July 31, 2022
Marty had told us the ancestral and otherworld energies were very present at a sacred site near his home. When we gathered there before the Bealtaine Festival celebration at nearby Uisneach, we could not have anticipated the power and potency of those energies. We were incredibly altered and others had to alert me to the fact that a cow was standing not two feet behind me perhaps considering a nibble on my jacket. Normally skittish, cows had climbed the hill and were standing in a circle around us.
It took a while to bring myself back before we climbed in the car to head to Uisneach. It was the first time on this Ireland journey that we would wonder how I managed to drive.
We were still very much in an altered state when we arrived at the festival and merged with the crowd estimated at 4,000 people. We wandered around in a daze for some time before deciding we had to migrate to the edges to keep our sanity. It was overwhelming. And as much as we tuned in, we could feel nothing sacred about this festival. It had the energy of a renaissance fair. People in costume. Many were dressed as goddesses, others cloaked with swords and daggers. There was even a man dressed as St. Patrick which was markedly antithetical to this ancient sacred fire festival. It was soon clear that there was really nothing sacred about this event. When I mentioned this to Anthony who was there giving a talk, he smiled and told me that was a problem of my expectations. This is not a sacred ceremony. It’s a reenactment.
It was also, because of covid, the first time in two years that people had been able to gather for this event. It was both reenactment and reunion. Most of the people I know who attended the event were wildly enthusiastic about it, especially the chance to see friends. I appreciate that. However I am deeply disappointed about what is clearly the demise of one of Ireland’s oldest and most important festivals and essential sacred events. Through the centuries, this was not a reenactment and the garments worn were not costumes. Through the centuries they continued to make it relevant to current times.
Yes. It was always a gathering of friends and tribes with feasting and games and laughter and music and fine flowing clothing. It was also a time for deep spiritual connection with the ancestral, cosmological, and otherworld energies that were fundamental in their lives. That is what was missing for me as I observed people still standing in line at the food vendors during the lighting of the fire. As rock and roll music continued to blast over speakers from a stage during the fire lighting ceremony. As I overheard people refer to a statue of Ériu as ‘that womany statue over there’, clearly not knowing who she is and that she is the predominant deity and energy of the festival and the Hill of Uisneach.
So no, I won’t be going back. Although I’m glad I was able to experience it this once. It just seems to me that when we relegate these ceremonies to reenactments of the past, we fail to bring the power of those ceremonies forward to this time. And now, as much as ever, we are called to a deeper connection with the spiritual energies fundamental to our lives. We are called to embrace and manifest the ancient spiritual and cosmological wisdom in this now.
We are called to leave behind the cloaks and daggers.