Demanding Women

We don’t have their portraits but we have what they penned, if you can read the Old Irish text. And their purpose was clear. If women had control of all affairs it is certain that things would be more settled and peaceful than they are.

Ireland in the 1690s was a grim place. After being defeated by King William the Irish were plunged into a cultural darkness with the implementation of the draconian Penal Laws. The women of Ireland, fed up with the mess that men had plunged their world into, decided to seize political power themselves, set up their own parliament, and enact their own laws. They formed the Párliament na mBan, the Parliament of Women. They were used to having power and using it. It was their heritage.

The oldest surviving Celtic law system is the Irish Brehon Laws. Established in 714 BC, these laws gave more rights and protection to women than any other western law code at that time or since. It’s been suggested that with regard to women’s rights, Irish women are struggling to regain what was true for their ancesstresses fifteen hundred years ago. For the women of the Párliament na mBan this was their heritage and they demanded a rightful voice and place in the affairs of their country.

This past week thousands of our Israeli and Palestinian sisters came together in the Women Wage Peace movement to demand their voices be heard. In January of this year hundreds of thousands of women marched to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.

As horrific atrocities continue to unfold in this country and around the world, we stand on the shoulders of our ancesstresses. We stand rooted in our heritage. We stand as demanding women.

Judith –


Spirit Speaking

Eenie meenie chili beanie, the spirits are about to speak.
Bullwinkle J. Moose
Are they friendly spirits?
Rocket J. Squirrel

Communicating with and within other dimensions and realms of reality is something I take very seriously. When I open the gates for connecting, perhaps in a sweat lodge or during a ceremony at one of Ireland’s megalithic sacred sites, I’m aware that it can be challenging to navigate the language of Spirit. It’s a fluency that can take some time and experience. It can be a challenge to know whether the messages are real. Or just a story.

In our longing for spiritual communion it’s so tempting to create those stories. We see a feather in our path, an eagle flying overhead, a unique cloud formation. Is it a message? Or is it just a feather, just a cloud? Hard to know. Well, there are ways to know, but as I mentioned it comes through the experience of spiritual connections.

We were standing at a holy well within the monastic ruins of Aghagower, paying tribute to the Sheela-Na-Gig mounted in the wall. I had wandered around the other side of the wall when I saw this lichen formation. I had to chuckle. Had we been in ceremony it might have been tempting for someone to create a story from it. There are times when Spirit is speaking. This wasn’t one of them.

Judith –

A Test Of Tea & Turf

“Ah sure, folks around here are pretty open minded,” Mick told me one day. He and Mary live just down the road and were keepers of the keys when we were first looking at the cottage. As such, they were the only ones with any information on the curious tribe that was now inhabiting the place. There’s an American. But she’s there only part time. There’s a local man who bought the place with the American but he doesn’t live there. And then there’s the young woman who does live there but is no relation to the other two. The neighbors may be open minded but they were also desperate for more information. 

We did have a house warming back in June. The place was filled with laughter and music and about thirty of our friends. But no neighbors save Mick and Mary. A young local man had died and the rest of the neighbors had gone to his funeral, for as is the way in Ireland when someone dies, life and plans stop to honor that person.

When I arrived in Ireland last month Mary was in her garden as I drove by and I stopped briefly to say hello. We agreed to have tea after I returned from the tour. But no date was set, at least by me. It was through Jack that I learned our tea was set for the Sunday before I headed back to the States. But no time was given. So I stopped in to see Mary, who was clearly in charge of this event, at the charity shop in Gort where she volunteers and learned the time was set for 3:00. I had become aware that there was a neighbor very interested in meeting me and seeing the cottage and so I suggested to Mary that we might invite Teresa. “Oh, I’ve already invited her,” Mary let me know. Aha. Well what about Anna, the woman who sold us the cottage? “Oh, I’ve invited her three times now but I don’t think she’ll be joining us.”

My first hosting of an Irish tea. Concerned that it would be a success, several friends counseled me about the requisite tea, milk, sugar, biscuits, scones, butter, jam, and Irish tea brack. The latter seems to be Ireland’s version of fruitcake but, except for raisins, without the fruit. And of course I would have a turf fire going.

We had a delightful afternoon as I listened to their many stories of the cottage. Both women had been frequent visitors and knew the family well. They seemed delighted by what we have done with the place. And were most anxious to share all they learned and saw with others. Teresa excused herself to go to the bathroom and while she was there got a phone call. She was excited to begin the sharing and didn’t realize that we could hear her from the living room. “Oh, no. She’s not Irish. She’s American. And very lovely.” Apparently there were misperceptions running through the neighborhood and Teresa was delighted to be putting people straight. I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and we agreed that the next time I’m at the cottage we will arrange for another tea so more neighbors can drop by. Mary, of course, is in charge of that event.

Two days later when I was headed to the airport to catch my flight home Teresa was standing in the road at the foot of her lane waiting for a friend to collect her. I stopped to say hello and she said again what a lovely time she’d had and shared with me the many phone calls she’d made about our tea. Apparently I passed the test of tea and turf.

