Showing posts from July, 2012

The Festival of Lughnasa

Lunasa, or Lughnasa, is the Irish language word for 'August'. It's also the name of the third season of the Celtic year, which starts with the festival of Lugh. Lugh, the Celtic sun god and sky father, is the god of the harvest. His ritual marriage to Danú, the earth mother, whose name means 'water', symbolises the vital balance of heat, light and moisture required to nourish the crops and livestock on with we depend for survival. Last year when I wrote about the festival of Lughnasa I was in Ireland, on the Dingle Peninsula. The peninsula's Irish language name, Corca Dhuibhne, means The Territory of the People of The Goddess Danú, and Lugh's festival's still celebrated there each year with bonfires and dawn gatherings on Mount Brandon. This year I'm writing  in London at the start of the Olympic Games. You might think that the two places couldn't be more different. But, as always, the similarities are as striking as the contras

Irish Music and Memory

The longer I live in Corca Dhuibhne, the more I'm aware of tradition - not as something fusty or introspective but as a rich, creative inheritance held in trust for generations to come. And the more aware I become, the more inspired I am by the hands-on way in which each generation passes it on to the next As I sit here writing this I remember sitting in a meeting with my commissioning editor in London two years ago, trying to describe the book that I had in my head.  'The house is ours bought and paid for, but it's still Tí Neillí Mhuiris.'  I was attempting to distil the essence of this low, grey house on an Irish hillside. But I was also trying to describe how deeply heritage and tradition inform my neighbours' lives. My editor's assistant brought tea. I remember the warmth of the mug in my hands as I leant forward '..Tí Neillí Mhuiris means Neillí Muiris's house. From the day it was built it was a gathering place for the neighbours. They'd