The next stop on Cinnia’s trip was Malahide Castle. Not only because, well it’s a castle, and who doesn’t want to see a castle, but because she was attending an event reminiscent of the old hearthside tales of the Celts.
The hearth was the center of the home in Celtic days, both literally and figuratively. The family, or clan, was the core of the Celtic tradition. This resonated strongly with Cinnia, who feels the same way about her own family. Family comes first! The hearth was where family came to gather, it was where meals were cooked, stories were told, and songs were sung.
The hearth also is where the fire is kept burning. Fire helps keep the family together as it is used to cook meals and heat the home. Fire, however, is also symbolic of the creative fire that burns within. It therefore, also fuels the stories and songs that are told while the family is gathered.
Most of the old Celtic tales were only passed down orally and were often accompanied by the harp. Harpists traveled the countryside and visited local homes and manors to tell tales of events and adventures. The harp is one of the most popular of the Celtic instruments, so much so, that it became the national symbol of Ireland. It is believed that the harp reflects the immortality of the soul.
I can’t wait to hear a Celtic tale told in the traditional manner, by the fire of the hearth with the music of the harp to guide it. The sound of the harp is so mesmerizing. I often get lost in the melodies when I listen to it.
Cinnia gathered with others around the mantle and fire. Dinner was served and as the group began to eat their meal the song and tale began. It was the tale of how the harp came to be.
Dagda, the Good God, owned a magical harp. Only he was able to play it. With the harp he could harness the seasons, remove fear from his warriors in battle, and heal their wounds and restore their energy once the battle had ended. During one such battle the harp was left unguarded and stolen by the enemy. Dagda with Lugh, God of Light, and Ogma, God of Art, went to the enemy camp to retrieve it. The three were far outnumbered but Dagda beckoned to the harp and the harp sprang to his outstretched arms. He then struck the harp playing the Music of Mirth causing the enemy warriors to roar with laughter but when the music stopped they advanced on the three men. So Dagda stuck the harp again playing the Music of Sorrow and all the warriors broke down in tears. But again when the music stopped they advanced on the three men. Dagda struck the harp for the third time playing the Music of Sleep. The enemy warriors all fell to a deep slumber and the three men were able to make their escape.
Cinnia’s next visit was to the Hill of Tara. It was here that the mythical Tuatha dé Danann established rule over Ireland. They brought with them the Lia Fail or Coronation Stone. It was believed that whoever stepped upon the stone, causing the stone to cry out, was the rightful High King. The Tuatha dé Danann, Children of the Goddess Danu, were skilled in magic and experts in art, science, music, and poetry. It is the tales of this clan of Gods and Goddesses that Cinnia found so intriguing.
She laid her hands upon the stone, if there is any magic left here perhaps a small bit will pass on to me. She smiled.
From the Hill of Tara Cinnia travelled to Kildare, The City of Brigid. Brigid was a Goddess of the Tuatha dé Danann. The daughter of Dagda, she was patroness of poetry, music, and song. It is Brigid who one seeks assistance from to reignite the creative fire in the soul. Cinnia sought out the eternal flame, at the site of the monastery she built. She sat on a bench beneath the flame to mediate and began by reading a passage she had saved from her research:
‘I am Brid, beloved of Erin, spirit of fire, healer of ills, warrioress of old, protector of life, woman of power, sovereign Mother of all creation. I create, I inspire, I make magick. I am old, I am young, I am eternal.’ (Quote from: Celtic Myth and Magic – Harnessing the Power of the Gods and Goddesses by Edain Mc Coy)
She closed her eyes; I seek to regain a spark, to rekindle the energy within. Please heal my soul so that I may have the fortitude to bring the expression of the beauty of the world forth through story and dance. A sense of warmth and peace radiated through her body. She took out her journal and started to write.
The plane began its descent and Cinnia watched out the window as land came into view and grew closer and closer. Her excitement began rising once again at the adventure that waited.
I always hear people who have visited say how green it is here. Wow! It truly is.
