Showing posts from December, 2011

An Irish Christmas Eve Tradition

In the past, doors here in Ireland were always left unlocked on Christmas Eve, fires were kept burning on the hearthstones, and candles shone in the windows. They offered warmth and shelter to Joseph and Mary, walking the world on their long road to Bethlehem. And they echoed even older rituals that brought light and warmth into darkness. In the Irish folk tradition, Mary, the mother of Christ, and Bríd, the Irish saint, protect sleeping households until daybreak. They’re echoes of the Good Goddess - the ‘strongest and most energetic of women’ - and images of fertility, and hope. For thousands of years the same ideas have been shaped and re-shaped in their stories. The goddess breathes life into the earth in springtime; grass grows when Bríd’s cloak sweeps the hills; and when Mary hangs her cloak on a rosemary branch, the bush's aromatic flowers become sky blue.  And all three energetic women are linked with fire and light. The Good Goddess marries Lugh, the sun-

Winter Solstice On The Dingle Peninsula

Walking the hills of Corca Dhuibhne you find tumbled forts and gravesites, ancient mounds and stones, marking the lives of people who lived and died here under the panoramic sky.  Some sites, nearer the tourist routes, are fenced and gated, hemmed in by car-parks and neatly-clipped fuchsia hedges. Others, in higher places, lie among plantain and tiny, pale-green wildflowers, lost in grasses and smothered by briars.  Among them are single standing stones, some tilted in the boggy earth, with parallel grooves of different lengths scored along their sides. Some are carved with crosses or single or linking whorls,  etched in grey and yellow lichen . Exposed in high fields, they seemed forgotten, except for official notices warning against vandalism. Sometimes they're tilted in deep ruts carved by grazing cows.  Many are gravestones. But where the sun warms the weathered stones they strike warmth back when you lay your hand on them. It's hard to believe tha