County Roscommon, Tuesday 26th July 2022…
Weirdly, our next site came
with a, ‘beware of the bull’ sign!
And while there was no animal visible,
there were signs of its presence
liberally spread about the field.
As well as, more reassuringly,
a Fairy Tree!
‘The monument consists of a quadri-vallate earthwork,
meaning it has a series of three ditches
and four earthen banks surrounding a central area.
It is one of a very few such enclosures in Ireland,
along with The Rath of the Synods on the Hill of Tara
and Tlachtga on the Hill of Ward in Co Meath.
These sites are thought to have been the burial places
of high status individuals and/or important ritual centres.’
Which does not actually tell us a great deal, really.
What the authorities are calling ‘quadri-vallate’
we might want to equate with our earlier revelation
in relation to the sidhe, that is, ‘being’, ‘threshold’ and ‘realm’…
The central ’roundel’ aligns with Cruachán Aigle,
‘peak of eagles’ which is also faintly visible
on the horizon of the previous picture.
We had just started to feel at home
when the bull made a re-appearance, herding his
cows and calves back into the field.
So, we made a collective dash for it!
Imploring the bull to eat
only one of our number
is possibly extremely naive.
Death by goring and trampling
the much more likely scenario.
There is no peak here, though… Or is there…?
The great bovine culture of the Mediterranean,
by which we mean, the Minoans,
according to current timelines,
flourished between 3500 and 2000 BC.
Perhaps, our tale
had its origins in a similar epoch?
I love the old stories, the legends and lays of ancient times when the world, from our vantage point, seemed both a more innocent and more magical place, where the impossible walked hand in hand with the improbable and where worlds seemed interwoven through the warp and weft of reality.
The tales tell of monsters and battles, quests and fair maidens, intrigue and magic. At least on one level. It is possible to hear in them still the crackle of the fire and the cadence of the bard holding spellbound an audience. Yet to listen to these stories in the silence of the heart is to realise how much they hold. In storytelling there is a perfect way to commit history to memory, to teach of new advances and preserve old lore, to guide the heart and mind through the hidden valleys of wisdom and show not only a way to live but a reason for life and the winding pathways we traverse.
On another level, the stories were simply stories… tales to while away the evenings round the hearth or fill the mead hall with sound. They were entertainment in much the same way as our society sits on its sofa watching fantasy and documentary on TV. We choose whether to be amused or informed. So did our forefathers, but perhaps it was the level of attention and engagement that changed, not the tale.
Read them now and they are still simply stories; tales to delight and transport us to another time and place. Look closer and the interactions of people seem to have changed only in the details, not in essence. Closer still and the veils part on a world of symbolism and meaning that goes beyond the daily life shared across the centuries. Close your eyes and you will smell the smoke of the fire and hear the voice of the bard…
For three days Gwythyr-the-Bright journeyed
in the gullet of the Black Salmon of the Lake of Light.
On the third night, he came to a river valley
whose edges were forested with tall trees.
From root to crown, one half of the trees
in that forest were aflame while the other
half were green with leaves.
There were level meadows on both sides of the
river and on one bank grazed a flock of black
sheep with on the other a flock of white sheep.
When a white sheep bleated a black sheep would cross
the river and turn white and when a black sheep bleated
a white sheep would cross the river and turn black…
Crucible of the Sun: The Mabinogion Retold
By Stuart France
“I will dazzle like fire, hard and high, will flame the breaths of my desire; chief revealer of that which is uttered and that which is asked, tonight I make naked the word.”
Once upon a time we gathered around the flames of the hearth and listened to tales of long ago and far away. The stories grew in the telling, weaving ancient lore whose origins lie somewhere in a misty past with tales of high adventure, battles, magic and love. In Crucible of the Sun, this oral tradition is echoed in a unique and lyrical interpretation of tales from the Mabinogion, a collection of stories whose roots reach back into the depths of time, spanning the world and reflecting universal themes of myth and legend.
These tales capture a narrative deeply entwined through the history of the Celtic peoples of the British Isles, drawing on roots that are embedded in the heart of the land. In Crucible of the Sun the author retells these timeless stories in his own inimitable and eminently readable style. The author’s deep exploration of the human condition and the transitions between the inner worlds illuminate this retelling, casting a unique light on the symbolism hidden beyond the words, unravelling the complex skein of imagery and weaving a rich tapestry of magic.
‘The author’s creative and scholarly engagement with the material and enthusiasm for the original tales is evident throughout.’ The Welsh Books Council
‘I found it very inspiring!’ Philip Carr-Gomm, former Chosen Chief, Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (O.B.O.D.)
Available worldwide via Amazon, in paperback and Kindle.
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