Showing posts from October, 2011

It's Samhain - Happy New Year!

For the pagan Celts, the year began in winter, not spring. Their world-view celebrated dark times, recognising that life itself comes from darkness and a dormant seed. The Celts' name for the first season of their year was Samhain, which is still the Irish language word for November. The festival that began their year was Oíche Shamhna . Samhain Night. It still goes by the same name here in Corca Dhuibhne.  With the passage of time and the coming of Christianity Ireland, the Celts' Oíche Shamhna celebrations were replaced by those at Halloween, the Christian feast of All Souls. But for thousands of years, throughout Ireland, the start of the season of Samhain has been celebrated with rituals older than Christianity - bonfires, candles stuck in turnip heads, and masked visits to the neighbours. Modern trick or treating echoes the ancient Celtic belief that on Oíche Shamhna the spirits of the dead returned to the homes they'd once lived in. People belie

The Traditional Irish Art of Hospitality

When I first began to divide my life between two places it was like living in two different worlds.  Corca Dhuibhne with its huge expanses of mountain, sea and sky, its ancient cultural heritage, musical language, and rooted, rural community.  And Bermondsey with its edgy, multicultural vibe, crowded streets, sense of drive, and spectacular architectural statements.  Moving from one to the other increases your awareness of each. Which is kind of the point. One of the joys of London life is walking away from my computer screen, wandering down to the Thames and using the Tate Modern as a coffee shop. Stunning building. Great shop selling acid green pens and intensely desirable pencil sharpeners. A shimmering bridge across the river, framing a view of St. Paul's... ... oh, and the art in the actual art gallery. Tacita Dean's current exhibition, FILM, consists of 11minutes of 35mm film, endlessly playing on a vast, slender screen that hangs in the ai

There's a Cattle Mart in Dingle Today

Rover, Jack and Spot stump through mud, loading the cows. Then Jack drives off with the cattle. And the dogs get on with their work on the farm. Spot has two brindled pups and a black one. They're curled up squeaking in a corner of the woodshed. She's made herself a nest on the mud floor, with her back to the stone walls and straw pushed round the pups to keep them warm. When she's not up working in the fields she's in there feeding them.  Otherwise she's just fighting to keep her strength up. Rover's not allowed in the woodshed... ... but when he's not working in the fields he's guarding the doorway. His thin wolf's face checks out each passing car. With his nose on his paws, he keeps one eye on the hens.  There's a fox up on the mountain. Me, I'm writing this at my computer with a roaring fire at my back and a cup of tea at my elbow. Wilf's in the next room, practising Schumann on the piano. No mud.

Echoes of Lugh In The Last Month of Lughnasa

If you turn right outside our gate and walk down past Jack Flaherty's farm you'll join a pilgrims' way called The Saint's Road. Its name in Irish is Cosán na Naomh . Its one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in Ireland. And people walk it still. The Saint's Road runs from a staring point in Ventry to the top of Mount Brandon, Corca Dhuibhne's holy mountain. The mountain got its present name from the Christian saint, Brendan, whose voyage from Ireland to America was one of the great legends of medieval Europe. But, long before the days of Brendan and the medieval monks, Mount Brandon must have had other names. Because other, pagan, pilgrims walked the same route and climbed its slopes, thousands of years before Christ was born in Bethelhem. Memories of those other, older pilgrims still survive here in folklore. They prayed to the ancient Celtic sun-god, Lugh. And echoes of their world-view still resonate in rites that are held on Brandon every