The Faery Man

I had just squeezed through the narrow opening in the stone wall and was grounding and greeting the guardian trees of this sacred place. It was twilight and I was here to step into a ceremony with the energies of the full moon and imagesummer solstice…and the sacred well in the middle of the ring fort which is encircled by trees. There is lovely grove energy in this place.

I sensed a presence and turned to see the man leaning over the stone wall. His sudden appearance would have me think he sprang right up out of the ground except that I had encountered him on previous visits and knew he lived in the house just across the road. Dressed in tweed jacket, sweater vest, and Irish cap, he was staring at me intently and expectantly with dancing blue eyes. Ah yes. I had been told this man is faery and his countenance completely supports it. I went back to the wall and greeted him.

“Well, I’m here to do a bit of prayer work,” I explained in answer to his unspoken question.

“Ah, grand.” His eyes sparkled. “Now do ye know the pattern of the place?”

“No. I was led through it last summer. But I haven’t the details of it. Do you know the pattern?”

“Ah. Now I don’t.” But I knew that he did. “Do ye know how many stones are there?”, he asked knowing full well the answer.

“I believe there are fourteen,” I replied, “two concentric circles with seven stones each.”

imageHe nodded. “And do ye know what is the healing of this place?” I acknowledged that I didn’t. Many, if not most, sacred wells in Ireland are known for a specific healing energy. I had just days before visited an Eye Well. When I mentioned my visit the faery man seemed pleased. I asked if he knew of the healing energy of this place. I’m sure he does, but he wasn’t going to share the deeper secrets of this place. Clearly that is for me to discover – perhaps if those of the other realms deem it appropriate.

We closed our conversation and I turned again to my ceremony. Yes. This place and so many places in the Irish landscape hold much magic. The more time I spend here, the more those secrets are shared. I hope that when I am here again in a few months I might again encounter the faery man. For he is much part of the magic of this place.

Judith –


We didn’t plan it. It just happened. The way so much has happened in these last weeks. The Magical Mystery Book Launch Tour was aptly named.

My book is now in fifteen independent bookshops across Ireland. Yesterday, as we made our way through County Cork, our final stop would be at the Kenmare Bookshop. The very bookshop where my sacred journey with Irish spirituality began some twenty years ago.

It had been my first visit to Ireland. I was with my Dad. And as we planned our adventure, I mentioned that I had heard about stone circles and was curious. Could we visit one? We did. And the energy of it and my seeing the ghostly figures of ancestors caught my attention. So we wandered into this shop where I asked Ann, the owner, if she had books on these megalithic imageplaces. I wanted something more than mere archeological recordings. I wanted something that spoke to the mystical meaning of these sites. Well, she didn’t have such a book. But there was one, now out of print, that I might try to find. Through finding a used copy of the book, I found Jack. For it was Stars & Stones, the book he created and illustrated with Martin Brennan. The ground breaking book on the alignments and sacred nature of the megalithic sites that have now become standard stops on our Sacred Ireland journeys. In fact many of Jack’s illustrations in that book are now in mine.

As I once again stepped through the door of this bookshop, so many wonderful memories flooded back. Ann has since died and her son, John, now owns the shop. It was a delight to share this story with him. And to have him be so excited to carry the book.

Bookends. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Judith –

Mystical Alignments

There is so much deep mysticism in this land and landscape. We will likely never know the ancient mystery of it all. But clearly there is still a strong presence of it. When we stopped to see this dolmen that presence was with us absolutely. So many dolmens in this area are aligned with the peak just visible in the far distance. And this day, so were the clouds. A reminder of sacred alignment. A calling to alignment. If only we knew more about how to answer that call. Yet just being still in these places is a beginning. So much opens.

Judith –

We’ve Been Here Before

A million a decade! Of human wrecks.
Corpses lying in fever sheds –
Corpses huddled on foundering decks,
And shroudless dead on their rocky beds;
Nerve and muscle, and heart and brain,
Lost to Ireland – lost in vain.

Pause – and you can almost hear
The sounds of echoes down the ages;
The creak of the burial cart,
The rattle of the hinged-coffin door,
The sigh of spade on earth.
Now and again. All day long.

Here in humiliation and sorrow,
Not unmixed with indignation,
One is driven to exclaim:
Oh God! That bread should be so dear
And human flesh so cheap.

