For me and those who join me, travel in Ireland is always an otherworldly adventure. That’s the whole point, really. To step away from the ordinary and step into the extraordinary.
Coddiwomple. (v.) To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination. I found this word on Facebook and discovered it’s a fantastic word not found in ordinary dictionaries. Perfect. We journey to Ireland with sacred purpose and intention yet we remain open to vagaries of mythic and mystical encounter. Without and within. However, distant travel is not required for, as John O’Donahue wrote, “At its heart, the journey of each life is a pilgrimage through unforeseen sacred places that enlarge and enrich the soul.”
When Alice fell down that rabbit hole she was on a mythic and mystical journey. Joseph Campbell would name it her heroic journey. In the recent movie it is so clear that this is the story of Alice finding and fulfilling her purpose of slaying the Jabberwocky. Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! When she does, all the characters of Wonderland rejoice and at long last the Hatter is able to do the futterwacken dance of celebration.
I don’t know how the futterwacken would translate into Irish culture. But I think this would come close.
In your life may you coddiwomple. May you futterwacken. And may you dance!
OK. Saturday is not the best day to shop at Costco, the aisles clogged with folks stopping for the ubiquitous food sampling opportunities. As I navigated past one young man loading small cups with ravioli I heard a large, loud, and aggressive voice behind me. “I will be the judge of whether this is any good!” I turned to see the source of this bombast, thinking, “Dude, the guy just offered you a free sample and followed a script to extol its virtues. Chill.” Then I saw his t-shirt. A proud Trump supporter determined to Make America Great Again. Apparently today his determination was focused on the greatness of our pasta.
The Donald’s campaign seems to be imploding. Fingers crossed. But even if we see the end of him, we won’t likely see the end of the bombast. Ireland’s King Cormac MacArt, who reigned from 218-254 CE before peacefully passing the crown to his son, offered the following advice for kings and leaders. It could as easily apply to those who follow Trump.
“O Cormac, grandson of Conn”, said Carbery, “What is the worst pleading and arguing?”
“Not hard to tell”, said Cormac.
Contending against knowledge,
contending without proofs
taking refuge in bad language
a stiff delivery
a muttering speech
turning against custom
shifting one’s pleading
inciting the mob
blowing one’s own trumpet
shouting at the top of one’s voice.
I could say more. But won’t. King Cormac said it all.
The number of times I’ve been to Ireland you’d think I’d know better. But apparently not. It was a rare and precious time of traveling on my own to explore new places when I sailed across the border into Northern Ireland. And encountered a road block. As the policeman motioned for me to stop beside him and roll down my window, he glanced at my Republic of Ireland license plates. It was July 12th. The pinnacle day of the marching season when Ulster Protestants celebrate the 1688 battle in which King William of Orange handed a decisive defeat to Catholic King James II. When he heard my American accent he looked relieved. I acknowledged this was probably not the best day to be traveling to Northern Ireland. “Perhaps not the best of choices,” he agreed. He mapped out a route around the road closures, patted the top of my car, and waved me on. “Mind yourself, now.”
As I shifted gears to navigate the detour route, I also shifted gears energetically. I had just spent a few hours with the gentle energy of one ancient tradition and was now abruptly thrust into the tense energy of another.
Driving through the small village of Raphoe I had made my way to the Beltany Stone Circle, the largest circle in Ireland. In place for 6,000 years, these stones hold the palpable energy of ancient traditions and ceremonies of sacred relationship between the land and the people. Meditations here are powerful.
Leaving the circle, something drew me back to the village where I had glimpsed the statue of a woman with her arms in the air standing in the middle of what villagers call the grassy Diamond. Who is she? Immediately remarkable is who she is not. In a country awash with statuary of St. Brigit and Mother Mary, this woman is not Catholic. In fact she is named Earth Mother and a plaque near where she stands claims a connection to the Beltany circle and ritual worship of the Sun, her hands positioned to cast a mid-day shadow on a nearby stone. Although installed in 2008, she echoes an ancient tradition and way of knowing. Ancient wisdom kept alive in this rural village.
As I drove through Northern Ireland that day, through the countryside, past more blockades and bands of marching Orangemen, I thought about the contrast of these ancient traditions and the choices we make about how we pass on any tradition. As we create, share, and celebrate the stories of our past, what is our intention? What is our purpose?