where he spent the most significant years of his career.
Fr. McDyer, best known for his social activism and his efforts to organize community-own enterprises (including the successful Folk Village) said about his work:
"Action! Action against injustice, inertia, hypocrisy and greed! It is for this that my whole being has yearned. In this I am moved by the old Irish mythological leader, Fionn Mac Cumhall, who instructed his harpist to play "not the music of things that are said, but the music of things that are done." McDyer, James. Fr. McDyer of Glencolumbkille. Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland: Brandon, 1982. 116-17.
3Quinn, Moore E. "Portrait of a Mythographer; Discourses of Identity In the Work of Father James McDyer." Eire-Ireland Journal of Irish Studies Spring-Summer (2003): 130-31.
The author states, regarding the revitalization of the Turas and other authetic Celtic practices, "This model dominated the political landscape during the formation of the Irish state. Prime Minister Eamon de Valera attempted to create a sense of Irishness by revaluing the West of Ireland in terms of its ‘heroic past.’"
4Lacey, Brian. Colum Cille and the Columban Tradition. Dublin: Four Courts, 1997. 33.
5O’Cuinneagain, Liam. "Stations of the Turas." Message to the author. 9 Aug. 2010. E-mail.
7Lacey, Brian."Constructing Colum Cille." Irish Arts Review 21.3 (2004): 120-23.
Regarding the uncertainty of the dates of the Colum Cille’s death, the author writes, "Despite the widespread belief that he died in 597 (his alleged 1400th anniversary was commemorated in 1997), it is now almost certain that he died in 593."
Colum Cille, siimilar to other early saints of the Celtic church, was a possessed of characteristics that may not today be regarded as "saintly." Lawrence Taylor writes, "The wandering Irish saints prophesy, cure, win battles, even raise the dead. They also curse. They are indissolubly associated with the landscape, and share its ambivalence and bouts of tempter…Like the Hebrews they were tribespeople, not townspeople, the shamans of a pastoral folk who themselves moved in the landscape." Taylor, Lawrence J. Occasions of Faith: an Anthropology of Irish Catholics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1995. 43.
8O’Cuinneagain, Liam. "Turas Cholm Cille" Message to the author, quoting Séamus McGinley. 13 May 2014. E-mail.
9Lacey. Colum Cille and the Columban Tradition.10.
10Harbison, Peter. Pilgrimage in Ireland: the Monuments and the People. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ., 1992. 106.
11Lacey. "Constructing Colum Cille." 121.
12Lacey, Brian. Colum Cille and the Columban Tradition. Dublin: Four Courts, 1997. 87-8.
13O’Donnell, Manus, Andrew O’Kelleher, Gertrude Schoepperle, and Richard Henebry. Betha Colaim Chille. Life of Columcille. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois under the Auspices of the Graduate School, 1918. 5.
One of the enduring legends of the saint is that his mission to the Picts in Iona was occasioned by his exile from Ireland under duress after he had lost both a "copyright" suit and the ensuing ferocious battle. In this story the saint made an unauthorized copy of a Psalm book, and the high king ruled that he was required to return it to the owner of the original, reasoning that "To every cow its calf, to every book its copy." It is, however, more likely that Colum Cille’s journey to Scotland was entirely voluntary. This book may be read in its entirety here.
15Lacey, Brian. Colum Cille and the Columban Tradition. Dublin: Four Courts, 1997. 8.
16Pochin Mould 136.
17Price, Liam. "Glencolumbkille, County Donegal, and Its Early Christian Cross-Slabs." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Seventh 11.3 (1941): 82-84.
The quote just above is from John O’Donovan’s translation of the story.
The tale continues (my edits) “And that javelin grew in the place whereas it struck the ground that that time till now, and thus it shall be till Doomsday. Then Columeille blessed that stream, and its venom and enchantment departed therefrom. And he crossed it. And an angel brought him a round green stone, and bade him cast it at the demons, and they should flee before it, and the fog also. And the angel bade him throw his bell Dub Duaibseeh at them in like wise. And Columeille did as the angel commanded him, so that the whole land was yielded to him from the fog. And the demons fled before him to a rock out in the great sea opposite the western headland of that region. And Columcille cast at them that stone that the angel had given him, and his bell Dub Duaibsech. And he bade the demons go into the sea through the rock whereas they were, and be in the form of fish forever, and to do no deviltry against any thenceforth. …And lest folk should eat them, Columcille left a mark on them passing every other fish, to wit, that they should be blind of an eye and red. And fishers oft take them today, and they do naught to them when they perceive them, save to cast them again into the sea. Then required Columcille of God to give back to him his bell and stone from the sea. And lo, he beheld them coming toward him in the likeness of a glow of fire, and they fell to the ground fast by him….And in the place where the bell fell, it sank deep ill the earth, and it left its clapper there. And Columcille said the bell was none the worse without the clapper." This book may be read in its entirety here.
More than 400 years after Manus O’Donnell, Gleann Cholm Cille’s Fr. McDyer made good use of the "evil fog" allegory when he reported on his battle with the bureaucrats in Dublin: "But the most powerful bodies were against me…The civil servants hedged by asking for feasibility studies. I reminded them about St. Colmcille and the druids and the efforts of the druids to thwart him by calling up the mists. I said: "The druids have gone but they have left their peers behind in you boys, the senior civil servants. The modern druidical mist is your feasibility study." McDyer, James. Fr. McDyer of Glencolumbkille. Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland: Brandon, 1982. 67.
Another brief quotation, supposedly from Colum Cille, was mentioned by Liam Price: "…it is written in early modern Irish, and was composed perhaps in the 15th century. It speaks of Senglenn Coluim, " the old glen of Colum, and of the old glen named from Colum. Na saruigbtear Seinglenn, aitreb na lee nime" ("The old glen will not be harmed, the place of the slabs of heaven.") Price, Liam. "Glencolumbkille, County Donegal, and Its Early Christian Cross-Slabs." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Seventh 11.3 (1941): 32.
Harbison explains that St. Fanad’s "cult was overlain by that of St Colmcille, whose relics may have been brought to the valley for safety some time in the first half of the 9th century."
24Williams, W. H. A. Tourism, Landscape, and the Irish Character: British Travel Writers in Pre-famine Ireland. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 2008. 44.
26Pochin Mould 133.
27Pochin Mould 133.
The author goes on to write specifically about the turas in Gleann Cholm Cille (pp. 138-39) "The midnight barefoot round of three miles in Glencolumbkille is, to my mind, harder while it lasts than Lough Derg. In many cases, these smaller pilgrimages are now headed and directed by the clergy, which is as it should be, for they can do much to concentrate devotion along the right lines, as did their predecessors of the Celtic Church, turning it away from queer superstitious practices on to the real intention of the pilgrimage of prayer and penance and devotion to the local saint and to Our Lady. …A symbol of the continuity of the Faith in Ireland, of our close link with our native Celtic saints."
28Another hillside sacred well considered here in the Voice from the Dawn project is the Tullaghan Hill Holy Well in Co. Sligo.
Harbison here states, "The Glencolmcille pillars are unlikely to have acted as gravemarkers and were almost certainly erected in connection with pilgrimage activity in the valley." However an earlier publication he states, "The most conspicuous remains of this monastery are the pillars decorated with cross-motifs and geometric designs which may originally have been grave-slabs, but are now the centres or ‘stations’ of the pilgrimage…"
Harbison, Peter. Guide to National and Historic Monuments of Ireland: including a Selection of Other Monuments Not in State Care. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1992. 68.
30Pochin Mould 136.
31Taylor, Lawrence J. Occasions of Faith: an Anthropology of Irish Catholics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1995. 58.
"They are yet anxious to perform the lustrations and purifications, which so much prevailed in the early ages of christianity, and though the turas left by Columbkille in the old Glen is now condemned by the clergy, some of the natives go through it yet with reverence and solemnity, visiting each hallowed spot where Columbkille knelt or stood or left any of his sacred footsteps…"
Here Taylor is quoting from: O’Donovan, John, Thomas O’Connor, P. (Patrick) O’Keeffe, and Michael Herity. Ordnance Survey Letters Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Donegal Collected during the Progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1837, 1838, and 1839. Dublin: Four Masters, 2002. 120-21.
In a note on p. 253 Taylor writes, "The ‘Outrage Papers’ contain crime reports for the period, and while faction fights seem to have been typical in the north, and to some extend to the east of southwest Donegal, the region itself is not much represented. This might of course be a function of reportage—the absence of police in the area—but both Ewing and O’Donovan, who traveled through the entire region taking notes—make a point of observing the quiescence of the region."
32Pochin Mould 137.
33Hastings, James, John A. Selbie, and Louis H. Gray. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. New York: Scribner’s, 1919. 21.
34Hardy, Philip Dixon. The Holy Wells of Ireland: Containing an Authentic Account of Those Various Places of Pilgrimage and Penance Which Are Still Annually Visited by Thousands of the Roman Catholic Peasantry. With a Minute Description of the Patterns and Stations Periodically Held in Various Districts of Ireland. Dublin: Hardy, & Walker, 1840. iii.
This book may be read in its entirety here.
Hardy’s book is very much an artifact of the racist, anti-Catholic views commonly held in Protestant communities of nineteenth-century Ireland, which often looked upon the rural poor of Ireland as almost a sub-human species. See this illustration from the book. The author supplements his own observations with those of other with similar views about the excesses of the "patterns." On p. 89 he quotes from Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland, (1824) "Scene at River Lee." "The tents are generally so crowded that the dancers have scarcely room for their performance: from twenty  to thirty men and women are often huddled together in each, and the circulation of porter and whiskey amongst the various groups is soon evident in its effects. All become actors, – none spectators, – rebellious songs, in the Irish language, are loudly vociferated, and received with yells of applause – towards evening the tumult increases, and intoxication becomes almost universal. Cudgels are brandished, the shrieks of women and the piercing cry of children thrill painfully upon the ear in the riot and uproar of the scene: indeed the distraction and tumult of a patron cannot be described. At midnight the assembly became somewhat less noisy and confused, but the chapels were still crowded: on the shore people lay ‘heads and points’ so closely that it was impossible to move without trampling on them; the washing and bathing in the well still continued, and the dancing, drinking, roaring, and singing were, in some degree, kept up throughout the night."
350 Giollain, Diarmuid. "Revisiting the Holy Well." Eire-Ireland 40.1&2 (2005): 32-33.
Talor writes, "…many clergy so successfully captured and tamed such devotions that some began to look further, reviving defunct pilgrimages in order to reinvigorate what could now be perceived as quaint local custom. Once securely positioned as patrons of the pilgrimages, local clergy would sometimes promote other devotions at the site, with lay support…"
Glencolumbkille Turas Stations
1Taylor, Lawrence J. Occasions of Faith: an Anthropology of Irish Catholics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1995. 61.
Quoting O’Donovan, John, Thomas O’Connor, P. (Patrick) O’Keeffe, and Michael Herity. Ordnance Survey Letters Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Donegal Collected during the Progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1837, 1838, and 1839. Dublin: Four Masters, 2002. 120-21.
Quoting O’Donovan, John, Thomas O’Connor, P. (Patrick) O’Keeffe, and Michael Herity. Ordnance Survey Letters Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Donegal Collected during the Progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1837, 1838, and 1839. Dublin: Four Masters, 2002. 120-21.
"On the summit of the gloomy mountain of Slieve Leag are yet shewn the ruins of the little cell of Aodh Mac Bric…A most solemn turas was performed here in the memory of the last generation, but he liveth not now who could point out all the hallowed spots to be visited and prayed at, so that it has been abandoned as a station of pilgrimage to the rapid oblivion of the name and fame of the solitary Bishop Aidus."
4Price, Liam. "Glencolumbkille, County Donegal, and Its Early Christian Cross-Slabs." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Seventh 11.3 (1941): 72.
Quoting O’Donovan, John, Thomas O’Connor, P. (Patrick) O’Keeffe, and Michael Herity. Ordnance Survey Letters Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Donegal Collected during the Progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1837, 1838, and 1839. Dublin: Four Masters, 2002. 127.
6Price 71-88. Photographs credited to "T. H. Mason"
7Herity, Michael. Gleanncholmcille: A guide to 5,000 years of history in stone. Dublin: Na Clocha Breaca, 1998. 16.
8Cunningham, Gerard. Turas Cholm Cille – A Pocket Guide. Dublin: Faduca, 2010. 5.
9Harbison, Peter. Pilgrimage in Ireland: the Monuments and the People. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ., 1992. 109.
On p. 55, the author quotes John Ewing (Statistical Return of Glencolumbkille, 1823:2): "There is a stone of very particular use in curing head aches which must be lodged every night in St Columb’s bed but is generally taken off every morning through the parish. I was not fortunate enough to see it tho’ I called twice—but each time it was out on duty."
16"Farranmacbride Court Tomb." Megalithic Ireland. Web. 19 May 2011. <http://www.megalithicireland.com/Farranmacbride%20Court%20Tomb.html>.
17McGinley, Séamus "’Cloch na Súil (The Stone of the eye)." Message to the author. 7 Jan. 2011. E-mail.
"Cloch na Súil" is also the name for Station Eight used by Turas leader Jimmy Carr in the video interview (1999) on this site.
18"Interview Note." Bealoideas: Journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society VI (1936): 162. From a card on file at the Department of Folklore, University College, Dublin. 1979.
Voices from the Dawn features other such "holed stones," including the Aghade Holed Stone, the Tobernaveen Holed Stone, and the Doagh Holed Stone.
19Wood-Martin, W. G. Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland. Vol. 2.. London: Longmans, Green, & Co. 1902. 242.
The author explains that the name of this ruined church comes from a legend first recorded by a local schoolteacher in the mid-nineteenth century. The story is that a priest found a dying Spaniard near Sliabh Liag, and as he performed the last rites the Spaniard gave him a purse of gold coins and asked him to build a church with it. Cunningham states that this legend may be but a cover story for how the local community—where smuggling of Spanish wine and tobacco was lucrative—was able to afford its own church.
The Grianan of Aileach
1Bernard, Walter. "Grianan of Aileach." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 15 (1879): 415.
3Grianan of Aileach." Megalithic Ireland. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. <http://www.megalithicireland.com/Grianan of Aileach.html>.
4"Grianan of Aileach – Ringfort – County Donegal." Stone Circles and Megalithic Monuments in the British Isles and Ireland – Megalithics. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. <http://www.megalithics.com/ireland/grianan/granmain.htm>.
5Maghtochair. Inishowen: Its History, Traditions,& Antiquities Containing a Number of Original Documents,with Numerous Notes from the Annals of the Four Masters,and Other Sources. Londonderry: Journal Office, 1867. 17-20.
6O’Curry, Eugene. On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. Vol. 3. New York: Lemma Pub., 1971. 8-9.
7The Annals of the Four Masters were compiled between 1632 and 1636 at the Franciscan monastery in the town of Donegal. Entries date from the biblical flood, ( 2,242 years after creation) to 1616 CE.
8Macalister, R. A. S. "Pre-Celtic Ireland." The Irish Monthly, 46.540 (June, 1918): 330-31.
9"Grianan of Aileach." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grianan_of_Aileach>.
10The Grianan of Aileach.. 17 June 2010. Information sign at the site. Burt.
11Grianan of Aileach." Megalithic Ireland.
12Lacey, Brian. "The Grianán of Aileach: A Note on Its Identification." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 131 (2001): 148.
13The Grianan of Aileach. 17 June 2010.
14"St. Patrick’s Well, Carrowreagh, Donegal." The Northern Antiquarian. 11 Nov. 2009. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. <http://megalithix.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/st-patricks-well-donegal/>.
15The Grianan of Aileach. 13 July 1979. Information sign at the site. Burt.
16Cormacan, John O’Donovan, and Robert Payne. The Circuit of Ireland, by Muircheartach MacNeill, Prince of Aileach; a Poem, Written in the Year DCCCCXLII. Dublin: Irish Archaeological Society, 1841. 25
17Harbison, Peter. Guide to National and Historic Monuments of Ireland: including a Selection of Other Monuments Not in State Care. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1992. 101.
Note: the two illustrations in the web gallery were taken from The Book of Inishowen; the "St. Columb’s Stone" from p. 9, and the "Grianan Plan" from p. 88.
Swan, Harry Percival., and William J. O’Doherty. The Book of Inishowen; a Guide Book and Conspectus of Information Relating to the Barony of Inishowen, County Donegal. Buncrana, Co. Donegal: W. Doherty & Co., 1938.
The Belmont House School has a web page with more information about St. Columb’s Stone.
1Ferguson, Samuel, George Petrie, and Margaret Stokes. The Cromlech on Howth: A Poem. London: Day, 1861.
Another page from the book, in color, may be seen here. A grayscale pdf of all the verse pages from the book may be viewed here. The text of "Aideen’s Grave," as published by the author in his Lays of the Western Gael collection of poems (1888), may be read here.
2Bonwick, James. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. London: Griffith, Farran & Co., 1894. 262.
A quoit is defined as "a single-chambered megalithic tomb."
3McNally, Kenneth. Ireland’s Ancient Stones; a Megalithic Heritage. Belfast: Appletree, 2006. 95.
Sources differ on the dimensions of the tomb’s capstone. William Wakeman wrote in 1903 that it was nearly a meter larger on each side than measured by modern visitors.
4"Howth Castle." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 July 2012. Web. 19 July 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howth_Castle>.
An 1895 book described the scenery in the vicinity of the monument: "There are many beautiful spots on the Hill of Howth, and there is no place near Dublin, at all events, which teems with such rich and varied associations with our history and literature. But there is one spot in Howth preeminent in its beauty and preeminent too in its associations. It is a dell in the demesne bordered on one side be precipitous cliffs. A grassy path lies through it edged with ferns and shaded with larches and firs, and graceful silver birches, such as McWhirter so loves to paint, and then it ascends in a gentle slope to the top of the cliffs. In the latter end of May, and beginning of June, these cliffs from base to summit are all ablaze with the purple, and rose, and flame colour, and yellow and white blooms of myriads of rhododendrons, while along the right, beyond and among the ferns, is spread a great blue carpet of wild hyacinths. Near toward the path ascends the cliff, another path turns off to the right and leads you to the Cromlech of Howth." (Carton, R.P. "The Associations of Scenery. Part II." The Irish Monthly 23.263 (1895): 234-35.)
5Kennedy, Patrick. Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts. London: Macmillan and Co., 1866. 183.
In legend, Oscar’s "battle-rage" was so intense that "in his fury he also slew by mischance his own friend and condisciple." (Rolleson, Thomas William. Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race. London: George G. Harrap, 1949. 260-61.)
From Ferguson’s introduction to his poem: "Oscar was entombed in the rath or earthen fortress that occupied part of the field of battle, the rest of the slain being cast in a pit outside."
7Ferguson, Mary Catharine Guinness. Sir Samuel Ferguson in the Ireland of His Day. Vol. 2. Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1896. 82-85.
The poem "Aideen’s Grave" was also published in collections by the author, and subsequently by many others. One reviewer wrote in 1889, "Sir Samuel Ferguson’s poetry is delightful in its lyrical and elegiac vein as well as in its narrative. A better specimen of it can hardly be referred to than ‘Aideen’s Grave’…Obviously its qualities are those characteristic of the noble, not the ignoble, poetry, viz. passion, imagination, vigour, an epic largeness of conception, wide human sympathies, vivid and truthful description; while with these it unites none of the vulgar stimulants for exhausted or morbid poetic appetites, whether the epicurean seasoning, the skeptical, or the revolutionary. Its diction is pure, its metre full of variety; and with these merits, common to all true poetry, it unites an insight which only a man of genius can possess into the special characteristics of those ancient times and manners which are so frequently its subject. His Irish poetry is Irish, not, like a good deal which bears that name, i.e. by dint of being bad English, while stuffed with but the vulgarer accidents, not the essential characteristics of Gaelic Ireland—not thus, but by having the genuine Gaelic spirit in it. That spirit, like the Irish airs, its most authentic expression, has much of the minor key about it, and many ‘shrill notes of anger’ besides; but alike with its sadness, its fierceness, and its wild fits of mirth, a witching tenderness is mingled; and all those qualities are largely found in Sir Samuel Ferguson’s poetry." (De Vere, Aubrey. Essays, Chiefly Literary and Ethical. London: Macmillan and Co., 1889. 120-25.)
8"Capital Letters 007." A Whole New World. Web. 19 July 2012. <http://dublincitypubliclibraries.com/content/capital-letters-007>.
The Cromlech on Howth‘s illustrator, Margaret Stokes later edited Dunraven’s Notes on Irish Architecture. She wrote and illustrated Early Christian Art In Ireland (1887). She produced two works on early medieval Irish saints in Europe, Six Months in the Apennines (1892) and Three Months in The Forest of France (1895). Her final work, The High Crosses of Ireland, was unfinished at her death. Stokes was credited on the title page of The Cromlech on Howth only by an elaborate monogram of her initials. See the page here.
9Denman, Peter. Samuel Ferguson: The Literary Achievement. Savage, MD: Barnes & Noble, 1990. 93-94.
