Thursday, December 14, 2017

Just a photo album from Dunfanaghy







We have been settling in to our new house in Dunfanaghy, sorting out how to get the trash picked up (Fridays) and if we can walk to the beach from here. (Probably.) This post does not contain philosophical explorations of Co. Donegal's considerable heritage, monuments, or any other craic. Just a few photos of where we are now, for family and friends.




Farewell to Glasslake Cottage. 


We took two days to drive from Kerry to Donegal, 4 hours each day. 
Pippin had his cockpit between us, and was not too bored. 



We stayed at the Ardilaun in Galway, a very nice hotel that goes out of its way to be dog-friendly. Pippin had a gift basket, and we didn't! Dinner is served in a pleasant lobby, dogs and their beds, welcomed. 


The first night's fire. 




Pippin snuggles down. 
Typical weather.
What we used to get in Santa Cruz this time of year. 

But more hail than I've ever known.
Artemis cooks food for Pippin and he nearly loses his mind.
There are "seven sister" mountains in Donegal. Muckish on the left, Errigal on the right. Have not yet been introduced to the others. This photo was taken at 2:30 in the afternoon. I love how low in the sky the sun is at this time of year.
Our beach, Horn Head in the distance. 
Muckish, from Ards Forest Park. 
Mt. Errigal. We took a drive last Sunday and our jaws literally dropped. Quite embarrassing. 


An excellent "fairy door" in Ards Forest Park.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving Thanks for Kerry

This weekend it's farewell to County Kerry for us. On Monday we're moving to the beautiful village of Dunfanaghy (dun-FAN-a-he) in Co. Donegal. We decided to move there because it too is beautiful, and sparsely populated, and home to lovely people—yet quite different from Kerry.


Ordinance map of Dunfanaghy area. It's the journey, not the destination.


These last few weeks, we've been making a few final visits to our favorite places. Wednesday, we visited St. Gobnait's Shrine in Ballyvourney. As you can see from the photo, she was as emotional about it as we were. Her healing spirit and technical prowess will inspire me always. 

One last time I kissed the Ballyvourney stone, and jumped through the window as I asked the sheela-na-gig to bless my creativity. Artemis asked me later if the sensation of the Ballyvourney stone stays on my lips for the rest of the day, and I said that it did.  


The new Sheela that emerging in lichen is still there. Can you see her? 


Mushrooms on a stump near the lower well at St. Gobnait's. 

Also this week I finally visited a monument that I've seen on the map for months, right down the road from our house. 


Class: Stone row
Townland: DERREENAULIFF
Scheduled for inclusion in the next revision of the RMP: Yes

Description: This site is located on the crest of a NE-SW ridge which is flanked on W and S by the Bunnow river and overlooks Kenmare Bay to S. It consists of a three-stone row, 5.1m to NE of which is an enclosure. The stone row is 3.1m long and is orientated NE-SW. The stone at NE stands 1.7m high, inclines slightly to SW, and measures .45m x .2m at base. The second stone, .45m to the SW, leans heavily to NW; it measures 1.3m x .54m x .3m. A large prostrate stone, 2.35m x .6m x .4m, lies 1.05m to SW. When erect, it may have been the tallest stone in the row.
The adjacent enclosure may be a kerb circle, as defined by Lynch (1979, 2). It is a roughly circular area, 7.25m N-S x 6.7m E-W, which is delineated by a kerb of contiguous upright slabs enclosing a low pile of boulders, small stones and quartz. The orthostats, many of which incline outwardly, average .9m high and .8m x .2m at base. A field boundary incorporates some of the slabs at SW, and a gap at NW is obscured by overgrowth. The enclosure is marked 'Killeen Burial Ground' on both editions of the OS maps.
It is locally reputed that a rock with 'ancient writing' is located in the vicinity of the stone row. A search for this potential monument proved unsuccessful

I didn't find a rock with "ancient writing" on it either, darn it. But the circle was heavily overgrown with gorse and brambles, so maybe it is still there. 


Kerb circle of Derreenauliff

I didn't know what a "kerb circle" is, so I looked them up. 

