Easy Days

From visiting with new friends, we went to the Phoenix Organic B&B on a road in between nowhere and then some. It is a very interesting blast into the past and feels much more like a hostel than a B&B. The walls and all available surfaces are covered with eclectic items from Lorna’s (one of the owners along with her husband) travels from all over the world, but a definite Indian influence for sure. We checked in and laid down on our very uncomfortable beds. Then, we thought, we would have dinner early and went back downstairs and had salads, coconut curried vegetables and rice, and a bottle of wine. It was nice to be able to eat and drink organic, with the vegetables being local as well. We brought Lorna our very wet and muddy clothes as she had offered to wash them for us. Afterwards, we went back to our room, where I spent the night mostly tossing and turning trying to find a way to sleep that didn’t hurt my back. The next morning we had tea, toast, and juice and headed out for our next adventure.

Our first stop was to drop off the washed laundry to be dried in a town about 15 kilometers away as the normal way of drying outside was not going to work with so much rain. In Ireland, many people hang their clothes outside to dry, but literally run in and out bringing the clothes on the line and off whenever there are moments of no rain and it usually takes at least two full days for clothes to dry which we did not have time for. Then from there we went to the Organic Store (it’s actual name) in Milltown. The coolest thing ever about this store was that it was in an old church! It is quite possibly the best use of a church for me that I have ever seen. It was wonderfully stocked with quite a bit of local produce as well as organic produce from further away, and to top it off, the most divine coconut, chocolate bars! In Ireland there are so many old churches and buildings that some end up getting used for other things. In Dublin, I had seen an old fort turned into 6 dance clubs, and now here, an old church turned into an organic store. What an interesting mix of the old and the new.

We, then, went around the Ring of Kerry, following the Ocean and through mountains, and finally through Killarney National Park. Of course, there was the ever-present fog and rain with scattered sun. We stopped along the Atlantic Ocean, dipped our feet into the very cold water and then walked along the beach. I found a green stone in the shape of a heart on the beach which was such a great treasure to find! Killarney National Park is beautiful. It has ancient Oakwoods, beautiful lakes, huge mountains (for Ireland) and grand vistas. It, also, has one of the last wild herds of native Red Deer, but in my journey, I never saw one. Nevertheless, it made me happy to know they are there and protected. We walked a trail up to and past the Torc waterfall. It was beautiful but lots of tourists and lots of trash. I picked up quite a bit of trash, but it was everywhere, and there was no receptacles to put it in around the area, so we packed it out. From there, we went and picked up our now dried laundry, and then headed back to the Organic Store because we ate all the delicious produce for lunch, and I realized I wanted to go back and get enough to make lunch for the next day. Plus, the coconut chocolate bars were calling my name! I swear I could hear them, and who am I to resist delicious, organic coconut chocolate bars?

Before heading back to the Phoenix Organic B&B, we stopped in Killarney for dinner. We went to the restaurant Stone Chat that was recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide for having some good vegetarian options, and it is right! When we walked in, we realized that their vegaetarian options were more for lunch and they didn’t have many options for dinner. We asked the waitress who came up to us if she thought they could make something for us. She was very friendly and said that she felt they could totally accomodate us, but she just wanted to check with the chef and make sure. She returned saying the chef was very happy to make us a vegan dinner. She then proceeded to make recommendations for us which sounded good to us, so we said yes. It turned our her recommendations and the chef’s cooking were both superb. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, the seasoning as well. They were so happy to help us and, we were so thrilled and appreciative with the results. From the delicious dinner, we headed back to Dingle Peninsula to the B&B. As had been the case for numerous nights, I could not sleep, so I eventually gave up and went downstairs to see if they had anything out that I could munch on to hopefully help me sleep. I have learned that sometimes when I can’t sleep, if I have a bite to eat, particularly something with protein, I can oftentimes fall asleep. It was very late, and yet when I went downstairs, Lorna was up, and I told her about my predicament. She was incredibly kind and helpful and got me some homemade spelt bread with tahini. We then stayed up chatting for quite a while which was quite lovely. Then she shared a wonderful story with me that she had written about her life which was fascinating. She has traveled all over the world, studying dance, exploring, and then brought all she has learned to her life with her family in what is now the Phoenix Organic. It started out as a place she and her husband bought, where they lived out of a trailer and a small wooden caravan for years while they fixed up the old barn on the land and started an organic garden. Then, they moved into the barn and started a cafe to help ends meet. The cafe was such a success and friends from afar started coming and spending the night that they were convinced to start a B&B and the Phoenix Organic was born from the ashes of a former dilapidated piece of land and barn. We awoke the next morning, had a delicious breakfast, and headed on our way to Kilkenny, our bellies full of yummy organic goodness and our hearts full of joy.

