Ireland

Jamie + Ireland: Rathcroghan, Queen Maeve, and the Cattle Raid of Cooley

Located in county Roscommon, Rathcroghan is part of a complex of 240 archaeological sites from the Neolithic period (4,000BC) through to the late Medieval period (1600AD). It is remembered as one of the great ceremonial gathering places in Ireland. These ceremonies took place at key points during the year, the changing of the seasons. It was time for judgements to be passed, for kings to be inaugurated, for feasts and festivities.

Rothcroghan aerial view Ireland

History of Rathcroghan in Ireland

The landscape lies on an elevated limestone plateau, resulting in clear and fertile land. Early farming communities settled here. They held close links with their ancestors and built these monuments to develop a stronger relationship with the land. At a time when societies were moving away from nomadic life, and towards farming and ritual monument construction, Rathcrogan was a place of great importance. 

In the late Medieval period, it is recorded as one of the main burial places in Ireland. There are 28 identifiable burial sites still visible on the land today. The mounds are built to be visible from a far distance. Ruling classes treated their dead with great care. They placed the remains of their ancestors in these locations as a sign of power and authority over the region.

historic rathcroghen in ireland

On the tour, we climbed to the top of Rathcrogen Mound, believed to be a site where royal kings were inaugurated. It was where they would have bled cattle or performed rituals for a good harvest.

It was a powerful place, and after listening to our knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide, Mike share some amazing facts, we all took a moment to lie in the grass and absorb the energy. I was very emotional. A sense of sadness and beauty lay deep under the surface. My paternal ancestors immigrated from the county of Roscommon, and while I have no proof (yet) that they were connected to this place, but it felt significant.

Jamie in the meadow

Queen Maeve and the Cattle Raid of Cooley

In early tales, Rathcroghan was the home of the Connacht, the ruling dynasty in the territory from the fifth century, and included the palace of the infamous Iron Age Warrior Queen, Maeve (Medb). It is a main site in the Ulster Cycle of Tales, particularly the national epic, Táin Bó Cúailnge, the Cattle Raid of Cooley. 

tain trail, ireland

Maeve embodies all aspects from royal and sacred to mythological and divine. Her name stems from the same origins as the word “mead,” an alcoholic honey drink. Her name can be translated into “she who intoxicates.” Her father was the high king of Ireland, and she was one of his six daughters.

Queen Maeve mural at Rathcroghan

She was known for having many husbands and partners. Her first husband was Conchobar mac Nessa, and she left him against his will. After the failure of that marriage, her father bestowed her the title of Queen, and the authority to bestow kingship.

Her next three husbands were all kings of Connacht. One of these was Alill, and one night after making love, they got into a heated argument over who was wealthier. The next day they laid out all of their riches and found that they were completely even, except for one thing. Alill had a great white horned bull that was very unique.

Finnbennach, the Connacht bull

Not to be outdone, Maeve sends her messenger to find an equal or greater bull in Ireland, and he locates a great brown bull that is enormous in size. It belongs to Daire mac Fiachna in the province of Ulster, the territory of Cuailnge. She sends her messengers to offer Daire some land, a grand chariot, and a night with her, in exchange for his great brown bull. He is so excited by the offer, he throws her messengers a feast. 

But then her men start boasting about how the offer was just a formality. Their queen is so powerful, she would have just taken the bull by force. Word gets back to Daire, and he refuses the offer and sends them packing. So naturally Queen Maeve raids Ulster for the bull, and a heated battle ensues.

In an effort to bring things to an end, Maeve and Daire agree to send one warrior each to fight. During the battle, Maeve breaks the terms of her deal and attempts to attack from behind. The warrior from Ulster defeats her champion, and the tides start to turn against Maeve. She has her secret agents smuggle the bull out and deliver it to her home in Connacht. 

The bull is put in the pasture with Alill’s great white bull, and they fight for a day and a night, ultimately killing one another. There are many more layers to this story! I hope this inspires you to learn more about Rathcroghan and Queen Maeve, one of the most legendary figures in Irish mythology. 