Kerb circleA series of low orthostats set with their long axes on the circumference of a circular enclosed space of diameter c. 3-22m. The interior is usually devoid of any structure or other remains. They are associated with Bronze Age ritual monuments (c. 2400-500 BC). Kerb Circles are so called because it’s thought they may have enclosed and supported a stone Cairn or earth mound.

There clearly is a low circle around larger stones in the center. Perhaps if I had found it earlier in the summer I would have had time to ask permission to clear it and spend a long time among the stones.  


The stone row from the middle of the circle.

These kerb circles aren't sun circles like the others that I've written about that appear to predict astronomical events. These are the remains of a building or cairn. I didn't see any signs of a cilleen, but the spot is lovely, with a view of the Bay, and this little corner of Ireland called Derreenauliff. 
Looking toward Kenmare Bay from the middle of the circle.

The stone row was as magnificent and magical as any Stone Row in a guidebook, and here it is, unknown to all the megalithic websites, just at the end of our little country lane. 




Somehow, we're going force ourselves to leave all this. We have devised a few lures. First, since it's an eight hour drive from here to Dunfanaghy, we'll stop overnight in Galway.  Artemis found a four-star hotel that allows pets but costs about the same as a two-star. We like nice hotels.

To make the trip go faster, we'll be listening to a few Irish cultural podcasts. Story Archaeology examines Irish mythology and literature using tools of linguistics, history, worldwide folklore. The question has been asked many times of why Irish mythology hasn't been mined for modern retellings like other cultures. I certainly don't understand it.  The Irish History Podcast is a podcast that I've only recently started listening to. The current series is about the 19th-Centure British Genocide in Ireland. It's well written, with lots of first-person sources that must take forever to compile. I love it and am glad I'm only finding out about it recently because there are hours and hours of it. Finally, Blúiríní Béaloidis / Folklore Fragments, is released monthly by the National Folklore Collection at UCD. I now have a healthy appreciation for fairy forts, and know more about Lughnasa than ever before. The next podcast will be about The Moon. 

So that's what I'm thinking about today: our continuing Irish adventure, and our friends back home who are celebrating Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is just a Thursday in Ireland, but I'm no less thankful. 


It never gets old. 







Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Radical Ruins

Roofless stone cottages are common in Kerry, but from the highway between Castle Cove and Caherdaniel, you can see what looks like the ruins of an entire village. One local told me a legend that people who lived there ran away from their homes after being haunted by a neighbor they had cruelly exiled. Now that I know the real story, there could be some truth to that other one.





You can begin at Village Kitchen in Sneem, which overlooks the river and is a very nice place to eat apple pie outside. From your table there you will see the plaque on the churchyard wall commemorating "Gobnait Ni Bhrudair, Feminist Revolutionary (1861-1955).”




I've seen plaques and statues of Ireland's female heros now and then, but like everywhere else in the world, public monuments to real women are rare in Ireland.



Her grave is just on the other side of the plaque, under that tall celtic cross in the churchyard.

Gobnait Ni Bruadair (sometimes spelled Bhruadair or Brudair) renamed herself in the middle of her long life. According to online dictionaries her new surname name could refer to "dreams" or indicate "an impudent person." Her first name was in honor of St. Gobnait, the healing Abbess of Ballyvourney with whom I have had many, many, encounters this summer.

When she was born, her parents named her Albinia Lucy Brodrick. Her father was the 8th Viscount Midleton and both parents were well-connected English aristocracy. The Midleton estates were in the rich farmland of East Cork. Albinia first visited Ireland with her father in his annual visits. He nearly was blind, and she assisted him in his public and private business. Later she worked as an assistant to her uncle, and then her brother, until she was in her early 40s. She never married, and around 1903 become estranged from her family for reasons that are not publically known.

But that year she moved to Dublin and studied midwifery, qualifying in 1905. At that time she joined Gaelic League and studied Irish language. Beyond her work as a nurse, she advocated for professional training for nurses. In 1907 she was Chief Steward of the International Congress of Nurses. She known as a feminist who spoke frankly about birth control, venereal disease, and women’s suffrage.


Her ambition, idealism, and forward-thinking views did not engender official support for her next project. She moved to a poor and remote area of Co. Kerry, and changed her name to Gobnait Ni Bruadair. She purchased 13 acres west of Sneem, and named it Ballincoona (Baile an Chúnaimh or "Home of Help"). She built a hospital where it was needed most, an area where to this day has no hospital. She is recorded as saying “I am doing penance for my grandfather. He was a tyrant in the days of the famine."