We’ve been here before. This place of horrific human loss. Amidst reports of the tragic Orlando shootings, Jack and I visited the famine graveyard in imageSkibereen on Ireland’s south coast. The above inscription is on the memorial markers in this place where countless thousands were buried in lime pits. Very often no way to even know who they were when they were found, sometimes families together, dead along the road. The Great Famine. Some of the darkest days for the Irish. But it’s not death that captured my attention when I stood looking at this field. Not death, but compassion. For the story of these people is also a story of great compassion.

The English owned most all of the land during this time and were evicting the Irish from their homes, lands, and customs. While the farms continued to produce an abundance of food, the Irish were given none of it. And so these people, refugees in their own land, made their way to the coastal villages where they clung to life by eating the small plants and animals that clung to the rocks along the shore. But it wasn’t enough. Seeing this plight, there were some overseers of the area farms who did give the people food and shelter. And they did this at great peril to their own livelihoods – even their lives. The heart and conscience could just not allow this suffering.

I hear a resonance in the stories of the aftermath of Orlando. In the congressional filibuster. In the lines of people waiting to give blood. In the outpouring of compassion in so many ways. At some point there can be no more allowance or tolerance of injustice. At some point we make a stand.

We have been here before. And it gives me hope.

Judith – 


A Time Of Endings

The blue glass flower still sits on the windowsill here in the Spiddal farmhouse. It was so many years ago that I brought this gift to our B&B imagehosts. Ah, those were times of beginnings. Casual acquaintances became treasured friends. Serendipitous encounters became valued colleagues.

But now failing health and frailty are changing some of the landscape here. And I am struck by the realization that I had created my own image of an Ireland I would always come home to. An image that would never change. But it is changing. And while so many new relationships are opening up for me through this book launch adventure, it is also clearly a time of endings.

The blue glass flower sits in the windowsill of dear friends who are about to lose a loved one to cancer. In another home it seems that Alzheimer’s will soon have me searching for new lodging for my tours. And I sense more retirements, more endings on the horizon.

After an unprecedented spell of sunshine, the rains returned tonight. And it seems altogether fitting that my sister and nieces, together with dear friends, placed some of my Dad’s ashes in Galway Bay this evening. It’s so easy and joyful to dance the new beginnings. Yet it is so important to honor the endings.

Judith –

Beneath The Waves Of Caricature

In creating itineraries for Ireland travel, I make every effort to slip beneath the waves of caricature that wash over folks in the more populated and frequented destinations. Places where massive and masses of tour buses lumber into specially designated parking lots. Places where visitors are imageafforded opportunities to shop for shamrocks, load up on leprechauns, and swarm a site with selife sticks often within an allotted ten or twenty minutes.

Yes. I have heard the argument that a tour bus is, for some, the only way they might see Ireland. But in too many cases, that is about all that happens from the window of a bus. Seeing Ireland, or some of it. But rarely experiencing more than an Irish caricature.

So we travel to more remote places and open ourselves to the heart and soul of the people and the land – and a deeper connection through casual encounter and serendipity. There is magic in that. There is joy. And on this journey to Ireland I am finding there is also great sorrow.

Judith –

A Question Of Sophistication. Two.

Our Knowth tour guide had just observed that the ancient peoples who built these monuments were likely more sophisticated than we might think. But then she went on to say they were farmers and as such would need to know when to plant and harvest their crops. So the reason they built these sites with alignments to the solstices and equinoxes was to know when to do just that. Really? These imageare just some sort of megalithic alarm clocks? I had to take a deep breath, clamp my mouth shut, and step back from the tour.

Until recently, Ireland’s megalithic cairns, stone circles, and dolmens have been referred to as places of burial. Tombs and cemeteries. And although those labels still appear on signage in many places, that is slowly changing and I’m glad alignment is now part of the guide script these days. But there is so much more to say.

Slow as they are, these changes are due much to my friend Jack Roberts who worked with Martin Brennen to prove the solar and lunar alignments of these places. imageOthers have added their voice, research, and observations to this. Friend and colleague Anthony Murphy chief among them. And the tide is turning. For it is really impossible to consider the intricate and complex architecture of these places and not know that something else was going on here beyond telling time and season. These are places of sacred ceremony and connection with universal harmonies and energies. What manner of ceremony, we will likely never know. But these sites are not simply agrarian alarm clocks.