Published in: on August 31, 2009 at 8:08 am  Comments (4)  

Don’t Forget The Magic

A short distance away from Maeve’s Cairn is the Megalithic Cemetery of Carrowmore. It is the largest Stone Age cemetery in Ireland and the second biggest in all of Europe. I asked Milena to stop since we were nearby. As we pulled into the area, I began to put my wet clothes back on which was a very cold and slightly difficult task, considering that the clothes were so wet, putting them back on was a challenging affair. Milena looked at me and said, “Oh, no! Really?! We have to put our wet clothes on again?!” I told her she could stay in the car, but since we were here, I was going out to see this place. She told me, “This morning I was praying, asking to wake up. Well, now I am awake! I guess we have to be careful what we pray for! It is a good thing you made me that salad or is there no way I would be going back out in this!” So she wriggled back into her wet clothes as well and out we went into the cold and rain again. We traipsed around for a bit to get a sense of this place where there is no exact knowledge of how old it is, but it is guessed to be possibly up to 700 years older than the Cairns at Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth. There are about 60 rings of stones in all, but sadly, many of the stones have been destroyed over the years, so one walks amidst the circles imagining what this place must have once been like so long ago.

We headed back to the car, jumped back into our dry clothes and headed on our way to Doolin in County Clare to stay at Cullinan’s Bed and Breakfast which had been recommended by friends. We stopped along the way in a small village when we saw signs for a local artisans craft’s fair. Inside were wonderful crafts of felting, painted glass, jewelry, wood turning, and handmade soaps. In the corner, a guy about my age was carving spoons by hand out of wood from fallen pieces from all kinds of trees. In front of him was a table with various things he had carved by hand. A young boy was sitting on a stool in front of him and they were chatting and laughing as I walked up. The guy carving said, “Would you like to learn to carve? This is a free workshop. Only thing is, you need your own knife.” I told him I was just visiting, traveling through, but thanked him for the invitation. Then, I noticed he was carving in the direction towards his hand instead of away from it (which is how you are supposed to do it if you are being safe.) I asked him, “Just out of curiosity, aren’t you carving in the wrong direction? Isn’t that the way you are NOT supposed to carve for safety reasons?” He smiled and said, “Absolutely, you are very correct. I am showing here how NOT to carve! And ask the young lad here, if I had not already told him that this is the improper way to do it. Right lad? Right! Alright then!” And the young boy laughed and nodded his head enthusiastically. It was so sweet to watch them together. I could tell the young boy really admired the guy, and the guy was totally making him feel included and very special and important. It was so sweet to watch and experience. It reminded me how beautiful and important community and mentorship is. Then, we had a wonderful chat with lots of joke and laughter, so of course, I chose to buy a spoon from him. I mean, how could I a pass up the opportunity to support the local artist, making beautiful things from fallen wood, and with such a wonderful energy and great sense of humor?

We arrived in Doolin, checked in and went for a walk about town as the weather was nice and the area was beautiful. Of course, as we were still a ways away from where we were staying, it began to rain hard with strong winds. Getting us wet yet again… but of course.

There were almost no food options for us here, so we ate at a pizzeria that ended up being surprisingly fabulous! We added our garlic infused olive oil and spices to the pizza making it even better… but of course. We had pulled out our to-go-ware utensils to eat the pizza with since the place only had disposables, and I felt the people at the table next to us giving us furtive glances as we had a table piled with our own oil and spices and now we were using these very strange utensils. I overheard the young girl of the family say, “They are using wooden forks!” I smiled, turning to them, and said, “These are made of bamboo.” The mother asked, “Do you bring them with you all the time?” I smiled and laughed and said, “Oh, yes, these, the oil, the spices…you know just the essentials!” The family all laughed and smiled as we all enjoyed our meal.

That evening we went to the corner pub, Fitzpatrick’s to listen to some traditional Irish and folk music. It was a nice pub, simple, and fun music. Various people talked to us, asking us where were from, etc… I met a nice and interesting man Phillipe from Brittany who was shocked that I am 35 years old and not married or have children. I am SO glad that is not my life! We butterflies, we love our freedom, and on top of that, I have zero desire to contribute to the further destruction of the Earth through birthing children into an already overpopulated world. I would rather take care of the children who are already here and take care of the planet we call home.

We started the next morning with a breakfast of juice and herbed potatoes then headed on to the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher are a very famous tourist stop, but luckily for us, there were not too many people so we were able to enjoy the beauty of the place. Rolling hills give way to sheer drop cliffs. Some of the cliffs are dark jagged rocks only, while others have lush green life interspersed in the crevices with birds soaring on the thermals all around. It is a beautiful spot even if some of its magic has disappeared because of the tourist element as with Knowth. I guess sometimes we have to trade protection of a place with a certain sterilization of it as well.

Nevertheless, it was a great way to start the day…and of course it rained on us again, causing Milena to want to end early, but I reminded her, “This is Ireland, Miwe (my name for her,) you might as well get used to being wet.” “OK. You are right,” she said, so we finished walking around the cliffs and taking some funny and beautiful photos.

Then we headed off to visit the family of our dear friends from Humboldt County, one of whom was born and raised in Limerick County in Ireland. We stopped along the way in a quite lovely town called Adare. The sun had chosen to shine at this time, and the town was bursting with flowers of all varieties. It was bustling with tourists and shopkeepers, yet it still retained a quaint beauty and charm that is so often lost in tourist stops.