Author and folklore scholar Ron James writes (in a personal email 7/20/2012) "[Ferguson] creates a tradition, which was a perfectly acceptable practice in nineteenth-century Romanticism…So much of real, honest folklore was inspired by the written word, just as folklore inspires literature. It has been a fluid back and forth since writing was invented, and that is a healthy process. Nineteenth-century Romantic nationalists felt they were fully justified in creating traditions where existing ones might be a little thin. And for a poet to find artistic if not spiritual inspiration when gazing on a megalith ruin, creating a tradition out of that inspiration where no folk tradition might exist, was perfectly in keeping with the time."
10Hofheinz, Thomas C. Joyce and the Invention of Irish History: Finnegans Wake in Context. Cambridge UP, 1995. 75-78.
The author links Ferguson’s work to Joyce’s in Finnegans Wake: "Finnegans Wake‘s cultural kinship to literary works like The Cromlech on Howth is evident on many levels. Like Ferguson’s poem, Finnegans Wake performs topologically, forcing readers to encounter it as an
autonomous object that demands them to meet it on its own terms. Like the poem, Finnegans Wake‘s superabundance of graphical imagery precludes clearly charted narrative by simulating problems of historical understanding through rapid alternation of the familiar and the unrecognizable, guiding readers with submerged indexical structures. Most of all, Finnegans Wake, like The Cromlech on Howth, constellates historical reflection around an interment in the Howth promontory. The legendary Irish figure buried alive in Finnegans Wake is Finn rather than Aideen, but the cryptic location of Fenian imagery determines the Wake’s narrative in a way linking it thematically to Ferguson’s poem."
Russell K. Alspach writes that Ferguson was the "Irish poet who, before Yeats, most made use of Ireland’s legends in his poetry." According to Alspach, a line in Yeat’s "The Wanderings of Oisin" can directly be traced to "Aideen’s Grave" ["We thought on Oscar’s penciled urn ."] Alspach, Russell K. "Some Sources of Yeats’s "The Wanderings of Oisin"" PMLA 58.3 (1943): 859.)
11Ferguson, Samuel, George A. Cogan, and Joseph Tierney. Aideen’s Grave. Dublin: Talbot, 1925.
Two the pages from this small volume are included on our web page. Another one, a painting of Aideen’s Grave, may be seen here.
12Parsons, Anne, and Niamh Parsons. "The Wild Bees Nest Project." Niamh Stage Two. Web. 19 July 2012. <http://www.thewildbeesnest.ie/Niamh_Stage_Two.html>.
13Denman, Peter. Samuel Ferguson: The Literary Achievement. Savage, MD: Barnes & Noble, 1990. 93-94.
The author writes, "Ossian is represented as looking forward to a later age when some future poet, also on Howth, will transfer the burden of his poem into a form more suited to that later time. Whom might he have had in mind, if not Samuel Ferguson?"
Inishmurray Monastic Stie
1J.H. (John Healy). "A Pilgrimage to Innismurry." The Irish Monthly 5 (1877): 433.
2Wakeman, W. F., and James Mills. A Survey of the Antiquarian Remains on the Island of Inismurray. London: Williams & Norgate, 1893. v.
From the preface by James Mills. The text may be read in its entirety here.
3Delaney, Mary Murray. Of Irish Ways. Minneapolis: Dillon, 1973. 22.
4O’Sullivan, Jerry, and Tomás Ó Carragáin. Inishmurray: Monks and Pilgrims in an Atlantic Landscape. Cork: Collins, 2008. xix.
The authors conclude: "The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government receives more requests each year to save sites under threat from the sea, but the problem is enormous and seemingly unstoppable. Often, the best one can do is to ensure that the site is fully recorded and leave nature to take its course."
The location of the Bronze Age cist discovered in 1938 by James Harte has been identified as the group of erect slabs a visitor to Inishmurray today may note when stepping off the boat after it lands in the Clashymore inlet. It is further described by the authors (p. 199): "The hollow is 2 m deep on the west side, but only 0.6 m on the east, where it overlooks the wave-cut rock terraces of Clashymore. Within the hollow, large, flat, edge-set slabs form the north and east sides of what may once have been a lintelled short cist…The site was examined by E. Estyn Evans who was satisfied that it was a later prehistoric funerary cist; the whereabouts of an associated urn or food vessel are now unknown."
7Harbison, Peter. "Beranger and Bigari: Lost and Found!" Archaeology Ireland 16.4 (2002): 30.
A few of these drawings may be seen online here. Harbison explains the provenance of the Berganger and Bigari drawings: "Sir William Wilde, himself a Connacht man of many parts, had searched in vain for any original pictorial material surviving from the tour, and could only point his readers towards the engravings in Grose’s Antiquities for evidence of its artistic achievements. But what Wilde did not know was that, around 1810, many of the original views (mainly by Bigari), as well as plans and details (largely by Beranger), had been bought from Burton Conyngham’s heirs by Austin Cooper, who, along with members of his family, had already made copies of many of them in the years 1794 and 1799. These copies have a special value of their own because many of them were based on originals that have not managed to survive, perhaps disposed of in the nineteenth century by Cooper’s son, also named Austin, who ‘unlike his father was devoid of all literary taste.’ It is a hopeful thought that these lost drawings may yet turn up in some unexpected attic, but we can regard ourselves as fortunate that those originals and copies which did survive were acquired by the National Library in 1994, where they can, incidentally, be studied via the internet on the online Catalogue of the Library’s Prints & Drawings Department."
8McGowan, Joe. Inishmurray, Island Voices. Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo: Aeolus, 2004. 156-57.
According to the author, the correct rendition of the Irish phrase used by Beranger would be Tabhair dom póg, cailin óg.
The author further advises the tourist: "In the event of contrary winds causing prolonged stay, it would be desirable for visitors to bring with them creature comforts, such as tea, coffee, bread, &c., and perhaps some tinned meats—fish they can generally be supplied with on the spot. It is not amiss to have a few ounces of common twist tobacco for distribution amongst the islanders, whose services in small matters will at times be required,. They are often very proud, and will at times refuse money, which they think has not been earned—but tobacco, never! for that is a gift which, as a native once said to me, ‘one gentleman may receive from another.’"
From the preface by James Mills.
11Killanin, Michael Morris, and Michael V. Duignan. The Shell Guide to Ireland. London: Ebury P. in Association with George Rainbird, 1967. 308-9.
James Mills noted in 1893: "The Report is not accompanied by either drawings, plans, or measurements. But it holds out the promise of judicious work, to be done only where needed for preservation. It was natural to look forward to the final report on the treatment of remains of so great interest and value. It is, therefore, rather disappointing to find the Superintendent’s next report consisting but of two sentences: Innishmurray Island, Co. Sligo. A careful inspection, and report on the curious remains on this island appeared in last year’s report. The works therein recommended have been undertaken and satisfactorily completed.’ (49th Rep. Public Works, Ireland (1880-1), Appendix p. 93)." (Wakeman xviii.)
12Wood-Martin, W.G. Pagan Ireland. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1895. 192.
The authors further commented on Wakeman 1885 fieldwork: "His account of the associated religious practices and other traditions of the islanders was thoughtful and sympathetic. Despite this, his survey does have some shortcomings. Although there are many handsome and detailed sketches of the major monuments, the report offers no scaled plans or elevations apart from one sketch-plan of the Cashel. Furthermore, his record of the cross-slabs and early memorial inscriptions is selective and sometimes inaccurate."
14Heraughty, Patrick. Inishmurray: Ancient Monastic Island. Dublin: O’Brien, 1982. 19-20.
The author concludes: "Our understanding of this period is hampered by a number of factors. Accidental fires and those caused by enemy action destroyed much written material in Irish monastic houses. Moreover, Irish religious communities are accepted as having been some of the world’s worst record keepers. To the best of available knowledge the monastic settlement on Inishmurray was founded circa 520 A.D. and ended in the latter part of the twelfth century…"
St. Molaise in known as the confessor to St. Columba (Colm Cille), which may be evidence of the ties between the monastery at Inishmurray and Columba’s center at Iona in Scotland. As confessor, St. Molaise would have mandated St. Colm Cille exile from Ireland after the terrible slaughter Colm Cille caused at the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in 561 (the Battle of the Books). It was said that Colm Cille’s used his cloak to walk over the water to Inishmurray. (McGowan, Joe. Inishmurray: Gale, Stone, and Fire : Portrait of a Fabled Island. Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo: Aeolus, 1998. 11-12.)
Molaise was also referred to as Muirdeach, which may have been the island’s original name’s in Irish. Successor abbots on Inishmurray appear to have also used the name Molaise.
The authors note that both Wakeman (1893) and Herity (1983) suggested that the Cashel was originally a secular settlement later gifted to the Church. Finding no evidence in support of this in their excavation of several monuments outside the Cashel, the authors suggest that only excavation within the monastery wall could determine the answer. They conclude that "based upon present evidence it seems to us just as likely that it was built as an ecclesiastical enclosure."
On the other hand, Joe McGowan cites an early O.S map where there are indications of an outer concentric ring on three sides which mighty support the view that the Cashel wall is over 2,000 years old. "A series of defensive steppings on the north-western part probably completely encircled the enclosure at one time." (McGowan, Joe. Inishmurray: Gale, Stone, and Fire : Portrait of a Fabled Island. Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo: Aeolus, 1998. 20.)
17Harbison, Peter. Pilgrimage in Ireland: the Monuments and the People. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ., 1992. 100.
18McGowan, Joe. Inishmurray: Gale, Stone, and Fire : Portrait of a Fabled Island. Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo: Aeolus, 1998. 14.
The author suggest that the Abbey of Staad, in Streedagh, on the mainland across from Inishmurray, may have housed the monks from the island in 1588.
Harbison cited as evidence for the island monastery’s transferal to the mainland, "perhaps after the Norse raid but certainly by the 13th century," the fact that an abbey at Aughris was known as Insula Mury until the 15th century. (Harbison, Pilgrimage 100.)
19McGowan, Voices 105-106.
20McGowan, Voices 107.
The author writes: "Only men were buried in the Cashel. The cloistered ground refused the coffins of women buried there. Mysteriously they were found overground in the morning. It was a taboo that could not be broken."
Some writers have noted one opening, called Dorais an Uisge (water door), near a well on the northeast was where’all male islanders "who met a watery death" were carried into the Cashel for burial. (McGowan, Gale 20.)
The author noted the mortar dating information soon after Professor Ranier Berger and his colleagues analyzed a sample of the mortar from the oldest part of Teach Molaise which provided a calibrated radiocarbon date of AD 700-900, suggesting "that the building is not only early in the history of mortared stone buildings in Ireland, but is probably the earliest surviving ecclesiastical structure on the island."
24McGowan, Gale 23-4.
In his other Inishmurray book the author reports that the two stone benches in Teac Molaise, Altoir Molaise (Molaise’s altar) and Leaba Molaise (Molaise’s bed) demonstrate that the saint celebrated Mass and also slept in Teach Molaise. According to tradition, he is buried here as well. (McGowan, Voices 113-16.)
25Wakeman, W.F. "Inis Muiredaich, Now Inismurray, and Its Antiquities." The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland Fourth 7.64 (1885): 229.
Regarding the altar, Wakeman wrote: "It would appear that archaeology has suffered an irreparable loss by the disappearance from Teach-na-Teinidh of a most remarkable flagstone, called Leac-na-Teinidh, ‘the Stone of the Fire," by which a supposed miraculous hearth, the foundations of which still remain, was until lately covered. The slab is said by several of the natives of the island to have been broken and utilized as building material by the reconstructors of the gable just referred to. It was, I believe, the only relic remaining in Ireland which appeared to be connected in some way, perhaps long forgotten, with the mysterious fire-worship practised by our Aryan forefathers."
26Wakeman, Inis Muiredaich 230.
Joe McGowan quotes a verse from a traditional island song commemorating the fate meted out to the violator of the altar’s sanctity:
"The mystic flag that lights the sod profaned long, long ago,
The heretic did not believe consumed for doing so.
His bones lie there to tell the tale exposed for ages past
He expiated for his crime and there met with his last."
(McGowan Gale 24-6.)
Regarding the bones, supposedly of the transgressor, reported by earlier visitors, the authors noted that Wm. Wakeman reported finding burnt bone in a wall niche. The further noted that Lord Mountbatten believed that the building was used to house human bones from the cemetery, perhaps disturbed by grave digging. They were quoting from Lord Louis Mountbatten’s unpublished 1967 guidebook, "A Short Guide to Inishmurray." Mountbatten’s long association with the waters off Inishmurray was to come to a very unhappy end in 1979.
28Harbison, Pilgrimage 228.
In Co. Cork it was noted in 1896 that at the Cloch-na-breacaibh "The Sinner’s Stone," a holed stone near Kilgrave Church, women would draw clothes through the hole when nearing childbirth "to secure a favourable result." (Frazer, W. "On ‘Holed’ and Perforated Stones in Ireland." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland XXVI (1896): 163. )
Of the ritual undertaken by pregnant women, Wakeman wrote: "In connexion with this pillar a custom, which is worthy of record, very generally prevails. Women who expect shortly to become mothers are wont hither to resort for the purpose of praying for a happy issue from the perils of their impending travail. The natives assert that death in childbirth is an unknown calamity upon the island. The postulants kneel, passing their thumbs into the front, and their fingers into the side openings, by which means a firm grasp of the angles of the stone is obtained. They are thus enabled to rise from their act of obeisance with a minimum of strain or difficulty." (Wakeman 76-78.)
Note, in the Wakeman plan of the Cashel available in a magnified view on our page, that the large clochán is identified as " School House."
31Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. 144.
The author reported that accounts in hagiography and folklore assert that the saints and early missionaries left rounded stones as remembrances to the converted before leaving them to spread the faith elsewhere. "The stones preserved the essence of the saint and, following the saint’s instructions on their proper use, enabled the community to communicate with the divine."
The round stones on the Clocha Breaca are made of sandstone and range in size from around 15–50 cm (6–20 in). William Wakeman, in 1892, reported finding only five decorated "cursing stones" on the altar: "Only five of the many altar-stones (sometimes styled "Cursing" or "Swearing Stones") remaining on Clochabreaca are decorated. In all cases the figure presented is that of a Greek cross, enclosed by a circle. Two of the examples which I shall first describe are highly ornate, so much so, indeed, that their design might form a valuable study to an illuminating artist intent on reproducing early Irish work of sacred, or simply decorative, character." (Wakeman 62-4.)
33McGowan, Voices 145-47.
The author relates the story of an RUC constable stationed on the island who expressed his contempt for the native beliefs by taking one of the cursing stones and concealing in his barracks. He was forced to return the stone when, for no logical explanation, the building began shaking so that "’the roof was nearly caving in by the trembling of the building.’"
Wakeman offered a suggested use for the mysterious "bottle" stones: "… stones of most singular and mysterious character, unlike, indeed, any remains hitherto noticed as appertaining to rites or usages of the ancient Irish Church…It consists of a block of sandstone—the prevailing stone of the island—measuring about two feet in extreme length; the upper portion is somewhat cube-shaped; the lower consists of a sort of stem, or shaft, gradually narrowing as it descends, and evidently intended for insertion in a base of some kind. The latter, if it consisted of a single stone, unfortunately cannot now be found; but it is not unlikely that the shaft may originally have been socketed in the masonry of the altar. A small hollow, circular in plan, descends vertically into the body of the stone, to a distance which, owing to the presence of decayed matter, probably vegetable, within it, I could not ascertain with accuracy. A cover, formed of a flag, and having a stopper, like what we see in modern glass ware, of a size exactly fitting the neck of the boring, usually surmounts the stone, but is sometimes laid beside it…Tradition, on the island, as far as I am aware, has nothing to say concerning the purpose to which this unique object was anciently applied. Could it have been a primitive chrismatory [container for holy anointing oil]?" (Wakeman 68-70.)
34McGowan, Voices 145-47.
35Harbison, Pilgrimage 103.
Joe McGowan, quoting John O’Donovan, presents the metaphor of a man chopping wood: "If the axe falls fairly it will split the timber, if not, it will fly out and injure the axeman. A curse, once pronounced as to fall on something or someone and can, ‘remain for seven years in the air ready to alight on the head of the person who provoked it. .. causing the loss of health, wealth, or even life… curses, like chickens come home to roost!’" (McGowan, Voices 145-47.)
36McGowan, Voices 140.
The author notes that the word "curse" comes from the Irish, cursachadh, or "abuse."
Fr. John Healy reported in 1877 that a woman, "in mockery of the superstition, turned the stones against herself, and died within the twelve months." (Healy 437-38.)
38In addition to our "virtual reality cursing stone," there is another way to replicate an Inishmurray cursing stone. The stones were removed from the island c. 2010 for safekeeping and for digital 3D scanning. The result of this program will be computer files theoretically allowing cursing stones replicates to be created using a 3D printer. "The Discovery Programme worked in collaboration with the National Monuments Service of the OPW to undertake the 3D recording of a selection of the Clocha Breaca, decorated ‘cursing’ stones from early medieval church site on Inishmurray, Co. Sligo. Originally located on the leacht at the Cashel the stones (worked sandstone) had been removed from the island for conservation and protection from the impact of erosion. Eight stones (with two stone ‘stoppers’) were selected for scanning, ranging from 15 – 50cm in diameter with a variety in the level of carved detail." More information may be found here.
Tour boat operators Trudy and Rodney Lomax, when asked by OPW to use their boat to remove the stones from the island, would not take a chance on violating the old superstitions. "We refused to carry them on our boat," said Trudy. (Lomax, Trudy. "Inishmurray." Message to the author. 11 June 2013. E-mail.)
39The statue of St. Molaise, removed from Inishmurray, is at the Collins Barracks (Decorative Arts and History) annex of the National Museum of Ireland.
According to the author, it was Fr. Brian O’Crehan, curate at Grange, who devised the solution to protected the statue of St. Molaise from further damage.
41McGowan, Gale 22-23.
Other experts believe that the wooden statue may be as early as the ninth century. While the Gobán Saor is usually thought of as a fabled architect, he was also a legendary builder in wood. More here.
42McGowan, Gale 22-23.
The author’s informant told him that when the man attempting to burn the statue was on the boat returning to the mainland, he went mad and had to be "’smothered between two blankets.’"
William Wakeman quoted from an Ordnance Survey letter of John O’Donovan (July, 1836) which lambasts those who would ridicule the islanders’ beliefs regarding the statue of St. Molaise: "It is astonishing how preachers, and ignorant uneducated rascals of that description, have been able to say so much about the figure of Molash, and pass over the most curious remains of antiquity on this island, which will yet attract the notice of men of real learning and true piety, when hypocritical cant shall be condemned as a science having a worse tendency than phrenology…"
(Wakeman vii. From the preface by James Mills)
44Burke, Cormac. "A Crozier and Bell from Inishmurray and Their Place in Ninth-Century Irish Archaeology." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 85C (1985): 145-68.
According to Patrick Heraughty, "We know from the detailed account book kept by Walker from 1836 to 1845 that he paid £2.00 to Underwood for the old bell on 26 January 1842. Most likely the bell and crozier were acquired together by Walker from a local person." (Heraughty 38.)
From an article on Roger Chambers Walker we learn that his museum included "dug-up, purchased or swapped items. Much of the collection was found locally or came from throughout Sligo including the island of Inishmurray…Some items were acquired by devious means while collectors vied with each other to outwit each other in the acquisition of choice items." From the abstract of this article, the author states: "Walker combined the life of a landowner and landlord with that of a barrister. Added to this he combined the role of antiquarian looter in the adjacent Carrowmore area and collector of antiquities." (Ireland, Aideen M. "Roger Chambers Walker: A Sligo Antiquarian." The Journal of Irish Archaeology 11 (2002): 152.)
45Harbison, Pilgrimage 104-105.
The authors’ excavations of the widely-dispersed leachta, some believed to be stations of the pattern, provided evidence of the antiquity of the practice.
The hermit cell station is also spelled Trahan 0 Riain ("0 Ryan’s Cell"). Heraughty notes that the name was given to this station by John O’Donovan, but was unknown on Inishmurray in modem times.
While this cell might have been a long-term habitation for a hermit, O’Sullivan and
Ó Carragáin state that it may also have "provided shelter and seclusion for fasting, prayer and penance by various individuals on short retreats rather than continuous habitation for one dedicated individual." (O’Sullivan 237-38.)
48Heraughty back jacket.
Dr. Heraughty spent his first twelve years on Inishmurray. He later trained as a doctor and practiced in Sligo. He was Vice President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1978-81) and President of the Sligo Field Club. See this article about the event held to celebrate his 90th birthday.
Pilgrims fasted for the entire day, and did three clockwise rounds about each of the stations barefoot, reciting five Our Fathers, five Hail Marys and the Creed at each of the stations, with a few exceptions). The Inishmurray Stations:
1. Teach Molaise, St. Molaise’s Chapel.
2. Leachta Cholmcille ("memorial altar of Colmcille") is just south of the Cashel.
3. Roilig Odhrain (Oran’s Cemetery") is 21.34 m (70 yds) to the west.
4. Ulla Mhuire, or "Mary’s altar," is located near Classymore.
5. The hermit’s cell, Trahan 0 Riain ("0 Ryan’s Cell"), at the most western point of the island.
6. Cros Mhór or "Great Cross," lies to the east.
7. This station is both Trahan Aodh ("Hugh’s cell") and Tobar na Córach or the "well of the fair [weather]."
8. Leachta Phádraig—the memorial altar to St. Patrick—is located right on the cliff edge.
9. Trionoid Mhór ("Big Station of the Trinity").
Trionoid Bheag ("Small Station of the Trinity’). Stations 9 and 10 are located just in front of the central houses on the coastal street.