I grabbed a copy of Rathcroghan The Guidebook, co authored by my tour guide; all of the proceeds support the visitors center (you can order one online here). If you ever plan to visit Rathcroghan, have some lunch at the Tain Cafe and check out the gift shop. I also highly recommend walking on the mounds barefoot and laying in the grass (no ticks in Ireland). Be sure to take the tour! Ask to go inside of Owenganat Cave, which will be the subject of the next blog!

Source: Curley, Daniel, and Mike McCarthy. Rathcroghan: The Guidebook. Tulsk Action Group CLG, 2018. 

Ireland

Jamie + Ireland: Cliffs of Moher and Carrick on Shannon

Fresh off a red eye flight from Boston at 5:30am, I was off to the Cliffs of Moher with two of my new friends/traveling comrades, and a cheerful local driver. We had some time to kill before we met up with the rest of our tour group, and I thought a private drive to the cliffs would be a good way to jump start the day after the flight. It was a bit of hike to the west coast of County Claire, and the winding country roads were not easy on our stomachs, but we took it all in stride.

The Cliffs of Moher

Walking out to the cliffs, there was a thick blanket of fog hiding the view! I could not see a damn thing. Came all this way, I grumbled, and won’t be seeing the cliffs. Ireland, why are you hiding from me?

One of my friends made a fabulous suggestion. Well, we can’t see the cliffs, but we have other senses don’t we? Okay, well I can:

  • Hear: puffin calls
  • Smell: ocean air
  • Taste: salt
  • Feel: dewy mist

Walking outside did us a lot of good, and we wandered around O’Brien’s tower. Cornelius O’Brien built a tower on the cliffs in 1835 to promote tourism and benefit the local economy. We lovingly nicknamed this “Coffee Cup Castle.”

There is evidence of fishing, quarrying, and foraging dating back to the 1st century BC. Tourism became a main focus in the 16th century and grew slowly at first, but steadily over the years. Today, not only are the Cliffs of Moher the second most popular tourist destination in Ireland, they are an important place for wildlife observation.

If you’re interested in visiting the Cliffs of Moher, I would recommend going later in the morning, when the shops are open and the fog has burned off a bit. I’m sure it’s worth the trip (but I wouldn’t know! lol).

Carrick on Shannon

With a bit of breakfast and a cuppa on the road, we made our way to an important marina capital in Ireland: Carrick on Shannon, which lies on the River Shannon. Our tour group was meeting at an Airbnb here, and the first half of the trip felt as though it had officially begun! The evening was spent exploring, dining, and meeting new friends. Check out my photos below!

Cool things to do Carrick on Shannon:

  • Costello Chapel
    • The second smallest chapel in the world
    • Built by Edward Costello in memory of his wife Mary Josephine, who died at 48 years young
    • He missed her so much, he had her embalmed and enshrined. 14 years later, he was buried next to her for eternity
  • St. Mary’s Catholic Church
    • Neo-Gothic Style, built in 1879
  • Tegi’s Tearoom
    • A hidden gem serving up some serious vintage vibes
  • Scenic walks along the River Shannon
  • Great shopping and pubs
    • Most shops and restaurants are generally open from 10:30-8:00
    • The pubs stay open late and offer live trad music regularly
Holidays

What is Imbolc? Goddesses, History, and How to Celebrate

Imbolc is an ancient Pagan holiday based on Celtic traditions; it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. This is the time of year when we start to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. 

In today’s modern world, we are far removed from the hardships of Winter, compared to our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago. At this point in the year, people have been hunkered down inside for months, living off root vegetables, salted meat, and what little they could fish or hunt. Their sheep, who naturally tend to breed in Autumn, are ready to give birth right around Imbolc. The ewe’s milk flows for the first time all Winter, and fresh milk and cheese were the first signs that Spring is about to arrive. Imbolc was a time to celebrate the coming of brighter days, surviving the harsh Winter, and planning for the year’s sowing season.