The hospital. Photograph from the exhibit about Gobnait Ni Bhuadair at the Geopark Centre, Sneem. 

By 1912 she had spent her inheritance on construction and improving the land, and had no money left to actually run it. As Ireland was still part of Great Britain in WWI, she offered the hospital to the British military, but they refused, saying it was too remote.


I've been told the Co-op was the building on the right. 
On the same land she founded the Kilcrohane Cooperative society, based on the program of her friend Horace Plunkett. The cooperative movement was controversial, as co-ops lowered prices for consumers, but competed with producers who wanted to keep prices high. The co-op at Ballincoona lasted until the 1940s, but doesn't seem to have been very successful.

During that same World War that might have provided Gobnait's hospital with patients and a government contract, revolutionaries declared an Irish Republic on Easter Sunday, 1916, in an event known as The Rising. Gobnait supported the Rising, joining the Irish Republican women's organization, Commann na mBan. After the World War, Ireland fought a War of Independence from 1919 to 1921. That war ended in a treaty, which caused an Irish civil war between factions that supported the treaty (Free Staters), and others who did not support its terms, which included a partitioned island. Gobnait supported the anti-treaty side. During the Civil War she was wounded when she ran a checkpoint on her bicycle. She was then arrested and jailed in Dublin, where she went on a hunger strike like other republicans. As she was in her 60s, this threatened her life, and she was released after a few weeks.



The hospital today. 



During the Civil War, she dismantled the roof of her hospital to avoid its use as a garrison by Free State forces. She sent its contents to a hospital in India. The buildings fell into the ruin that we see today. Although she no longer had her own hospital, she was active in reforming others, for example, the Killarney Mental Hospital, where she pioneered new policies such as not calling it a "lunatic asylum" and training nurses in the needs of the mentally ill.


She was active in building her new country, and maintained her political views. She was elected to the Kerry County Council before the War of Independence had even ended, but resigned near the end of the Civil War over the execution of republican prisoners, who she held should have been considered prisoners of war. She maintained membership in the Cumman na mBan, but resigned in 1933 along with many other original members because of its refocus on social issues rather than the “national question” of ending the partition of Ireland. She worked as a journalist, and was editor of the Sinn Féin newspaper, Saoirse between 1926 to 1937.  





She lived near Sneem until she died, in poverty. Locally she was legendary for her thrift, wearing shoes until they fell apart, selling eggs for tea, traveling on her bicycle. She died in 1954 at nearly 94 years of age, leaving her property to republicans "as they were in the years 1919 to 1921.” Her will was eventually ruled invalid, but her intent was as clear and consistent as ever.


This photo is posted outside the Gobnait Ni Bhudair exhibit. The sign refers to Gobnait's sister's daughter who married an Austrian, had several children, and died young. The children needed a governess, and a musical was born.
I can find no further information about the photograph.


Who hasn't wished to give our final estate to those people who hold on to the pure ideals of our earliest conversion? Gobnait reminds me of women I have known, women who changed their name at mid-life to mark their rebirth; women who spent their daddy's money to atone for his abuse; the converted zealots who embarrasses everyone with impractical, unpopular, and culturally insensitive philanthropy. I wonder if I would have drunk tea at her table and dug her potatoes, or was she too impulsive and controlling to be anyone's close friend? Was she a dreamer? or an impudent person? She haunts me.


I wish I could have met her, instead of this mannequin at the museum. 
The factual info in this post is sourced from an exhibition at the Sneem Geopark Centre, created by its administrator, Julie O'Conner. I also used an article by Martin Mansergh published in the Sneem Parish News (not available online). If not from their work, then material was found via various easily searchable online sources.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Circles and Friends

At the end of August we received the happy news that Ireland is allowing us to stay for a year, instead of the 90 days for tourists. Artemis and I were just saying the other day that we have loved every single minute of living here. 

We don't miss anything about our lives in the US except our friends. So I've been thinking a lot about friends. Friends are a lot like the stone circles of South-West Ireland.

The good ones are hard to find.


Gurteen stone circle

I mentioned before about finding Gurteen stone circle, and how even with GPS coordinates they sometimes remain hidden until you are right next to them.