Cinnia began to gather her things as the plane came to a stop at the gate. She deplaned and went to pick up her rental car. The rental office went over the rules of the road and some tips for driving on the left. This was Cinnia’s biggest concern for the trip – not to get into trouble driving! She organized her maps and plans for the day and headed out to the car. I can do this! Left, left, remember to stay on the left. She said a Hail Mary, started the ignition, and headed off to her first destination, Newgrange.
One of Ireland’s greatest archeological treasures, Newgrange is one of the oldest structures in the World. Cinnia was eager to visit the site and learn more about the folklore and history. It was believed to be the palace of the old Gods of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, particularly, Aengus Óg, the son of Dagda, who is known as the God of Youth and Love. Dagda believed to be the ruler of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, is known as the God of Earth and Master of Magic. It was a site rich with the lore of Ireland.
Newgrange is also well known for the dramatic emergence of the Winter Solstice that occurs at the site. At dawn, between December 18th through the 23rd a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and illuminates the entire chamber and passageway to the entrance. The event only lasts for seventeen minutes.
Cinnia’s breath caught as she approached the cave entrance. She walked down the long passage and visited each of the three chambers inside. As she observed the spiral carvings on the rock walls her mind wandered to the types of rituals that may have transpired here. Standing in the center circle of the three chambers, Cinnia closed her eyes. She imagined being inside the chamber on the morning of the Winter Solstice. Being bathed in warmth and light from the rising sun. She recalled a passage she had read:
‘I am Aengus…men call me the Young. I am the sunlight in the heart, the moonlight in the mind; I am the light at the end of every dream, the voice forever calling to come away; I am the desire beyond joy or tears. Come with me, come with me: I will make you immortal; for my palace opens into the Gardens of the Sun, and there are the fire-fountains which quench the heart’s desire in rapture.
~ From Æ (George William Russell), “A Dream of Angus Oge,” 1897
Cinnia cocked her head to one side. “That music, it’s beautiful.”
“Feel free to explore the grounds for as long as you like. I need to get back to my students,” said the woman in white. She returned to the stone hall.
The music continued faintly and drew Cinnia in. She followed the sound and came upon three young druids sitting in a circle; one was playing the flute, one the mandolin, and one the Bodhrán. Entranced, Cinnia stopped and listened to them for quite some time. As she listened she became more attuned to her surroundings. It was then she realized the musicians were sitting in the middle of a maze in the shape of the triquetra.
Listening to the enchanting melodies, Cinnia began to wander down one path of the trine. She was overcome with memories of childhood fairy tales and college studies of mythology and legend. She felt joy and amusement as she heard the words, “Evoke the Past,” whispering on the breeze. She continued venturing down the second trine. She thought of her job and was overwhelmed with a sense of tedium and fatigue as she heard, “Evaluate the Present.” She now ventured into the third trine. This brought a sense of peace and hope, “Embrace the Future,” she heard drift overhead.
Cinnia was awakened by the bump and shudder of the landing gear descending. She startled and it took a moment to orient to where she was. I was dreaming. She fished in her bag for her journal. She made three entries on three separate pages, the words she heard spoken on the wind in her dream.
Get away day had finally arrived! There was hardly a cloud in the bright blue sky. Cinnia’s flight didn’t leave until afternoon. She ate a leisurely breakfast and turned on some music as she checked the weather in Ireland for the next few weeks. Mild temperatures in the 60s and 70s were forecasted.
Perfect weather for hiking and exploring the countryside, and I have my rain gear – just in case.
Next she went over all her travel documents.
Passport – check. Plane tickets – check. Lodging confirmations – check. Travel books – check. Maps and directions – check. Everything’s ready.
She grabbed her Kindle and perused her reading list. She made sure she had all of the myths and legends she had been studying loaded. She also had plenty of light reading for the 7 hour-long flight. Her laptop and camera were packed in her carry-on; along with a few snacks. She double checked that she had all the correct chargers and power cords, and of course an adapter.
I’m ready. I think I’ve got everything I’ll need. If I don’t it’s too late to worry about it now – I’ll just have to do without. I can always pick up anything I’m missing while I’m there anyway.
At this point it was time to leave – she headed out to the airport. Getting through security was a breeze. It wasn’t terribly crowded. To pass the time while waiting to board she went over her itinerary.