11. Teampall na mBan or the "church of the women," just south of the Cashel.
12. Altair Bheag, the "Small Altar" inside the Cashel.
13. A second small altar, whose name is lost.
14. Teampall na bhFear, the "Men’s Church."
15. Clocha Breaca, the "Speckled (or cursing) Stones."
16. Teach Molaise, St. Molaise’s Chapel.
The full pilgrimage round was known as the "Big Station" and took four hours. to complete. There was also an abridged version, called the "Wee Station."
50McGowan, Voices 156-57.
Beranger noted in 1779 that "when they find themselves overstocked they send their children, when able, to the main to provide for themselves, who do not return but on visits to their parents, or to take possession of an inheritance."
A census in 1659 recorded only three people, or perhaps three households.
According to Patrick Heraughty, Inishmurray was in the modern era owned by the Hipsley and Sullivan estate. These owners had someone approach farmer Domhnall O’Heraughty with the proposition that in exchange for his holdings elsewhere he take the whole of Inishmurray to farm. "Domhnall was not a ready taker and tried to parry the offer as best he could, but both men knew that as a tenant Domhnall was in the weaker position. One of Domhnall’s objections was that he would not be able to find a wife to live in isolation with him on the island. But the adroit Wynne was prepared for this, and had obtained the agreement of Margaret McNulty, a cook at Hazelwood, that she would marry Domhnall and go to the island with him. With this and some minor objections overcome, Domhnall had little choice but to accept the offer of Inishmurray." (Heraughty 43-4.)
Voices from the Dawn also features the deserted village of Slievemore on Achill Island, in Co. Mayo. Other small Irish islands have also been depopulated in recent times, such as the Blasket Islands off Co. Kerry’s Dingle Peninsula. For a photograph (courtesy Trudy Lomax) of the deserted homes seen in our virtual-reality environment with a colorful growth of spring flowers (2013) click here.
Joe McGowan recorded this account of a festive occasion: "Then, after all the playin’ an’ dancin’, everyone’d have a wee respite to draw their wind and the bottle’d go round till they all got a drink. Out of the drinking then they’d all start again. Everyone had to sing…" (McGowan, Voices 21-22.)
For an interesting history of how lobster, which began as a food for the impoverished, became a culinary status symbol, read this article.
55McGowan, Voices 24.
56The stories listed below may be read in their complete—and engaging—retellings by Joe McGowan in his 2004 book Inishmurray, Island Voices.
1. At Poll a’ Phiobaire (Hole of the Piper) mysterious pipe music was heard.
2. An old woman knitting was seen on a sometimes-submerged small island south of Inishmurray.
3. An enchanted pig invaded a home and replaced the baby with a changeling.
4. A man violated the taboo against shooting a seal, which ultimately caused a mark on his baby.
5. Inishmurray soil can be used to eradicate rats.
6. Swans could never be harmed, lest they turn out to be enchanted children.
7. You should never point at a boat with your finger.
8. The holy well water, when drained into the sea, could calm storms.
9. A jealous man stabbed his neighbor’s cow and its blood was transformed into mice.
Edible seaweeds such as crannach, and carrigeen moss, known on Inishmurray as "fúdar," were collected, dried and sold in Sligo town. The drying process required stone cairns with the seaweed enclosed with smoldering coals.
58"Inishmurray, County Sligo, Ireland." Sailing: In Your Footsteps. Web. 12 June 2013. <http://www.inyourfootprints.com/sailing/harbours/europe/ireland/donegal/314/inishmurray>.
More information here.
The locations of the hidden whiskey were marked by aligning two fixed points on either side using subtly marked stones. When burying the poitín bottles in the ground, a deep cut with a knife was made in the grass so that it would not be noticed when the piece was replaced.
60McTernan, John C. "Illicit Distillation." Rosses Point Shanty Festival. Web. 12 June 2013. <http://www.rossespointshanty.com/Heritage/distillation.htm>.
Heraughty tells the story of a RUC sergeant who pretended not to know that the mash supposedly prescribed by a veterinarian for a sick cow was actually being using to make whiskey. (pp. 67-68.)
63McGowan, Voices 42.
The author quotes his informant: "If we didn’t give the first drop away to the fairies something was sure to happen to the run. Anyone that didn’t give it away, the first drop, they were either caught with the police on the mainland or it was stole on them." (p. 51.)
64"Big Capture on Inismurray." Sligo Independent & West of Ireland Telegraph 7 June 1924: Rosses Point Shanty Festival. Web. 12 June 2013. <http://www.rossespointshanty.com/Heritage/big_capture.htm>.
In 1877 Fr. John Healy wrote of the Inishmurray "royalty:" "There is an island queen, heretofore greatly reverenced, and of parental authority; but the spread of democratic ideas has penetrated even to this remote spot, so that her insular majesty, like many of her royal cousins, she has had to endure considerable diminution of her prerogatives. She considers the presence of the police as a gross infringement of her sovereign rights; and she would dismiss them "bag and baggage" as peremptorily as Mr. Gladstone would the Turks, if she only had the power. The present Prince Consort is her majesty’s second husband, and in the good old times no one could distill so potent and well-flavoured a "cast" as his royal highness. But Othello’s occupation’s gone; his right hand has lost its cunning for want of practice, and the Jameson of Innismurry is renowned no more." (Healy 435-36.)
"In October 1946 the entire Sligo staff of the Land Commission visited the island to inspect conditions and interview the inhabitants. The islanders received a sympathetic hearing, and Sligo County Council agreed to build eight cottages on the coast opposite the island on land the Land Commission had acquired…" By the time two years later that the island was evacuated the families had dwindled to six. The other two cottages were given to mainland families.
Kealkil Stone Circle
1Däniken, Erich Von. Chariots of the Gods? New York: Bantam, 1968. Intro.
2"Erich Von Däniken." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_von_Däniken>.
3"County Cork – Selected Monuments PART 2." Irish Megaliths: Field Guide & Photographs by Anthony Weir. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://www.irishmegaliths.org.uk/cork2.htm>.
4Ó Ríordáin, Seán P. "Excavation of a Stone Circle and Cairn at Kealkil, Co. Cork." Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 44 (1939). 48.
5Ó Ríordáin 47.
6"Chariots of the Gods?" Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chariots_of_the_Gods>.
From this article: "A 2004 article in Skeptic magazine states that von Däniken plagiarized many of the book’s concepts from The Morning of the Magicians, that this book in turn was heavily influenced by the Cthulhu Mythos, and that the core of the ancient astronaut theory originates in H. P. Lovecraft’s short stories ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ and ‘At the Mountains of Madness’."
7Lethbridge, Thomas Charles. The Legend of the Sons of God: a Fantasy? London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1972. 112.
8Michell, John. The Flying Saucer Vision, 2nd edn. London: Sphere, 1977. 14+.
Cited in: Chippindale, Christopher. Stonehenge Complete. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1983. 245.
9"Extraterrestrial Archaeology?" Bad Archaeology: Leave Your Common Sense Behind! Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://www.badarchaeology.net/extraterrestrial/index.php>.
10"Erich Von Daniken’s "Chariots of the Gods?": Science or Charlatanism?" The Debunker’s Domain, by Robert Sheaffer. Skeptical Resources on UFOs, the "paranormal," Feminist "scholarship" Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://www.debunker.com/texts/vondanik.html>.
11Lingeman, Richard R. "Erich Von Daniken’s Genesis." The New York Times 31 Mar. 1974, Book Review sec.: 6.
12"2001: A Space Odyssey (film)." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001:_A_Space_Odyssey_(film)>.
See sections on "Influence," and "Parodies and homages."
14"Erich Von Daniken’s "Chariots of the Gods?": Science or Charlatanism?"
15The text is from the "Mystery Park" website, which is no longer available online.“Mystery Park” re-opened in 2009, as “JungfrauPark Fun & Shows” by its new owner, New Inspiration Inc., for the summer seasons only. The former von Däniken amusements are featured in the new park as the “Mystery World.” During the summer of 2011 Erich von Däniken was scheduled to appear on select Thursday evenings to lecture on the “Mayan Calendar 2012.” While the Erich von Däniken Mystery Park’s website is not online at this date (4/24/2011), pieces of it can be assembled from a web archive (image link), where von Däniken’s personal page may also be viewed. In the event the von Däniken "404" page is taken down, it may be viewed in this screenshot.
16"Closure of Mystery Park in Interlaken Is No Mystery – Swissinfo." Swissinfo – Swiss News and Information Platform about Switzerland, Business, Culture, Sport, Weather. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/Home/Archive/Closure_of_Mystery_Park_is_no_enigma.html?cid=5576928>.
Keel East Court Tomb
1Dean, John F. "Slievemore Village on Achill." Irish Quarterly Review 65.258 (1976): 151.
2O’Donovan, John, and Michael O’Flanagan. Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Mayo, Collected during the Progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1838. Vol. 18. Bray, 1927. 342-43.
3De Valéra, Ruaidhrí, and Séan Ó Nualláin. "The Megalithic Tombs of the Island of Achill." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 80.2 (1950): 205.
The authors explain: "The sites actually located by us lie within a confined [arable] area about 1 mile square in the townlands of Keel East, Doogort West and Bal of Dookinelly, placed centrally within the zone. This seems to be a favoured area, being the most productive at present. However, the ruined village of Slievemore, to the west, and the settlement of Doogort to the east, rather complicate the picture. The very intensive occupation of Slievemore during the past century could account for the absence of tombs due to destruction."
4De Valéra 205-208.
6De Valéra 205-17.
7"Achill Archaeological Field School Achill Island, County Mayo, West of Ireland." Museums of Mayo Network, County Mayo, Ireland. Web. 14 July 2011. <http://www.museumsofmayo.com/achill_1.htm>
The "byre [barn] house" enabled the poor tenant farmer to keep his most valuable possession—his cow—protected inside with him during the winter months. The animals were at the lower end of the slightly inclined floor; their effluent would collect away from the living quarters. There is a good explanation here.
8"Visit Achill – Deserted Village at Slievemore, Achill, Co Mayo, Ireland." Visit Achill – Visitor Guide to Achill, Co Mayo, Ireland. Web. 14 July 2011. <http://www.visitachill.com/en/desertedvillage.html>.
9Wood-Martin, W.G. "The Rude Stone Monuments of Ireland. On Certain Rude Stone Monuments in the Island of Achill (Continued)." The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland Fourth 8.75 (1888): 368.
The author introduces Wilde’s quotation thusly: "The island is still in a very primitive condition, and though slowly changing for the better, yet the old order of things lingers on. Fifty-two years ago the late Sir William Wilde thus describes the customs of these primitive people…"
10"Round House 2 Summary." Archaeology in Ireland – Achill Archaeology Field School Ireland Mayo Achill Archaeology Achill Island University Ireland. Web. 14 July 2011. <http://www.achill-fieldschool.com/research-excavations/synopsis-of-2010-excavationsat-round-house-2>.
Keshcorran and the Caves of Kesh
1Moore, Sam. "A Brief Outline on the Prehistory of Kesh Corran in the Bricklieve Mountains." The Corran Herald (forthcoming). Ballymote Heritage Group.
In July of 2013 we accompanied Sam Moore on a climb up to the Keshcorran Cairn, where he did some measuring of kerbstones for his ongoing research in the area.
The Caves of Kesh still attract people for ceremonial practices, such as this modern musical gathering.
2"The Pinnacle – Kesh Cairn." Sacred Island Guided Tours | Carrowkeel & Carrowmore Co Sligo | by Martin Byrne. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. <http://www.carrowkeel.com/sites/carrowkeel/keshcairn.html>.
Directions for the hike up to the top of Keshcorrann may be found here.
While the enclosure had been previously described as a Late Bronze Age hillfort (Condit, T., Gibbons, M., Timoney, M., 1991. Hillforts in Sligo and Leitrim. Emania 9, 59-62.), it could also be much earlier.
4Kytmannow, Tatjana. "New Prehistoric Discoveries in the Kesh Corann/Carrowkeel Complex, Co. Sligo." Archaeology Ireland 19.4 (2005): 20.
5"Following Celtic Ways: Living In "The Shire"" Celtic Ways Explores Ancient Traditions and Spirituality. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. <http://www.celticways.com/blog/2005/03/living-in-shire.html>.
6Scharff, R. F. "The Exploration of the Caves of Kesh, County Sligo." The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy. Vol. 32, Section B: Biological, Geological, and Chemical Science (1902/1904): 212.
The author suggests that "The late and more frequent presence of man indicates the time when the Bear was becoming, or had become, extinct in the locality."
8Dowd, Marion. "The Archaeology of the Keash Caves." The Northwest Academic Review 1.1 (2009): 55.
10Gregory, Lady. Gods and Fighting Men: the Story of the Tuatha De Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland. London: John Murray, 1905. 79.
11Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen., and Stephen Reid. The High Deeds of Finn and Other Bardic Romances of Ancient Ireland. London: Harrap, 1910. 172-75.
12Moore, Sam. "Myths and Folklore as Aids in Interpreting the Prehistoric Landscape at the Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Complex, Co. Sligo, Ireland." Folk Beliefs and Practice in Medieval Lives. Ed. Ann-Britt Falk and Donata M. Kyritz. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2008.
According to the author, "Some of the other [Kesh] stories appear to date mainly from the 17th century and many are still reflected in the Schools Folklore Collection of 1936."
See more on Cormac mac Airt here.
13O’Grady, Standish Hayes. Silva Gadelica, a Collection of Tales in Irish. London, 1892. 343.
The version by James Stephens, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, may be read here.
14Wilde, Sir William, M.D. Memoir of Gabriel Beranger and His Labours in the Cause of Irish Art and Antiquities from 1760 to 1780. Dublin: M.H., Gill & Son, 1880. 48-9.
1Baillie, R. Æ. "Portnoo: A Corner in the Donegal Highlands." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Fifth 10.2 (1900): 149-50.
The author includes a quotation from 1 Peter 1:24. In the essay, he compares the Kilclooney Dolmen with similar structures in the Middle East.
2McNelis, Tony. "Kilclooney Dolmen." Personal interview. 13 July 1979.
The term "tinker," as used by Mr. McNelis in 1979, is today considered offensive. The preferred term is "traveling people." McNelis died on July 4, 2006, and his sister Nellie now (2006) resides there.
3Borlase, William Copeland. The Dolmens of Ireland, Their Distribution, Structural Characteristics, and Affinities in Other Countries. Vol. 1. London: Chapman & Hall, Ld., 1897. 239-40.
According to Borlase, "Partially covered by a flat stone in the circle of stones which surrounds this monument was a spring of clear water at a distance of a few yards E. of the two pillar-stones." This book may be read in its entirety here.
4Evans, E. Estyn. Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland; a Guide. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1966. 89.
5Herity, Michael. "The Finds from the Irish Portal Dolmens." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 94.2 (1964): 138.
6Keeling, David, Karen Molloy, and Richard Bradshaw. "Megalithic Tombs in South-West Donegal." Archaeology Ireland 3.4 (1989): 154.
According to the authors, the Neolithic farmers’ woodland clearance may have led to a decline in soil fertility and ultimately the growth of blanket bog in the area.
7Harbison, Peter. Personal interview. June, 1979.
9O’Grady, Standish. Early Bardic Literature. London: Sampson Low, Searle, Marston & Rivington, 1879. 80+.
The folklore regarding visitors tossing stones onto the monument is heard at other dolmens in the country; see Co. Louth’s Proleek Dolmen for a good example.
11Mac Neill, Maire, Sean O’hEochaidh, and Seamas O’Cathain. Fairy Legends from Donegal. Dublin: University College Dublin Dept. of Irish Folklore, 1977. 279.
The story cited is from Co. Donegal’s Bluestack Mountains.
Kildare Round Tower and Fire Temple
1O’Brien, Henry. The Round Towers of Ireland: Or, The History of the Tuath-de-danaans. London: Parbury and Allen, 1834. xlii.
O’Brien further noted: "These, I conceive, were the halcyon days of Ireland’s legendary and romantic greatness. In this sequestered isle, aloof from the tumults of a bustling world, this Tuath-de-danaan colony, all of a religious race, and all disposed to the pursuits of literature, united into a circle of international love, and spread the fame of their sanctity throughout the remotest regions of the universe." (p. 517)
Obrien’s text may be read in its entirely here.
2Cambrensis, Giraldus. The Topography of Ireland. (originally published 1187) in The Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis, Thomas Wright, ed. London: George Bell and Sons, 1882. 97.
The author continued: "Not that [the fire]cannot be extinguished, but the nuns and holy women tend and feed it, adding fuel, with such watchful and diligent care, that from the time of the Virgin, it has continued burning through a long course of years; and although such heaps of wood have been consumed during this long period, there has been no accumulation of ashes…As in the time of St. Brigit twenty nuns were here engaged in the Lord’s warfare, she herself being the twentieth, after her glorious departure, nineteen have always formed the society, the number having never been increased. Each of them has the care of the fire for a single night in turn, and, on the evening before the twentieth night, the nun, having heaped wood upon the fire, says, ‘Brigit, take charge of your own fire; for this night belongs to you.’ She then leaves the fire, and in the morning it is found that the fire has not gone out, and that the usual quantity of fuel has been used."
This text may be read in its entirety here.
3Leerssen, Joep. Remembrance and Imagination: Patterns in the Historical and Literary Representation of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame in Association with Field Day, 1997. 111.
Leerssen comments: "O’Brien started out from four clues. One was the Round Towers look like erect penises; the second… was that the word ‘Erin’ looks like the word ‘Iran’; the third was that Iran lies in the east, the cradle of Irish civilization, and that in the east there are pagodas, which, to the extend that they look like Round Towers, also look like erect penises, and the fourth one (clinching the matter) was that the Gaelic word for penis, bod, looks like the first syllable in the word ‘Buddhism’, denoting an eastern religion. The rest follows as a matter of course." (p. 118) .
In O’Brien’s own book from 1834, however, he includes in the prefix a number of favorable reviews:
"’Astonishing talents, wonderful learning, powers of deep research and mental scope.’—Metropolitan Magazine.
‘A galaxy of discoveries the most interesting, and, were it not for the irresistible arguments by which they are confirmed, the most incredible, burst upon us at every page.’—People’s Conservative.
‘Marvelous analogies and discoveries Our wonder at the unparalleled variety of resources A rank from which it could not be deposed by envy or by criticism.’—Atlas."
(O’Brien, Henry. The Round Towers of Ireland: Or, The History of the Tuath-de-danaans. London: Parbury and Allen, 1834.)
Contrary to Victorian sensibilities, O’Brien uses the word "phallic" or "phallus" in his text no less than 16 times.
4"Kildare Cathedral, Ireland." County Kildare History and Heritage. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://kildare.ie/heritage/historic-sites/kildare-cathedral.asp>.
See also Wikipedia article on Kildare Cathedral.
A legend explains how Brigid received the land for her monastery from the high king of Leinster: The king offered her, obstinately, "as much land as her cloak would cover." However when Brigid set down her cloak it miraculously spread out to cover all the Kildare acreage she required.
One of her hagiographies, written c. 980, reported that the trunk of the saint’s great oak tree remained in place in his own time: "In that place there stood a mighty oak tree, much beloved of Brigid, indeed blessed by her: the trunk survives to this day and none dare cut it with an axe. It possesses a property so great, that any person able to break off a part of it with their hands can hope thereby to win God’s aid. Many miracles, by the blessings of Blessed Brigid, have been received through that oak tree." (Wright, Brian. Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint. Stroud [England: History, 2009. 51.)
In 2013 there were reported to be a Church of Ireland congregation of only 20 members holding its Sunday services in Kildare Cathedral during the its (open) summer season. While the major restoration of the structure was completed in 1896, additional work has been done to the cathedral in recent years as part of its centenary.
5Barrow, Lennox. The Round Towers of Ireland: a Study and Gazetteer. Dublin: Academy, 1979. 15.
The author adds: "Unlike the mysteries and the irretrievable disparition of ancient Irish culture, lost, inaccessible and largely unknown, the Round Towers were still part of the here and now; they formed a physical link with a past that was so mysterious and unknown that it may just as well have been wholly non-existent."
9Historical Cloyne and Surrounds. Cloyne, Ireland, 2010.
10Westropp, T. J. "A List of the Round Towers of Ireland, with Notes on Those Which Have Been Demolished, and on Four in the County of Mayo". Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 5 (1898 – 1900). 455.
12"Irish Round Tower." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_round_tower>.
13Corlett, Chris. "Interpretation of Round Towers: Public Appeal or Professional Opinion?" Archaeology Ireland 12.2 (Summer, 1998): 26.
14"Irish Round Tower." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_round_tower>.
15"Why Round Towers?" Round Tower Churches Society. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. <http://dev.roundtowers.org.uk/why-round-towers-new/>.
16"Irish Round Tower." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_round_tower>.
18"Irish Round Towers." Library Ireland: Irish History and Culture. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. <http://www.libraryireland.com/Antiquities/II-V.php/>.
19Keane, Marcu. The Towers and Temples of Ancient Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Smith and Co. 1867. xix, xvii.
20Petrie, George. The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland: An Essay on the Origin and Uses of the Round Towers of Ireland. Dublin: Hodges and Smith. 1845. ii.