We were taken to a stone circle by the amazing Teresa Collins in a sacred sites tour of West Cork a few weeks ago. There are more than a 100 stone circles in Cork, and most of them are not signed from the road. Teresa took us to one of these, the Bohonaugh ("Bo-naw") stone circle near Rosscarbery. (Here's a link to the Megalithic Ireland description of Bohonagh.)
I have no idea where this circle is because this day we were not driving or navigating ourselves. I very cleverly dropped a pin into my phone maps when we were there so that I could find it again, but alas, it wasn't there when I looked for it later, and it has never shown itself on my phone again.

As you approach a new one, you feel fear, elation, and a confusion of both.


We approached from the west, climbing a gentle hill through the cow pasture, fields of green all around, but no circle or even stones of any kind. Suddenly, the circle appeared ahead of us on the near horizon.


Its stones are unusual. One of them is entirely white quartz, and two of the tall ones are run through with veins of quartz. 


They are the kind of pretty stone you might pick up on the beach, except that they are 2 meters high. Teresa encouraged us to stand with our backs to each of them, feeling the energy, and how the energy of each of them is different.




They tell you things about yourself that you never expected. 


She also suggested that we lie down on our bellies in the center of the circle and listen to a message. I did, and was told simply that I am where I am supposed to be. Nothing new there, thankfully.

The dolman is visible just between those two pillars on the right. 

Just outside the circle is a dolman. Recently there has been debate among the archeologists about dolmans. Are they boulder burials? or are they something else that people happened to get buried under? A similar question would be: is the purpose of a church a place of worship, or is it to sanctify the cemetery? Experts disagree.

Teresa's view is that stone circles are of earth, and dolmans are of sky. She suggested doing what I never thought of before, which is to lie on your back on a dolman to receive the sky messages. I asked later "like a satellite dish?" and she said that she'd never thought of it that way, but that would be a good analogy.

One of us, not me, on the dolman. 


When it was my turn to lie on the dolman, I expected that I would have a pleasant few moments of meditation, but I did not expect what happened, which was a vivid closed-eye visual of a magenta light pouring down on me. I got the sense it was a test pattern indicating: 


"See this? magic is real. Stand by for more transmissions."

You can't just follow directions and find them.


Cashelkeelty stone circle is located on the Beara Way, a popular hiking trail, and the directions toward it include a car park on a main road, so I had every expectation that finding Cashelkeelty stone circle would be a cinch.


I did not read the megalithomania listing before going, because of the usual fog that comes over me when researching these places. I just trusted to the idiosyncrasies of Meehan's Sacred Ireland. Because it seemed like it would be a cinch. 


I suggest reading the The Mega-What listing for this circle,  and all the other ones, because that site is well organized and its author has calculated the solar holiday aspects, relating stones in the circle to locations on the horizon. The author also categorizes circles as "multi-stone" or "five stone." 

Uragh stone circle. Not otherwise described in this post, but a lovely five-stone circle with pillar. 


Stone circles of SW Ireland have always an odd-number of stones, and the smallest ones have five. The author of this site proposes that the five-stone circles are an early example of a technology being miniaturized as it evolves. I'm sure experts disagree. 

The path to Cashelkeelty stone circle. 

The instructions said: "from the car park, pass over the wall, through the forest, and past the waterfall to the track." There was no wall anymore, the path divided several times, but along a stream, and is that the waterfall? or is it was further along? and now the path is leading toward a wall, is that the wall? and then our party split up to scout, and I marched a kilometer up a hill and then suddenly I was alone at the top of a mountain, just me and a 5-stone circle, the wind, and the sky. 


Cashelkeelty stone circle, with stone row behind it.


Some of best ones connect you with new ones and amazing adventures.

Note the Racah Way sign, taking you to the murderer's den. 
On the way to Cashelkeelty, we saw a sign for a stone circle that we hadn't heard of before: Shronebirrane. 


We drove down a long narrow lane to the end of a narrow valley. Just the kind of place where outlaws hid out. 

In fact, there is a famous story about a murderer who hid for months in this small valley, a murderer known as The Rábac. 

