Iceland is a liminal place. People who normally never get lost find their internal compass suddenly on the fritz. They find themselves lost in thought and wander off, inexplicably drawn into caves and toward water.
While visiting Dimmuborgir, a few of us decided to visit this cave. As I climbed the steps, I found myself drifting further and further away. Upon arriving at the mouth of the cave, I found myself drawn toward the back and began to walk forward. My companions had to coax me back. Dazed, I arrived at the top of the steps and realized I was not myself. Thankfully, by the time I reached the bottom, I was once again grounded in the present and able to orient myself.
These sort of experiences are not at all uncommon in Iceland, which is why you need to keep your wits about you and not wander off alone.
Faces everywhere you look
Making their home in the rock
Invisible to many
who choose to remain oblivious
Ignore the warning signs
and wander where none should tread
Fearless where fear would serve them well
Standing in front of a wall of rock
A thousand faces staring back at you
Not exactly an exchange
A misstep could lead
to an untimely end
"Here the Seeker, as a hawk, flies into the heart of their own darkness. Into Aisling, dream-vision. There to seize the nut of wisdom and exit with the dream-secret intact."
This statue was carved out of sycamore by Michael Quirke, the Woodcarver of Sligo. I met Mr. Quirke in 2015 and had the honor of an hour-long visit, during which time I watched him work and listened to him retell the myths. Upon my return the following autumn, I spent yet another hour with him and requested this piece for my sacred space. It remains one of my most treasured belongings.
One of my enemies ended my life
sapped my world strength, afterward soaked me
wetted in water
set me in the sun, where soon I lost
the hairs which I had
and then the hard knife edge cut me
Fingers folded me, and feather of bird
traced all over my tawny surface
with drops of delight
Then, for trappings a man
bound me with boards, bent hide over me
glossed me with gold, and so I glistened
wondrous in smithwork, wire encircled
Say what I am called
Useful to man
Mighty my name is
A help to heroes, and holy am I
Each footfall carried her further into the past
the cobblestone under her feet
filling her with a sense of awe
to still her mind
but not abandoned
Companions and adversaries
grand inspirations and hushed conversations
echo through the ages
spiritually inspired artistry
Survivor of raids and wars
decorated with indigo, lead, and copper
now speaks quietly from beneath a class enclosure
The human tide
moving ever forward
building up momentum
stilling her mind
wishing them away
She stands among
the ancient texts
piled to the ceiling
by marble busts
and the spirits of those who once were
The circuit completed
she steps out into the sun
Not someone you’d want to meet, the Washer at the Ford. The Bean Nighe. Certainly not someone you’d want in charge of your laundry. For if she sets to washing for you, it is your burial garb she’s fretting over. It is said that the Bean Nighe are the spirits of women who died in childbirth, cursed to this work until the time when they would have died naturally.
Playwright Gavin Kostick uses themes drawn from Celtic Mythology to bring forward a story that takes place in contemporary Irish society. A brilliant, raw, visceral portrayal of a family both brought together by tragedy and torn apart tragically.
“A dead man’s room overlooking the sea. With bruised hearts and shredded reputations, three siblings sift through the rubble of their crumbling family empire, each attempting to steer their own course to survival. Putting fortunes at stake and with no one to trust, family bonds are pushed to their limits. Do we shape our own destiny, or are the sins of previous generations – and their repercussions – an inescapable fate for those left behind?”
I am no stranger to live theatre, having seen everything from small local shows to expensive, full scale productions. “At The Ford” takes its place among some of the best performances I’ve seen. Even those unfamiliar with the mythology will identify with the underlying themes, brought to life by Aonghus Óg McAnally, Rachel O’Byrne, and Ian Toner.
The New Theatre is located in the old Temple Bar area of Dublin. You access it by walking through Connolly Books, an amazing bookshop that I wish I’d taken the time to return to. I am sure if I had, I would have made some marvelous discoveries.
hanging on by a thread
but hanging on
She sits facing the mouth of the cave, accepting Her challenge. She is not afraid. She feels a deep reverence for Her and the work that is ahead. She can feel Her. There is no question She is there. Even if she hadn't felt Her breath, heard Her whisper, she would have known it.
You will be cold. Chilled to the bone. Brought to the cusp of death, sat at the precipice, pushed to the edge. You will have to make your way back. Kicking and screaming, if need be.
She remained there long after The Morrigan had taken Her leave. Until she saw some movement out of the corner of her eye. A young boy appeared with a small rabbit. She rose and quietly approached.
"Would you like to hold it?", he whispered
"Yes.", she whispered back.
She stood holding the rabbit. It was warm, cozy, and soft. Quite the contrast to the encounter with Her, only moments before and yet, somehow fitting.
Thank you for this gift.
My introduction to Oscar Wilde was in the form of two animated short films - "The Selfish Giant" and "The Happy Prince". Growing up in rural Alberta, we only had three tv channels and one of them was French, which is why I am astounded that I had the opportunity to see them at all. I can't recall when exactly, but I do know that I watched them every year around the same time. Something tells me it was during the holiday season, but I could be mistaken.
At any rate, both films entranced me. Although I could recite the narration by heart, I was still brought to tears every single time.
Later, I saw an adaptation of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and once again found myself drawn in. What is it about Oscar Wilde's work that has not only survived, but continued to thrive over 100 years later? What is it about the man that intrigues and delights us so?
No literary tour of Dublin would be considered complete without including Oscar Wilde. I was giddy as a school girl (funny how he still has that effect on people, wouldn't he be thrilled?). Not only did I see (and touch!) the statue, but I also stood in front of his residence, which is located directly across the street.
I also had the opportunity to visit Trinity College, Dublin - where Oscar Wilde (among others) studied. I'll tell you all about it later. In the meantime, thanks to YouTube, you can watch "The Selfish Giant" here:
and "The Happy Prince" here:
I wouldn't be much of a writer if I didn't bring home a book or two from my Bardic Journey, would I?
I was completely captivated with "The Eve of St Agnes", a breathtaking stained glass masterpiece on display at Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. Created by Irish artist, Harry Clarke, it was inspired by the John Keats poem of the same name and commissioned by Mr Harold Jacob for his father's home.
I stood before the display for some time and (because the photos I took didn't nearly do it justice) was delighted to find this book in their gift shop. You can learn more about it here :
I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon shopping in Sligo and absolutely loved it there! I was told to be on the lookout for this book, so naturally I scooped up a copy as soon as I saw it.
I also found this! If you take the time to chat with any of the residents of Sligo, they will tell you about the myths and legends centered around the area. The Goddess is very much alive there and is kept alive, thanks to those who share these stories!
I bought both books from Libre, a fabulous shop! http://liber.ie/
Last, but most certainly not least...
I had the pleasure of meeting Lora O'Brien, who guided us on a tour of Rathcroghan. We started at Rathcroghan Mound, where Medb, Queen of Connacht is said to have lived. Then we ventured to The Morrigan's Cave (a journey not for the faint of heart I can assure you). Both of which I will tell you more about another time. For now, I will say that Lora is an excellent resource not only regarding the land, but the mythology associated with it. I hope to one day buy her a pint so that we can chat about it in greater detail. I am certain she has many great stories to tell!
I purchased my copy from Lora directly, but you can find her books (as well as her blog) on her website. http://www.loraobrien.com/
I very much look forward to diving into these and will certainly write up a review for each once I've had a chance to do so. Meanwhile, stay tuned for more posts and pics from my Bardic Journey to Ireland!