We had an absolutely wonderful time visiting with the family in Rathkeale, laughing and sharing stories, tea, and coffee. Out of respect for their privacy, I will leave their names out, but I will say we had such a wonderful visit that at beginning, we were friends of family in the US, but left feeling almost like family ourselves. They were so warm, interesting, and funny that we were made to feel instantly at home. What we thought was going to be a short visit turned into a few hours because we were enjoying one another’s company so much. I am so thankful to have met and spent time with such fantastic people.

This trip continues to be one of wonder, beauty, fun, laughter, and the magical possibility that happens when we give ourselves over to the journey.

One of my favorites signs I have ever seen is on the side of a barn in Mendocino County near Laytonville where some of my chosen family lives. It reads, “Don’t Forget The MAGIC!”

Love,

julia

Published in: on August 29, 2009 at 9:32 pm  Comments (1)  

The Ancient Makes Me New

From the hills of Tara we headed to Galway. By the time we arrived, we were both completely exhausted. The hotel we were staying in was lovely, but wouldn’t you know it the restaurant was completely booked, so we had to eat in the Bar area which had bar food menu and different chef and kitchen. We were so exhausted that the thought of driving back into town to try to find a restaurant where we would have any luck finding decent food was more than we could take, so we stayed in the bar and had some of the very worst food we have ever eaten. Of course, knowing we were coming to Ireland after all, so far we had actually been pretty lucky in the food department. But this night was the epitome of, “Oh, yes, not everyone actually knows what good food actually tastes like” because this chef obviously had a different version of good food than we have. They were truly very nice and really wanted to help us which was quite kind, but in the words of Milena’s brother Pietro (who happens to be a wonderful cook and co-owns a great restaurant in Notting Hill, London) this meal was “A DISASTER DARLING!” Luckily for us, they made up for it with finding us a decent tasting and cheap bottle of wine of which we drank two so as to forget the dinner’s taste.

The next day, I told Milena (who was dealing with a wee bit of a hangover and was trying very hard to wake up) to drive us by the grocery store in town, so we could get things to make a salad for our day (having been inspired by the food the night before.) We were very lucky to not only find a few salad things, but also found an organic mix of ground flax, pumpkin, and sesame seeds; some tofu; and some garlic-infused olive oil! Now, we were once again happy travelers. Off on our next adventure we went. We headed off to Maeve’s Cairn in Sligo County.

And once again, we found that there were no signs helping us find our way. In the Lonely Planet Guide, Maeve’s Cairn is called Knocknarea Cairn because that is also what it is called in Ireland. Only those who have studied the ancient stories would know it as Maeve’s Cairn. It is believed that here was buried the very powerful and important Queen Maeve who ruled like a King, and who was called into being in the lineage of the ancient Goddess Maeve.

In the Lonely Planet Guide, it says that you leave the town of Sligo headed towards Carrowmore and then follow the signs. Only problem… there were no signs. We drove around for a while before pulling into a gas station to see if someone could help us. I had to ask three people before I found someone who had even heard of Knocknarea, and it is only a few kilometers away. Once again, it shows how effectively anything that has to do with the Pagans—and especially having nothing to do with Churches, Abbeys, or Castles—has been disappeared. So with semi-understandable directions, we head off on our way. And again, as we close in, we find, there are still no signs at all for Knocknarea. Luckily, with the bits of information I was able to piece together from the Lonely Planet Guide, along with following my intuition, we weaved our way through back roads until finally there was one—count them one, not two, not three, but one—sign to Knocknarea. A little further down the winding road we find a non-descript parking area off to the side and pull over in the midst of rain that is beginning to come down rather hard. We look at each other and smile. I ask Milena, “Ready?” “Ready,” she says. We put on our rain jackets, pull out our umbrellas, and step out into the wet and cold.

As we prepare to head up a rocky path, up a rather large hill (the Lonely Planet Guide had warned us it is about a 45 minute trek uphill) a car full of elder ladies pulls up, and one leans out and asks if it is passable. I told her by foot but not by car. She replied, “The woman back aways told us, that it is like a river in places, and you need Wellies if you are to walk it.” I replied, “Well, we have no Wellies, but we are going to go for it anyway.” The woman looked worried and rolled up her window. We never did see those women again. I think the thought for them of trekking up the hill through mud, muck, pouring rain, and sopping feet was a bit more than they had bargained for. But Milena and I, we knew we had to at least give it a try, and so up we started.

It was very funny for me to be using an umbrella while hiking, but as my whole life is in disarray in a storage unit in the East Bay of San Francisco, California, I could not find my wonderful heavy-duty rain jacket and pants, so I had to rely on my umbrella and the kindness of Milena’s family for the jacket I was wearing which is made for traveling about town with an umbrella and not for hiking up a rather steep hill with rain pummeling. But, nevertheless, up we started umbrellas and all.