21Bonwick, James. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. London: Griffith, Farran & Co.1894. 215.
22Wilkes, Anna. Ireland: Ur of-the Chaldees. London: Trübner & Co. 1873. 39, 44-50.
27"Dating Ancient Mortar – American Scientist." American Scientist Online. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. <http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/dating-ancient-mortar/1>.
28Stalley, R. A. Irish round Towers. Dublin: Country House, 2000. 10.
"Victorian phallocentric Orientalism" is a quote from John Waddell. (Waddell, John. Foundation Myths: The Beginnings of Irish Archaeology. Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wordwell, 2005.)
29Callahan, Philip S. Ancient Mysteries, Modern Visions: the Magnetic Life of Agriculture. Kansas City, MO: Acres U.S.A., 1984. 36.
30O’Donovan, John, and Michael O’Flanagan, ed. Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Kildare. Vol. 13. Bray, 1927. 89, 211.
31Croker, Thomas Crofton. Researches in the South of Ireland: Illustrative of the Scenery, Architectural Remains, and the Manners and Superstitions of the Peasantry. London: John Murray, 1824. 261. Cited in Williams, W. H. A. Tourism, Landscape, and the Irish Character: British Travel Writers in Pre-famine Ireland. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 2008. 36.
32Corlett, Chris. "Interpretation of Round Towers: Public Appeal or Professional Opinion?" Archaeology Ireland 12.2 (Summer, 1998): 27.
33Aviva, Elyn, and Gary C. White. Powerful Places in Ireland. Santa Fe, NM: Pilgrims Process, 2011. 127.
34Lawrence, Lisa. "Pagan Imagery in the Early Lives of Brigit: A Transformation from Goddess to Saint?" Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 16/17 (1996/1997): 39+.
Carole M Cusack writes: "Tension exists between purely textual studies, which concentrate on demonstrating the Christian orthodoxy of the material in the vitae and the ways in which these texts contribute to knowledge of the early Irish Church, and the folkloric/comparative studies which indicate close ties with pre-Christian Irish religion and the transformation of Brigit from pagan goddess to Christian saint. This tension recently led Séamas Ó Catháin to suggest the term ‘Holy Woman’ for Brigit, which avoids favouring either pagan or Christian interpretations, side-stepping the otherwise inevitable ‘bone of contention.’" (Cusack, Carole. "Brigit: Goddess, Saint, ‘Holy Woman’, and Bone of Contention." On a Panegyrical Note : Studies in Honour of Garry W Trompf. Sydney: Dept. of Studies in Religion, University of Sydney, 2007. 75.)
In addition to the rush-woven St. Brigid’s Cross, a simple doll made of rushes, the Bhrideog, was part of a St. Brigid’s Day folk practice in parts of Ireland and England up until the middle of the 20th century. The doll was carried by children or young people, who visited households in the neighborhood and provided singing and dancing entertainment, perhaps to solicit some coins or refreshment. (Wright, Brian. Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint. Stroud [England]: History, 2009. 112.)
35Wright, Brian. Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint. Stroud [England]: History, 2009. 61+.
The author provides some evidence for his assertion that the rectangular "reconstruction" of St. Brigid’s Fire Temple is not in fact located on the site of the original structure: "The layout of surrounding streets and a crop mark in a field to the north seems to indicate the line of the very much larger original inner enclosure, that may date back to pagan times. This contained the Fire House where the sacred flame was maintained, and the nunnery which was probably built on the site of the former Druidesses’ dwellings adjacent to the site of the sacred flame, although the pagan fire temple probably stood in its own enclosure within this larger enclosure…In Holinshed’s Irish Chronicle, published in I577, the Dublin chronicler Richard Stanihurst described how he had visited at Kildare ‘a monument lyke a vaute, which to this day they call the firehouse.’ On a map of I757 by John Rocque a ‘fire castle’ is shown to the north-west of the cathedral churchyard. This is almost certainly the same structure referred to in the sixteenth-century Dissolution documents for the nunnery as a ‘small castle or fortlage’, suggesting the Fire House was adjacent to this if it was not the actual building…In I837, when the surveyor John O’Donovan visited Kildare, he showed the site of the Fire House in the position indicated by Rocque to the west of the round tower and outside the churchyard wall, although it seems the remains of this building had been demolished by I798."
36"Brigid, Celtic Goddess of Fire." Brigid, Celtic Goddess of Inspiration and Healing. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/celtic-goddess-brigid.htm>.
The description of Brigid continues: "In Druid mythology, the infant goddess was fed with milk from a sacred cow from the Otherworld. Brigid owned an apple orchard in the Otherworld and her bees would bring their magical nectar back to earth."
38"Kildare and Brighid – Sacred Site Tours of Ireland." Sacred Site Tours of Ireland. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://www.sacredsitetour.com/kildare-and-brighid-sacredsites-ireland>.
As Brian Wright put it, "The difficulty of creating fire is reflected in the importance of the perpetual fire. In many religions all over the world…In many cases great importance was attached to keeping the ritual fire pure and uncontaminated, and since those chosen to tend such sacred fires had such an important role in religious practices, they too were expected to be pure and of high moral virtue." (Wright, Brian. Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint. Stroud [England]: History, 2009. 77.)
39Thompson, Christopher Scott. "Loop of Brighid: What Is Brigidine Paganism?" Agora: The Central Hub of the Pagan Channel. Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith, 3 Jan. 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2013/01/what-is-brigidine-paganism/>.
The author’s complete list of the different streams of Brighid devotion are explained in the link above, including Celtic Christian, Celtic Spirituality, Goddess Movement, Wiccan, Reconstructionist, Traditionalist, Neodruidic, and Brigidine Pagan.
40"Is Saint Brigid Really a Celtic Goddess?" Trias Thaumaturga: The Three Wonderworking Patrons of Ireland. 18 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://triasthaumaturga.blogspot.com/2012/02/is-saint-brigid-really-celtic-goddess.html>.
Lisa Lawrence’s translation of the text about Brigid from Cormac’s Glossary: "Brigit, i.e. the poetess, daughter of the Dagda This is Brigit the female seer or woman of insight, i.e. the goddess whom poets used to worship, for her cult was very great and very splendid. It is for this reason that they call her (the goddess) of poets by this title, and her sisters were Brigit, the woman of smithcraft, i.e. the goddesses, i.e. three daughters of the Dagda are they." (Lawrence, Lisa. "Pagan Imagery in the Early Lives of Brigit: A Transformation from Goddess to Saint?" Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 16/17 (1996/1997): 41.)
According to Lawrence, "Pope Gregory [the Great] counseled Bishop Augustine [missionary to the English] not to destroy pagan shrines but to baptize them for Christian use. It is likely that the Irish missionaries adapted the same approach. As Pope Gregory points out, candidates for Christian conversion would naturally feel more at home in churches occupying the same sacred ground that the pagan sanctuaries had held." (p. 48.)
42Brenneman, Walter L., and Mary G. Brenneman. Crossing the Circle at the Holy Wells of Ireland. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1995. 98-9.
The traditional St. Brigid’s holy well, thought to have pagan origins, is now at the edge of the parking lot of the Japanese Gardens. The more accessible location is the other St. Brigid’s Well, at Brallistown Commons. It also has a long association with Brigid..
More information, and photographs, of the two holy wells dedicated to St. Brigid in Kildare may be viewed here.
43Minehan, Rita. Rekindling the Flame: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare. Kildare: Solas Bhride Community, 1999. 22.
Of this (apparently lost) "Book of Kildare," Giraldus wrote: "Among all the miracles in Kildare, none appears to me more wonderful than that marvelous book which they say was written in the time of the Virgin [St. Brigit] at the dictation of an angel. It contains the Four Gospels according to St. John, and almost every page is illustrated by drawings illuminated with a variety of brilliant colours…you will find them so delicate and exquisite, so finely drawn, and the work of interlacing so elaborate, while the colours with which they are illuminated are so blended, and still so fresh, that you will be ready to assert that all this is the work of angelic, and not human, skill. The more often and closely I scrutinize them, the more I am surprised, and always find them new, discovering fresh causes for increased admiration."
This description of the "Book of Kildare" has invited comparisons with, and indeed suggests that Giraldus was actually viewing, the Book of Kells.
Giraldus’ text may be read in its entirety here.
The description of Brigid’s shrine was composed by Cogitosus in the seventh century. (Minehan, Rita. Rekindling the Flame: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare. Kildare: Solas Bhride Community, 1999. 13.)
45When John de Courcy was consolidating his hold on Downpatrick after his 1177 victory there, he brought in a group of Benedictines in 1183 to assume religious dominance in the town. He is said to have ordered the bones of the other patron saints of the country, St. Brigid (d. 525 CE) and St. Columcille (d. 594 CE) to be exhumed and re-interred along with the supposed bones of St. Patrick on the cathedral hill of Downpatrick According to some sources, this may have been part of his effort to bolster his popular allegiance. "On the 9th of June 1196, on the feast day of St Columcille, in the presence of fifteen bishops, from all over Ireland and a large number of clergy, the relics of Sts. Patrick, Brigid, and Columcille were buried in one tomb with great solemnity." As the traditional Irish rhyme puts it:
"In Down three Saints one grave do fill –
Patrick, Brigid, and Columcille."
46Augusta, Lady Gregory. A Book of Saints and Wonders Put Down by Lady Gregory According to the Old Writings and the Memory of the People of Ireland. London: John Murray, 1907. 16.
This text may be read in its entirety here.
Irish poet and songwriter Thomas Moore also wrote of St. Brigid:
"Like the bright lamp that shone in Kildare’s holy fane [shrine]
And burn’d through long ages of darkness and storm,
Is the heart that afflictions have come o’er in vain,
Whose spirit outlives them, unfading and warm!"
(Moore, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Moore. Vol. IV. Paris: Galignani, 1823. 71.)
47"Daughters of the Flame." Obsidian Magazine. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. <http://www.obsidianmagazine.com/DaughtersoftheFlame/>.
According to this website: "On Imbolc, 1993, the Daughters of the Flame lit a fire in honour of the Goddess Brigit and the saint Bridget, modeled after the perpetual fire which once burned in Kildare. We share the task of tending the flame, on a twenty day rotation; each woman tends the fire in her own way, so that it is a solitary devotion linked to the devotions of a larger group. On the twentieth day the Goddess Herself keeps the flame alive. Instead of burning in one grove, temple, or monastery, it burns on personal altars, desks, and picnic tables in countries east and west, south and north."
Another web-base association of flamekeepers for Brigid is "Ord Brígideach International."
48CharlotteElaine. "Personal Stories: A Journey with the Flame." Ord Brighideach International. 23 Aug. 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. <http://ordbrighideach.org/raven/modules.php?name=News>.
Different sources credit (or blame) the medieval extinguishing of St. Brigid’s Flame to Ralph de Londres, Ralph of Bristol (Bishop of Kildare, d. 1232), or George Browne of Dublin.
50"Our Mission." Solas Brídhe Centre and Hermitages. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. <http://solasbhride.ie/our-mission/>.
The group looks favorably upon Celtic spirituality: "Celtic Spirituality has a profound sense of the presence of God in everyone and in everything. It is a spirituality nourished by ritual, tradition, contemplation, experience and story."
The second part of the quotation is attributed to Monaghan, B. "St Brigid’s Day." Spirituality (Dominican Publications) 5.January-February (1999): 3-4.
The prayer card of St. Brigid with the triple-goddess figure on one side was found here.
Killinagh Cursing Stone
1Ferguson, Samuel. Lays of the Western Gael and Other Poems. London: Bell and Daldy, 1865. 54.
"The Burial of King Cormac" may be read in its entirety here.
2Davies, O., and D. Lowry-Corry. "Killinagh Church and Crom Cruaich." Ulster Journal of Archaeology Third 2 (1939): 98.
The authors begin: "The ancient church of Killinagh probably marks the site and preserves the traditions of one of the more important sanctuaries of pagan Ireland…It stands on a small promontory, whose excavation might throw a flood of light on that obscure period of Irish archaeology before the introduction of Christianity. Between it and the church is a thicket, in which slabs set on edge seem to represent the remains of a megalith, probably of passage grave type, but the dense undergrowth makes it impossible to plan the structure. This place is known locally as the Queen’s Grave or St. Brigid’s House. Close to the south wall of the church is a long slab set on edge, perhaps the remains of another megalith."
3Wakeman, W.F. "On Certain Markings on Rocks, Pillar-Stones, and Other Monuments, Observed Chiefly in the County Fermanagh." The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland Fourth 3.23 (1875). 460.
4Johnston, Harold. "St. Brigid’s Cursing Stone." Personal interview. 30 June 1998.
5Wakeman, W.F. "On the Bullàn, or Rock-Basin, as Found in Ireland; With Special Reference to Two Inscribed Examples." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 1 (1889-91): 262.
6Glyn, Daniel. "Megalithic Monuments." Scientific American July 1980: 90.
The author explained:
"At first Christianity strongly disapproved of people who worshipped stones, but gradually there came a new tolerance, which was generous enough for certain menhirs [standing stones] to be Christianized. Indeed, in Spain and Brittany a few megalithic monuments have been incorporated into functioning modern Christian churches. I take this to be a sign that the older faith of the builders survived in some shape or form until at least the Middle Ages of western Europe."
7Kinahan, G.H. "Cursing-Stones in Counties Fermanagh, Cavan, Etc." Folklore 5.1 (1894): 4.
The author describes another type of cursing stone: "Not many years ago, but it seems to have died out now, there was a system of cursing in common vogue in Fermanagh with tenants who had been given notice to quit. This was: they collected, from all over their farms, stones. These they brought home, and having put a lighted coal in the fireplace, they heaped the stones on it as if they had been sods of turf. They then knelt down on the hearth- stone, and prayed that as long as the stones remained unburnt every conceivable curse might light on their landlord, his children, and their children to all generations. To prevent the stones by any possibility being burnt, as soon as they had finished cursing, they took the stones and scattered them far and wide over the whole country. Many of the former families of the county are said now to have disappeared on account of being thus cursed."
8O Giollain, Diarmuid. "Revisiting the Holy Well." Eire-Ireland 40.1&2 (2005): 31.
9Richardson, Phyllis, and Dorothy Lowry-Corry. "Some Further Megalithic Discoveries in the Counties of Cavan and Leitrim." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Seventh 10.4 (1940): 170.
The stones are on the north wall of the ruined church, not far above ground level.
10Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. 144.
The author quotes George Petrie, who suggested that "early missionaries and clerics carried consecrated stones on their journey, and placed them on altars when celebrating Mass. He refers to a passage in the Book of Lecan regarding St. Aire, ‘who lef no heirs but mass stones’ when he died in 737 AD."
In some places Garland Sunday is the first Sunday in August, while in County Cavan it is the last Sunday in July. The event, which historically was a harvest festival which including bonfires and peak-climbing, descended from the Celtic festival of Lughnasa.
13Evans-Wentz, W. Y. The Fairy-faith in Celtic Countries. London: H. Frowde, 1911. 427-28.
The King’s Stables
1"Living Spring Journal – Issue 1 (May 2000) – Notes & Queries 3." Student Subdomain for University of Bath. Web. 30 May 2011. <http://people.bath.ac.uk/liskmj/living-spring/journal/issue1/notes/notes1c.htm>.
2Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford, UK: B. Blackwell, 1991. 293.
3"Gilsland Bits & Pieces." Laverocks Home Page. Web. 30 May 2011. <http://www.laverocks.co.uk/gilslandmag/placenames.htm>.
The author argues for the retention of the traditional local name for this site at Hadrian’s Wall Milecastle 48.
5"Trumpet." National Museum of Ireland. Web. 30 May 2011. <http://www.museum.ie/en/list/artefacts.aspx?article=0a8a7a56-b35e-4b72-ba70-f288fea435c0>.
There is a video here about the discovery of the trumpet, and how it would sound (using a replica).
6Lynn, C. J., Chrintine Penn, Maureen McCorry, Moira Delaney, and Robert Lamour. "Trial Excavations at the King’s Stables, Tray Townland, County Armagh." Ulster Journal of Archaeology Third 40 (1977): 42.
8McCormick, Finbar. "The Dog in Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland." Archaeology Ireland 5.4 (1991): 7-9.
10Morris, Henry. "Emania at the Present Day." Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society 2.3 (1910): 254-56.
11Paterson, T. G. F. Country Cracks: Old Tales from the County of Armagh. Dundalk: W. Tempest, Dundalgan, 1945. 45.
The dialect in the original has been removed for clarity. Also, the use of such dialect may imply a rascist attitude regarding the speaker. Here is an example of the original text: "An’ he started till cut the bank an’ it’s so lovely an’ round it wus a pity till destroy the shape."
According to W. H. A. Williams, "Although use of the peasant’s brogue in travel writing suggested authenticity, it had long been a vehicle for comedy on the stage and in fiction. Many of the travel accounts, therefore, contain elements of Stage Irish humor, which, while they entertained, also served to emphasize the gap between the writer and reader, on the one hand, and the Irish peasant on the other. Much of the comic material came from Hibernian turns of phrase that popular entertainments had trained tourists to expect and to recognize. Few travel writers bothered to consider ‘proverbial Irish wit’ from the perspective of the peasantry. It was easier and more comforting simply to imagine that they had encouraged a ‘genuine’ Paddy, a real-life example of the Stage Irishman."
Williams, W. H. A. Tourism, Landscape, and the Irish Character: British Travel Writers in Pre-famine Ireland. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 2008. 68.
12The King’s Stables. 19 June 2010. Information sign at the site. Tray townland, Co. Armagh.
The sign warns the visitor, "The original bottom of the pool is more than 2 metres (7 feet) below the present surface which is VERY DANGEROUS and must NOT BE WALKED ON."
1Evans-Wentz, W. Y. The Fairy-faith in Celtic Countries. London: H. Frowde, 1911. 81.
attributes this material to Count John de Salis, with annotations by the Rev. J. F. Lynch. Some material originated with Fitzgerald, David. "Popular Tales of Ireland." Revue Celtique IV (1879-1880): 185-200. The quotation continues, "The underlying purpose of this latter ceremony probably was…to exorcise the land from all evil spirits and witches in order that there may be good harvests and rich increase of flocks. Sometimes on such occasions the goddess herself has been seen leading the sacred procession…One night some girls staying on the bill late were made to look through a magic ring by Aine, and lo the hill was crowded with the folk of the fairy goddess who before had been invisible." Evans-Wentz concludes, "Under ordinary circumstances, as a very close observer of the Lough Gur peasantry informs me, the old people will pray to the Saints, but if by any chance such prayers remain unanswered they then invoke other powers, the fairies, the goddesses Aine and Fennel, or other pagan deities, whom they seem to remember in a vague subconscious manner through tradition." In a 1988 interview a local man claimed that "…one night the ceremony was omitted on account of the death of a neighbour, but that upon looking toward the sacred site the people observed phantom torches in even greater number than when they usually circled the hill, with Aine herself in front directing the procession…The festival of Aine and Saint John’s Eve were closely linked: they were some of the festivals that were changed from the old religion to the new." (McNamara, Sean. "Aine Leads Fire Procession." Ed. Michael Quinlan. The Lough Gur & District Historical Society Journal: Special Folklore Edition. 7 (1991): 9-10.)
2Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. 63.
The source of the archaic name "’The Seignory of Any" for Knockainey is: Dunlop, Robert, and George O’Brien. "An Unpublished Survey of the Plantation of Munster in 1622." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Sixth 14.2 (1924): 129.
3Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. New York: Facts On File, 2003. 10-11.
Fitzgerald, David. "Popular Tales of Ireland." Revue Celtique IV (1879-1880): 185-200.
According to some, Áine "was one of the Goddesses who suffered at the hands of the Christian monks who found Her idea of ‘free love’ too disturbing for them; thus, as a symbol of the powers of the feminine, Her followers were among the first to suffer repression at the hands of the Christians…"
4Gregory, Isabella Augusta (Persse). Gods and Fighting Men. London: J. Murray, 1904. 77-78. This story may be read in its entirety here.
5"Through a geopolitical lens, the reputed union of Geároid Iarla’s father, Maurice Fitzgerald (Second Earl of Desmond) with Áine, the goddess of Munster sovereignty, may have done much to gain the acceptance of this Norman family into the local Irish community." ("Lough Gur." Voices from the Dawn. Web. 24 May 2012. <https://voicesfromthedawn.com/?p=58>.)
6"Aine – Celtic Goddess." Tansy Firedragon’s Tome. Web. 25 May 2012. <http://tansyfiredragon.blogspot.com/2011/02/aine-celtic-goddess.html>.
Michael Dames writes that, "Aine’s proper name was also an Irish-language word, aine. Aine the goddess lives on as aine the word, which means: ‘Delight, joy, pleasure, agility, expedition, swiftness, play, sport, amusement, music, harmony, melody, experience, truth, veracity, brightness, glow, radiance, splendour, glory, brilliance, wit, and drinking up.’" (Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. 62.)
One source lists medicinal items associated with Áine: "Healing: Angelica Balm, Blackberry, Cowslip, Elder, Fennel, Flax, Garlic, Goat’s Rue, Mugwort, Nettle, and Oak; Fertility: Hawthorn, Mistletoe, and Oak; Prosperity: Alfalfa, Ash, and Elder; Protection: Agrimony, Angelica, Ash, Birch, Blackberry, Bladderwrack, Broom, Elder, Fennel, Flax, Holly, Lavender, Mallow, Mistletoe, Mugwort, Nettle, Oak, and Parsley."