Judith –

Tribal Bowls

Our Ireland cottage is a blend of modern IKEA and early charity shop. It works. And I’m always happy to take a few spare moments to pop into one or more of the shops here in Gort. Generally trolling for dishes.

Last week I found these beautiful bowls. There were three but one had a small chip, so I decided to take the two. When I arrived at the counter the woman looked at me. And looked at the chipped dish still on the shelf. “Sure now you can’t just take two and leave that last one lonely over there.” So we struck a deal. Three for the price of two. And really, you hardly notice the chip.

Yesterday, in a different shop, I found a small shallow cut glass bowl. Perfect candle holder. Arriving at the counter the woman held the bowl and looked concerned. Glancing at the two remaining on the shelf she said, “Sure now what are ye going to do with only one bowl? I’ll give you all three for a Euro.” I took the deal and quickly turned to intercept another shop volunteer who was now on a mission to locate more of the bowls that she was sure were tucked away somewhere.

Last night I was to dinner with some dear friends who shared that their six-year-old niece has the idea in her head that objects we might consider inanimate are really not. And they told the story of her parents replacing their fridge and this young girl pitching a fit about it saying they couldn’t just throw away the fridge because it was an act of cruel rejection and would hurt its feelings. It would seem she’s not the only one to hold this view. Apparently bowls travel in tribes. And we wouldn’t want any to be left behind and lonely.

Well, I have written and talked about how our Irish ancestors saw everything as sacred. Hmmm.

Judith –

Rubbish Rituals

Why do we recycle? I suppose there are many reasons. But at the heart is some knowing that our relationship with the Earth cannot continue to be one of endless extraction and exploitation. That we are woven with the Earth and what happens to her happens to us. And so we are mindful of what we take from her and mindful to give back.

We can never really know the ways of our ancestors. We only have the rare glimpse into their lives and lifestyles. Yet we surmise. We create a story, for that is what we humans do. We create stories. So here’s one.

In a prior post I mentioned the gatherings that took place in the Carrowmore landscape. And I mentioned that there was no archeological evidence of people living there. But nearby, on the shores of Sligo Bay, there is such evidence. Because the ocean has worn away the banks along the shore, we can walk along the beach and see the shells exposed. Very likely an acre of shells at least ten feet deep, Jack estimates from his explorations. Shells not just tossed into a pit, but stacked one on another. Holding one I reflected that the last human to touch this shell lived thousands of years ago. An awed feeling.

It’s likely the ancient tribes camped in this place during the gatherings. Near the ocean food source. And what they took from the earth, they gave back. Carefully, mindfully. Honoring the Earth and her bounty. Honoring a sacred relationship.

As I said, it’s a story. But since archeologists have not yet spent time in this place to create their story, for now this story is as good as any. And perhaps there is something in it for us today. Perhaps we might grow in our understanding of our sacred relationship with the Earth. Perhaps we might embrace such rubbish rituals.

Judith –

Time for ReUnion

So many say that coming to Ireland is like coming home. It’s palpable. For this is the land of our heritage. And it sings a warm welcome. Here we have a sense of who we are as a people. For we are the branches of a tree with ancient roots. In the people, in the mythologies and stories, in the megalithic landscapes, there is a remembering and re-membering of ancestral knowing. There is a union in it.

Wandering among the megaliths at Carrowmore, more numerous than anywhere in Ireland, I stand among the circles and dolmens and soften my gaze to visualize the gatherings that happened here in this landscape beneath the majesty of Mave’s Cairn atop Knocknarea. Although some say they can see the ancestors of this place and some of us can absolutely sense them, it’s hard to imagine. This place filled with people. This place of reunion.

Archeological evidence suggests the people didn’t live here and what they did here among the stones remains a mystery. Yet clearly this was a sacred place. Clearly a place and time for our ancestral peoples to remember who they were as a people. Clearly a time of unity and union…and re-union.

In this time when division and discord is our national story. In this time when those in positions of power focus on our differences to alienate us from each other. I remember that our heritage is one of union. I remember there is always present the invitation for re-union.

Judith –

They Had A Dream

There are so many amazing storytellers here in Ireland. Men and women who are able to bring history alive. Marty is among the very best.

We sat together under a tree and watched him animate the tales of the tribes who gathered at Uisneach, the very center of Ireland, thousands of years ago. The people came from all directions and, from archeological discoveries, around the world to this sacred center. They came to affirm their connection with the Sacred, the Earth, and Community. They came to dance and sing and celebrate. They came to share their dream, their vision for the people. For their people and for all people down through the ages.

As Marty guided us through this sacred landscape he reminded us that archeologists have found no evidence of weapons at these ancient megalithic sites. They were not a people of war until much later in history. They lived the dream and vision they held of peace and right relationship with the universal mystery and all life. They lived in harmony.

I opened my mail this morning to the horrific news of the Las Vegas shooting. Much as I have opened my mail these last days and weeks to the violence and hatred which seems to grip our country, the complete disregard for humanity displayed by those in power – I cannot call them leaders. And I am reminded of our ancestors.

They held a dream and a vision and they passed it to us. And, my brothers and sisters, this is not it.

Judith –