Water was indeed cascading down the rocky trail, in some places pooling up so deep that we had to tip-toe across, balancing on rocks, hoping not to slip and fall in to the deeper water. The trail was bordered by cows, sheep, and blackberry bushes—all of which seem a vital part of the Ireland landscape. Along the way we found a few berries ripe enough to eat which we promptly did, and to the cows and sheep giving us the wary eye, we told them they did not need to fear us, as being vegans, we had zero desire to eat them.

Also, along the way, sadly, there was a lot of litter, so doing as I always do, I started to pick it up, shoving it into various pockets. It broke my heart to see how much trash was along this trail. How is it, that people can be so disrespectful, disgusting, and dirty? I would think that at some point I would become numb to this, and often times I wish I was, but it never ceases to impact me how profoundly disconnected we are as a species. So, I pick up each piece, large and small, as an offering of gratitude to Maeve.

The rain only intensified as we hike, as did the wind the higher we climb. After about 15 minutes, I realize that my lower back is soaking wet and my pants are getting increasingly heavy as they too soak up water and begin to sag down (ah, yes, this is why one is supposed to wear a belt.) After about another 15 minutes, I completely give up on my feet as well, as every step squishes and oozes water. By this point, Milena’s umbrella has started flipping inside out frequently from the gusting winds. And then, somewhere about this time, an Irishman in shorts, running shoes, and listening to music in his earphones comes running down the hill. Running! This trail is rocky, very uneven, and very wet, and he’s using it for exercise! Oh, how funny, the juxtapositions of worlds can be.

Interestingly, from the bottom of the hill, you can not actually see the top, and every time, I got to the point on the hill where I thought surely we must be close to the top, there would be another ledge and more to climb. I am not good with steep climbs because of my hip problems and my lungs, and now I have added to that healing from surgery on both of my feet. Increasingly, I was laughing inside, knowing that this was indeed a pilgrimage, and it reminded me quite a bit of my hike to Luna—only without all the weight in a pack on my back. I also loved how the weather had gotten increasingly more intense on our journey into the past of Knowth, then Tara, and now Maeve. It seemed so fitting somehow.

Finally, short of breath and very wet, we crest the top of the mountain to see the HUGE rock cairn growing in front of us as we neared it. Maeve’s Cairn! And then, around it, we see the rock formations of other burial sites as well. At the top, the wind really whips! And it grows as we begin to circle the stone mound picking up even more trash caught and shoved within the rocks. We look out and can see for miles upon miles, kilometers upon kilometers in every direction. The view is possibly more breathtaking than the wind!

I am in awe. The deep silence that permeated me in Tara returns and deepens. Again, I feel profound power washing over me, humbling me. I slowly walk around the cairn allowing it all to seep in, stopping on occasion to place my hand on a stone, close my eyes, and feel myself transported back thousands and thousands of years. There are more paths leading up to the very top of the Cairn, but for whatever reasons, it felt disrespectful to me to climb up on the top—something about it seemed like that is the human thing—to want to conquer, to say look what I did. For me, I wanted to allow Maeve her grandness—her right to be held in esteem. Milena and I walked among some of the other paths at the top of the hill and then prepared to head back down. I returned to Maeve’s Cairn for one final moment. I walked up to the stones, knelt down, placed my hands on the rocks and began to pray. As I did, the tears that had been at the back of my eyes for the last two days spilled over melding with the rain. My whole life, I have longed for and searched out strong, powerful women to have as role models. My whole life, I have hungered to know of and experience the traditions that hold women as equally powerful and important as men. I have hungered to know of and experience the traditions that believe in and honor the Divine Feminine. And I here, I finally am, touching, feeling, and experiencing that of which my heart and soul have cried out for so long.

I know for some it would seem very funny that a pile of rocks could touch me so deeply, but it did. As I headed back down the mountain, the wind and rain were whipping even more. Milena’s umbrella had basically given up at this point, so I folded mine down to be in solidarity with her. And besides, by this point, the only thing thing my umbrella was still keeping dry was my face and shoulders. I started laughing and told Milena how appropriate it seemed to me that the Queen and Goddess would be so unruly! I thought to myself of the saying, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Ah, yes, in order to claim Her-story in the patriarchal dominant histories, a lady must indeed be unruly and wild! And then, laughing even harder, I told Milena that it felt like we were being baptized by the Goddess!

As we hiked back down the hill, I continued on telling the story of how when I was about 8 years old, my father baptized me in a pond in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania. And how, many years later, when I was in my twenty’s or so, my Mom and I had an interesting conversation about that day. My Mom said, “But Julia, you took many classes about Baptism in Church before you decided to get baptized. You got baptized by your own free will. I responded to her, “Well, Mom, I chose to get baptized because all I had been taught was the Christian traditions and beliefs, so in the very small world view that I had, it absolutely made sense to get baptized. You never taught me or exposed me to anything but Christianity.” I went on to tell her that, “Had I known then, what I know now, I wouldn’t have gotten baptized that day, I just would have gone swimming!|” But now, as I slipped and skipped my way back down the hill of Maeve’s Cairn, this—now this—felt like the kind of Baptism that I could definitely relate to and was definitely choosing of my own free will having a much bigger world view.

