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Showing posts from October, 2006

Ireland's Ghost Stories

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There seams to be all kinds of dates for Halloween or Samhain.

This year .......

Dark Moon (Lunar) Samhain
when the new moon aligns with the sun at 10 degrees Scorpio
October 22nd

Solar Samhain
when the sun is at 10 degrees Scorpio
November 2nd

Full Moon Samhain
the nearest full moon to October 31st
November 5th

Cross Quarter Samhain
the midpoint between autumn equinox and winter solstice
November 7th (quite late this year)

but most people now prefer the

All Hallows Samhain
calculated from the Roman calendar
October 31st - and that is today!

For many, this is an imagery time of ghosts and ghost stories
rather than a celebration of nature and a new Celtic Year
so lets see what's around in Ireland...



Thirty beguiling stories of sprites, wraiths, and specters appear here, as they were told  in rural 19th-century Ireland. Stories include "Tom Connors and the Dead Girl," "Maurice Griffin and the Fairy Doctor," "The Ghost of Sneem," "Tom Moore and the Seal Woman.

You ca…

Christian Halloween Fears

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What should we do

Christians face a dilemma every year on October 31. What should we do and what shouldn't we do, and what should we let our kids do. I find this is a huge concern with North American Christians yet not blinked at by most Irish and British Christians. I thinks its all to do with an understanding of where the traditions come from.

When I moved to life in the USA for awhile I was initially quite shocked at how Halloween was interpreted and displayed there with the heavy emphasis on blood, ghouls, chopped up body parts, haunting gravestones and surprise bouncing objects that cackle and scream. Where on earth did this all come from? After awhile I learned to lighten up and accept all of this as being a theatre, a game and having no long term influence on our soul, our values and morality. Nobody really took Halloween seriously, here today and gone tomorrow.

Christians can embrace the ancient roots of Halloween

I find this is a wonderful time to take seriously and be reward…

Kindling The Celtic Spirit

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What to do on the holidays

From now until Imbolc, the three months of Celtic winter when the ancestors, angels and swans guard, guide and protect us, as the traditions tell, my enquiry emails are more about what traditions can be followed. I receive interesting enquiries about rituals, decor, food recipes, more than enquiries about visiting Ireland. I still do tours through winter, though.

Its Samhain season now, which is not just reflecting on the year past or even dreading the winter to come. In Europe we tend to look to Christmas as our time of "gathering the tribe" the time of getting together with family, inviting the neighbours and having a "sacred" feast. In the USA this is more important at Thanksgiving, a bit closer to Samhain.

Create Your Own Feis

Its occurred to me that really this is the best time to for gatherings, our own little "Feis Of Tara", or own cleaning of the hearth and re-kindling the flame and lighting new candles. It is also the time …

Before Trick Or Treat

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What happened to "the Guy"?

Today, Halloween around the world seems to be dominated by the USA model of "trick or treat" where young people dress up and disguise themselves in masks and knock on the doors of neighbourhoods expecting gifts of candies. In later years the disguises have been getting leaner and money expected rather than candy. Some charities are using this event to collect their funds too. All of this waters down the old traditions and makes Halloween a time of modern begging without though of how this festival evolved.

My childhood was in England and we never heard of Halloween then, but November the 5th was "bonfire night", bonfire being short for "bones fire" but I'll write another blog about these forgotten terms before Samhain is past. Lighting of fireworks was part of this, said to be connected with Guy Fawkes and his failed blowing up of London's parliament, but I think it goes beyond that. However, we would make the &…

Rock Stars Sing Shanties

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Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Shanteys

Just had to tell you about an interesting double CD I have just come across. I love shanties and sea songs and do not restrict myself to listening to the bearded, nautical hatted, gnarly voiced, hand behind the ear folkies but love to hear new interpretations. The very musical interpretation of "Drunken Sailor" by Switchback is a good example.

This double CD evolved from an idea by Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski while working on the two "Pirates Of The Carribean" films. Legendary producer Hal Wilner, known his knack for matching maverick musicians with extraordinary material took this idea on to create an extraordinary interpretation of shanty and sea songs.

Example tracks are ...

Blood Red Roses - Sting
Leave Her Johnny - Lou Reed
Lowlands Low - Bryan Ferry
Dying Sailor - Bono
Fire Down Below - Nick Cave
Boney - Jack Shit

a dose of "hand behind the ear" interpretations by Martin Carthy and Richa…

Samhain Flame Of Tlachtga

Hill Of Ward

I have often visited Tara Hill, Co. Meath, for Celtic Festival celebrations with an eye watching the fires lighting up at the Hill Of Ward, and meaning to visit there "next time" or at least find out more.