Think about it. Our ancient ancestors lived in intimate relationship with the seasons. They would have known when to plant and harvest by knowing the intricate details of the plants and animals though the procession of the year. When the birds arrived and left. Which plants emerged from the Earth first, last, and in between – and in what relationship. They would have known the patterns of the Earth, Sun, and Moon and how to plant, harvest, and live within those patterns. They didn’t need a stone circle to tell time.

With our dependence on technology to tell us the time and weather, with our separation from an intimate relationship with the Earth’s cycles, seasons, and patterns, the sophistication of these ancient architects is perhaps beyond our comprehension.

And I wonder. Who is the more sophisticated?

Judith –

A Question Of Sophistication. One.

Jack had mentioned Thomas was a brilliant interviewer. Jack uses that word a lot. Brilliant. In this case daunting might have been more accurate. The interview with Thomas about my book was lasting much longer than I had anticipated. Not a problem. But I kept waiting for ‘the’ question to drop. Something provocative and perhaps provoking. And it did.

We were well into the subject of magic, a favorite topic for Thomas I discovered, near the end of the interview when he brought up the subject of imagethe stones. I sensed ‘the’ question approaching. The massive stones at Newgrange and Knowth, 550 at Newgrange alone and each weighing well over one ton, have long raised speculation about how they were moved into place. The site’s interpretive center suggests the stones were rolled over logs. Some have suggested they were floated down rivers or along the coast on rafts. But Thomas mentioned the idea of linking with the unique molecular structure of the stones, toning or chanting with that structure, and basically levitating the stones. Well. It’s been my personal imagepreferred answer but I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to go public with it. Ah…but I did. And clearly Thomas agreed.

When we visited Knowth and Newgrange just days later, I was interested to hear the guide at Knowth mention that, due to the vast expanse and complexity of these megalithic structures, clearly the ancient people who constructed them over 4,000 years ago were somewhat sophisticated and perhaps not as primitive as we might think. I was impressed with this comment because the standard issue guide speeches don’t always include this. But then she went on to completely contradict what she had just said.

(Above photos: kerbstone at Knowth and central chamber at Newgrange)

Judith –

A Curiosity Of Cows

It’s Annie’s last night in Ireland and we just couldn’t resist one more foray into the Irish countryside to look at yet another dolmen and holy well. Ah, forging imageover fence and field. Jack is in his element. He knows just about every megalith on this Emerald Isle and greets them all with the enthusiasm of a long lost friend.

We had wandered into a pasture to see a truly lovely dolmen. Jack was pointing out the many unique features when we heard a low trumpling behind us and felt the ground shake a bit. The bulls had been at the far end of the field but ran over to see what was going on. As Jack said, “Hell. You’re a cow. You do bloody nothing but stand in a field all day. Of course you’re curious.”

Or perhaps they were just coming over to say “goodbye and safe journeys to you”, Annie. This has indeed been a most Magical Mystery Book Launch Tour and while the tour continues your being with us these last two weeks has brought much joy. Pure delight. Thank you so much!

Judith –

In Chantment

imageThe site is impressive. A commanding presence in the landscape and unique megalithic configuration. As we approached it, several descriptors came to mind, formidable and fortress among them. Ah, we see things through our cultural lenses and so many of the ancient sites are thought of in terms of war and defense. Yet the truth is that few if any implements of war are ever discovered at these places. And although the well has probably always been here and part of this sacred landscape, the cross was added much later.

As we made our way through the arched entrance, other descriptors came to imageus. Amphitheater and colosseum. The former was more likely getting to the truth, although we will really never know. Such is the mystery of these places. The acoustics here are amazing. When Annie stood across the 30 meter diameter from me and Jack, she could hear every word and was as part of our conversation as if she was standing next to us. What must it have been like for our tribal ancestors gathered here? Apparently there was once a large stone platform in the middle. Was this a place for meeting and discussing the people’s business? It would have served that purpose brilliantly.

Yet what came to me was the notion of harmony. What would it have been like had our ancestors come to this place not to merely discuss but to sing, imagechant, and play music? What if this place, open to the skies and heavens above, was dedicated to being in harmony with the universe? For our ancestors lived their lives in harmony with the sacred beyond what we can probably imagine. The energy of the Oran Mór, the great melody or harmony that sings through all of life. Through all of creation.

I wonder. Yes, this is a just a story – like any story we create to explain what we cannot understand or know. Yet I like having a story that is not of war and destruction but of life and living in harmony. I like having a story that challenges my cultural filters. I like having a story of enchantment…or perhaps in-chantment.

Judith –