As we were hiking down, I looked back every so often to see Maeve’s Cairn receding behind the dips in the hill until it completely disappeared from site. It is indeed a magical place—one you have to be committed to seeing—with all of your senses.

We return to the car and strip off our soaking wet clothes, and wriggling into dry ones, laugh and exclaim over yet another amazing experience we have just had. I pull out the ingredients for the salad and prepare it in my stainless steel tin, using my to-go-ware utensils. It is one of the best salads either one of us have ever eaten—and not because of the ingredients—but because of the journey, the pilgrimage, the shift in our beings.

I went up that hill one way, I came down another. Thank you Maeve, the Queen, the Goddess, for the Baptism, for the journey, for the experience. Another profoundly transformational experience in my life.

The journey is always as important as the destination. Since the journey, in the moment, is all we have, in the moment, the journey is even more important than the destination. Reaching the top of Maeve’s Cairn, descending again, dealing with the steepness, the wind, and the rain—all of these are really part of the longer journey called my life. None of us truly know what the destination is. But it is in moments like these, that I remember yet again, how deeply and humbly grateful I am to get to be on this journey.

Love and Gratitude,

julia

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 11:12 pm  Comments (2)  

The Place of Ancient Wildness

From the well-kept, a little too well-manicured hills of Knowth, we headed to Tara. We arrived with the rolling, darkening clouds and wind sweeping across the green hills.

It was a very powerful experience even in the midst of some very strange twists. Just as Knowth was a powerful connection to an ancient past that I so deeply resonate with, in some ways, the hills of Tara were even more so for me.

When I was 14 years old, after one too many horribly painful experiences, often times associated with a huge lack of integrity within the Christian tradition I had been raised in, I decided I no longer believed in God. I was fed up with being told, “You just have to have faith” to my questions that were too pointed to have a clear answer, and I was fed up with a religion that is so male centric making me constantly feel like a “lesser than.” Then, after a bit of time, I realized that I was so angry at God, that you can’t be angry at something you don’t believe in, so I started on a search to find out what I felt called to believe in—what was Sacred to me versus the one God and one religion that I had been taught that felt so very wrong to me. I knew I felt called to acknowledge some Higher Power, but I had no clue what that might be like since I had never been exposed to anything but Christianity.

Early on in my explorations, I came across the Celtic Druidic traditions and people of Ireland. I found myself drawn to it both for its incredible artwork as well as its tradition more connected with Nature as Sacred. Then as I searched on, I found that the Catholics in their reign of terror wiped out most of the previous Sacred traditions of the Druids and then fused Catholicism with many of the important Sacred times and rituals of the Druids so as to more easily convert those who were now afraid of the Catholics. As time went on, and almost all of the Druidic traditions and leaders had been wiped out, newborn Irish folks only knew of some of the Celtic traditions, and with time, even much of that faded to be replaced completely by Catholic and then Protestant tradition thereby almost completely destroying the history and herstory of the Druids.

Interestingly, finding Tara was difficult. It seems that to this day, there is a very powerful force that wishes to keep the stories of these people and this time as hidden as possible. And even more interestingly, we found with this site and later sites, that anything having to do with the Goddess Maeve (Medbh in Gaelic) is even harder to find. Every fort, church, abbey, and castle that is on the historic register in Ireland has numerous signs leading you to them and are often very well preserved and cared for with numerous signs giving you the history of the place. And yet, with Tara and with later Pagan sites we went to (other than Brù Na Bròinne), we saw a real and marked difference with very little signs and very little of the whole history and herstory.

Tara was a place Sacred to the Druids–the spiritual leaders of ancient Ireland who practiced their tradition in honor of the Goddess Maeve (Medbh in Gaelic). The Celts believed that Tara was the Sacred dwelling place of the Gods and Godesses and that it was the passageway to the otherworld. It was also believed to be the final resting place of the fairy folk, the Tuatha de Danann, who were actual people of the Stone Age arrivals to the island.

The twists we uncovered in our journey though, were marked. First and foremost, the cultural visitor and information center for Tara is housed in a Protestant Church on Tara. Here, in a place that was the Sacred site for a people for thousands of years before Christ was ever recorded to have walked on Earth, the information you are able to obtain is in a building that represents the destruction of these people’s very culture and way of life. Also, I have realized that all these ancient sites are always marked by B.C.–before Christ– as if all that is recognized as important is Christ, and everything else’s importance is marked only in its realtion to the story of Christ whcih leaves out untold myriad other beliefs, cultures, and people. And furthermore, the information is so washed over, that unless you have done a lot of research like I did in high school, you will visit this place and leave without ever knowing the true story of this place or its profound cultural significance. The video they show inside and the bits of information in the shop do not even scratch the surface of how powerfully important this place is.