"Hill Of Ward" is a name from the 17th century from a landowner called Ward. Druids prefer to know this hill as "Hill Of Tlachtga" or simply Tlachtga.

The legends of "goddess" Tlachtga are as varied as with Brighid due to her different times of incarnation. The earliest Tlachtga was a druidess type goddess that arrived with the Firbolgs, then as a firbolg druidess somehow close or related to Tailtiu, then vaguely incarnated as a Firbolg goddess at the time of the arrival of the Milesians then with her strongest time of legends at the time of high king, Cormac McAirt in the early 3rd century AD. Her legend is the same in every incarnation.

She was the daughter of a chief druid Mug Ruith who frequently travelled to the east to develop h…

Hiring A Barge In Ireland

I find barges are the best retreats, a wonderful way to be on the water"

No experience or licence needed
When you see the size of a barge you may immediately think it is complicated to drive, yet they are very simple with the tiller and lever for forward or back. With less than thirty minutes of instruction and less than an hour on the waterway you should feel very comfortable in command. Barges are built with steel hulls so everyone on board is very safe. Also, boats coming in the opposite direction always give a wide berth for barges, especially the fibre glass built cruisers. No boat driving licence required. Its not needed.

Ireland's barges are generally wider than the UK and Euro narrowboats
Most barges provide sleeping quarters for 6 adults with no children or 4 adults with up to 4 children. One or two of the sleeping quarters are usually separate bedrooms each with sinks, mirrors and generous size closets.

Barge galleys are home from home kitchens
You'll be amazed at the…

Freedom To Read

Reading the Irish Times, this morning, I was thrilled to read a news item reported by Christine Newman headlined "Ireland best for freedom of press ...."

Ireland tied the top position with Finland, Iceland and the Netherlands.

Other positions to note are

Bolivia 16
Bosnia 19
UK 27
Greece 32
Ghana 34
Italy 40
Israel 50
Japan 51
USA 53 (was 17th place during Clinton administration)
Lebanon 107
Russia 138
Iraq 154
Iran 162
North Korea 168 (bottom)

Ireland, with a population of only around 5 million does still support a surprising number of daily, evening, regional and local newspapers, but it has not caught onto blogging like some of the rest of the world, especially the USA and UK. Maybe it does not feel the need to. A surprising amount of space is still allocated in Irish newspapers for public letters and comment.

Getting into a blog reading routine has remarkable benefits. I know I pay much more attention to this than reading the Irish Times or Irish Independent. From my own My Yahoo, a very …

Tuatha De Dannan

re-introducing our tour

My four themed tours go through "fashions" of popularity. Through summer Brighid dominated, but now the Tuatha De Dannan interest is surging.

The "fairy tale" legends of the Tuatha De Dannan seems to intrigue everyone. They are the inspiration to many writings, especially Tolkein's Lord Of The Rings. The spirituality carried by the Tuatha De Dannan also seems to be the background to most of our inner faiths, joys and even fears.

With our "Following The Tuatha De Dannan" day tour the day of visiting sites becomes a day of re-enacting Irish legends and exploring Irish druidism before its marriage with early Christianity.

Our journey explore various hidden and intriguing sites within the Moytura plain, an area around the beautiful lakes of Lough Arrow and Lough Key. Sites we visit include Lough na Sool (lake of the eye), Labby Rock, Lugh's Seat and the Pillars Of Samhain. From there the day tour may go north into Cavan to explore …

Ride A White Swan

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Cygnus Enigma

When Claire and I were cruising on a barge along the Shannon-Erne waterway and Upper Lough Erne. I did find myself filming many pairs of swans. As a child I was always told they were so special and that feeling has stayed with me.

As a child, it was my family's Sunday afternoon "duty" to feed the swans somewhere either on a lake, river or canal. With this engraved during my childhood it is still my first instinctive reaction, when I see swans, that they are angels or spiritual stewards of nature before my adult logic grounds me and reminds me that they are birds.

I was inspired to write this article after reading a news blog from stone pages announcing that documentary film maker Roel Oostra was in Ireland for a couple of days filming the Boyne Valley passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth and Fourknocks. His film is tentatively called "As Above, So Below". This got my attention because when I guide visitors around the Carrowkeel I try to includ…

The Historical Trail

This is not a difficult hike

One reason I love where I live is the seemingly endless places where I can go for a walk. Despite Ireland's reputation for rain the real truth is that there are very few days it rains all day and most days definitely have more sun that rain. Also its rarely too hot or too cold to walk.

