Today was the 'local' day for the girls. As usual, this commenced with a visit to a couple of the ancient megalithic cairns upon Carrowkeel, Co. Sligo.
Here, 4 of the girls are ready to tackle going into Cairn G, as the archaeologists have labeled it. These cairns are spoken of as being 5500 years old, but I do not think it is as simple as that.
These cairns are made of stone cut with stone, flint cutting limestone it seems, so that would have taken many, many years. I also suspect a few changes of use over their years. All of these uses are mere speculation but are fun to tell.
There are stories of heroes here, fertility, fairies, farming miracles, communications with other worlds and even alignment with Brighid as a swan.
It is a dry, misty morning, so views from here are limited today. The views of Donegal, Croagh Patrick and over to the Connemara are not to be seen, but it is dry and though breezy not cold.
So in we go, and here is everyone emerging later after the experience :-)
The findings here have been ornate pottery rather than body skeletons, so there are several stories of what was in these pots, including water that displays a magnetic reaction at solstices and equinoxes.
If the sun shines at summer solstice it shines into this cairn at sunset. I shared my experiences of what I had seen in their at solstices.
Outside, the heather in flower was still quite abundant, quite strange for late September, but all flower life has been late and abundant in Ireland this year.
Susan was intrigued by the nearby Cairn H, but this collapsed some years ago. Only the passage can be looked into now.
The limestone is crumbling fast with weathering and maybe from the many visitors walking over them. It is said that these cairns were once covered with a harder stone, quartz and granite. These stones also come with stories of how they affected the polarity and reactions within the cairn.
Very little sign of quartz and granite around today other than the occasional quartz pebble to be found.
We moved on up higher to Cairn K, which is a much bigger stone cairn. This has a longer passageway that goes down and narrows as it falls. When inside this opens up into a large and tall main chamber with three chambers connected to it.
The corbeling stone here is a mystery, incredibly well done and even perhaps more advanced than what is done at Newgrange. Add to that the wonder of the many capstones roofing this and the 4 light boxes that were filled up long, long ago. What light did they let in and why? At summer solstice sunset this cairn lights up inside ... if there is a sun.
Another wonder of Cairn K is that no matter what wind and rain is hammering outside it is almost always dy and silent inside here.
Three of the girls ventured into Cairn K, and here they are emerging from there ...
We then went to the highest point here, the stone pile remains of Cairn L, and I pointed out some of the features of the landscape, that we could see.
With the mist we could only view into parts of counties, Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim, and just into Longford. On a clear day the view stretches into 18 counties. I was a bit disappointed that Donegal was not in view, due to us heading there the next day.
Before a complete descent I took the girls over to view the remains of one of Ireland's most ancient settlements going back maybe 1000, 2000 or more years before the cairn. Martin Byrne, a local seasoned guide here, recently tols me that 88 homes have been identified here.
What we can see today is a limestone kast borreen, burren, with green circles and each circle bordered with little stone circles which were once the kerbstones of homes probably made from wooden frames, filled with cob clay and thatched with reeds and/or rushes or even skins.
There are remains of 14 cairns to be seen here plus other burial sites, an interesting cave and a couple of rocking stones ... but it all needs a very good day of hiking and discovery, at least 8 hours and with a good picnic. Its not just stones here either. There is wonder in the plants and flowers, the different birda here, especially the peregrine falcons if you see them and the endless awesome views.
Add to that, a visit to the local dokey sanctuary. Take some carrots and ginger biscuits if you go there too.
From Carrowkeel it was a winding drive down, great views on the way, and continuing along narrow winding roads to the gated entrance to our local holy well, Kingstone Well
Kingstone Well is named after a nearby Kings Stone placed to recognise the burial place of several 'princes' killed in battle, I think 10th century, sons of chieftains of Briefne and to the west who battled over territory lines. This is claimed to be the burial place of the most 'royal' people in one spot ... but I think that is stretching the tale a bit.
What we have here is a very pure always clean spring well of water pushed up from very deep down in the rock.
This has always been a valuable safe water supply and quite a few minerals chelated to this, I suspect, making this a genuine nourishing and healing well
I was pleased to get to here as this is usually one of our local sites that groups do not usually get to visit. I have now worked out how to do this within our day's programme.
I was asked who this well was aligned to, which saint. The local churches are aligned to St. Kevin, assumed to be the same Kevin of Glendalough, but stories of Kevin in Co. Wicklow never include him having an association with here. Some local people do also call this Kevin's well ... but I no longer do.
I just accept this well as the finest gift of pure water in our area, and try to not name it beyond 'our local sacred well'
From Kingstone Well, next stop was a photo stop and a bit of story telling at Ceis Coarran hill and caves.
I like to do this as my big tree labyrinth is aligned to the location and stories I tell of this hill and caves. My main stories are my own versions of High King Cormac mac Airt, his own daughter Grainne and the elope with Diarmuid which is quite different to the standard, plus tales of the Sidhe Smith, Coaran the harper, the Triple Hags and maybe a few more about Grainne herself.
Most dramatic though is the Birth Of Bhride, Brida, Breeg, Brighid from here!!!
Normally, I would then take visitors to lunch at the local Fox's Den pub but on Sundays the place is packed so no room for lunch for us. Instead, the girls shared a lunch of healthyish lentil bake at Carrowcrory cottage
with some local grown salad, but I had not served that onto my plate yet.
After lunch, time to walk the tree labyrinth
My labyrinth is about 400 metres walk to complete, over 300 trees, though almost half of those are live willow trees growing to form an arch to the centre and a live willow cairn in the centre.
The inspiration for building this tree labyrinth was the mating dance of sea cliff birds, and the Minoan story of the Labrys Inthos, which was not even related to a circular structure but a double bladed axe held by queens of Minoan kings to bring connection to the goddess.
The three stages of labyrinth journey can be accomplished here, and is accomplished here, these being 'purgation', 'illumination' and 'unity with spirit'.
All this is done through the constant sense perception of the changing colours, shapes, sounds, smells and even tastes that happens on the journey here.
With these girls all of this was aided with apples, first coated with ash from the centre pire pit and then washed in the central water font.
The experience is then completed with a sharing of visions and inspiration, among the temptations of fresh made scones, cream and home made jams, and passing around the Cuinas Talking Stick.
With this stick, the person holding the stick speaks and the rest listen. This accomplishes very rich unchallenged expression and an audience of respecting ears.
Eventually this breaks down into regular conversation between mouthfuls of Claire's always incredible melt in the mouth scones and tea, but this initial respect for each other is remarkable medicine for all ... for a few moments.
After the sones and tea, time for the hearth side concert by Claire Roche and her harps, always a wonderful way to draw a close to the day's visit to where we are.
The 'visit' is then completed by Claire and I doing something together. For this gathering it was a short version of "Quirt The Apple" from our "Ogma's Tale Of The Trees", very fitting after the apples in the labyrinth journey.