A different website provides the recipe for "Aine’s Incense:
½ oz. meadowsweet flowers and leaf~ must be gathered when the plant is in full bloom.
½ oz. finally chopped pine needles
½ oz. Lemon Verbena oil."
A blessing to evoke the goddess may be found here:
"We will wash our faces
In the nine rays of the sun
In the sunwoven cloak of the Lady of Light
We will find peace
We will be blessed in our rising up
And in our lying down
We will be blessed in our waking
And in our sleeping
We will be blessed in our coming in
And in our going out
Light before us
Light behind us
Light above us
Light below us
Light within us
Bright about us shall ever be
the cloak of Áine Cli."
7Westropp, Thomas J. "The Ancient Sanctuaries of Knockainey and Clogher, County Limerick, and Their Goddesses." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 34 (1917-1919): 51-53.
9Smyth, Sean. "Cnoc Áine." Personal interview. 21 June 1999.
The author’s measurements for the ruined cairn are: "48 to 55 feet across [14.6 to 16.8 m], and 11 feet [3.4 m] high to the west, 6 feet [1.8 m] to the south, and 8 to 9 feet [2.4 to 2.7 m] elsewhere."
11Meehan, Cary. The Traveller’s Guide to Sacred Ireland: A Guide to the Sacred Places of Ireland, Her Legends, Folklore and People. Glastonbury: Gothic Image, 2004. 427.
12Quinlan, Michael. "Francis Byrne’s Account." The Lough Gur & District Historical Society Journal: Special Folklore Edition. 7 (1991): 9-10.
The stepping-stone bridge was called Clochaunainey (
Áine’s Stones). A bit farther downstream from this primitive bridge the river widens into a shallow ford for vehicles. Near the center of the ford were three large stones, set upright in a line to mark the position of Áine’s safe crossing for time of floods. (Crawford, Henry S. "Primitive Bridge or Causeway at Knockainey, Co. Limerick." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Sixth 7.1 (1917): 82.)
13Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. 62-3.
"Knockainy Castle." Irish Antiquities. Web. 25 May 2012. <http://irishantiquities.bravehost.com/limerick/knockainy/knockainy.html>.
This is a tower-house of four stories. Part of the top level is gone. The original entrance is intact; there is another entrance in the adjoining wall. The third floor ceiling is vaulted and there is a half vault at the first floor. A murder-hole just inside the entrance leads from first floor level and a spiral stairway in the corner leads to the higher levels. It was said to be a ruin in 1584.
Web correspondent Derek Ryan (10/9/2012) wrote to clarify that the original "Desmond Castle," the more logical location of the "Áine’s Leap" story, is indicated on OS maps by its absence. See this annotated image from the OS map, in which the green arrow points to the ruined Knockainy Castle depicted on our page, and the red arrow shows the site of the (now lost) Desmond Castle. View the original here.
14"Angel Wisdom with Sharon Taphorn ~ Goddess Aine Leap of Faith." Sound of Heart Productions. Web. 25 May 2012. <http://soundofheart.org/galacticfreepress/content/angel-wisdom-sharon-taphorn-goddess-aine-leap-faith>.
From this website: "Sometimes we all need to just take that leap of faith. When you are ready call on the Goddess Aine she will help lead your way!! Indecision leads to stagnation and that leads to our souls not perfecting. We all need to keep moving, learning, growing and allowing our soul to perfect and become all that we can be. Take your leap of faith today!!! May the love of the Goddess be with you always!"
A similar "leap of faith" association with Áine’s may be found here.
15Fitzgerald, David. "Popular Tales of Ireland." Revue Celtique IV (1879-1880): 187-88. This may be read in its entirety here.
The Knockbrack Court Tomb
1Gregory, and W. B. Yeats. Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland,. Vol. 1. New York and London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1920. 3.
2"Knockbrack Court Tomb, County Galway." Prehistoric and Early Ireland @ Megalithomania.com. Web. 14 June 2011. <http://www.megalithomania.com/show/site/1323/knockbrack_court_tomb.htm>.
3Killanin, Michael Morris, and Michael V. Duignan. The Shell Guide to Ireland. London: Ebury P. in Association with George Rainbird, 1967. 154.
4"The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 14 June 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pursuit_of_Diarmuid_and_Gráinne>.
5"Cleggan Court Tomb, County Galway." Prehistoric and Early Ireland @ Megalithomania.com. Web. 14 June 2011. <http://www.megalithomania.com/show/site/1324/4283>.
6Allcroft, A. H. The Circle and the Cross a Study in Continuity. London: Macmillan, 1927. 15-16.
7Wood-Martin, W. G. Pagan Ireland an Archæological Sketch; a Handbook of Irish Pre-Christian Antiquities. London: Longmans, Green, 1895. 263.
8Dorson, Richard M. The British Folklorists; a History. [Chicago]: University of Chicago, 1968. 439.
9"Augusta, Lady Gregory." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 14 June 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusta,_Lady_Gregory>.
11Hawkes, Jacquetta. A Guide to the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments in England and Wales. London: Chatto and Windus, 1976. 48.
12Robinson, Tim. "Twilight on Old Stones." Field Day Review 3 (2007): 50-51.
Knocknafearbreaga Stone Alignment
1Harrison, Mary. "Knocknafearbreaga Stones." Personal interview. 16 June 1999.
2Westropp, T.J. "The Cists, Dolmens, and Pillars, in the Eastern Half of the County of Clare." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 24 (1904): 96-98.
3Wood-Martin, W. G. Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland. Vol. 2. London: Longmans, Green, & Co. 1902. 208-09.
4Westropp, Thomas J. "St. Mochulla of Tulla, County Clare: His Legend and the Entrenchments and Remains of His Monastery." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 6th ser. 1.1 (1911): 7.
5Westropp, Thomas J. "St. Mochulla of Tulla."
6Westropp, T.J. "The Cists, Dolmens, and Pillars, in the Eastern Half of the County of Clare."
7Glyn, Daniel. "Megalithic Monuments." Scientific American July 1980: 77-81.
Labbacallee Wedge Tomb
1Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. 31.
According to archaeologist Robert Power (personal email 8/1/2012) Zucchelli’s number (300,000) for the amount of executions resulting from three centuries of witch trials would be considered excessive by most researchers in this arena. Power writes, "most common estimates are between 40,000 and 60,000 deaths. Brian Levack (The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe) multiplied the number of known European witch trials by the average rate of conviction and execution, to arrive at a figure of around 60,000 deaths. Anne Lewellyn Barstow (Witchcraze) adjusted Levack’s estimate to account for lost records, estimating 100,000 deaths. Ronald Hutton (Triumph of the Moon) argues that Levack’s estimate had already been adjusted for these, and revises the figure to approximately 40,000."
2Wood-Martin, W.G. Pagan Ireland. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1895. 259-60.
3Aubrey, John, and John Fowles. Monumenta Britannica: Or, A Miscellany of British Antiquities. Vol. 2. Sherborne: Dorset Pub., 1980 (1693). 827.
According to Carleton Jones, "[Aubrey’s] broad interests…combined with an unwillingness to specialise in any one field of study, seem to have prevented most of his works from being published in his lifetime. Indeed, his major work on archaeology, Monumenta Britanica, is available to us today only after what must be one of the longest time spans between the writing of a manuscript and its publication. Aubrey finished the manuscript in 1693 but it was not until 1980, nearly 300 years later, that it was finally published!" (Jones, Carleton. Temples of Stone: Exploring the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland. Cork: Collins, 2007. 2-3.)
Aubrey’s 1693 manuscript describes the Labbacallee tomb: "In the county of Cork in the [district] of Fermoy, is this ancient monument which is as much to say, the Hag’s Bed and colle, hag. The form whereof … " ‘Colle’ is in fact the Irish caile, or country-woman, a word better conveyed in the present name; compare cailin, country-girl, and ‘colleen’…In Ireland [cut in manuscript] province of Munster in the barony of [ . . .. ] monument called Labe-colle, which [ …. ] bed. Labe signifyng a bed, [ . . . . ] whereof is thus [sketched].
The cover of this monument is about 24 foot long, and 40 foot broad, six foot deep, is sharp in the middle of the back like a coffin, and not much unlike it in proportion. The stones that support it are a kind of great slates or planks, about four foot and a half high, and four foot broad, and stand very close together unless at the entrance at ‘A ‘. The stones that encircle this monument are broad and flat. The going into this place is something descending, no opening but at ‘A ‘; opposite to which is another stone about seven foot high; and another stone about a quarter of a mile hence at the ford, which the hag, they say, threw at the fellow that came to lie with her." A margin note adds that the sketch comes from a Mr. Gethyng, "who lives near it"; and that Robert Southwell has another copy.
4Leask, H.G., Liam Price, C.P. Martin, and K.C. Bailey. "The Labbacallee Megalith, Co. Cork." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 43 (1936).
5Brindley, A.L., J.N. Lanting, and W.G. Mook. "Radiocarbon Dates from Moneen and Labbacallee, County Cork." The Journal of Irish Archaeology 4 (1987/1988): 13-20.
Stone #75, pushed aside to gain entry, probably in the Iron Age, may be noted in the diagram found in the gallery at the bottom of the page.
The triple-walled sides of the Labbacallee tomb are unusual; this feature may indicate the importance of those interred here. The excavators felt that some of the architectural features of the tomb had similarities to such monuments in the Paris region, perhaps suggesting a communication, or even a tribal affiliation between Munster and the north of France. (Leask, H.G., Liam Price, C.P. Martin, and K.C. Bailey. "The Labbacallee Megalith, Co. Cork." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 43 (1936): 94.)
The excavators, after clearing the debris from the tomb, some of which had supported one of the broken capstones, found it necessary to construct a supporting pillar of stones and mortar. This may be noted in the interior view of the virtual-reality environment.
Carleton Jones speculates that some orthostats at the eastern end of the monument may have been intended as a "sort of false facade." (Jones, Carleton. Temples of Stone: Exploring the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland. Cork: Collins, 2007. 240-44.)
The authors report on similar Irish tombs with port holes: "The dolmen in Burren Townland, Co. Cavan, has a partition slab between its two chambers with a port-hole in the bottom edge and, in the Deerpark townland dolmen, Co. Clare, the eastern partition stone has two port-holes: one in the side of the stone and the other at one of the upper corners. The Labbacallee port-hole, at the top northern corner of stone 60- if indeed, it be a port-hole at all, which is by no means certain-bears some resemblance to the Deerpark example."
The authors concluded that the tomb had not been disturbed since the date of its completion.
10Jones, Carleton. Temples of Stone: Exploring the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland. Cork: Collins, 2007. 243.
An older text suggests that "reddening skin, which would retain for hours an indentation upon it" was known as "the Seat of the Devil." (Bonwick, James. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. London: Griffith, Farran & Co., 1894. 84.)
11Murray, Margaret A. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1921. 20-21.
The author believed that the witches who were tried in the 16th and 17th centuries were the inheritors of the pagan religions extant before Christianity. ""The witch-cult being a survival of an ancient religion, many of the beliefs and rites of these early religions are to be found in it."
However Aubrey Burl wrote that "The fancies of the late Margaret Murray need not detain us. They were justly, if irritably, dismissed by a real scholar as ‘vapid balderdash." Burl was there quoting Hugh Trevor-Roper, The European Witch-craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.(Burl, Aubrey. The Stone Circles of the British Isles. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976. 85.) It is probably safe to say that witchcraft preserved some pre-Christian beliefs and practices (although transformed and mutated by the centuries of transmission).
The goddesses of pre-Christian Ireland were often re-cast as "hags" after the arrival of the new religion. According to one interpretation of prehistory, stories of the conflict between the Cailleach Bhéarra and her husband may reflect the spiritual beliefs of that transitional period when the myths of the Bronze Age warrior began to diminish the hegemony of the Neolithic earth goddess. (Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. 21.)
13Croker, Thomas Crofton. Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland. Vol. 3. London: John Murray, 1834. 275-78.
This story may be read in its entirety here.
14Borlase, William Copeland. The Dolmens of Ireland: Their Distribution, Structural Characteristics, (…). Vol. 2. London: Chapman & Hall, 1897. 553-54.
Quoting a 1660 text by John Picardt, Borlase writes: "also dolmen- mounds, the hollow vaults in the centres of which were, he tells us, ‘according to the general belief, inhabited by White Women, and the memory of some of their deeds was,’ he adds, ‘still fresh in the minds of many old people.’ The natives all agreed in saying that round about these mounds a great deal of witchery had of old been practised, and that mournful cries have been heard in them. Also, that these witches used to be fetched by night and day by women in childbirth, and that they could afford them help when all else had failed. They told fortunes, too, and could indicate the whereabouts of stolen property. Some of the inhabitants said that they had themselves been inside these mounds, and seen and heard incredible things, but that they had promised not to tell them. They (the witches) were swifter than any creature. They always dressed in white, by reason of which they were called Wiite Wyven, or simply DeWitter. ‘A large number of mounds,’ it is added, ‘were called Witten for this same reason, although their colour might be black.’" Borlase also wrote of a woman who lived iin another Co. Cork monument, called "Carrick Cliona." Cliona was known as a "loose woman," who was in the habit of attending the market fairs in the area and enticing off any young man who might please her. The moral people of the area tried to drive her out by cultivating her ground with potatoes but Cliona was heard in her mound "piteously wailing" at the desecration. The people then desisted. (v. III, 832-33).
15Grinsell, L.V. "Witchcraft at some Prehistoric Sites." in The Witch Figure, Venetia Newall, ed. London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978. 73-77.
The author cites some examples from France: ""Some of the prehistoric monuments betray their popular association with the witch cult by their names, such as a menhir at Vaumort (Yonne) called La Pierre du Sabbat or La Pierre aux Sorciers...a dolmen in the province of Nord called La Cuisine des Sorciers where witches are said to have prepared their love potions; a barrow at Wallonie known as Le Lieu du Sabbat where witches are said to have held their sabbats."
The poem "Lament of the Old Woman of Beare" is discussed within our entry on the Loughcrew Passage Tombs.
17Holinshed, Raphael, William Harrison, Richard Stanyhurst, John Hooker, Francis Thynne, Abraham Fleming, John Stow, and Henry Ellis. Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Vol. VI: Ireland. London: J. Johnson, 1807. 252.
This section may be read in its entirely here.
William Butler Yeats’ poem "Nineteen Hundred And Nineteen" refers to the burning of Dame Kyteler:
"There lurches past, his great eyes without thought
Under the shadow of stupid straw-pale locks,
That insolent fiend Robert Artisson
To whom the love-lorn Lady Kyteler brought
Bronzed peacock feathers, red combs of her cocks."
18This story is recounted at the sign at the Labbacallee site. Our essay on Co. Donegal’s Cloghanmore Court Tomb explores in more detail the legends of gold buried at prehistoric sites.
1Ó Riain, Pádraig. "Traces of Lug in Early Irish Hagiographical Tradition." Zeitschrift Für Celtische Philologie 36 (1978): 138.
The upper-case C in Christianity was added for clarity. The author borrowed the phrase "pagan survivals and reminiscences from a chapter heading in H. Delehaye, The Legends of the Saints (London, 1907). The remainder of the quotation is largely derived from C. Plummer, Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae : partim hactenus ineditae (1910, cxxxiv). Plummer wrote: "The Christian teachers never took the line of denying the reality of its existence. It was gentile or diabolic knowledge, powerfully ranged against themselves. But the other element is a matter of inference. Its direct exposition was made impossible by the acceptance of Christianity. The impact of the stronger creed shattered it into fragments but many of the fragments floated down the stream of time, and recombined in fantastic shapes around the persons of pagan heroes and Christian saints, who are not therefore necessarily non-existent or non-historical’ because they have formed the nucleus round which mythological elements have gathered ; any more than the sponge is non-existent, because it has served to attract the particles of silex which have turned it into flint."
2Cleary, Rose Marie. "Labbamologa, Co. Cork." Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 105 (2000): 44-65.
St. Molaga is also known as Molua, or Molacca, and Lachtene, Laicin, or Laichen.
According to the author, about two-thirds of the large curvilinear enclosure, which may indicate the ancient field walls of the monastary, may noted. See the aerial photograph in the gallery.
4Borlase, William Copeland. The Dolmens of Ireland, Their Distribution, Structural Characteristics, and Affinities in Other Countries. Vol. 3. London: Chapman & Hall, Ld., 1897. 769.
5White, James G. Historical and Topographical Notes, Etc. on Buttevant, Castletownroche, Doneraile, Mallow, and Places in Their Vicinity. Vol. 1. Cork: Guy and Co., Ltd., 1905. 1-5.
Borlase is here referencing Windele’s observations from a half century earlier (MS J. Windele "Cork W. and N.E." p. 79). Some refer to a stone alignment such as this as a "four-poster."
7Leask, Harold G. Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings: The First Phases and The Romanesque, Vol. 1. Dundalk: Dundalgan, 1955. 61-2.
9A volute is a spiral or scroll-like carving, said to resemble the ornament of an Ionic column’s capital.
The feast day of St. Molaga is January 20, said to be the date of his death, although the year is unknown. (Cleary, Rose Marie. "Labbamologa, Co. Cork." Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 105 (2000): 44-5.)
John Windele wrote that on a previous visit he had seen five pillars, but there were but four when he returned in 1852 (MS J. Windele "Cork W. and N.E." p. 79).
Col. White reported seeing faint circle markings on some of the pillar stones.
13Ó Riain 142+.
The author concludes with, "Thus, while the standing stones adjacent to Molacca’s church of Templemolaga are a clear indication that the place was once a centre of pagan worship. a much more important indication of Molacca’s own suspect origins is the tradition which states that, of the three noble fineda ‘families’ of the Uí Chúscraid, his was the clann Luchta [from Lug].
14Bhreathnach, Edel. Rev. of Early medieval Munster: archaeology, history and society. Michael A. Monk and John Sheehan (ed.). Celtica 24 (2003): 335.
15Freitag, Barbara. Sheela-Na-Gigs Unraveling an Enigma. New York: Routledge, 2004. 107.
The full text of this document may be read here.
16Jackson, Kenneth Hurstone. The Oldest Irish Tradition: A Window on the Iron Age. Cambridge: Cambridge UP 1964. 46.
As Walter Johnson observed, medieval clergy often expressed an interest in the excavation of prehistoric burial barrows, believing them to contain the bones of early Irish saints. "…we may infer that even the mediaeval churchmen imputed sanctity to barrows, although the belief found expression in paradoxical acts of desecration." (Johnson, Walter. Byways in British Archeology. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1912. 82-3.)
Also, note the story of the conversion of the three pagan princesses at the Ogulla Well of Rathcroghan.
17Wood-Martin, W. G. Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland. Vol. 2. London: Longmans, Green, & Co. 1902. 311-14.
18MacCana, Proinsias. Celtic Mythology. New York: Hamlyn, 1970.
Additional information may be found on Wikipedia.
19Butler, Hubert. Ten Thousand Saints: A Study in Irish & European Origins. Kilkenny, Ireland: Wellbrook, 1972. 57-61.
Historian and folklorist Ron James discusses Euhemerism, the idea the the principal characters of legends may be based upon historic individuals in an appendix to his e-book "Introduction to Foklore: Traditional Studies in Europe and Elsewhere." This appendix is presented in an abridged version below:
"The idea that the gods and heroes of legend are based on real people had an early proponent in the Greek, late-fourth-century BCE writer, Euhemerus, giving his name to this approach to myth and legend: Euhemerism. Folklorists generally regard the idea that there was an actual basis for most oral tradition as barking up the wrong tree, because the original “real” event behind a story is usually elusive and searching for that core is a futile exercise. In addition, research into how stories began usually concludes that they emerge in a rather spontaneous way, typically without an actual incident to inspire them.
A simple Google search for the “origins of King Arthur” provides more websites than one could easily read in a week. Was there a proto-Arthur? Perhaps. Maybe there were several. But what does that prove? Every society has remarkable characters, and it may be a natural process for these sorts of individuals to attract all manner of traditional stories that have nothing to do with the original inspiration of the cycle of legends.
So what do we have with Arthur? Was there a core source (or sources) for this legendary character? Let’s concede for the sake of argument that the answer is yes. Now, did this individual have a great warrior at his side who became ensnared by the leader’s wife in the fashion of Lancelot and Guinevere? That is more problematic since this type of story is also associated with Diarmuid and Grainne in the Irish court of King Finn and with the Cornish stories of Tristan and Isolde in the court of King Mark. One could even argue that it is the story behind Helen of Troy. In fact, it appears that this was a widespread type of story that became associated with various courts of historical legend. We cannot conclude that every great king had a queen who was attracted to one of his warriors and coerced him to take her away. This is simply a story that was attached to cycles involving great courts. In short, the further one goes back to find the “real Arthur,” the less the candidate (or candidates) look like the King Arthur who has been beloved for centuries. The proto Arthurs are not really King Arthur. They may be seeds but they look nothing like the tree that would grow over the centuries. We do not hold an acorn and say “Ah, I have in my hand a mighty oak tree.” It is not yet a tree. It is a seed. And the two look very different even if they are genetically linked.