If you enjoy hiking, Ireland is a paradise and just a couple of miles from me is a connection to the "Historical Way", by far my favourite hill walking trails in Ireland and possibly one of the easiest for walkers despite providing some of the most spectacular views.

The Historical Trail is 56kms(35miles) in length and, conveniently, it is a trail that is a circular route. To do all of it I suggest allowing a very comfortable 25 hours, 5 hours a day over 5 days to allow for rests, breaks, lunches and diversions to some spectacular ancient megalithic, bronze age, celtic and early Christian sites.

The starting point is usually Boyle, a lovely small traditional Irish …

Carrowkeel Cairns

One of the most spectacular megalithic sites in Ireland

It is almost in my back yard.
It is spectacular on three levels.

Amongst the fourteen 5500 year old cairns are three cairns in good condition than can be entered for curiosity and remarkable individual spiritual experiences.

The landscape surrounding the cairns has an unexpected remarkable wild beauty that almost seems oriental.

The views on a clear day are probably the best you can have in Ireland. Over a third of Ireland can be seen ranging from the Mourne mountains of Co. Down in the north east, Donegal's mountains in the north west, Connemara and Clare mountains in the south west and Wicklow mountains in the south east. It also shows you how the centre of Ireland is incredibly flat for miles.

I visit Carrowkeel often, usually trying out different approaches that vary from the popular signposted route that approaches from the south west. Each new approach certainly provides a new vista and vision of the area.

The "Seize Th…

Portable Media

This blog goes into my insight into
how blogs, podcasts and portable media are becoming a new culture
what this means to the new small businesses, like Celtic Ways,
and how the majority, who are still not in this culture,
can simple find themselves part of it, and loving it.

The New Culture

In the old days, and many people still do it today, many people started their day reading a newspaper. For many, reading something is a great wake up tool. Some people even think they plan their day with their newspaper.

For several years, I have started my day on the computer with links to news media. Today that has been replaced by my "My Yahoo" reader where I read the latest posts from blog feeds from news web sites, weather web sites, archeology web sites, spiritual web sites, boating web sites, music web sites etc. ..... just like some of you are using your favourite readers to read my latest waffle as it is published.

What I like is that I receive info I can use and feel good about and not…

Cat's Cairn Wisdom

Cat drags in new theory on cairns

The actions of a domestic cat have thrown up a new theory about ancient stone burial cairns in Caithness.

This is taken from an online article by the BBC.

Archaeologists built a mock-up of the structures as part of an experiment.

Archaeologists built reconstructions of burial cairns and ancient towers called brochs as part of a series of research projects and excavations carried out in Caithness over the summer.

Emma Sanderson, of Caithness Archaeology Trust, said it was found that a dead rabbit had been left in the replica by a cat.
She said it could mean that animal bones found in real cairns were not the remains of ceremonial offerings, as thought, but left by other creatures. The cat's dead rabbit has provided a new theory that they had been killed by other animals years after the cairn had fallen into disrepair.

Another theory about cairns may also have been exploded after archaeologists knocked down their mock-up.
It was noted that the stones collap…

Stonehenge Healing?

Well some scientists now claim Stonehenge was built for healing, as you will read towards the end of this interesting article from "The Guardian" and posted by Stone Pages

Radical solution proposed for Stonehenge

After over 20 years of argument and countless millions spent on consultants and planning inquiries over the state of Stonehenge, a leading expert last night proposed a radical solution: do nothing. The government's long overdue decision on the roads which strangle the world's most famous prehistoric monument is ardently awaited by archaeologists and local residents alike, after two public inquiries and last summer's lengthy public consultation.

Last night Professor Peter Fowler, an internationally acknowledged expert on the Stonehenge landscape and on World Heritage Sites management, washed his hands of the whole argument: "Since no sort of a tunnel is going to be built, the A303 should be kept exactly as and where it is, because neither widening it no…

Living Foods

Living Foods

Sometimes, as you know, you can receive some delightful email marketing in the pile beneath the delete button. I received one of these today. What made it even more delightful is that I found out it was presented by friend, but not until I looked into it closely, so I'll introduce a little of this to you.

The ad was for a meeting in Dublin on "Polarity" and was presented by a group called by "Alive", formerly or alternatively known as "Irish Living Foods", so I checked out their web site.

Do you find you do this these days, check out web sites before making decisions about going to places and seeing people or even watching a evening film on tv?

To my delight, this group that's dedicated to promoting the eating of more uncooked food for health, is guided by a wonderful lady called Gabrielle who lives with a wonderful group of friends in Wicklow that I will explain in another chat note.

The web site has a delightful simple design, I love the…