The Rábac, whose surname was O'Sullivan like everyone else in this part of the Beara, was a member of a family known for being "active" which perhaps means "criminal." An unfortunate sailor came to their door, and asked to spend the night. The family conspired to murder him and take his money.

As The Rábac slit the sailor's throat in the middle of the night, a woman passing the window on her way to the well witnessed his dark deed. She was troubled by this knowledge for a long time. She didn't want to tell anyone because she knew that The Rábac would slit her throat. But she continued to be troubled by her conscience, and couldn't make a good act of contrition, so she asked her Priest what she should do. The priest told her to tell everyone what she had seen so that all her sins could be absolved.

Sure enough, soon after she told her tale and word got around, as she ascended the mountain to milk the cows, with a spancel in her hand, the Rábac grabbed the spancel from her. A spancel is a bit of rope used to hobble a cow as you milk it in the field. The Rabac put the spancel around the woman's throat and tried to choke her to death, saying "Now I will have my revenge for telling."

He choked her, and caused her great pain, but she would not die. Why not? Because she was wearing a brown scapula. (A scapula is a bit of string with two felt rectangles at either end, worn around the neck for protection. When I was given one as a child, I was told that I couldn't die if I were wearing it.)  The woman asked The Rábac to take off the scapula. He did, and he could then kill her. So he killed her. 

However, there was a man minding sheep nearby, and he witnessed The Rábac choking the woman who witnessed to the murder of the sailor. He kept the story to himself for twenty years. But then, when he was injured in a mine accident and on his deathbed, he confessed to a priest that he had witnessed the murder by The Rábac long ago. The priest told him to make the story public, which he did. And then he died of his injuries. 

The Rábac left the village, and hid away in the hills for nine months in a place known as The Rábac's Den. One of the sons of the murdered woman, who was grown by now, put the new information about his mother's murder together with what was well-known about The Rábac, and told the guards that the murderer would be visiting his family at Christmas. Or maybe the story was that he would be visiting his family when his child was to be born. No matter. The guards surrounded the house, and the son of the murdered woman went in with a four-pronged pike. The Rábac, who also had a pike, attacked the son, but the son wrenched the pike out of The Rábac's hands, and the guards rushed in and arrested him. The Rábac was taken away to Tralee and hanged until dead. 


Now, wasn't that a great story? Didn't you learn something useful about the advice of priests? You can read one version of the story here on Duchas.ie. Where was I? 

Yes, Shronebirrane stone circle. 

We drove down the Drimminboy Valley to the end of the road, and there in the backyard of a perfectly prosaic 1970s bungalow is the Shronebirrane stone circle. It's on private land, and at some point in the past the landowners have asked people to pay a little money to trespass closer to the circle, and to visit an old village further up into the mountains. We weren't sure what the deal was, and nobody seemed to be around, so we ate a lovely little cheese and apple tailgate picnic and observed the circle from the road. 

Here is a link to the Megalithic Ireland entry about Shronebirrane. The entry at Mega-What describes tons of celestial correspondences between stones and sunsets, but I'm not interested enough to work it out. 

They are a mystery. No one knows where they came from.

I guess I could get interested, but these days I'm satisfied with not learning very much on the science side of things. I have read through the Mega-What site, and learned a few things that make sense given what I've observed. Stone circles are found on low hilltops with the horizon all around.  I've read speculation that Neolithic magic happens underground, like in passage tombs, but in the later Bronze age, people turned their attention to the sky instead of the earth. The site has an explanation of what the author calls the Megalithic solar calendar, which predicts seasons and probably is related to agricultural activity, and the Megalithic lunar calendar, which predicts eclipses and is related to political activity. (See my post "Predicting the Eclipses." Is any of this accurate? Who knows? 


Some are manicured, tamed, popular, and ultimately not satisfying.



Tourist materials claim Kenmare stone circle is the largest stone circle in south-west Ireland. Biggest doesn't mean best. But it was the first one I met, and for thousands of people it may be the only one they ever meet, and I would never want to keep the experience from them. I feel the same about those giant tour buses. If this is the only way people can visit Kerry then I won't disparage it.  It's just... not optimal. 


The Kenmare stone circle can be hard to find, even though there are more signs now and it's just at the edge of town,  just a short walk from Kenmare Square. When I first visited it about ten years ago, you could see how it was built on a low hill between two rivers, with the horizon all around. 