They touch briefly on the Druids rituals held here, and then on the ensuing reigns of Kings who saw this place as powerfully important. What they don’t tell you is how the Druids were a matriarchal society, where even though there were “Kings” chosen, they were chosen by a ritual, and only with the High-Priestess (as we would call them today) consent. The chosen-to-be Kings would have to go through a rights of passage to prove their worthiness and ability to lead. This rights of passage included similar aspects to rights of passage the world over with putting the body and mind through rigorous tests including fasting from food or water. Then, at the end of the process, there was a “sacrificing of a virgin.” Those who have done a lot of research believe that unlike the myths perpetuated by Christians, this was not a killing sacrifice, but rather one, where a virgin had sex with the soon to be King to represent that the King was hereby married to the Goddess first and foremost. The King could later marry, but this ritual was to remind him that his first marriage, and therefore first responsibility, was always to the Goddess so that there would always be a balance of power between the masculine and the feminine in decision making. Even after this practice was ultimately eliminated with the onset of Christianity, Kings continued to come to Tara because they knew it was a very powerful place. Although, they did not go through the ancient rituals, and they were part of a movement that disavowed the importance and rights of the Celts, they knew deep within them, how powerful this place was, so they continued to come here and practice rituals of their own to try to tap into this power and use it for their own purposes. You would not know any of this unless you studied a lot as I did. If you go to Tara today, you are shown how what looks like bumps in the ground and a couple of stones are ancient Sacred Sites, but they never even mention the names “Celts” or “Druids.” And the statues to Bishops and the Christian graves are much more cared for and highlighted then the decaying sites of the Druids.

To add insult to injury, the M3 motor highway was designated to go right through this Sacred site! Of course, they would never do this to an important church or conqueror’s castle, but as is sadly the case in the US and so much of the rest of the world, because this is a site Sacred to those who practice Earth-based traditions, it holds little significance to those in power. The motorway was halted because another ancient site was uncovered in the digging, but the fate of Tara still hangs in the balance as the motives for sprawl still seem to outweigh the need for preservation of this vastly important heritage site.

Thank You John Quigley for making sure that Tara ended up on my trip to Ireland! For those of you who do not know, John Quigley is a dear friend of mine as well as an incredible activist and artist (check out http://www.spectralq.com to learn more about his work.) One day on a windy walk in a park, John Q told me that no matter what I had to see the hills of Tara when I told him that I was going to Ireland. He couldn’t have been more right.

As I walked the hills of Tara, the wind whipped at me and Milena. It was calling to us, to open ourselves up to the Mystical, the Magical, the ancient, ancient past that connects us beyond what we know into the timelessness of the Cosmos itself. What had been a wonderful and incredible experience at Knowth was just a doorway into this next piece of the journey. Here, I began to feel even more connected to myself—that part of me that for so long has felt denied in the world in which I was raised.

As we left the main hill of Tara, I told Milena I wanted to go to Ràth Maeve (there had been, of course, only one sign pointing the way) which we were told was only 5 minutes drive from where we were. And of course, there was no mention of Maeve being the most powerful Goddess of this time who was later changed by Christians into being a human Queen. We followed in the direction of the one sign and headed of down the road. After crossing a couple intersections, I knew we had gone too far without ever seeing another sign to let us know the exact place of Ràth Maeve. We saw two young girls about 12 and 14, and stopped to ask them if they knew where Ràth Maeve was. The eldest told us she was not from here, but that this was their holiday home, but she ran off to ask her Mom. The mother came out of the house to tell us that indeed we had passed the place, and that there were no markers of any kind and nothing really to see. She gave us directions best she could, and we retraced our drive. We stopped in two different places knowing by the description given to us by the woman that one of them had to be the Hill of Maeve. I said prayers of gratitude and honor at each and then we were on our way.

After all I have experienced in the United States, I should not have been surprised by how effectively the Sacred sites and stories honoring the Goddess and Nature-based Spirituality have been so decimated, and yet, I realized I had expected something different from here. Sadly, the history of the march of Christianity seems to be the same the world over.

As we left Tara for the next experience in our journey, I was overcome by a deep and profound silence. I felt as if a part of myself had been left behind to pay homage to this powerful and Sacred place. And at the same time, the winds had opened me, inviting me to take some of this place with me. And so I did. I share it now with you through words that I hope and pray somehow convey the beauty, the power, and the Sacredness that is Tara. And I also pray that the M3 motorway will redirect far away, so that this place will remain without any further destruction for thousands more years.

There is a petition you can sign urging the protection of Tara. Go to http://www.savetarapetition.net
(Petition to Request the UN Intervene to Protect the Hill of Tara) and

http://www.savetara.com/

To the Mystery and the Magic,

Love, Gratitude, and Prayers,

julia

Published in: on August 26, 2009 at 10:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Ancient Roots

Hello Friends,

I write this from a Bed and Breakfast in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland.

Oh, wow. I feel mostly at a loss for words. I have said for many years now that I feel the experiences that are the most powerful and profound often have no words to describe them. And yet, I try. Although my words feel pitiful and partially unworthy to the absolutely humbling experience of my last two days trek.

