Beltane in Ireland
For this issue of Sacred Sites we begin by wishing you a Happy Beltane! This month we are in Ireland with a group of travelers exploring sacred sites. We hope you’ll journey with us in spirit as we make our way across the mystical emerald isle.
This will be an interesting opportunity to experience the difference in celebratory styles, not only culturally speaking, but from within the Irish community itself. We will meet a transplanted American living in County Kerry, a solitary Witch, in the heart of Ireland and a member of Teampall Na Callaighe that lives in Kells.
In the upcoming issues of Pagan Pages we will share with you the details of our Pagan pilgrimage, along with interviews from local Pagans, photos of the rituals and ceremonies we attend, as well as insights from the travelers themselves.
Journey with us as we travel across Ireland to celebrate the Celtic Festival of Beltane. Here are a few of the ancient sites and windswept landscapes we will be visiting.
The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare – (Irish – Aillte an Mhothair, lit. cliffs of the ruin) an impressive wall of rock rises to a height of almost 700 feet above the churning Atlantic Ocean. The view from Hags Head overlooks the sea, standing to greet the fierce wind.
Special Note: For any movie fans out there – The Cliffs of Moher were filmed as the “Cliffs of Insanity” in the 1987 movie, The Princess Bride.
The Burren National Park, County Clare – The word Burren derives its name from Boireann, which means ‘rocky land’ in Gaelic. This region of limestone hills contains a wealth of rare flowers and prehistoric stone monuments. The Burren is a unique botanical environment in which Mediterranean and alpine plants rare to Ireland grow side by side. Its geology, flora, fauna, caves, archaeology, and history set it apart as a place of great mystery and beauty.
The 100 square mile area boasts rivers, castles, lakes, towering cliffs, lush green valleys, barren rock mountains, and constant relics of ancient civilization; round towers, stone arches, dolmens, ancient churches and high crosses.
Within the Burren exists the Poulnabrone Dolman, one of the most dramatic stone grave markers, said to be about 4000 years ago. Like a piece of sculpture, it is one of the most photographed in the world.
Special Note: Our intrepid group of travelers will attempt to locate the Poulnabrone Dolmen. Admittedly, it has eluded this traveler in previous attempts. Apparently obvious to many a tour bus driver, this American has not yet learned the secret handshake and special password that is required to locate this structure. Well hidden from the road, it seriously needs some sort of marker, of course that would ruin the beauty of the Dolmen – sigh of angst.
Druids Stone Circle, Kenmare, County Kerry – An ancient ring of stones said to be a druidic site just outside Kenmare.
Torc Waterfall, County Kerry – Just one of many in the Killarney area and is known as the most famous. The roar of the falls can be heard as you approach, the source of the water comes from a place called the “Devil’s Punch Bowl” and falls 70 feet onto the huge boulders below.
Torc Waterfall – County Kerry
Ogham Stones – A set of eight stones situated near the side of a road near Beaufort Village. Ogham stones are usually gravestones and bear the name of the deceased and often details of his descent.
Charleville Forest Castle, County Offaly, Tullamore – 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 here. There is a grotto on the property that we’ve yet to see, hopefully some fairy rings – keeping our fingers crossed.
500-year-old Oak Tree at Charleville Forest Castle
We have been invited to celebrate Beltaine at Charleville with a Maypole Dance, Ceremony, and the lighting of the Bale-fire with our host Mary Alagna.
Brigids Well Kildare – (Cill Dara in modern Irish originally derived from Cell Dara in Old Irish, meaning “Church of the Oak”) One of the many wells named after the Goddess Brigid also known as Saint Bridget. I’m told that at this location there are two Wells, one just off of the car park that is a Pagan site and one farther away that is a Christianized site.
Loughcrew Cairns & The Hill of the Witch (Irish – Sliabh na Cailligh) Onto the Boyne Valley in County Meath, as we step back in time to visit the passage graves of Loughcrew. We join our local guide Gemma McGowan as she takes us on a tour of Loughcrew as well as other historical sites where they celebrate the Ancient Celtic Festivals of Lughnassa and Samhain. Gemma is an Irish member of Teampall Na Callaighe.
Monasterboice – An interesting monastic site near Drogheda in County Meath. The impressive ruins include a large cemetery, two churches, one of the tallest round towers in Ireland and two of the tallest and best high crosses.
Looking forward to reporting back to you in June.