Being mindful of the natural energies, the ebbs and flows of the year, can help us stay connected to the elements, the season and the earth. Ancient Pagans followed the Wheel of the Year, eight Sabbats consisting of four solstice festivals, and four fire festivals.

All about Brighid (Brigid)

On Imbolc, ancestors in Ireland and Scotland particularly, honored the Goddess Brighid. Brighid can take on any appearance she wants, young or old, human or snake. She is a Triple Celtic Goddess, the embodiment of the child, the maiden and the crone. She is the Goddess of the Eternal Flame, the trinity also represents three types of fire: hearth fire, forge fire, and the fire to create and transform. She is also known as the Goddess of the Sacred Well, protecting healing waters. Brighid was the patron of poets, healers, and magicians.   

Brighid (Brigid) Imbolc

Imbolc Correspondence for the Modern Witch

Foods associated with Imbolc are milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese (and nondairy alternatives will do just fine). This is the time to savor creamy soups, spring onions, leeks, potatoes, and Irish Soda Bread. Oils associated with Imbolc are spruce and fir, cinnamon, rosemary, patchouli, jasmine, and vanilla. Colors are white, light blue, and light pink. 

Imbolc is sometimes referred to as Candlemas, and a common practice is to make and bless candles. You can make corn dollies or Brighid’s Cross out of any kind of grass or hay you have available. 

Ceromancy, or candlewax divination, is a great way to connect with the magic of the season. Imagine a goal you are working towards, a seed you wish to plant. Really meditate on this goal, and develop a question with a yes or no answer. Use a paper plate and draw a line down the middle. Label on side yes, the other no. Light a small spell candle or tealight. Journal about your vision or meditate more (while supervising the candle). When it has burned all the way down, observe which side of the plate collected the most wax. That is your answer!

Imbolc Spell Kit

4 Ways to learn more about Imbolc

  1. Listen to my Imbolc playlist on Spotify, with seasonal songs and podcasts
  2. Check out my Imbolc board on Pinterest for more ideas
  3. Order an Imbolc Spell Kit from my Etsy Shop (pictured above)
  4. Join me for a magic workshop:

Learn more about Brighid, the Roman Goddess Juno, and the Egyptian Goddess Renenutet. Pull tarot cards, receive reiki, and relax during a guided meditation that will help you plant your own fire seed of intention. 

  • In Person workshop at Saltitude Sunday 1/31 1:00-3:00 pm (learn more)
  • Virtual workshop on Zoom Monday 2/1 5:30-7:00 pm (learn more)

Sources

Neal, Carl F. Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid’s Day. Llewellyn, 2016. 

Moura, Ann. Grimoire for the Green Witch: a Complete Book of Shadows. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd, 2018.

Events, Holidays

Online Magic Workshop: Imbolc Fire Festival

Join me in my Zoom Room on Monday, February 1st from 5:30-7:00pm to celebrate Imbolc, a time to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. If you want to create new plans, sweep away old energies, and plant the seeds of abundance for the season, then don’t miss this event!

Imbolc is an ancient Pagan holiday based on Celtic traditions; it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. This is the time of year when we start to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. Learning about ancient traditions can help us connect with the seasons of the Earth in the modern world.

  • During this online workshop, you will learn all about the Goddesses of the season: Celtic Goddess Brigid, Roman Goddess Juno, and Egyptian Goddess Renenutet.
  • You will discover some ways to celebrate Imbolc in the modern world – check out my board on Pinterest.
  • You will get a tarot reading that helps you set an intention for something you want to plant this Spring – a new project, a new job, a new relationship, a new energy, etc.
  • Then you will be guided through a meditation to plant your fire seed of intention so it can grow in the coming months. Manifest something great and connect with some amazing people.

Register before January 25th for a $20 discount! Upon registration, you will automatically receive an email with the zoom link. Email jamie@arrowtarotreadings.com if you have any questions!

Register Here