But someone planted a shrubbery around it, and blocked the view of the hills, clearly not understanding that stone circles are about the horizon, not the stones. Perhaps they are keeping it out of sight so that those who have paid €2 know they have received something for their money that they couldn't get otherwise.

Sometimes good ones are right there in your own backyard.

Another stone circle that many people visit is near Kenmare, in Bonane on the road toward Bantry. I've written about this stone circle before, because we watched the Summer Solstice sunrise from it. It was discovered recently. 

This circle is simple to find because it is among other wonders at the Bonane (bo-nawn) Heritage Park. As they say, on their website, while there are stone circles, ring forts, famine ruins, bullan stones, standing stones, and fulacht fiadh all over Ireland, rarely does one find them all within a few acres, accessible via a gravelled walking path, and only €4. (It's only missing a ruined Abbey to make the collection complete.)


When the circle was rediscovered in the 1990s, it was still in the forestry. You can read on their website how Danny O'Conner discovered the circle, or better, listen to him tell his story here.



Once You Know and Love Them, You Will Always Miss Them.

Ourselves at Drombeg stone circle.  

This post is about stone circles because I'm missing my friends. We will soon be missing stone circles too because it looks like we will be leaving Kerry in a few weeks and moving to a part of Ireland that doesn't have as many. More about that soon. 

Publishing this post was delayed because after I had written most of it a few weeks ago, I clicked something on the webpage I was composing it on and it suddenly reverted to the very first rough draft. I have no idea how that could happen. Except that perhaps I was writing about things that should have been left unwritten. So this post contains What Is Allowed, to Keep All Things In Right Relationship.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Everything I May Write About St. Gobnait and Hints at What I Can't.




All summer, St. Gobnait has been our constant companion. She's one of the popular saints in this part of Ireland, water from her well cures cancer, and she's the matron of beekeepers and metal workers (with whom I include techies like me). Her shrine in Ballyvourney is on the way to Cork so we stop there as often as we can. 

To recap the story so far: in "A Few Things I Like About Ireland," I wrote of visiting St. Gobnait's shrine for the first time. Since then, we have visited St. Gobnait's Wood, and kissed the Ballyvourney Stone. 

To help you picture this lovely hillside, Voices from the Dawn has provided us with 360 photos of the shrine, as well as research into sheela-na-gig of Ireland. (If you want to read a interesting travel blogs about her shrine, try this one by an Australian woman and this one from a blog about pilgrimages.  

St. Gobnait's shrine offers us two wells. One is near her "house," next to her statue. The other is hidden down the road. Last month Artemis hadn't seen the lower well yet, so we stopped to visit it. 


When we arrived, a young family were there with their prayers and cups, so we slipped through a sheepgate and explored the abandoned farm that lies between the burial ground and the well. 



This ruin is sad and magnificent, with wide stone arches, slate shingles, and an entry with leaded glass windows. 


An old tractor rusts next to a grand doorway, and in the yard great industrial rakes and dangerous flails decay under nettles and berries. 

The name of this townland is "glebe," which is the name of farmland given for the support of clergy of Church of Ireland, so perhaps that is why this house is overbuilt, and has space for carriages to be stored just beyond that arch. There are other "glebe houses" in Ireland, and they are all a bit more posh than the remote location would indicate. 

We soon returned to the well, where we sat quietly, absorbed the peacefulness, and took a sip of water. 






Just as we were about to leave, up walked four women of about our age, with that look about them that said they were not Catholics. We later learned that the women were on a tour lead by Teresa Collins. They invited us to join them. 

Teresa suggested that as it was Lughnasa, now was the time to ask Gobnait to show us something. 

"You kneel here," she instructed in that way that Irish people often do, sharing their knowledge of how to get things done. "And put your head inside, until you see what she has to show you." Each woman did so, and reported what she saw. 

"Of course the first thing you see is the Goddess, and that is yourself." We all agreed that we were goddesses. Then we sang a few lines of Starhawk's Well Chant. 

we will never
never lose our way
to the well
of her memory

and the power
of her living flame
it will riseit will rise again


We followed Teresa and the other women up the hill to the statue that overlooks her shrine. 

