Wheel of Spirit. Wheel of Wisdom. Part Two.

A sentry stood guard at the gate and intercepted the messenger.

“The nobles of Ireland have a message for the High King. They are not in full agreement regarding the matter, but they have decided that they cannot attend the Great Feast this year until that particular matter is settled.”

“And what matter might that be?” the sentry asked.

“Some of the nobles feel the High King has taken far more than the king’s portion of land. Others of us are uncertain but know full well that the arrangement of Tara, just as the arrangement with all things within us and within our home provinces, must be guided by the proper order of things. However, none of us possesses the knowledge of this proper order, and thus we are uncertain about whether the king has taken more than his due for the manor of Tara. Until the manor of Tara is settled, partitioned, and resolved, and until we can discern – once again – the sacred alignment with which all must live in accordance, the nobles are forced to boycott the feast.”

Tara landscapeThe sentry raised an eyebrow. He knew the manor of Tara had always had the same defining boundaries as it did now – at least within his memory.

“Very well,” he replied and turned on his heel, moving quickly into the main compound at Tara. He passed through a shadow cast on the ground by one of the ramparts, giving the illusion that he had disappeared into thin air. Continue reading

Wheel of Spirit. Wheel of Wisdom. Part One.

As we step back into an exploration of the Oran Mór, the Great Song of Ireland, I will begin by sharing a story from Irish mythic history, The Settling of the Manor of Tara. A story that calls to be told in three parts. Many have written and shared this story, my favorite is the following which is excerpted and adapted from Frank MacEowen’s book The Celtic Way of Seeing: Meditations on the Irish Spirit Wheel, a book and author I highly recommend.

A voice rumbled from deep within the empty hall.

“Where are the nobles?” one of the High King’s advisors snapped, at no one in particular. “It is the custom that they and their retinue attend the Great Feast! They should be here by now.”

A druid standing nearby nodded in agreement. “Indeed, you are correct. They are not only expected to be in attendance, they are expected to contribute to the feast itself, as it has always been done.”

The two men looked at one another and knew something was amiss. They had felt a disturbance in the Great Peace for quite some time and had noticed the seeds of chaos beginning to sprout. The usual harmony of the land and of their souls had gradually entered a troubled state.

high kingIt had always been the custom for the nobles of Ireland from the far reaches of the island – lesser kings and chieftains alike – to travel every three years to the Great Hall at Tara: to sit in council, swear fealty to the High King, to attend a banquet in his honor, and then to aid in giving a grand feast to the Irish people over several days of celebration.

It was an ancient observance, and ancient feast that involved music, storytelling, foot races, horse races, jousting, as well as the announcement of marriages, all against a backdrop of ale drinking and lovers courting. The Great Feast was a way to honor the bounty of the land, to remit the bond between the High King and the land, and to maintain the memory of who they were.

This year was different. Continue reading

Snakes & Saints

March 17, 2021

The Light Of Ancient Wisdom


It feels a bit like the movie Groundhog Day as once again I see by the calendar that St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. Because of my deep connection with Ireland people make a special effort to wish me a happy St. Patrick’s day. Ironic, really, as I hold a deep aversion to this celebration. Following is a piece I wrote some time ago. A piece I find myself compelled to dust off and share again around March 17th.

St. Patrick is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland. A curious claim to fame since there haven’t been snakes on that island since the last ice age. The snakes were metaphorical, but the driving out was very real.

St. Patrick was bringing to a close several hundred years of fairly peaceful co-existence between the ancient and indigenous spiritual traditions and the relatively new Celtic Catholic Church. His mission; purge the old beliefs, rituals, ceremonies and symbols.

Enter the snake.

The snake has always been a symbol of the Goddess, representing the divine feminine power and energy of change and transformation. This was certainly true for the Goddess Brigit & snakesBrigit who was an extremely significant and popular divine presence throughout northern Europe – especially England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. So purging Ireland of snakes was really about purging divine feminine traditions and influences.

For the Irish people the divine feminine was embedded in their history, culture and very psyche. Ireland, or Eire, is actually named for the Goddess Ériu, the mother goddess, the goddess of the land. The Irish revered Brigit and were not at all interested in having her gone from their lives. Left with few options, Patrick and the Roman Catholics made Brigit a saint and declared the forge her new symbol of transformation.

This theme of driving out snakes played out in England as well. Right around the time of St. Patrick the Abbess of Whitby drove them over a cliff where they became million year old beach fossils, a story which clearly requires the suspension of linear time as we know it.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by some in Ireland and as we do here they will gather on barstools to raise a pint or two. However there will be many inclined to gather around a holy well to honor the Goddess Brigit. For she is still very much alive in the land, in the culture, and in the people.

Judith – judith@stonefires.com

Of Myth & Music

Music is the harmonious voice of creation; an echo of the invisible world.
Geoffrey Latham

If the Irish had a creation myth it was long ago burned or drowned. And, unlike other indigenous cultures, there is no surviving creation myth passed down through history. celtic knotPerhaps within a cosmological view of no beginning and no end, like a Celtic knot, there was no place for creation mythology. This does not mean, however, that there is no story. As Frank MacEowen writes, It isn’t a story printed in an ancient text somewhere, nor is it a sacred tale that has been passed down from generation to generation orally. …it is a living story – a story that waits for each of to remember it.

The Irish may not have the myth, but they have the music. They have the song. The Great Song, the Oran Mór. Indeed the primordial myth common to all people around the globe tells of a mighty melody, the breath and word of the sacred, the divine creative energy that calls all life into being. As Frank Mills writes, The Oran Mór is the numinous music – energy – that sings Creation into existence, and becomes the holy, mystical song of Life sung in the seasonal festivals and rituals of sovereignty of the people. It is the holy song of Creation that fills humankind and gives meaning to history…

It lives still in Ireland. It lives in the land. It fills all of creation with its divine harmony. And it continues today, for those who listen.

