Home » A Druid's Blog » A Druid’s Web Log – June 2018 – A Sojourn in Ireland

A Druid’s Web Log – June 2018 – A Sojourn in Ireland

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This Moonth’s blog looks a bit different than most because I was just on the road for three weeks, in Ireland. I only got to go there because I won a free tour from Wild Routes Ireland, for which I am deeply grateful. I highly recommend them if you can go and please tell them I sent you!

Those who have read my books know that most of them are very Irish centered, Ireland has been my muse for decades.

I have been to Ireland three times and each journey had its own unique qualities. The first time the focus was on discovering the ancient archaeology and sacred sites. The second trip was all about the “troubles”, I spoke to Druids in Armagh during the marching season and was near Omagh when the huge bomb went off. On this most recent journey I glimpsed more of the ecological and economic reality of the island.

Ard Groom Stone Circle

Ard Groom Stone Circle

I began the journey by spending a week on a farm in Ballinasloe, County Galway, where a fascinating tree project is underway. The land owner is inviting people to plant “memorial trees” in the name of a loved one on a reclaimed bog. The eventual goal is to grow a native hardwood forest of trees, each one nourished by the scattered ashes of the dead. (If anyone is interested in having their ashes taken to Ireland please contact me privately).

I have learned that Ireland only has one percent of her native forests left. The cutting of Irish forests has been going on since the Neolithic farmers moved in but was accelerated by English colonial powers. These days the government has a really short-sighted scheme of taking common lands and handing them over to private companies for “tree plantations” of monoculture Sitka Spruce, a tree that is native to Alaska of all places. Walking inside one of those “plantations” is like a vision of Hell – nothing can grow under the trees because they are so thickly planted and the dark, dank understory is nothing but a dead zone. The trees were chosen because they grow fast and turn a quick profit.

In contrast, when you visit an intact old growth forest of native hardwoods there is a super abundance of life. Many tree species, shrubs, flowers, birds, deer, pine martins and other life abound. One begins to see how the Irish could have survived nicely in those forests; gathering abundant food, firewood and medicines. The loss of the forests has meant increased dependency on corporations for food, shelter and survival.

Lough Gur stone circle – entrance.

Lough Gur stone circle – entrance.

Something else I learned on this trip – cows are basically forest animals. It turns out that letting cows graze in a woodland produces wonderful milk. The cows graze on herbs and trees, even yew, with no ill effect. I remember seeing cave paintings of bison in Altamira and Lascaux and I knew that bison roamed the forests of ancient Europe but I just hadn’t made the cow connection.

There are groups working hard to stop the monoculture plantations of exotic trees. The Woodland League is one such association. Other groups are fighting to stop corporations from harvesting seaweed using heavy machinery that scrapes the sea bed, killing everything in its wake. Traditionally seaweed was harvested by hand and that remains the most sustainable way to manage things.

The Hag of Beara stone on the Beara peninsula.

The Hag of Beara stone on the Beara peninsula.

Legend has it that the Hag of Beara was banished into this stone by a monk. When I went there she whispered in my ear; “They could never put me into a stone. Don’t you know I am walking beside you?”

Another thing I understood is that Ireland was long the poorest country in Europe. The Republic of Ireland was only founded in 1937 – after a bloody war of independence with Britain followed by a civil war. In many ways Ireland is still recovering from those conflicts and from the eight hundred years of English occupation and plunder of natural resources before that.

Mullaghmore mountain, the Burren.

Mullaghmore mountain, the Burren.

Many homes still don’t have electricity and I found myself living the first week in a trailer with no electric power and no running water, which came as a bit of a shock as I was not forewarned. I was assured that I had come at a good time because until that week the area was a sea of mud! I had been invited to stay there to do ceremony on the land, a pretty big honor for a Yank.

I did a Land Blessing ritual for the Memorial Forest where I incorporated the ancient idea of milk offerings. That went so well that they asked me to do yet another ceremony – to bless the children.

A week or so later I went on the Wild Routes tour and experienced the opposite end of Irish culture. We stayed in some of the most luxurious digs I have ever experienced; a house with multiple living rooms and fire places and two cooks, and then an equine riding center that catered to riders of many nationalities.

Beltaine celebration at Uisneach, May 5, 2018. Photo by Ewelina Wu website ewelinawu.com Fb: @EwelinaWuDotCom

Beltaine celebration at Uisneach, May 5, 2018. Photo by Ewelina Wu website ewelinawu.com Fb: @EwelinaWuDotCom

Besides the natural beauty of Ireland’s west coast (who knew that Cork was so wild and breathtaking?) there were insights into the current politics of the island. Just a few years ago, Ireland voted to approve gay marriage and last week abortion. Amazing! I have a firm sense that the Catholic church is losing its vice grip.

In ancient times the status of women among the Celts was high and its seems the women are making a strong comeback in modern Irish culture. Goddess worship and strong female political involvement are everywhere.

Many thanks to Bob Thompson for permission to use his digital photographs. I took my own pictures with slide film (yes, I still have two Kodak projectors and screen!)

Ireland had a very hard winter this year and the hawthorns were weeks late in blooming. Coming home after our own record breaking winter here in New England (at the end of April there was still snow on the ground) the plants responded with a lushness I have not seen before. Things that haven’t bloomed in years are covered with blossoms and green growth. And there has been a chorus of wild turkeys coming from the woods behind the house, signs of fertility are everywhere.

BOOK NEWS

  • The Real Witches of New England is available for pre-order now!
    Here is a review found on Goodreads:Annarella‘s reviewJun 01, 2018it was amazingA very good book, full of interesting facts.This book is so well written that it can be read like a novel. Strongly recommended!

UPCOMING EVENTS

Below are the usual links for archaeology news, herbs, nature, climate, Celts, Fairies and more. Reminder – you can order my books from this website and receive a signed copy with a personal note! 

HERB NEWS

HEALTH NEWS

ARCHAEOLOGY NEWS

CLIMATE AND NATURE NEWS

RELIGION NEWS

CELTIC NEWS

FAIRY NEWS

POLITICS AND ETHICS

2 thoughts on “A Druid’s Web Log – June 2018 – A Sojourn in Ireland

  1. Tipi Dan says:

    Fascinating. Yes— the ubiquitous Sitka spruce plantations are even showing up now in movies filmed in Europe, passing for European wildlands. These places are ecological deserts, and appear to be very unpleasant places to stand within or to seek passage through. I have even seen some bushcrafters plying their craft within them on YouTube. I am heartbroken that to find a place of solitude in nature they must resort to occupying such living abominations. Humans have ever manipulated forest complexes to their own ends, but the coppicing and pollarding our ancestors practiced seems relatively benign compared to the type-conversions of modern industrial “forestry.” In the US we might consider that the natural climax forest that formerly covered the Adirondack Mountains was cut to open land for agriculture. Later, the only half-enlightened replanted forest cover but, under the influence of German academic foresters, ignored the native beeches and maples in favor of plantations of red pine. Today the region bears little resemblance to what it was or could be— a scrubby substitute. I invite my European and East Coast friends to come stand with me in the virgin old-growth forests of California— before they burn up!

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