Milena and I spent many hours in County Meath visiting Brù Na Bòinne and Tara. For this post, I will just write of Brù Na Bòinne because there is so much to tell of each experience in an effort to do it some semblance of justice that to even touch on one is a huge process for me.

Brù Na Bòinne is a vast Neolithic site that is estimated to be a thousand years older than Stonehenge. This area houses the tombs (Cairns) of what were apparently perceived very important people from this time well over 5,000 years ago, now called Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth. To put it in ancient time perspective, these tombs predate the great pyramids of Egypt by approximately 6 centuries.

The people who erected these temples gathered the stones from up to 70 kilometers away. What is amazing is to realize that some of these stones weigh over 20 tonnes. Over 200,000 tonnes of rock, stone, and Earth went into building Newgrange alone and Knowth is even bigger! And remember, this was built over 5,000 years ago! This was a time before horse and wagon, so it is believed that the people of this time harnessed the power of water both with the Sea and River Boyne.

Because Newgrange and Dowth have windows directly aligned with the Winter and Summer Solstice and because of other signs of found artifacts, it is known that these places were also part of very important rituals for the people of this time. Unfortunately, Knowth was most likely intentionally destroyed by early Christians (by a pit they dug internally all the way around the inside walls of the Cairn causing it to collapse) so that it has never been clear if it is aligned with the Equinoxes, although it makes sense to assume that it was because it is the only Cairn of the three that has two passageways in the direction of the Equinox passings, and the other two Cairns have only one passageway and are aligned to the Solstices with Newgrange aligned with the Winter Solstice and Dowth aligned with the Summer.

Out of the three, Milena and I chose to go to Knowth as Newgrange was over-touristed and Dowth can only be viewed from a road as it is closed to visitors. I often struggle inside with the acts of uncovering Sacred sites like tombs and graveyards. For some reason though, I felt powerfully called to this one partially because there is no longer a direct link of these tombs with any people alive today–unlike many of the Native American Sacred Sites that have been dug up and then put on display even as the Native People who are their descendants have asked for their relatives remains and belongings to be returned to them and been refused. But here, in Ireland, the connection between the people who built and used these tombs as Sacred sites and burial grounds and any living people today has been so thoroughly decimated that it is not even clear if any of the people from that time survived the following invasions for there to even be a link to any people alive today. And somehow, these sites are sadly the only things that keep some aspect of these probably completely extinct people alive.

So for me to walk among these sites and see the ancient carvings and see the photographs of the stone basin and flint ceremonial mask (photographs because the mask was removed to the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and the basin because it still resides deep within the tomb not accessible to the public) was to connect to a past and a time that I have felt powerfully drawn to since I first learned of it over 20 years ago.

It was incredible for me to walk among these temples knowing that they were built in a time and by people who honored Nature as Sacred, who worshiped the Creation as the Creator, who practiced what we now call Pagan traditions. It was also heartbreaking to see firsthand how effectively this tradition and this way of life was almost completely destroyed. I know that our beautiful, Sacred Planetary home would be so much better cared for and honored if the Christians/Catholics had not been living out what is now one of their religious theme songs of, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus, going on before…” I am not saying that all Christian/Catholics are bad–not at all (most of my blood relatives are practicing actually, and I know many wonderful people who are as well), and I am oh so very grateful that there is a growing movement of people within these religions that see Caring for Creation as part of God’s mandate. And at the same time, these very traditions are based on the denying of the Divine Feminine and their holy days are based on stealing from the old ways of honoring the cycles and rhythms of Nature (for example Spring Equinox supplanted by Easter and Winter Solstice supplanted by Christmas.) I know it would be beautiful if all religions and faith-based traditions could live in peace, but unfortunately there is a legacy that still continues to this day where the main religions that came from the same lineage–that of Christianity/Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism seem to be steeped in and perpetuated through oppression, violence, destroying people’s connection to place and their own right to practice what is Sacred to them in their own way. So, I struggle in moments like these wishing that these traditions never existed, and yet knowing that I want to live in a world where all people are allowed the opportunity to practice what feels Sacred to them as long as it is not based on the oppression of or violence to others or to the Divine Sacred of the Natural world.

And being here, being touched so deeply, I am even further resolved to continue to live my life honoring the Divine Sacred of Nature and the Divine Feminine so as to do what I can to hold space for this that has been so long oppressed and destroyed. And I hold in my heart this connection to this place knowing that somewhere in my past, even though it was a very long time ago, I have ancestors who honored and worshiped Creation as Creator and held the Divine Feminine as equally important and powerful as the Divine Masculine.