Ancient Harmony

We can…be part of a new birthing within us and between us today. And the new birthing relates to the ancient song that we are invited to hear again…the more we become reacquainted with its music, the more we will come to know that the deepest notes within ancient songus and between us in our world are not discord. They form an ancient harmony.

I was delighted to encounter this writing from John Philip Newell’s book Christ of the Celts. Another of his books, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, has been in my library for many years, one I recommend and refer to often. Deeply rooted in Celtic tradition, Newell is an amazing guide to spiritual resonance.

If we step into a space of resonance with universal vibration we touch the source of all song. The ancient song. Many voices singing down through history. It is for us to join the chorus.

The Power Of Song

songlinesBy singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, Indigenous people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia’s interior.

I’m no expert on the science of sound vibration, but I know absolutely the power of it. The palpable energy of light, love and peace present after a time of Kirtan. The way a singing bowl brings people into the space of one heart. The gracious space that lingers after chanting aum. Being swept into another dimension by listening to Gregorian chants.

Why such impact? It’s in the nature of water and we are mostly water. I had thought up to 98%, but it turns out to be between 70% and 80%. Still it’s a lot of water. And like all water our bodies are susceptible to vibrational influences. Energetic influences can agitate our waters or calm them and bring us into a place of peace. Through the power of vibration we  can join our energy with that of the universal web. Indigenous peoples throughout the world have known this and worked with this knowing. We are aware of the stories that come from the aboriginal peoples of Australia, we may be less aware of the stories that come from Ireland.

Bird Song. Soul Song.

When the Soul wants to experience something,
she throws an image before her
and steps into her own experience.
Meister Eckhart

starlightWe come to this life with sacred intention. To manifest our unique expression of light. Of love and joy and laughter. Of peace. It’s a promise we make with our soul as she throws our image before her. It is our soul song.

As babies and small children we held this knowing, but through years of enculturation it tends to get lost and we forget why we are here. Why we are really here.

The bird never loses this knowing. They sing from their very essence, woven in the web of all sacred life. Woven, as are we.

Indeed, as Mother Dawe commented on the previous post, may we all sing our song because we can. Because we have one to sing.

Bird Song

One day in a private session one of my teachers asked me why birds sing.

Yes! This was an opportunity to impress her. To let her know I had paid close attention to her teachings over the years of working with her. To share from my deep well of birds singingaccumulated wisdom. So I reflected for a moment on her question, took a long, slow breath. And launched.

Well. I rambled on at length about the web of all life and the sacred vibration that weaves us all together. About how everything is connected and interdependent. How the bird song is part of the energy that awakens the Earth each spring…blah, blah, blah. When at long last I was finished she smiled one of her smiles that lives next to laughter, and said graciously, “Yes. All of that is true. But it is not the answer I was looking for.”

It took me a year to find that answer. And of course it only came when I was ready to receive it. After four weeks in Ireland this past summer searching for answers. After months  of gentle yet persistent encouragement from my teachers. After finally surrendering fully and unconditionally to this spiritual journey of ancient discovery, knowing that this is the work of my soul. After all that, the answer came from the pages of a book during my research this winter. It came as an affirmation.

A bird sings because it has a song.

What Am I Doing Here?

My sister gave me Paulo Coelho’s new book, Aleph. It’s a good book. But the first page blew me away. As I travel this path, this soul promise of working with what Anthony Murphy   calls” the original and divine race of Ireland” …  well, let me just share what Coelho wrote.

Oh, no, not another ritual! Not another invocation intended to make the invisible forces manifest in the visible world! What has that got to do with the world we live in today? Graduates leave university and can’t find a job. Old people reach retirement and have almost nothing to live on. Grown-ups have no time to dream, struggling from nine to five to support their families and pay for their children’s education, always bumping up against the think we all know as “harsh reality.”

The world has never been as divided as it is now, what with religious wars, genocides, a lack of respect for the planet, economic crises, depression, poverty, with everyone wanting instant solutions to at least some of the world’s problems or their own. And things look only bleaker as we head into the future.

What am I doing here, trying to make my way in a spiritual tradition whose roots are in the remote past, far from all the challenges of the present moment?

What am I doing here?
What am I doing here?
What am I doing here?
What am I doing here?
I’ve asked myself this question so many times. But I don’t ask it anymore. And it turns out birds had the answer…

Experiences Of The Glen

Brendan was the first to tell me of the Faery Glen, but he wasn’t the first to take me there. It was my friend Jack, author and artist, who first introduced me to that mystical place. By the time Brendan first mentioned the Glen he was well aware of my visits to the many local megalithic sites; circles, cairns and caves. But the only time he ever asked about my experiences was after the Faery Glen visit. “Did you see anything?”, he wanted to know. Curious the same question wasn’t posed about other sites.

I don’t generally ‘see’ things. Well, there was that one time. My first visit to Ireland, in fact. But my connection with spirits and energies of other realms is mostly vibrational. And the vibrations in the Glen are powerful. Others do see things and have more what we think of as direct communication with those in other realms. After one visit, as we gathered back at tin whistlesthe cars, a woman in our group said the spirits of the place were very delighted by our visit, but that we were way too serious – it is so natural to step into a space of reverent silence in that place, and we had. They would love us to return with song and music. We decided to do just that the following afternoon. But we never made it. It was during a descent from Knocknarea the following morning that I broke my leg. Instead of gathering in the Glen we gathered in Sligo hospital.

However I have been back several times since. While singing and music does indeed raise the vibration of the place, fortunately none of us have been quite good enough to be spirited away by the faery folk…as is the story of legend and lore.