Mountains of the Witch/Goddess

Welcome to part four of the tale of our recent tour of Ireland’s Ancient sacred sites. If you would like to go back to the beginning before reading on you can start here. For those of you who have already been playing along, press on!

In each of my previous two trips to Ireland I have discovered places where I have seen natural beauty beyond any I could possibly imagine and I have identified places where I felt closer to Source than I could possibly imagine.

In 2002 the place that blew me away the most in the sense of awe of Mother nature was the Giant’s Causeway. The place I felt most connected to source was a small graveyard in Ringaskiddy where I surmised that I had found the potential gravesite of my great-great grandmother on my father’s side. Both of those discoveries would turn out to have a lesser effect as time went by and they would be outdone on my next trip.

My next trip to Ireland occurred in September of 2014. I returned to the Giant’s Causeway, but found it to be less unspoiled than it was 13 years prior. My new place of inspiration for natural beauty on my 2014 trip was a place called Slieve League in remote County Donegal. It is a place where the cliffs fall into the sea like Moher but there is no tourist center. Just the two of us and sheep. There were so many places in 2014 that absorbed me into my connection with Source. If I had to pick one place as my most connected I would have to say it would be The Hill of Tara. Tara has gone on to be a portal for me to explore so many connections to the Divine in the last year and I am sure it will forever be one of my most Sacred places on this planet in this lifetime.

On our recent trip to Ireland last month I had the unusual experience of finding my greatest connection to Source and my greatest natural beauty moment in the same place. To make this conclusion is a remarkable thing in that we saw so many places that were beautiful and so many places that inspired our souls. On this trip I would likely say that my most memorable experience was at Sliabh na Cailleach, or the Mountains of the Witch.

We were grateful to have some destinations on our agenda for this trip that were places that we had never been before. Since we were leading a group to some of the most important sites in Ancient Celtic history, it was essential that we re-visited places we had already experienced. Our return trips to Tara, Newgrange and Holy Island were tremendous experiences even though we had traveled those paths before. The new path to the ancient cairns at Loughcrew, aka the Mountains of the Witch was the perfect taste of new that we craved after three days of repeated experiences.

On the fourth morning of the trip we awoke with a sense of great satisfaction after leading a successful IP workshop the day before. We started our day on a casual pace with breakfast at our hotel, followed by a short trip to a place called Saint Kieran’s Well. Throughout Ireland there are countless numbers of ancient healing wells. Each well has a different energy and many have specific benefits. St Kieran’s well is said to heal the feet and the rocks around the well are said to heal the back. I explored both and all I can say is that my feet and my back felt magnificent for many days going forward. I saved some water from the well to consume for the days going forward on the trip and each time I took a draught I felt invigorated. I wished that I could have brought some home.

After our stop at the well we proceeded to Loughcrew. As far as I can tell, the name Loughcrew refers to the entire complex that consists of what may be hundreds of ancient cairns (caves) scattered across a series of hills in County Meath that date back to as far as 3500 BC. The most famous of the cairns sits at the summit of the highest peak in County Meath with views of as many of 18 different counties. It is referred to as Cairn T.

We arrived at the car park around noon and decided to walk down to the small cafe just beyond the car park to use the toilets and grab a cup of coffee. Coffee turned into a impromptu lunch of soup and sandwiches and tea. As usual I was all too anxious to keep the program moving, but I surrendered to the energy of the group and the need to wait and prepare energetically. Little did I know at the time what we were preparing for.

After our brief diversion we started our way up to the summit of the highest point in County Meath. We climbed a stairway lined with hawthorne trees. I picked a few leaves to chew on during the climb. Our ascent was like as scene from The Sound of Music and it even included a retake on the Julie Andrews solo by my goofy and talented wife, Christiana. The climb was lined by a series of poles to mark the way and a few resting benches. Sheep grazed along our path and moved in and out of our travel path very naturally.

unnamed-13As we arrived at the summit the clouds rolled in. It was apparent that the rain was not far away. We waited at the top for our expert and Shaman, Rob Hayes. I was nervous that the storms might find their way to us as we waited. Rob set us out on our climb alone as he had to drive back down to the village to get the keys to the cairn since the tourist season had ended and the cairn was locked. It’s unthinkable to me that we could access a site with Neolithic carvings dating back to 3500 BC simply by leaving a driver’s license at a coffee shop and acquiring the key. Things are different in Ireland. They are different in the best possible way.