Now here is where something happened that always happens. This is why I remember that there is more in this world than we know, and there are Others present that we do not at first see. I thought to start a recording of what was about to happen, so that I wouldn't take mental notes, and could immerse myself in whatever was about to happen. When we were done and leaving, I found that the recording was paused, and nothing was recorded at all. Perhaps next time, I will remember not to bother with technology when encountering the sacred. (Neither Artemis nor I took any photographs; the photos here we took on other visits.)


We started at Gobnait's statue, carved by Seamus Murphy, Ireland's great stone carver. Teresa showed us how Gobnait's stories are symbolized there on her statue. Herself is depicted as a nun, with the deer, bee, book, and ball carved into the beehive she stands on. 


We walked over to Gobnait's house, where Teresa said Gobnait lived with 22 nuns. She led us in a ritual with honey, and we listened to the birds, the birds that have always been there on that hillside, for 1500 years as women tasted the sweetness of honey in this sacred place. 



Class
: Hut site
Townland: GLEBE (Muskerry West By., Ballyvourney Par.)
Scheduled for inclusion in the next revision of the RMP: Yes

Description: Circular hut site, c. 30m W of Ballyvourney graveyard (CO058-034003-), known locally as St. Gobnait's House; excavated by M.J. O'Kelly in 1951 (O'Kelly 1952, 18-40). Excavation showed two periods of occupation with little or no interval between. Firstly, rectangular wooden house (or houses) built 'by persons interested in iron smelting' (ibid., 36). Due to dampness this structure cleared away and area raised 6ins. On this was built circular structure with floor diameter of 20ft; wall 5ft wide with inner and outer stone facing and rubble core. Door faced S and retained by two large jambstones (CO058-034002-), mistakenly marked 'Galláin' on 1940 OS 6-inch map. Roof probably of thatch. Numerous pits in interior, associated with iron smelting debris. Among the finds recovered were items associated with metal working, like crucibles and tuyere fragments (Edwards 1990, 87); domestic items included a spindle whorl, 5 iron knives and fragments of whet stones and querns. The only decorative finds were an iron bead and a jet bracelet. No dating evidence recovered. Well (CO058-034011-) (diam. 18ins; D 2ft 6ins), 6ft S of door of house, thought to be contemporary with it; now reconstructed with stone surround and two steps leading down to water; venerated as holy well (O'Kelly 1952, 20). Hut site is conserved and now first station in local pilgrimage of St. Gobnait.
(The Government of Ireland has made available the Historic Environment Viewer where I found these descriptions.)


St. Gobnait is known to us through folklore. Folklore is not history, nor is it literature. Folklore is about the present storyteller, her time and her concerns, as much as it a tale from the past. No one bothers to tell an old story if it has no bearing on the present. Teresa told us many stories, some I already knew, and I loved how she told them in her own way, for her own purposes. After learning that recording failed, I made notes on what I remembered after we left that day, but even now I don't want to retell Teresa's stories, or detail every sacred thing we did there. Some mysteries are to be experienced, and those of us who are lucky to have encountered them can only extend an encouragement to say yes when invited along. 


The upper well.

We left Gobnait's house, passed through the deer gate, and Teresa led us to the place called St. Gobnait's grave. 
The white deer gate, a Church of Ireland, the Cork countryside. 

Teresa explained that Pagans tend to leave flowers, and Christians tend to leave rosaries. 






Students leave a pen when they pray for help with exams, and smokers leave lighters when they pray for her help in quitting. 

"It says 'kneel and pray,' "said Teresa, so we took turns kneeling and praying. There are two bullan stones on the grave. Archeologists say bullan stones are associated with metalworking, where stones were ground up before smelting. 


Class: Penitential station
Townland: GLEBE (Muskerry West By., Ballyvourney Par.)
Scheduled for inclusion in the next revision of the RMP: Yes

Description: Situated between ruin of Ballyvourney church (CO058-034007-) and hut site (CO058-034001-) and, with them, marking stations in the pilgrimage of St. Gobnait (Harbison 1991, 133-6). Known locally as St. Gobnait's Grave (O'Kelly 1952, 38). Monument consists of a sod-covered mound of loosely-packed stones (4m N-S; 5.6m E-W; H 1.3m). At the top is a flat slab of sandstone marked with roughly incised pilgrim crosses. On S side, below this, is flat slab set as a "kneeler", on the upper surface of which is cup-mark depression (diam. 0.2m). Close by are two bullaun fragments (CO058-034005-).