It doesn’t matter what is behind stories so much as it does that people tell these stories. I’m in it for that part of the game; I consider stories as they are told over time, to gain from that material some insight into the past, into culture, and into the human condition. I am a folklorist. And with that, my plate is full."
Of the carved volute on the stone, the author writes, "On this stone I found a perfect spiral inscribed, of about 5 inches outside diameter. The outside groove forming the spiral is continued down the length of the stone about 12 inches, returning up again in a parallel line to meet the spiral, leaving about an inch between the sinkings."
Of this stone Borlase wrote, "Although this stone is known from the Christian era as the cover slab of the grave of St. Molaga, it probably predates the saint by many centuries." (Borlase, William Copeland. The Dolmens of Ireland, Their Distribution, Structural Characteristics, and Affinities in Other Countries. Vol. 3. London: Chapman & Hall, Ld., 1897. 769.)
A plaque at the site mentions another legend regarding a skull "which refuses to be buried." Local people, who thought the skull belonged to the guardian spirit of the graveyard, claimed that although many attempts were made to bury it, the skull always reappeared above ground.
1Wood-Martin, W. G. Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland. London: Longmans, Green, & Co. 1902.
2O’Riordain, Sean P. Antiquities of the Irish Countryside. London: Methuen, 1971.
3Gray, William. "Cromlechs in Counties of Down and Antrim." The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland 6.59 (1884): 366.
5The Legananny Dolmen. 19 June 2001. Information sign at the site. Legananny.
6 Mac Labhraí, Seán. "Local Placenames." "Before I Forget…": Journal of the Poyntzpass and District Local History Society 3 (1989): 15-25.
7Bonwick, James. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. London: Griffith, Farran, 1894. 147.
9Tuan, Yi-fu. Space and Place: the Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1977. 162-64.
Cited in Voss, Jerom A. "Antiquity Imagined: Cultural Values in Archaeological Folklore." Folklore 98.1 (1987): 84-85.
Loher Stone Fort
1Curren, Patrick, and Thomas Kelly. "Loher Fort." Personal interview. 15 June 2001.
2Loher Stone Fort. 15 June 2001. Information sign at the site. Waterville.
A report of the1985 excavation may be read here.
3Hall, Samuel C. Ireland – Its Scenery, Character Etc. Vol. 2. London: How and Parson, 1841. 166.
4Loher Stone Fort. 15 June 2001. Information sign at the site. Waterville.
5Delargy, J.H. "The Gaelic Story-teller." Proceedings of the British Academy 31 (1945): 8.
Loughcrew Passage Tombs
1Borlase, William Copeland. The Dolmens of Ireland Their Distribution, Structural Characteristics, (…). Vol. 3. London: Chapman & Hall, 1897. 837-39.
Borlase is only one of a number of authors who have attributed this poem to Jonathan Swift. However Conwell (1864) suggests that it may have been a different writer: "I have also heard these lines attributed to Miss Brooke, daughter of Henry Brooke (a pupil of Dr. Sheridan’s), who was then living at Mullagh, about two miles from Quilca. As [the verses are] possessing local interest, I submit them; although I suppose they have been corrupted since they were originally written." (Conwell, Eugene A. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 9 (1864-1866): 357-58). Conwell also quotes John O’Donovan (1836) as writing about the legend, "In giving the jump, she [the Hag] slipped and fell in the townland of Patrickstown, in the parish of Diamor, where she broke her neck. Here she was buried; and her grave was to be seen not many years ago in the field called "[Irish] Cul a mota (i.e. back of the moat), about two hundred perches to the east of the moat in that townland; but it is now destroyed."
A rather amusing notice regarding the legend of the Loughcrew Hag, apparently taken literally by the author, appeared in 1836 in a Dublin magazine:
"In the background are three hills, Corstown, Newtown, and Kearn Of Cairn-bawn, which signifies the white-heap, so called from an immense heap of stones, said by the credulous and ignorant, to have been deposited there in days of other years, by an ancient witch, who, filling her apron, hopped over to Newtown- hill. and there dropped a sufficient quantity to raise another large heap-then taking a second hop to Corstown- hill, she succeeded in emptying her apron, and forming a third conspicuous heap, ‘but unhappily broke her leg; here is shown a large stone, formed like a sofa-bed, which is called the witches-bed or chair, and contained a hole for her pipe. How absurd an idea, as tobacco is rather of modem introduction; yet such are the legends and stories prevalent over the entire country. There is another stone shown which, it is said, marks her burying place-there are circles of stones on one side of the cairn, and similar· circles on the top of Kearn, bawn. I have no doubt but some of the learned of the present time may be able to assign some rational cause for the erection of those rude heaps." (Eastforest, Arab (sic). "Loughcrew, County of Meath." The Dublin Penny Journal 4.192 (1836): 287.)
The full text of the poem, as quoted by Conwell:
"Twelve giant elks, trained to the car,
Had brought the warlike dame from far
Bengore—where reigned the dreadful war.
When morning dawned, the board was spread
With cresses, nuts, and berries red;
And Garvogue left her heather bed.
Black Ramor, Crewe, and glassy Sheel
Sent up the bream, the brae, and eel,
At mid-day for her ample meal.
Twelve haunches of the fattest elk,
Twelve measures of the richest milk,
Twelve breasts of eagles from the height,
Composed the meal for eve or night.
Ere Finn and Gall had raised the spear—
Ere Caolta chased the mountain deer—
Titanic Garvogue held her sway—
The feast at night—the chase by day.
Her pack just numbered threescore ten—
No fleeter ever crossed a glen:
Ked Spidogue, with her broad, full, chest,
And Isogue, round ribbed, and the best.
Determined now her tomb to build,
Her ample skirt with stones she filled,
And dropped a heap on Carnmore;
Then stepped one thousand yards, to Loar,
And dropped another goodly heap;
Gained Carnbeg; and on its height
Displayed the wonders of her might.
And when approached death’s awful doom,
Her chair was placed within the womb
Of hills whose tops with heather bloom."
2Conwell, Eugene A. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 9 (1864-1866): 357-58.
This text may be read in its entirety here.
3"Loughcrew | Sliabh na Caillíghe | The Mountains of the Witch." Sacred Island, Guided Tours by Martin Byrne. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <http://www.carrowkeel.com/sites/loughcrew/loughcrew.html>.
The Irish Cailleach Bhéara is pronounced "Kalyakh Vayra."
4Conwell. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." 377.
A report here suggests that new archaeological investigative tools have uncovered evidence of additional Loughcrew sites. A 1995 journal article calls the discovery of a ceremonial entranceway, the Loughcrew Cursus, "…an important addition to the monument complex at Loughcrew." (Newman, Conor. "A Cursus at Loughcrew, Co. Meath." Archaeology Ireland 9.4 (1995): 19-21.)
In 1998 we videotaped an interview with Phillip David, then a student in archaeology, as he conducted exploratory fieldwork at Loughcrew with a proton procession magnetometer.
5The passage into Cairn T is open, with OPW guides in attendance, daily during the months of June, July, and August from 10:.00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.. Last admission to Cairn T is 45 minutes before closing. More information here. At other times a key may be borrowed for a €50 deposit and/or a driving license/passport from the tea house at nearby Loughcrew Gardens.
6Carnebane West is closed to visitors due to concerns regarding the transmission of agricultural diseases from other locations. Issues regarding the liability of the landowner may also have been a concern. In addition, the restored tomb on the hill, Cairn L, has a locked entry gate; the key is not available to visitors.
7In his articles and books published after his 1863 visits to the Loughcrew tombs, Eugene Alfred Conwell devised an alphabetic naming system for the monuments. This is still used to reference the tombs today.
8The interactive map, only visible when the virtual-reality tour is viewed in full-screen mode, expands the relative size of the Cairn T passage in order to allow the placement of its four different hotspots. Click here to see how this not-to-scale version of the tomb differs from a realistic depiction of the size of the passage.
9Apparently William Wakeman wrote a paper on Loughcrew, read at Oxford in 1858. It is unclear if Conwell was aware of this before he read his own paper in 1864. (Hobson, Mary. "The Great Burial Mounds at Loughcrew, County Meath." Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society 2.3 (1910): 247.)
10Conwell. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." 357-58.
The paper was read by Conwell at the Academy in 1864.
In a later article, developed into a book, Conwell described his first impression of the Loughcrew vista:
"When the sun shines out resplendently over these hills, chasing away the gloom of darkness which occasionally, and often very suddenly, obscures their summits, the gorgeous panorama, displaying a profuse wealth of natural attractions, is seen with great distinctness of outline, and presents a prospect probably one of the most diversified and beautiful in the whole island. Nature seems to have lavished her choicest treasures upon the scene, and the magnificent combination of receding eminences, and distant lakes, and gracefully undulating plains, could not fail to quicken the imagination to a profound sense of solemn grandeur." (Conwell, Eugene A. "On the Identification of the Ancient Cemetery at Loughcrew, Co. Meath; And the Discovery of the Tomb of Ollamh Fodhla." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Polite Literature and Antiquities 1 (1879): 82-3.)
11Conwell, Eugene A. "On the Identification of the Ancient Cemetery at Loughcrew, Co. Meath; And the Discovery of the Tomb of Ollamh Fodhla." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Polite Literature and Antiquities 1 (1879): 73+.
Conwell credits William Fergusson as being the first to suggest the identification of Loughcrew with Tailteann. But he offers that he (Conwell) introduced Fergusson to the site: "The wild legend that a witch had scattered these great heaps of stones out of her apron has been doing duty in this locality, from time immemorial, for the real name and history of the place; and probably would have continued for many a day longer to perpetuate the fanciful story, had not James Fergusson, Esq., D.C.L., F.R.S., &c., on 16th of August, 1870, carefully gone over the hills under our guidance.
This practised explorer, acute observer, and clear-minded author has just published a large volume, entitled "Rude Stone Monuments in all Countries: their Age and Uses"-in our opinion the most sensible, best written, and best arranged book ever published upon the subject of which it treats. In this profusely illustrated Work he has the honour of being the first to suggest, and he deserves the hearty thanks of every Irish Archaeologist for having done so, that these carns must be the remains of the cemetery of Taillten, thus affording the means of restoring a name and history to the great and forgotten "city of the dead" on the heights now called the Loughcrew Hills."
In a 1930 article another author proffers additional evidence to buttress the Conwell and Fergusson arguments: "The next most necessary requirement in searching for Tailtean is to discover a PAGAN CEMETERY. Well, a pagan cemetery or trace of such a cemetery at Teltown there is none. ‘Fifty mounds, the old poem in Leabkar na hUidhre’ says, were on Tailtean. ‘Oh they were there, but have been destroyed,’- say the apologists for Teltown. But vandalism was equally rampant and agricultural reclamation equally active at Brugh na Boinne, and yet they have not wiped away all traces of the pagan cemetery there. Nor would they at Teltown, had such ever existed there. Sliabh na Cailligh, on the other hand, is strewn for 2 miles with the remains of mounds and graves. Conwell in 1863 located and described the remains of thirty such sepulchral mounds or cairns. What a contrast!" (Morris, Henry. "Where Was Aonach Tailtean?" The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Sixth 20.2 (1930): 113-29.)
12Conwell. Discovery of the Tomb of Ollamh Fodhla. 26-8.
This book may be read in its entirety here. The site that Conwell describes as "Ollamh Fodhla’s Chair" may be viewed in a photograph on our Loughcrew page and in its virtual-reality environment.
13Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford, UK: B. Blackwell, 1991. 55-57.
Hutton also describes a ritual practice deduced from evidence found in a Welsh passage tomb:
"The most peculiar rite detectable in one of these monuments, however, came not from Ireland but from the Welsh passage grave of Barclodiad y Gawres. The builders had made what virtually all who write upon it cannot help but describe as a ‘witches brew’: a stew containing oysters, limpets, a winkle, two fish, an eel, a frog, a snake, a mouse and a shrew. This was poured over the cremated bones of two young people laid in the chamber, which had themselves been mixed with the bones of sheep." (54-5)
Wood-Martin considered (and apparently rejected) astronomical associations for the megalithic rock art: "Another idea was, that these figures were designed to represent astronomical phenomena. This notion was perhaps the most obvious, and the least easily disproved. It harmonizes also with what has been handed down respecting the elemental worship of the Pagan Celts. Nevertheless it seems open to obvious objections. In astronomical diagrams, one could hardly fail to recognize a single symbol conspicuous amongst the rest as denoting the sun or moon, or two such symbols denoting both these bodies. One might also expect to see some delineation—even by the rudest hand—of the phases of the moon. We look in vain for these indications of an astronomical reference in the groups of lines and circles. (Wood-Martin, W. G. Pagan Ireland; an Archaeological Sketch: A Handbook of Irish Pre-Christian Antiquities. London: Longmans, Green, and, 1895. 48.)
Archaeologist Robert Hensey suggests that the different theories of the origin and meaning of megalithic art may each contain such truth: "There may be more validity to some previous interpretations than is usually acknowledged, but because we are constantly in the process of shelving the last account in favour of a newer or more theoretically sophisticated one we generally fail to allow for this. Often the issue is not whether a particular interpretation has validity or not but rather that archaeologists have tried to put their interpretation of the art forward as exclusively correct. Yet, when the time-depth and stylistic variety of the art is taken into account we realise that there may be more than one passage tomb art and hence more than one valid explanation." (Hensey, Robert. "Assuming the Jigsaw Had Only One Piece: Abstraction, Figuration and the Interpretation of Irish Passage Tomb Art." Visualising the Neolithic: Abstraction, Figuration, Performance, Representation. Ed. Andrew Cochrane and Andrew Jones. Oakville, CT: Oxbow, 2012. 161.) In this article Hensey also quotes Professor Muiris O Suilleabhain in a comment about the study of megalithic art during the 1990s: "Research into the meaning of the art was regarded as something of a cul-de-sac by many archaeologists and the field was effectively abandoned to pseudo-scientists." (O’Sullivan, M. 1996. comment on "Entering alternative realities: cognition, art and architecture in Irish Passage Tombs" by J. Dronfield. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 6.1, (1996): 59.)
A journal in 1996 humorously suggested that "[prehistoric art’s] function is analogous to graffiti – that it could have been produced mostly by young Homo sapiens males who were luring young females down into this cave and saying: ‘Here, look at those bison I’ve drawn, aren’t they cool?’" ("Spoil Heap." Archaeology Ireland 10.1 (1996): 36.)
14Jones, Carleton. Temples of Stone: Exploring the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland. Cork: Collins, 2007. 160.
Jones imagines the rituals associated the passage tombs: "A liminal area is an area that is in between. In a spiritual context, a liminal area can exist between two different levels of consciousness or experience. At Loughcrew, it is likely that the people who built the tombs lived in the surrounding low- lands rather than on the hilltops alongside the tombs and that they regarded the hilltops with their cairns as a liminal area or a threshold between the land of the living and the land of the dead ancestors. It has been postulated, therefore, that rituals may have involved groups of people ascending the hills above the everyday landscape and then processing amongst the tombs and perhaps interacting with the remains of the ancestors before descending again to the familiar everyday world." (209)
Author N. L Thomas postulated his own Neolithic "Rosetta Stone" with his explanation of the megalithic art at Loughcrew and other Irish passage tombs. (Thomas, N. L. Irish Symbols of 3500 BC. Cork: Mercier, 1988. 29-30.)
15Brennan, Martin. The Stones of Time: Calendars, Sundials, and Stone Chambers of Ancient Ireland. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1994. 46-8.
Many authors have referred to the decorated stone at Cairn X1 as the "Calendar Stone." This stone may be seen on our webpage in Du Noyer’s illustration. One writer presents the statistics of passage tomb art and astronomical observations: "On a national scale, just 138 known passage tombs (64%) have extant passages, of which sixteen (11%) exhibit evidence for solstice alignment, being equally divided between the summer and the winter solstice. There is a strong association between solar alignments and the location of megalithic art in passage tombs. Approximately 35 (16%) passage tombs are decorated, of which about twelve exhibit kerb art, including five with decorated entrance stones, all in the Boyne Valley: Knowth 1 (both tombs), Knowth 13, Knowth 15, Newgrange and Dowth South. For that reason, artwork on the entrance kerbstone of site Xl at Loughcrew would place this site in exceptional company. It should also be noted that the rayed design featured on the decorated orthostat at site Xl is known elsewhere only at Knowth and Newgrange, occurring a number of times in both complexes, most spectacularly on kerbstone 15 at Knowth.
(O’Sullivan, Muiris, Frank Prendergast, and Geraldine Stout. "An Intriguing Monument." Archaeology Ireland 24.1 (2010): 22.)
16Du Noyer, G.V., and W. Frazer. "On a Series of Coloured Drawings of Scribed Stones in the Lough Crew Cairns." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 1 (1889-1901): 451-53.
Christine Zucchelli observed that, "Their [Fergusson’s and Conwell’s] ideas should only occasionally emerge in accounts from the 1930s, which mention that ‘Queen Tailte and Queen Maeve’ sat on the rock to proclaim their laws to the people." (Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. 23.)
17Ó Crualaoich, Gearóid. The Book of the Cailleach: Stories of the Wise-woman Healer. Cork: Cork UP, 2003. 48-52.
According to Professor Ó hÓgáin, "The Cailleach Bhéarra was credited with extremely sharp sight, being able to discern from a distance of twenty miles. It is said that she never carried mud on her feet from one place to another, and never threw out dirty water before bringing in clean." (Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend, and Romance: An Encyclopedia of the Irish Tradition, Prentice Hall, New York, 1991. 67-8.)
18Hull, Eleanor. "Legends and Traditions of the Cailleach Bheara or Old Woman (Hag) of Beare." Folklore 38.3 (1927): 229.
19Ó Crualaoich, Gearóid. "Non-Sovereignty Queen Aspects of the Otherworld Female in Irish Hag Legends: The Case of Cailleach Bhéarra." Béaloideas "Sounds from the Supernatural: Papers Presented at the Nordic-Celtic Legend Symposium" 62-63 (1994-1995): 147-62.
The author writes, "A huge population of the plain people of Ireland was, in those times, effectively beyond the reach of strict pastoral control or orthodox teaching by any church and that population’s continued official and consciously – deliberate overall allegiance to Catholicism impinged to only a limited degree on ancestral loyalties in regard to the forces of the native Otherworld realm. These loyalties include in a pre- eminent way, loyalties to the name and the legends and the authority of the Goddess – and more specifically to her Cailleach / Hag persona – in its benign and nurturative as much as in its destructive and threatening forms."
In his book, Ó Crualaoich quotes Mairin Ni Dhonnchadha in the suggestion "that the author of the lament is an historical female poet, Digdi, who for the purposes of poetic composition, identified herself in the poem with the figure of Cailleach Bhearra." (Ó Crualaoich. The Book of the Cailleach. 48-52.)
20O’Donovan, John, and Michael O’Flanagan. Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Meath, Collected during the Progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1836. Bray, 1927. 96.
Of the Cailleach, Ó Crualaoich writes, "This personage is regarded in traditional cosmology as the personification, in divine female form, of the physical landscape within which human life is lived and also of the cosmic forces at work in that landscape. These forces can range from the power of wind and wave – seen at their most dramatic in fierce winter storms – to the pastoral and nurturing fertility forces of plant and animal life-orders within the landscape." (Ó Crualaoich. The Book of the Cailleach. 10-11.)
21The two songs excerpted here are "Season of the Witch" (1966) and "There is a Mountain" (1967), both written and performed by the Scottish folksinger Donovan. According to Wikipedia the inspiration for "There is a Mountain" derived from a Buddhist saying describing the effect of Chan (Zen) on perception: "Before… I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers."
A further explanation of the powers of the Cailleach is provided by Ó Crualaoich: "This personage is regarded in traditional cosmology as the personification, in divine female form, of the physical landscape within which human life is lived and also of the cosmic forces at work in that landscape. These forces can range from the power of wind and wave – seen at their most dramatic in fierce winter storms – to the pastoral and nurturing fertility forces of plant and animal life-orders within the landscape. They can also be the geotectonic forces whose workings have left the physical landscape as it presents itself to human consciousness and to human life." (Ó Crualaoich. The Book of the Cailleach. 10-11.)
Today there continue to be spiritual seekers who may find within the legends of the Cailleach a deeper understand of their own place in the world.
22Ó Crualaoich, Gearóid. "Continuity and Adaptation in Legends of Cailleach Bhéarra." Béaloideas 56 (1998): 154-57.
In his book, however Ó Crualaoich expands on this theme, explaining that the Wise Woman’s role in opposition to humankind may have been a Christian interpretation intending to raise the role of the priest: "[They were] well-regarded women, always ready to help those who seek their aid. Their powers and their knowledge are clearly shown as grounded in their access to the native otherworld and not, as in the clerical view, to an anti-Christian diabolic order. This mistaken clerical view is portrayed in story after story showing the wise-woman as a mediator (on the community’s behalf), with the native otherworld, rather than with any version of the Christian supernatural. In many stories her power is shown to be equal to or better than that of the priest in respect of the diagnosis and healing of affiiction…" (Ó Crualaoich, Gearóid. The Book of the Cailleach: Stories of the Wise-woman Healer. Cork: Cork UP, 2003. 75-6.)