There’s so much to see and do – I can’t wait to get started!
Once on the plane she settled into her seat and got as comfortable as possible. She had a window seat and was content to watch the city fall away and the wispy clouds float by allowing her mind to drift aimlessly in anticipation of the trip ahead. It wasn’t long before the drone of the plane had lulled her to sleep.
“Welcome Cinnia.” A woman in a flowing white robe greeted her. Cinnia looked around, she was in a stone room and there were others dressed in white robes, like the woman who addressed her.
“What is this?” Cinnia asked.
“It is the Druids Hall. Come, I’ll show you around.” Cinnia followed the woman. They walked out into a beautiful garden; it was lush and vibrant. “We often come here to meditate and become one with nature. The trees, the Earth, animals, and people – we are all one. A change in one creates a ripple that brings change to all. Remember this as you begin your journey. You seek to reignite your gift, in doing so you will find so much more.”
Cinnia awoke to a cold and dreary Saturday morning. The sky was gray and there was a fine, but unrelenting rain. Weather reports indicated that would be the order of the day. It made you want to curl up under blankets with a good book. With thoughts of Celtic music and myth still running through her mind, Cinnia decided to follow through on the decision to head to the library. Perusing the shelves, she pulled several volumes on Celtic mythology and folklore and found a quiet, solitary corner to settle into. Before long she found herself immersed in the world of bards and tales of great warriors, kings, and feuding tribes. She got so lost in her research, time escaped her, and it wasn’t until her stomach began to demand food that she decided to call it a day. She chose a couple of books to check out and headed home.
It would be amazing to travel to some of the locations referenced in these stories. Perhaps the ancient sites still have some of that old magic left in them, enough to reignite a creative spark. At the very least, it would allow me to indulge that wanderlust that is growing stronger and stronger.
As she prepared dinner, Cinnia created a Celtic playlist on Pandora. Her mind wandered and danced along with the soothing melodies. With the meal in the oven, she popped open her laptop and scanned through her notes. She was surprised to see the number of places she had recorded, a whole itinerary so to speak. She checked her e-mail and found a travel deal for a two-week tour of Irish castles.
That’s a sign. I’m booking this before I can talk myself out of it.
Cinnia sat at her desk, head propped in her hand, staring out the window at the wispy clouds drifting across the bright blue sky. She jumped at the ping of the meeting notification, startled back to reality. After a moment of disorientation, she sighed and began gathering her notes and laptop to make her way to the planning meeting. As she walked to the conference room she mused:
Is this really all it’s about? Meetings; processes and procedures; templates and spreadsheets; budgets, numbers, and statistics (another big sigh); this really wasn’t my master plan. This has become so tedious. I feel like I’m just going through the motions, day after day, after day. I need a break, to get away for a while. An adventure – a full out, no holds barred adventure. I need an escape to try something new and invigorating, something to get that spark of energy and enthusiasm back. It has been so long since I have allowed myself time for an adventure.
At home that evening, Cinnia poured herself a glass of wine, turned the TV on, and began absentmindedly flipping through stations. As she raced through the channels, barely registering what was on before moving to the next, she heard some Celtic music. I’ve always found that style of music to be relaxing, she thought. That’s just what I need tonight. She backtracked until she found it again. The program was about the role of music in mythology, folklore, and ancient traditions. It captured her attention. I loved studying mythology in college – I haven’t thought about that in quite some time. Perhaps tomorrow I can get to the library and pick something up to read. If I can’t escape on my own adventure, maybe I’ll be content with reading about one.
I admit, since I launched the website in January, I have struggled with getting some stories published on this page. I have some started but they seem to take on a life of their own and travel down roads I wasn't intending, as a result I haven't actually finished anything. I saw a friend on Facebook, and fellow blogger (shanjeniah.com), post about this challenge and thought it may be a good way to set some smaller goals and get that spark ignited. I'm hoping the challenge will help keep me motivated and accountable to write a little bit of something creative every day this month - well at least 26 days this month. Since I'm a few days late to this party - I am trying to get caught up today. To all the other folks who have also taken on the challenge - Happy Writing!
Once upon a time...
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