Memory and Potential
To the Celtic ancestors of peoples who now live all across Europe, the in-between spaces between one season and another were taut with energy. They were the points of balance between memory and potential, when the belief that all things contain all other things was expressed in communal ritual.
This is the season of Lughnasa when the wheel of the year turns again and the world prepares to enter the months of darkness which we see as cold and dead and the ancient Celts saw as pregnant with new life. It's a time for gathering in, for celebrating life and expressing mutual support.
The ancient Celts' rituals were held in in-between places - on beaches between land and sea, on mountain tops between earth and sky, and on water which is the basic necessity for life.
Here in Corca Dhuibhne memories of those ritual gatherings are still to be found at Lughnasa. All around the peninsula boat races are held, in which crews from the different communities pit their skills against each other.
On a beach near Ballyferriter called Béal Bán, a name that translates as The White Mouth, horse racing echoes the ritual races once held in honour of Lugh, the Celtic sun god.
To the ancient Celts everyone and everything in existence was interdependent because everything in the universe was sentient, and shared a living soul. The emphasis on community in their seasonal gatherings expressed the place of the individual within that worldview. And their annual celebrations of Lugh's union with Danú the Earth Mother expressed their belief in the interconnectivity of the universe in terms of the human family.
Tomorrow, on Béal Bán when the tide is out, the drumming of horses' hooves will echo the ancient communal gatherings at which drumming and dancing promoted a world of harmony and balance.
Races at Lughnasa are life-enhancing family celebrations. Whole communities gather on the beach; mums and dads, babies and adolescents. People of all generations participate in the contests, lay bets on outside chances, make music, share stories, eat ice-cream or just hang out.
And this year, on other beaches in other parts of Europe, individuals and families who have been torn from their communities are also experiencing in-between spaces, praying for a restoration of balance, and giving thanks for life.