Teresa says that the bullan stones are bowls for women's offerings. "Women give back to the goddess what they are given," she says. "They are given fertility and give back to the goddess in the form of menstrual blood."

Seems like both stories could be true. None of us was about to give back any blood, but I got the feeling Teresa was giving us an instruction, should we feel the gratitude. 











Teresa gestured to the burial ground, saying, "Murphy, Lynch, O'Herlihy, and Twomy are the most common surnames in this area, and Abby the most common first name. Abby means Gobnait, for Gobnait is the Irish name for Abigail."










Teresa showed us St. Gobnait's healing ball, secreted in the wall of the medieval chapel. She showed us how to stand in the window, touch the sheela-na-gig, then jump through the window to ask her to bring our desires to fruition. She showed us the crone's head above the altar, and encouraged us to sense her as we stood beneath it. She revealed the corner where a bit of altar from St. Gobnait's own church is preserved. She showed us the neolithic tomb next to the church. She told us many stories, and I'm lucky to have heard them. 



"The Crone," also known as "the black thief." It is an ornament from Gobnait's church
that was preserved and placed here when building the medieval church. 



The Sheela-na-gig of St. Gobnait's Shrine










In this corner of the medieval church is a
fragment of the altar from St. Gobnait's church. 


Class: Church
Townland: GLEBE (Muskerry West By., Ballyvourney Par.)
Scheduled for inclusion in the next revision of the RMP: Yes

Description: Near E end of graveyard (CO058-034003-); ruins of Ballyvourney parish church, known as Teampall Ghobnatan (O hEaluighthe 1952, 55) which, according to tradition, stands on site of St Gobnet's convent (O'Kelly 1952, 18). Church consists of nave (19.2m E-W; 9.25m N-S) with chancel (8.55m E-W; 6.55m N-S) added at E end; walls stand to full height, except upper part of E gable of chancel which has fallen. Nave entered by doorway, W of centre in S wall; only one stone of door jamb survives. Nave lit by simple slit window near W end of S wall and by pair of opposite windows, with cusped round-headed lights, near E end of N and S walls. On external face of lintel over latter window in S wall is a human figure, carved in false relief, which may possibly be a sheela-na-gig (CO058-034008-). In centre of W gable, c. 2m above present ground level, is lintelled doorway, facing inwards, as is slit window overhead; these imply former presence of structure against outside of W gable but only low wall, enclosing rectangular area, stands here now. This could be remains of 'steeple' which Smith (1750, vol. 1, 185) refers to as 'ready to fall with age'; by mid 19th century, this 'was a mere heap of stones' (O hEaluighthe ibid.). At E end of N wall of nave is shallow recess covered by segmental arch; opposite in S wall is small wall press. On W face of E gable of nave very worn carved human head projects; this was probably once voussoir in 12th-century Romanesque arch of earlier church; head known locally as 'an gadaidhe dubh' (Henry 1952, 41-2; O'Kelly 1952,37-8). Slightly off-centre, bluntly-pointed chancel arch; O'Kelly (1952, 37) noted jambs of chancel arch 'built of carefully squared blocks of brown sandstone set with such close joints that they bear the stamp of 12th century work'. Chancel lit by single-light windows in S and E walls, both showing signs of repair; present lintel over window light in E wall is reused head of twin ogee-headed light. Quoin at NE angle of nave inscribed with pattern 'which seems to be a Greek cross, but inscribed in a square frame' (Henry ibid.); this stone is unlikely to be in its original position and was probably part of fabric of Romanesque church (O'Kelly 1952, 29). Interior now filled with 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century burials. Church is part of pilgrimage route, with five stations located about ruin; in connection with this a number of electric lights have been affixed to walls of church. In 1993 PVC-windowed lean-to built against external face of N wall of nave, to accommodate donated set of stations of the cross.




We made a plan to see Teresa again in October when we will be joined by visitors from California, and we'll hear more stories. 

We visited St. Gobnait's shrine again the day after my birthday at the end of August. Different stuff happened that I'll hope to write down. That story ends in blood and fairies.