Sacred Sites

June 1st, 2009

Beltane Celebration – Tullamore – County Offaly – Ireland

We are back from our travels in Ireland and we hope you had as exciting a Beltane celebration as we did.  I’d like to share with you some of the highlights of our Journey.

Surrounded by a 700 year old Oak forest (the oldest in Ireland) stands Charleville Castle, known for generations as one of the world’s most haunted castles. Legend states that Charleville was built on the site of an ancient Druid burial ground and it is said that Druids conducted ceremonies on this site.

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The 500-year-old Oak tree that hoards the entrance to Charleville

We had traveled here to celebrate Beltane with fellow Pagans in the heart of Ireland. After a warm welcome by our hostess Mary Alagna, we were introduced to others that would be joining us for the may pole dance. They had been hard at work, felling an Ash tree that would be the focus of our celebration.

Mary had asked us to each bring ribbon in a color or pattern, that symbolized the energies we would like to manifest. We tied our ribbons to the tree that would represent the energies we wished to bring into our lives.

Most of our group had participated in rituals, but some had been primarily solitary practitioners. So we found it fascinating to celebrate Beltane with Mary and Eileen (among others) in the gardens at Charleville Castle.

“Everyone was incredibly warm and friendly, although this was true with literally every person that we met in Ireland; it was especially true with Mary and Eileen. They welcomed each and every one of us with open arms.”

“We danced around the may pole which was so fun and a great way to loosen every one up!  The ritual itself was much more interactive than some of the other rituals we had done in the past. We fed each other, massaged each other’s hands with oil and danced together. It was truly a celebration of the season!”

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Mary Alagna, as she prepares for our Beltane celebration at Charleville Forest Castle.

“Some of us had never done, the weaving before and the energy raised was light, yet powerful, intense but not overwhelming. Our beautiful, yet eclectic creation will remain in our memories for years to come.”

It was a privilege to stand in circle with them and witness the celebration of Beltane or as they say it Bealtaine (Be All Tinna). We thank them for making a dream come true, celebrating with other Pagans in Ireland!


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Our first look at the May Pole framed against the backdrop of Charleville Forest Castle.


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Finishing a fine job of wrapping the May Pole.

Always a hospitable, Bonnie Vance and Dudley Stewart, the castle keepers, presented us with a lovely dinner in one of the magnificent rooms. As the Castle runs a bit cool, even in warmer weather, we were also treated to a cozy fire for our dinner.

Unfortunately as beautiful as the day had been, the weather turned on us for the evening, dampening our spirited hope of having a Beltane fire outside. But with warm hearts inside, we took a tour of the castle and it’s amazing rooms. The Castle is being restored, with many areas in various stages of repair and we learned even more about this site.

The Castle was designed in 1798 by one of Ireland’s leading architects of the day, This magnificent building was almost lost through vandalism while it stood vacant during a large part of the 20th century. The main rooms with their spectacular ceilings have for the most part survived the onslaught. The Castle is now occupied and the owners are lovingly attempting to preserve and restore it to its former glory. They hope to infuse the Castle with music and spirit, to bring it to life again with all manner of celebrations, as Charleville has seen it’s darker side.

Although a wonderful example of Gothic revivalist architecture, it is also known for being haunted. For decades Charleville has been visited by parapsychologists, paranormal investigators and documentary makers hoping to capture photographic or video evidence of the many phenomena reported throughout the years. Orbs (spectral light balls) are frequently seen in the building and the grounds. The stories abound in the castle, from Druids and a grotto, to tales of devil worship by the owner, and wicked tales of the use of the dungeon.

Just down from the Great Room, there is a staircase leading to the upper levels of the castle, it is said to be haunted due to a tragic accident that occurred shortly after the Bury family took up residence. Charles Bury’s eight-year-old daughter was sent upstairs to wash her hands, the nursery is situated on the top floor, and on the way down, and she attempted to slide down the banister. Unfortunately she fell and was killed. They say her spirit loves to play with other children that have come to live at the castle; one of them was Bonnie’s son. He tells a story about the little girl ghost that helped him when we became lost in the castle one day.

The Yew trees that surround the castle form a union jack, according to Celtic tree lore; Yew trees were used to keep the spirits of the dead inside the boundaries of cemeteries. I had to wonder if it had the same effect here and if the souls left behind were kept within the walls of the Castle because of it. Perhaps fanciful thinking, but I prefer to remember what Bonnie told us about the Castle returning to life with music and art and activity again. If it brings peace to whatever energy or spirit is there, so be it.

Resources:

http://www.offaly.ie/offalyhome/visitoffaly/Attractions/historic/

Mary Alagna

Bonnie Vance

Dudley Stewart

Kathryn Wright

Rebecca Beld

Rebecca Sommers


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