According to Concannon, some of the other names of the divine hag goddess included
Aoibheal of the O’Brien dynasty of North Munster, Cliodna of the O’Keeffe dynasty of East and North Cork, Síle of the O’Gara dynasty, and Mauveen of the O’Neill Buidhe of Clannaboy. (Concannon, Maureen. The Sacred Whore: Sheela, Goddess of the Celts. Cork: Collins, 2004. 138.)
The dramatic figure of Cathleen ni Houlihan, invented by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory in 1901, blends together a beautiful young woman with the ancient Cailleach Bhéara. The fidelity to the legends of the Wise Woman Hag, however, were likely maintained by Lady Gregory, as Yeats’ early version of the Cailleach—in The Celtic Twilight’s story "The Untiring Ones"— was "Clooth-na-Bare," portrayed only as a woman who traveled widely looking for a lake deep enough to drown her faery life. (Merritt, Henry. "Dead Many Times: ‘Cathleen ni Houlihan,’ Yeats, Two Old Women, and a Vampire." The Modern Language Review 96.3 (2001): 644-48.)
23Ó Crualaoich. The Book of the Cailleach.109.
The author quotes from a story told by a woman in Co. Mayo in 1941: "Isn’t it a great wonder how a child isn’t able to walk as soon as it’s born, along with every other kind of young. Not to compare a child to a calf or a lamb, but neither’ of these is born more than an hour, before it’s able to walk and the child will be two years of age before it’s able to put a foot under itself. They say that it is Cailleach Bhearra who is responsible for that. At a time that a certain child was born – but I don’t know which child – she put her hand to the small of his back and that left children, ever after, unable to walk quickly, when they have come into the world. Cailleach Bhearra left that handicap on them."
24Ó Crualaoich. The Book of the Cailleach. 81-2.
The author states: "The term cailleach, of course, has its own complex etymological history that reflects the way in which it has carried competing cosmological, religious and literary connotations. These have been succinctly outlined and discussed by Miirin Ni Dhonnchadha in an article that convincingly proposes a line of semantic development for the word cailleach that originates with its derivation from the Latin word pallium, meaning ‘veil’. In its primary meaning of ‘veiled one’ cailleach is shown to be a term relating to a Christian categorization of women who were either ‘spoken for’ in marriage or consecrated as nuns and thus ‘spoken for’ in marriage to Christ. In this context cailleach also developed the sense of denoting the married woman who moves (as in widowhood) from human sexual union to embracing the status of consecrated celibacy, as a nun. It is this latter sense of cailleach that is counterpointed (to such moving literary effect) in the ninth-century ‘Lament of the Old Woman of Beare’ with its pre-Christian sovereignty queen personification of territory and landscape. The sense of cailleach as ‘supernatural figure, hag-witch’, develops through its association with manifestations in medieval Irish literature of the terrifying, destructive aspect of the sovereignty queen as death-goddess."
Ó Crualaoich also considers the origins of the Mother Goddess: "The evidence of pre-history and of mythology has been taken to suggest that in the Old European, Neolithic era, before the spread across the ‘European’ world of Indo-European-Ianguage cultures, cults of a mother- goddess type prevailed throughout the continent. Ireland, too, was inhabited for thousands of years before the coming of the Celts, our first Indo-European immigrants, by peoples whose ideology can be understood to have encompassed religious and cosmological sensibility in respect of a divine female agency who was conceived of as the origin of the physical universe itself and of the life forms contained in its landscapes…Neither should it be imagined that in pre-Indo-European ideology a single, monolithic mother-goddess figure – or cult – existed throughout Old Europe and in earliest Ireland. Such a conception is the product of modern and contemporary reconstructions that arise out of both Enlightenment humanism, and the feminist liberation movement and is without any real basis in history or ethnography." (25-6)
A guidebook to sacred sites in Ireland considers the place of the Cailleach in the pantheon of Celtic spiritual figures: "The Cailleach represents death and rebirth, transformation and winter, in contrast to Brigid, Celtic goddess of healing, creative inspiration, eternal flame, and springtime…The Cailleach’s time is often said to begin at Samhain (1 November) and end on Imbolc (1 February), while Brigid rules the rest of the year." (White, Gary C., and Elyn Aviva. Powerful Places in Ireland. Santa Fe, NM: Pilgrims Process, 2011. 89-90.)
25Concannon, Maureen. The Sacred Whore: Sheela, Goddess of the Celts. Cork: Collins, 2004. 55.
The author writes, "The Sheela archetype was brought forward from the vast wisdom incorporated from the goddess religion and integrated by the Druids, initially into the Heroic period and later into Celtic Christianity."
Most archaeologists and writers, such as guidebook author Anthony Weir, maintain a very different point of view on the sheela na gigs, not considering them to be pre-Christian at all.
26Ó Crualaoich. The Book of the Cailleach.150.
A scald-crow is another term for the hooded crow. Crow in Irish is badhbh. But in Irish mythology, the Badhbh was a war goddess, taking the form of a crow, and was thus known as Badb Catha ("battle crow"). It came to mean a witch, fairy, or goddess, represented in folklore by the scald-crow. See Wikipedia.
Ó Crualaoich recounts a story, from Connemara, in which the Cailleach is in opposition to St. Patrick: "As everyone knows this cailleach is supposed to have thousands of years of life. She was there thousands of years before the time of St Patrick and when St Patrick was travelling about the country he happened to meet up with her, himself and his servant. He enquired of the cailleach and how old she was and she told him like this:
‘I buried nine times nine people on nine occasions in nine graves in Tralee’.
‘What gave you that length of life?’ said Patrick.
‘I didn’t ever carry the muddy dirt of one place beyond that of another place without washing my feet’.
‘Have you any other ideas, cailleach, about your age?’
‘No seven years of my life ever passed that I didn’t toss the bones of a slaughtered bullock up onto that loft there and if you like you can go up there and count them.’
Patrick sent up the servant onto the loft and he started to throw down bones for Patrick to count. It wasn’t long before the floor was covered and Patrick asked up to his servant if there was any prospect of their coming to an end. What the servant answered was that he was beginning to make a start on them and that was all. ‘Oh, throw them back up again out of my sight’, said Patrick. The servant did as he was told.
When that much was done, Patrick walked over to the cailleach and told her that she wouldn’t toss up another bone there ever again. He caused her to disappear in a red flash and that was the end of her." (144-45)
The author continues, "It would be a remarkable and touching poem wherever it was written. It is of the tenth or eleventh century; but it reminds us of much more recent verses, Beranger’s " Grand’mere " or Villon’s " Regrets de la Belle Heaulmiere ja parvenue avieillesse," as Dr. Kuno Meyer has pointed out. But the Irish poem is more artistically wrought than either of these. From the point of view of folk-motif as applied to poetry, it is a beautiful example of the wide- spread idea that human life is ruled by the flow and ebb of the sea-tide, with the turn of which life will dwindle, as with the on-coming tide it waxes to its full powers and energy. Life should always come in with the flood and go out with the ebb"
The poem is sometimes entitled "The Lament of the Nun of Beare."
Ó Crualaoich comments, "The author of the ninth-century Lament proceeds to exploit ideological ambiguities in inventing the figure and name-form of the aged female who is at once the lingering representative of a profane, native eternity of earthly sovereignty and the Christian nun finally embracing the prospect of an eternity of the heavenly sovereignty of the male Christian god." (Ó Crualaoich. The Book of the Cailleach. 86-7.)
28Hartnett, Michael. Translations. Ed. Peter Fallon. Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland: Gallery, 2003. 52-55. Originally published in 1969, Dublin: New Writers’ Press.
From the Old Irish (ninth century, anonymous)
The woman of Beare sang this when old:
As to the sea laps low tide
to me falls fading of age;
grief for myself at fading,
greed in the teeth of my days.
I am Buí, the hag of Beare,
I wore an eternal gown;
but I am naked today
of even a cast·off shroud.
Money was all you loved,
and not people.
but we, while we were alive,
our love was for the people —
for we loved the peopled plains
we rode, and we loved our hosts;
hospitable, good, they made
of no giving a long boast.
Today you claim all, yet you
grant none nothing: if you give
you shame the given with great
boasting of a little gift.
Now my body, bitter, finds
the corridors of final
recognition, the gaze of
God in his own possession.
Now my hands, wrinkled to long
bones, hang down dead, hands that locked
kings of this land in loving,
in the old days, my lost days.
O hands, wrinkled to long bones
even at my odd hours of lust
I must tell young men begone
should they come. I have no love.
The bodies of young women
bound as rabbits in springtime.
I only regret. I am
a barren unloved woman —
for my tongue hides no honey
and I look to no wedlock;
white what is left of my hair
hidden under a hag’s cloak.
Not the old I envy:
they die; but youth
and monuments, both assailed
as I am, and they still hold.
Winter makes war with the waves;
today no king will come here,
nor the lowest road-walker.
I expect no one today.
I know what they are doing,
liquid horses of the sea;
spaced far in their maned groups,
they gallop away from me.
I wasted my self to age,
but beauty leaves me alone:
I am told, and no lust stays.
When the sun
beats a haze of hotness from
the sea, so yet I must go
clothed. I am spent, and old.
And yet to waste by loving
is no waste: for I am glad
I was made old by pleasure,
I am glad my flesh was glad.
Green to grass comes back each spring;
I am eternally old.
Each acorn gives way to earth,
bright tables fall to bare boards.
Past, in my days of firm breasts,
wine was my drink and sweet words
my food, tall men my lovers;
now curds, sour as my own milk.
Beneath my cloak my skin hides,
grained with age and unlovely;
a white hair covers my skin
like fungus on a dead tree.
Robbed of me my blue right eye,
lent for land I own forever;
and robbed of me my left eye
secures it, mine forever.
The three floods
in which I would dream to drown:
a flood of loves, of horses
and of gentle slim grey hounds.
death-wave, your bore, you broke me;
you, last, I will know your face
when you must come to take me.
though great, my friends in darkness
are — yet come and make your use
of me. I never refuse.
Well for the islands to which
again the flood-waves come: now
I, alone on my ebbed beach,
I know no face nor no house.
‘The Hag of Beare’ by Michael Hartnett from Translations (2003) reproduced by kind permission of the author’s estate and The Gallery Press. www.gallerypress.com
A photograph from this source, showing the decorations on the
underside of the capstone of the western recess of Cairn T, may be viewed here.
According to archaeologist Gabriel Cooney, Cairn T can be regarding as the focal monument of th entire Loughcrew Complex due to its "central location, the evidence for quartz behind the kerb at the entrance, quartz settings outside the entrance, the unusual shaped and decorated kerbstone on the north side of the cairn known as the Hag’s Chair and the range and elaboration of the internal decoration." (Cooney, Gabriel. Landscapes of Neolithic Ireland. New York: Routledge, 2000. 162.)
30Conwell. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." 371-73.
31Conwell. "On the Identification of the Ancient Cemetery at Loughcrew. 88-9.
Conwell elaborated: "The apparent cross carved into the centre of the seat, as well as two others on adjoining marginal upright stones, are not to be mistaken for characters of ancient date, as they were cut for trigonometrieal purposes in the year 1836, by the men, then encamped on Sliabh-na Caillighe, and engaged in the triangulation survey of the country under Captain Stotherd and Lieutenants Greatorex and Chaytor, R. E."
In his earlier article Conwell commented, "The ornamentation and inscriptions on this megalithic seat point to its having been formerly used for some important purpose. Probably it has been a coronation or inauguration chair; or, perhaps, a seat round which councils have been held, or from which justice has been administered in far distant ages." (Conwell, Eugene A. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 9 (1864-1866): 371-73.)
32Conwell. Discovery of the Tomb of Ollamh Fodhla. 26-8.
The author writes, "At that remote period in the history of man, before the advent of Christianity, it is well known that the sun was an object of worship; and the very fact that the entrances to the interior chambers of the majority of the carns on the Loughcrew Hills point to the east, or the rising sun, bears strong internal evidence that this form of worship prevailed when these tombs or earns were constructed. If such were the case, for we are without any absolute historic evidence on the point, we can well imagine how appropriately a ‘great seat of justice was placed in the north side of the great law-maker’s tomb, from which, with all the solemnity attaching to the place, his laws were administered, say at midday, with the recipients of the adjudication fully confronted with the great luminary, the object of their worship. For these reasons we propose, henceforth, to call this remarkable stone chair, emblazoned as it is, both on front and back, with characters at present perfectly unintelligible to us, ‘Ollamh Fodhla’s Chair.’"
33Conwell. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." 373.
34Conwell. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." 374.
36Conwell. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." 362-64.
37Tempest, H.G. "Bone Objects from an Irish Burial Cairn." Man 49 (1949): 13-16.
The author describes how Conwell’s finds were lost: "He took a box -of the human bones to London for examination by Professor Owen, leaving them at the Anthropological Society’s rooms there. They were never examined by anyone. When Conwell, in despair of any report, asked for the return of the box, the only result was a statement that it could not be traced!"
38Cooney, Gabriel. Landscapes of Neolithic Ireland. New York: Routledge, 2000. 132.
A similarly-placed standing stone
guarding the predominent recess of a passage tomb was discovered, broken into two pieces, when Carrokeel’s Cairn F was excavated in 1911.
Quoting a mid-19th century writer, Jean McMann provides a suggestion of the origin of the term "whispering stone" some modern writers apply to the standing stone in Loughcrew Cairn L: "In the county of Westmeath, in one of the Hills of Loughcrew, which are called by the peasants the Witches Hops, is an extensive excavation, consisting of three large chambers with a narrow passage leading to them. In one of these rooms is a flat altar- stone of considerable size; near to this artificial cave stand two lofty pillar stones known among the people by the names of ‘the Speaking Stones’ and ‘the Whisperers.’ Names evidently traditional of there having been oracles or divinations given from these ‘dark places of the earth.’" (Louisa Beaufort, 1828) McMann suggests that Beaufort may have been partially confusing the Loughcrew stone with the nearby Farranagloch Speaking Stones. (McMann, Jean. Loughcrew: The Cairns. Oldcastle, Co. Meath: After Hours, 1993. 9.)
39Conwell. "On Ancient Sepulchral Cairns on the Loughcrew Hills." 366-69.
40Conwell, failing to discover a passage into Cairn D, concluded that the monument must be a cenotaph, also known as a "blind cairn," a monument with no burial chamber, perhaps used as a memorial. However as Martin Byrne points out, "It is highly unlikely that the Loughcrew builders would put so much effort into such a massive cairn and leave it blind." (Byrne, Martin. "Cairn D at Loughcrew." The Sacred Island. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.carrowkeel.com/sites/loughcrew/cairnd.html>.)
41McMann, Jean. Loughcrew: The Cairns. Oldcastle, Co. Meath: After Hours, 1993. 42.
1Burl, Aubrey. The Stone Circles of the British Isles. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976. 225.
2Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. 73.
In his text the author attributes a part of this quotation to an 1879 article by David Fitzgerald (Popular Tales of Ireland).
To Dames, Lough Gur’s outline appears to be the body of an ancient fertility goddess about to give birth.
4Hall, Samuel C. Ireland – Its Scenery, Character Etc. Vol. 1. London: How and Parson, 1841. 385.
5Raftery, Joseph. "An Early Iron Age Sword from Lough Gur, Co. Limerick." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Seventh 9.3 (1939): 170-72.
The author states that the sword belongs to the class of Irish Iron Age swords with straight sides, and suggests a date for it between 75 and 50 BCE. The lake currently has a level of approximately 75 m (247 ft)., but when the area was first surveyed in 1840 the level was 77 m (252 ft), and evidence of a still higher shoreline suggests that at one time the lake was larger. (Mitchell, G.F. "A Pollen-Diagram from Lough Gur, County Limerick." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 56 (1953-1954): 484.)
In a nearby area, not far from the lake, a Late Bronze Age shield (c. 700 BCE) was found.
6Casey, Michael. "The White Horse." Personal interview. 25 June 1979.
7Russell, Patrick. (unpublished manuscript). Personal interview with the author’s daughter, Bridey Hines. 25 June 1979.
8Vallancey, Charles. An Account of the Ancient Stone Amphitheatre Lately Discovered in the County of Kerry, with Fragments of Irish History Related Thereto, etc. etc. etc. Dublin: Graisberry and Campbell, 1812. 46.
9Wood-Martin, W. G. Pagan Ireland an Archæological Sketch; a Handbook of Irish Pre-Christian Antiquities. London: Longmans, Green, 1895. 230-31. 230-31.
10Evans-Wentz, W. Y. The Fairy-faith in Celtic Countries. London: H. Frowde, 1911. 81. This story may be read in its entirety here.
A similar tale was noted from Co. Kildare: [ relating an ‘Old Woman’s Story" ] "Near the Seat of Morrice Keating, Esq.,, is a Hill called Moly-Mase, where, as they say, one of the Earls of Kildare was carried by Fairies; and though it is perhaps an hundred Years ago, that he is still alive, as well as his Horse, which is shod with silver; but when those Shoes are worn out, the Earl will return with his usual Health and Vigour, and take ample Possession of the noblest Estate in the Kingdom…" (Chetwood, W. R., and Philip Luckombe. A Tour through Ireland in Several Entertaining Letters: Wherein the Present State of That Kingdom Is Consider’d … Interspersed with Observations on the Manners, Customs, Antiquities, Curiosities, and Natural History of That Country. London: Printed for J. Roberts, 1748. 233.)
According to local tradition, stories connecting Gearoid Iarla with Loch Gur may have originated in the "webbing of the toes and fingers that are known to be perculiar to the Fitzgeralds." (Quinlan, Michael, ed. The Lough Gur & District Historical Society Journal: Special Folklore Edition 7 (1991): 5.)
12MacNeill, Maire. The Festival of Lughnasa. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. 345-46.
Geároid Iarla was also known as "Gerald the Rhymer." (Killanin, Michael Morris, and Michael V. Duignan. The Shell Guide to Ireland. London: Ebury P. in Association with George Rainbird, 1967. 358-59.)
One of the better known poems attributed to Geároid Iarla is entitled "Speak Not Ill of Womankind." This may be read in its entirety here.
According to the author, the historical Geároid Iarla did not die at Lough Gur, but actually elsewhere in Co. Limerick, or in Co. Kerry. The author explains these, and other discrepancies thusly: "The magnetism of a sacred centre pulls at what is historically dispersed and gathers further weight thereby. In this case, the historical fact that both the brother and nephew of Geároid were drowned (brother Maurice while crossing the Irish Sea in 1358, and his son Sean, in the River Suir) was pressed into service. These drownings were transferred to Geároid because as a poet, he was required to submerge into the muse of the birth lake, for the benefit of society in general. (In Ireland, poetic truth tends to take precedence over historical fact because the benefits of poetry can be more widely distributed in time and space.)"
A story abut Maurice, Geároid Iarla’s father, that was once heard locally, resonates with the story of "The Green Cloak" as told by Tom McNamara. In this story, Maurice was walking by the shore of Lough Gur when he saw the beautiful enchantress Áine bathing. He seized her cloak, and by so doing magically put her into his power. He then had his way with her. Thus Geároid Iarla was conceived When he was born Áine appeared at the castle of the Earl to present the child to him. (Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend, and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of Irish Folk Tradition. New York: Prentice Hall, 1991.)
14The entire Limerick Leader newspaper obituary for Tom McNamara may be read here. A photograph of Tom and his family in 1979 may be seen here. A video which morphs Tom’s 1979 and 1999 portraits may be viewed here. When we knocked on the McNamara’s door in 1998, nearly 20 years after we last saw one another, we were met by his wife Anne. I explained who I was, and, as she remembered our first visit, she startled my daughter Elana (then 14) by exclaiming, "Go away!" Elana soon realized that "go away" in the Irish vernacular meant something akin to "I don’t believe it." When Tom came to the door, before I could remind him of my name, he greeted me with "Goldburn!" I thought that was close enough, given that we had had but a couple of letters back and forth over the two decades. An early printed source (1878-1879) of some of the Lough Gur stories told by Tom McNamara may be read here. The folkloric tradition at Lough Gur continues with a new generation of storytellers.
16Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend, and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of Irish Folk Tradition. New York: Prentice Hall, 1991.
17Delargy, J.H. "The Gaelic Story-teller." Proceedings of the British Academy 31 (1945): 32.
18Ó Ríordáin, Seán P. "Lough Gur Excavations: The Great Stone Circle (B) in Grange Townland." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 54 (1951/1952): 56-57.
According to the author, the reconstructed vessel was the only one for which the completed profile is certain. The fragments were found near Stone 12 (the northern entrance portal). The vessel is 21.2 cm (8.3 in) in height and the diameter at the rim is 14.5 cm (5.7 in).
19Ó Ríordáin, Seán P. "Lough Gur Excavations: The Great Stone Circle (B) in Grange Townland." 42-44.
At the exact center of the circle the excavations discovered a post-hole 12.7 cm (5 in) in diameter. "Two suggestions have been made regarding the purpose of this posthole–that it carried a central wooden post, a sort of totem-pole, connected with the ritual of the site and that it held the pole from which the builders marked out the circle. The latter practical alternative appears to be the more likely."
21Ó Ríordáin, Seán P. "Lough Gur Excavations: The Great Stone Circle (B) in Grange Townland." Fig. 1. The plan of the excavation may be seen in its full resolution here.