Love from the Wilds of Ireland,
julia

Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 9:22 am  Comments (4)  

Dublin, Ireland

I have wanted to come to Ireland ever since I was in high school. I went through a powerful time when I knew that I no longer believed in the Christian tradition that I had been raised in, yet I longed for something Sacred to relate to. In my searches, I came across the Celtic and Druidic traditions of Ireland. I immediately felt a kinship. These were a people who recognized and worshiped the Sacred in the trees, the land, and the Solstices and Equinoxes. This was a tradition that saw the Sacred as an integral part of the Earth and Sun and Moon and Stars. Even the art and symbolgy seemed to speak to some long lost part of my soul. I uncovered the term “Anam Cara” which loosely translates to “Soul Friend Recognition,” which beautifully described the connection I had with certain people that seemed to defy description.

Of course, this is not to say that I believe in everything that I read and learned about these traditions, but rather that it felt closer to my soul’s home than the beliefs I had been raised with. I had been taught, “Worship the Creator NOT the Creation.” And yet, something inside of me had always known that there is absolutely no separation between the Creator and the Creation. Even in the Bible, the book that I had been raised reading said, “In the beginning there was darkness and void,” and then God which was that darkness and void created from itself life as we know it, which means that not only is Creation a gift FROM God, it is a gift OF Godself.

So coming across a Spiritual tradition that honored the Sacred in the natural world spoke to the very depths of me.

So after all these years, I find myself in this land that has called to me for so long.

This is not say that I have felt particularly called to Dublin, mind you, but this is where I landed–and the place from which I start my journey.

Tonight happened to be fabulous, though. We (being my Italian friend Milena and I) came across a wonderful restaurant called, “The Farm” serving predominantly locally and organic sourced ingredients. It being Ireland, most of the menu was meat and dairy based. Yet, their few vegan options were absolutely, mouth-wateringly delicious. Then we headed to a pub called “Cobblestone” that is listed in The Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland as an authentic pub to hear traditional Irish music. And indeed it was.

Of course, the story would not be complete without a crazy addition because I seem to always attract them. We grab our beers and head as close to the music as we can get considering how packed the pub is. And then, the absolutely most drunk guy in the bar gravitates to us as if pulled by a magnet of inescapable force. Slurring wonderfully, as only a completely innebriated Irish man can do, he asked us where we are from. I said, I am from the US and Milena is from Italy. He asked me, “Where in the US?” I told him from everywhere, but mostly California. And wouldn’t you know it, the most drunk man in the whole bar, had been to California. And not only had he been to California, but he had been to Humboldt County and to Garberville!!!!

He proceeds to go on telling stories of being busted for growing Marijuana. And then to top it off, he screws his face up into this distorted look and yells at the top of his lungs, “F*%!K George Bush!!!!!” The whole bar stops and turns looking at us. I wanted to yell out, “But we aren’t with this guy!” But, of course, nobody gave a damn, they just wanted him to shut up so they could hear the great Irish music that was being played in the corner. And so did I for that matter. I used the opportunity to tell the very drunk man that it was lovely talking to him, but I now wanted to listen to the music.

And so we did. The music was absolutely fantastic. And the drunk man tried to engage a couple more times in conversation, but somehow, I managed to get him to leave us alone so we could enjoy the music.

And then, the topper, was another man near us wearing a fabulous t-shirt that read, “I RECYCLE. I wore this shirt yesterday” with a big recycling symbol in the middle. I cracked up laughing and had a lovely conversation with this man who was sober enough to carry on a real conversation. Then, Miwe and I listened to one last song before we danced our way out of the pub and to the Public Transportation Train that took us part of the way back to the hotel, and we laughed and stumbled the rest of the way back.

And now, I sit in the hotel room reminiscing about a perfect evening as I get ready to prepare for bed and another day headed to the Sacred Hills of Tara.

Goodnight from the experience that is Ireland.

Love,

julia

Published in: on August 22, 2009 at 12:22 am  Comments (3)  

From Duck Feet to Flip Flops to Wings

Dr. says I can finally be rid of the funny post-op duck feet shoes I have been wearing, and get back to regular shoes! Yay! I am so excited to be able to retrain my feet to walk in regular shoes again. I am not allowed to spend too much time in bare feet or my feet will go crooked again, but I am allowed a special pair of flip-flops, so I am a happy girl.

I am on a focused pace to get ready for two months of travel. I leave on Monday to head to Ireland, then Italy, then New York, the Cincinnati, Ohio all taking me up to the end of October. I have regained my wings! Off on journeys, adventures, and hopefully to do some good for some communities while I am at it!

I am just coming through two weeks of brutal virus that kicked my butt big-time, so I am praying that it is done with me, so I can be healthy for these next two months of full schedule.

I am feeling really ready to be out in the world again. My experience with Harmony festival, Mystic Garden Party, and the Farm-to-Table Benefit has me feeling re-energized to be re-emerging from this latest round of cocoon. I truly enjoy the place of feeling like I am somehow contributing to this world of which I am a part. I often times come up against the wall of feeling like I am not making the difference I really want to be making, but regardless of the outcomes, I know that Julia without the opportunity to be in service is like a river dammed.

So, as my duck feet prepare for shoes and my shoes prepare for wings, I ask the Universe to use me in service with love, joy, purpose, passion, and peace.

Love,

julia

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 7:23 am  Comments (18)  
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