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.
To the Mystery and the Magic,
Love, Gratitude, and Prayers,