22Roche, Helen, "The Dating of the Embanked Stone Circle at Grange, Co. Limerick." From Megaliths to Metal: Essays in Honour of George Eogan. Ed. John Bradley, Barry Raftery, John Coles, and Eoin Grogan. Oxford: Oxbow, 2004. 109-16.
The author explains the results of her stratigraphy studies: "The most recent pottery-type, found at a position which would have predated the monument – in this case beneath the bank on the old ground surface – was ‘Class II’ ware. This type, in the light of extensive comparative studies with securely dated material over the years, is now judged to be a Late Bronze Age coarse ware. Therefore the circle, officially designated to have been constructed in the Neolithic, is actually a Late Bronze Age site."
23McNally, Kenneth. Ireland’s Ancient Stones: A Megalithic Heritage. Belfast: Appletree, 2006. 65-66.
24Damery, Patricia. "The Horned God: A Personal Discovery of Cultural Myth." The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal 23.3 (2004): 18-19.
25Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. 76.
According to the author, there was a local believe that the Crom Dubh stone used to speak as an oracle and provide divinations. Anthony Weir wrote of the legend that the Grange Stone Circle enclosure was dug by Crom Dubh with his two-pronged spear. Michael Dames said that Crom Dubh "was believed to emerge in most parts of Ireland at the start of harvest, on 1st August, midway between summer solstice and autumn equinox. In Co. Limerick the day was called Black Stoop Sunday…That Crom Dubh and Aine were anciently linked together as harvest deities is clear from a mid-nineteenth-century report from Co. Louth, which calls the festival Domhnach Aine agus Chroim Duibh (the Sunday of Aine and Crom Dubh)." (Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. 100-105.)
26Ó Ríordáin, Seán P. "Lough Gur Excavations: The Great Stone Circle (B) in Grange Townland." 42.
In another article Ó Ríordáin again warned about accepted J.F. Lynch’s folklore accounts at face value: "It is…difficult to differentiate between genuine local traditions and beliefs based on the writings of the late Rev. J. F. Lynch." (Ó Ríordáin, Seán P. “Mediæval Dwellings at Caherguillamore, Co. Limerick.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Seventh 12.2 (1942): 37.)
The author, along with Ó Ríordáin, warns "…we are forcibly reminded of the resemblance to the anecdote about a specific stone circle which…was the source of the medieval literary legends of Cenn Croich."
28Ó Ríordáin, Seán P. "Lough Gur Excavations: The Great Stone Circle (B) in Grange Townland." 73-74.
The author deduces that the circle was ceremonial due to " negative evidence:" the absence of signs of habitation or burial. He suggests that the wide bank around the stones might have been "a stand where an audience could observe what was going on within."
30"Legendary Lough Gur." The entire audio tour may be downloaded here. Information on ordering a copy of Michael Quinlan’s novel, The Sun Temple, may be found here.
31McNamara, Tom. "Grange Stone Circle." Personal interview. 25 June 1979.
32Feehily, Patricia. "Summer Solstice Wonder at Lough Gur Farm." The Limerick Leader 27 June 1998: 1.
33White, Gary C., and Elyn Aviva. Powerful Places in Ireland. Santa Fe, NM: Pilgrims Process, 2011.
The authors cite other alignments, such from the entry stones to the stones on the opposite side to the midsummer moon. But they caution, "…it is often hard, if not impossible, to know which of the so-called alignments are intentional and which are the result of people with a theory who find stones to match it."
34Windle, Bertram C.A. "On Certain Megalithic Remains Immediately Surrounding Lough Gur, County Limerick." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 30 (1912/1913): 293-94.
The excavator of the Lough Gur monuments, Professor Ó Ríordáin, believes that early visitors had "Circle B" in mind "as the object of their admiration since it is likely that the cottages which stood in D in the early nineteenth century and the road which cut it in the west, already existed in the previous century to the detriment of the monument." (Ó Ríordáin, Seán P. "Lough Gur Excavations: The Great Stone Circle (B) in Grange Townland." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 54 (1951/1952): 37.)
35"Legendary Lough Gur." The entire audio tour may be downloaded here.
The destroyed circle was meant to be 52 m (171 ft) in diameter with 72 stones, larger than the Líos without its wide bank. The most frequently noted legend about Stonehenge and Merlin has him relocating the stone circle from the Curragh of Kildare.
36McNamara, Tom. "Double Stone Circle." Personal interview. 25 June 1979.
A 1988 interview with Lough Gur resident Phil Russell contains a similar story: "The people wouldn’t go near one of the stone circles; they wouldn’t even pull a stick or a weed out of ’em. And I’ll tell you, my father told me he knew a little boy and he was flying, going round the road like for maybe three or four years. His father went up on the hill lone day with two dogs and the little dogs went hunting rabbits. And he followed the dogs and when he came back, he left the young fellow inside the circle and when he came back he was asleep, and he never was the same young fellow again. He never walked after, I know him. They made out that to go interfering with them circles was dangerous. He was a little young retarded young fellow after . He’s buried twenty or thirty years, I suppose, now. He was always in and out of hospitals after that. He was sick when he woke up on that meadow, he was a different young fellow. The fairies were blamed for it." (Quinlan, Michael, ed. "Phil Russell’s Account." The Lough Gur & District Historical Society Journal: Special Folklore Edition. 7 (1991): 41.)
38Lynch, J.F. "Antiquarian Remains at Lough Gur." Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society Second 19 (1913): 9. This article may be read in its entirety here. The "Paddock Hill" translation of Ardaghlooda is from the Lynch article. The "High Hill of Lugh" translation was taken from a display at the Lough Gur exhibit kiosk.
39McNamara, Tom. "The Nun and the Pillar Stone." Personal interview. 25 June 1979.
40McNamara, Tom. "The Green Cloak." Personal interview. 21 June 1999.
According to C. Austin, writing in The Celtic Connection, "The concept of a divine World Tree or Tree of Life, the mythic bridge between the worlds of god and human, is entwined with the veneration of trees. As an embodiment of the universe, the roots of the World tree inhabit the underground, the deep knowledge of earth. The trunk unites the roots with the upper celestial canopy. The products given by each tree were considered a physical manifestation of divine providence." (Austin, C. "The Wisdom of Trees in the Celtic Landscape." The Celtic Connection. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://merganser.math.gvsu.edu/myth/trees.html>.)
According to Michael Dames, "The stone…may have served as a solid reminder to those in the real world that the phantom tree beneath the lough, the ideal tree, was also substantial, and would be seen again." (Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. 78.)
41Cooney, Gabriel. "In Retrospect: Neolithic Activity at Knockadoon, Lough Gur, Co. Limerick, 50 Years on." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 107C (2007): 220-22.
42Jones, Carleton. Temples of Stone: Exploring the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland. Cork: Collins, 2007. 230-231.
43McNamara, Tom. "Women and Children." Personal interview. 25 June 1979.
Regarding the banshee, McNamara added, " I have heard the banshee, not that often, but I have heard it; there’s no doubt about that. It is the most weird soul-searching sound. It starts down in an awful low key — ’tis a wailing and wailing that re-echoes itself around. It always heralds someone about to die. The old people would always bless themselves if they heard it, you know. But I heard it on an occasion or two. I was out late one night and coming home the old way, and I heard it. I’m telling you, you would fairly go home! And you wouldn’t want to memorize it!"
The "mysterious old man" quotation is from J.F. Lynch. The "beyond the edges of the map" description of Tír na nÓg is from Wikipedia.
Lough Gur is connected with Fionne Mac Cumhaill in an legendary tale cited by Maire MacNeill. "The presiding prince brought the black horse from his druid grandfather and gave it to Fionn. Fionn and his companions were entertained for three days and three nights in the house described as ‘dun os loch’ (fort above the lake). This episode relating how Fionn became the possessor of the champion black horse is told also in the Acallamh na Senorach, and O’Grady, in his translation, says that the ‘dun os loch’ is the hill of Doon over Lough Gur." (MacNeill, Maire. The Festival of Lughnasa. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. 344-45.)
46Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. New York: Facts On File, 2003. 432.
Michael Dames tells the story of a James Cleary, who in the 1870s said that he saw Áine appear at the Housekeeper’s Chair. "”She was every inch a queen’, he told his friends. A few evenings later he was out on the lough in his curragh when it capsized and he was drowned. Her call, they concluded, could not be resisted. Anyone who saw her, it was believed, was driven insane by the spell of her beauty, or died shortly after. (Madness is a voyage to another reality, where ‘normal’ behaviour dies.) [These people] may be said to have enjoyed or suffered a reverse birth into Lough Gur, and a return to the divine as sacrificial victims." (Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. 98.)
47"Lough Gur." Gentleman’s Magazine 1 (1833): 109.
48Ó Ríordáin, Seán P., and Gearóid Ó H-Iceadha. "Lough Gur Excavations: The Megalithic Tomb." The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 85.1 (1955): 50.
From the Irish Folklore Commission archives, Michael Dames wrote that "Tom Hamon recalls the I938 archaeological excavation of the Giants’ Grave, a Neolithic tomb, standing close to the south shore: ‘Giants’ Grave: they excavated that. They took the bones, put ’em in a bag and brought them here to the castle. I worked with them. But I believe, – I’ve been told it by several people, that if every bean si in Ireland were ever clanned together that night, that the greatest keening and crying was heard all around the lake, and through the hills, and even farther on, away even into the bog, the Red Bog, and across even to Knockderc." (Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. 80.)
Michael Dames recounts aspects of the bull in Celtic spiritual practice: "In Munster and Connacht folklore Crom’s bull was believed to be immortal. By trickery St Patrick once killed and ate it, and then ordered the bones to be thrown into the hide, whereupon the animal returned to life. Around Galway Bay at Samain every household skinned and roasted a bull in honour of Crom Dubh, and one may assume that Crom Dubh and the Bull were originally synonymous."
(Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. 100-105.)
50"The New Church, Lough Gur, Co. Limerick." The Standing Stone. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://www.thestandingstone.ie/2010/03/new-church-lough-gur-co-limerick.html>.
The author is here quoting J.F. Lynch. There is more about the poet O’Connellan here.
52"The Grave Of A Bard – 19th June 1948." Ask About Ireland. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/history-heritage/pages-in-history/an-mangaire-sugach-the-li/local-historical-events/the-grave-of-a-bard-19th-/>.
Lubitavish Court Tomb
1Bold, Valentina. "’Rude Bard of the North’: James Macpherson and the Folklore of Democracy." The Journal of American Folklore 114.454 (2001): 464.
The quotation is from a letter Jefferson wrote to James Macpherson’s cousin Charles in February, 1773, asking for copies of the original source material in order to study the language.
Jefferson maintained his admiration for Macpherson all his life, even after the author’s deceptions had become widely acknowledged and he had authored papers unfavorable to the cause of American independence. According to one author, Jefferson was intrigued by the "noble savage" in the Ossian tales. congruent with his romanticized vision of the aboriginal Americans. He also appreciated the Homeric and Virgilian resemblances in Ossian. (McLaughlin, Jack. "Jefferson, Poe, and Ossian." Eighteenth-Century Studies 26.4 (1993): 629+.)
2Porter, James. "’Bring Me the Head of James Macpherson’: The Execution of Ossian and the Wellsprings of Folkloristic Discourse." The Journal of American Folklore 114.454 (2001): 398.
3McCraith, Michael. "The Saga of James MacPherson’s Ossian." The Linen Hall Review 8.2/3 (1991): 8.
According to McCraith, when Napoleon was drawing up a list of books to be used in French schools, Ossian was one of the few foreign texts to be included. Shakespeare didn’t make the list.
Fingal was translated into Italian soon after its publication. Gennan, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Czech, Polish, and Hungarian versions followed later. New translations appear still, with a Japanese translation in 1971. (Porter, James. "’Bring Me the Head of James Macpherson’: The Execution of Ossian and the Wellsprings of Folkloristic Discourse." The Journal of American Folklore 114.454 (2001): 412.)
4"Battle of Culloden." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden>.
The Battle of Culloden (April 16th, 1746) marked the final, failed effort of the Jacobite forces of Charles Stuart to defeat the Hanoverian forces of the Duke of Cumberland.
According to James Porter, "Macpherson had caught the mood of the age, exploiting a folk tradition that impinged on English consciousness as a result of the Jacobite army’s sudden and terrifying arrival in Derby in 1745, a consciousness that later, despite Culloden and the brutal repression of Highland dress and music, continued to regard Highlanders as "barbaric." With the military threat removed, the poems of Ossian became safe for readers who would formerly have found them not merely politically unacceptable, but menacingly so." (Porter, James. "’Bring Me the Head of James Macpherson’: The Execution of Ossian and the Wellsprings of Folkloristic Discourse." The Journal of American Folklore 114.454 (2001): 405.)
5"Gaelic Place Names in the Glens of Antrim (Continued)." Ulster Journal of Archaeology Second 11.4 (1905): 180-89.
6Wilson, David A. Ireland a Bicycle and a Tin Whistle. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1995. 33.
According to Wilson, "[Oisín] took one look at Scotland and promptly dropped dead."
Michael McGrath quotes Edmund Burke saying that "when Fingal was published all the Irish cried out, ‘We know all these poems, we have always heard them from our infancy.’" (McCraith, Michael. "The Saga of James MacPherson’s Ossian." The Linen Hall Review 8.2/3 (1991): 6.)
There is some evidence that a purported ancient ogham stone, with an inscription to a warrior called Conan, was in fact placed in position in the late eighteenth century "to strike a blow for the Irish provenance of the antecedents of Macpherson’s Ossian." (Ní Chatháin, Próinséas. "Sir Samuel Ferguson and the Ogham Inscriptions." Irish University Review 16.2 (1986): 166.)
In Scotland it is claimed bones were found underneath "Ossian’s Stone." Sir Walter Scott wrote of the spot: "In this still place, remote from men, / Sleeps Ossian in the narrow Glen."
7The plaque on Hewitt’s simple stone cairn reads "John Hewitt / 1907-1987 / My Chosen Ground." A photograph of the cairn may be seen in the gallery at the bottom of the Lubitavish page.
8Killanin, Michael Morris, and Michael V. Duignan. The Shell Guide to Ireland. London: Ebury P. in Association with George Rainbird, 1967. 165.
Weapons made from stone quarried here were found as far away as the southeast of. England.
9"Oisín." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ois%C3%ADn>.
In a 1945 article, J.W. Delargy explains that "’Whistling at night or Fianna Focht by day’ were considered unlucky." He also asserted that the telling of these tales was usually restricted to men. (Delargy, H.H. "The Gaelic Story-teller." Proceedings of the British Academy 31 (1945): 7.)
10Cross, Tom Peete, and Clark Harris Slover. Ancient Irish Tales. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1936. 454-56.
11Ó hÓgáin Dáithí. Fionn Mac Cumhaill: Images of the Gaelic Hero. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1988. 313.
Thomas M. Curley delivers a concise indictment of Macpherson: "To be sure, the Ossian volumes were principally Macpherson’s own contrivance, whether he deceived himself into believing in superhuman editorial powers for restoring a nonexistent primordial corpus of Gaelic literature or deliberately deceived others into accepting this impossibility. Composing Ossian mainly from his imagination and then calling it historically true were bad enough, even if a doubtful hypotheses of overweening self-delusion might serve to mitigate the deed. Equally damaging to his reputation was masterminding an ingenious history of early Scotland lending credibility to the bogus Ossian. This he did in his elaborate, sometimes spurious, critical apparatus accompanying his texts…" (Curley, Thomas M. Samuel Johnson, the Ossian Fraud and the Celtic Revival in Great Britain and Ireland. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2009. 39-40.)
12Curley, Thomas M. Samuel Johnson, the Ossian Fraud and the Celtic Revival in Great Britain and Ireland. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2009. 42.
In a 1983 magazine article, Paul Gray wrote, "So ripe were the times for the Ossianic poems that if they had not existed, someone would have had to invent them. And Macpherson chiefly had." (Gray, Paul. "Fakes That Have Skewed History." Time (5/16/1983).)
Other literary works for which their contemporary authors claimed unproven or clearly fraudulent historical sources include the pseudo-medieval verse of Thomas Chatterton in the 1760s, and more infamously, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the early twentieth century.
13Macpherson, James. The Poems of Ossian. Edinburgh: Grant, 1926. 142. This book may be read in its entirely here or here.
Joep Leerssen describes Macpherson’s writing thusly: "Described in the ponderous and sublime diction of prose-poems, Macpherson’s Ossian evoked mountains, dark and stormy nights, tragic heroes and hoary sages sadly strumming the harp – in short, and iconography evoking… sublimity rather than beauty, and harkening back to medieval Romance as well as foreshadowing the onset of Romanticism." (Leerssen, Joep. Remembrance and Imagination: Patterns in the Historical and Literary Representation of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame in Association with Field Day, 1997. 40.)
Macpherson’s publications: Fragments of Ancient Poetry, collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and translated from the Galic or Erse Language (1760); Fingal, an Ancient Epic in Six Books, together with several other poems, composed by Ossian, the son of Fingal, translated from the Galic language (1762); Tem- pora, an Epic in Eight Books (1763); The Complete Works of Ossian, the Son of Fingal (2 v. 1765); The Poems of Ossian (1771).
14Boswell, James, Georges Birkbeck Norman Hill, and Lawrence Fitzroy Powell. Boswell’s Life of Johnson: Together with Boswell’s Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides and Johnson’s Diary of a Journey into North Wales : in Six Volumes. Oxford: Clarendon, 1975. I: 396.
According to Thomas M. Curley, "…Johnson was the arch-enemy of falsehood in the Ossian business, not only for offending against morality but also for violating authentic history and the simple human trust that makes society possible…truth in literature and life is a perennial human concern inextricably tied to the survival and fulfillment of the race." (Curley, Thomas M. Samuel Johnson, the Ossian Fraud and the Celtic Revival in Great Britain and Ireland. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2009. 42. 2-3.)
Scottish philosopher David Hume was said to have told Boswell that "if fifty bare- arsed highlanders should say that Fingal was an ancient poem, he would not believe them. He said it was not to be believed that a people who were continually concerned to keep themselves from starving or from being hanged, should preserve in their memories a Poem in six books." (Porter, James. "’Bring Me the Head of James Macpherson’: The Execution of Ossian and the Wellsprings of Folkloristic Discourse." The Journal of American Folklore 114.454 (2001): 414-15.)
15Boswell, Life of Johnson. This particular passage may be read online here.
Johnson continued: "What would you have me retract? I thought your book an imposture; I think it an imposture still. For this opinion I have given my reasons to the publick, which I here dare you to refute. Your rage I defy. Your abilities, since your Homer, are not so formidable; and what I hear of your morals, inclines me to pay regard not to what you shall say, but to what you shall prove. You may print this if you will."
After a trip to Scotland, in part to conduct his own investigation of the Ossian sources, Johnson reported: "t is said, that some men of integrity profess to have heard parts of it, but they all heard them when they were boys; and it was never said that any of them could recite fix lines. They remember names, and perhaps some proverbial sentiments; and, having no distinct ideas, coin a resemblance without an original." (Johnson, Samuel. A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. London: J. Williams, 1775. 190-91. Read online here.)
16McKean, Thomas A. "The Fieldwork Legacy of James Macpherson." The Journal of American Folklore 114.454 (2001): 460.
Since 1800 some 135 books and 150 articles on Macpherson, wholly or in part, have been published. (Curley, Thomas M. Samuel Johnson, the Ossian Fraud and the Celtic Revival in Great Britain and Ireland. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2009. 3.)
The author maintains that Macpherson’s putting Ossian in "English dress" has the effect of removing "…the graphic edge of truly ancient Gaelic songs. He draws on first hand experience of them, but skillfully emphasizes elements that would appeal to a non-Gaelic audience. In so doing, incidentally, he contributed to the foundations of mist-laden Celticism exploited so fully by Yeats and his contemporaries, and latterly by today’s music industry in the marketing of misrepresented ‘Celtic’ music."
Thomas M. Curley argues from another position, that Macpherson ought to be appreciated as the original poet that he was: "Overestimating Macpherson’s indebtedness to genuine Gaelic literature not only misstates the case seriously but also robs him of the distinction of authorship…Giving Macpherson his due, by telling the whole truth about Ossian and taking the bitter with the better, would make him more than a bard standing on the shoulders of predecessors merely reworking Fenian conventions. He would emerge more or less as a self-created genius of self-invented myth whose enduring inspiration for Romantics is a matter of historical record." (Curley, Thomas M. Samuel Johnson, the Ossian Fraud and the Celtic Revival in Great Britain and Ireland. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2009. 18.)
18Murphy, Gerard. The Ossianic Lore and Romantic Tales of Medieval Ireland. Dublin: Three Candles, 1961. 6.
19Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. New York: Knopf, 1988. 6-17.
The author quotes from Gentleman’s Magazine (1796): "…the hearse ‘was met by 8 gentlemen’s coaches and 6 mourning coaches.’"
21Hewitt, John. Collected Poems. Ed. Frank Ormsby. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1991. 94-95.
The reference in the final stanza to a "white horse"
refers to the traditional tale "Oisín in Tir na nÓg,” in which Oisín’s beloved Niamh gives him her white horse, Embarr, and warns him not to dismount on his journey back to his homeland. He forgets her admonition, and then ages 300 years and dies. The line "tinker’s son" may be from a traditional ballad with that title, regarding a poor-born maker of "potcheen" (poitín), the very potent Irish moonshine.