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?
Judith – firstname.lastname@example.org