 

Shortly after our group of about a dozen had reached the summit, Rob joined us and led us into the cairn. I was hesitant. I have a mild to medium dose of claustrophobia and as I looked down the dark passage way I began to doubt that I would be able to explore the full experience. I waited for the rest of the group to enter the cairn and then I hesitantly stuck my head into the darkness. Christiana assured me that the passage way was short. Shorter than the passage way at Newgrange that I had overcome last year. Once again I was confronted with an opportunity to overcome my fears. I went fully into the chamber.

Inside I found a fairly open interior passageway and a good deal of light. The light was attributed to the fact that were exploring Cairn T on the day of the Autumnal equinox, which happened to be the day that the light shined straight up the passageway to the heart of the chamber. When I arrived inside I felt confident and comfortable. I was glad that I was not missing out on this opportunity. Rob handed me a drum and without saying anything else he communicated what I was to do next. We both began to drum in a harmonious beat as our group stood in the center of the cairn and shared the energy of the moment. I’ve never drummed before but it seemed like I knew the exact beat to drum. I wasn’t entirely in my body so it makes total sense. Shortly after we started another couple stuck their heads in the tomb. They asked if they could join our circle and if I remember correctly Rob said something along thew lines of, “It’s not only our circle so all are welcome…” The couple would go on to follow us to Newgrange and Galway and we made new friends.

I’d like to pause here and size up exactly what was happening in the moment in time. We were sitting in a cave tomb at the highest summit in County Meath Ireland. The tomb was constructed around 3500 BC. There are ancient neolithic carvings that are visible and TOUCHABLE within the cave. The tomb was built in perfect alignment with the sunrise on the Autumnal equinox and we are at the site on the equinox. We were sitting in a drumming circle sharing energy, vibrations, intentions, and prayers with each other and The Cailleach. We went around the circle and shared something that we were grateful about with each other. We were a group of about 14 and we are the only people there! Ten years ago I sat in anguish wishing for a change because I thought my life was too vanilla to find anything to write about. Let’s just say Wish Granted.

unnamed-12During our time inside the cairn, we could hear and at times even feel the rain as it pounded on the mound above us. Eventually the energy of the circle drew to a close. I’d suspect the whole experience lasted about 30 minutes. When I walked out the passageway and left the tomb, the rain had stopped and the sky was blue with white puffy clouds. I climbed up to the top of the mound to get to the higher still point of the summit satisfying my constant boyish need to climb. From the top I gazed out across the stone circle that is partner to the tomb and also out across multiple counties as had been advertised previously. I held my arms up in the air as high as I could and felt the heavens. I took a giant gulp of clean Irish air and let it linger in my lungs. I heard the wind howling from every direction as if it was a song being sung to me by the Divine. And then I started to weep.

As I stood at the highest peak in County Meath, physically I was all by myself, yet I had never felt less alone in my entire life. The tears that rolled down my cheeks were warm on my face.  The Joy that radiated from the center of my heart warmed my entire self. I could feel the connection to the Divine in every fiber of my being. I could feel it in every corner of my soul. There is nothing to fear about this Mountain of the Witch. This is a place of peace. This is a place of love. This is a place of connection. The Goddess rests in her chair watching over all who ask for her protection at the summit of Sliabh na Cailleach.

hagschair

“Determined now her tomb to build,
Her ample skirt with stones she filled,
And dropped a heap on Carnmore;
Then stepped one thousand yards, to Loar,
And dropped another goodly heap;
And then with one prodigious leap Gained Carnbeg;
and on its height Displayed the wonders of her might.
And when approached deathís awful doom,
Her chair was placed within the womb
Of hills whose tops with heather bloom”

Jonathan Swift, c. 1720

 

 

 

 

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About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at www.emergingintojoy.com for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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