Nadd to Millstreet
When I stepped over the raven’s foot lying on the path I knew it was an omen. The eight-hour day would be an adventurous ride across the Boggerragh Mountain range. My physical stamina would be tested. The soul that carries my spirit would feel energy from the earth and the ancients.
Yesterday’s trail through the dark forest and across Mossey Bog would include a similar experience, slogging through waist deep grass in water over my ankles. If my boots were ever to fail me, today could be the day. Between the trees running down the side of the overgrown and unseen path were deep gorges where years of rain had cut hidden gullies. Once I left the forest the route over hard clumps of sharp grasses between mosey swells of water and black bog mud was slow going. As I climbed through the rolling hill of bog the wind started to howl and the rain blew sideways. My footing was unsure. As I walked along the edge of the ridge I could see deep pits carved by centuries of torrential rain. For the first time in my journey across Ireland I questioned the safety of this route. The ridge dropped sideways into an old bog road where workman from years past had left slices of bog stacked in small pyramids.
The bog road turned into a forest road that led to a workman’s road leading up to giant energy generating wind turbines. The swooshing sound was a little creepy. The trail began to slowly take me down the hill into another long patch of forest. I stopped for a drink of water. I felt good about making it by what I thought would be the only test of the day.
The road meandered down through the close forest when I came to a clearing where the road dropped below a small ridge of ten feet. I thought my eyes were deceiving me because it appeared about hundred yards down the road there was a giant sheep standing above the trail. As I approached, I was met with the sight of wild ram. He was about four feet tall. He long coat was a mottled grey. Mounted on his head was a trinity swirl of thick horns. I knew if I angered him and he charged me I was helpless against his power. He stood motionless and watched me come down the road. Carefully I took out my camera and stopped for the seconds necessary to take a picture. He was ruler over his kingdom I was simply a tiny curiosity. I was parallel to him and took one more picture. He only turned his head to keep an eye on me. As I looked back walking down the road, he continued to stand guard over the world he owned. Somehow I felt he had given me something, but I wasn’t sure.
The next five miles were down the valley and then a climb up the other side of another ridge across the Boggeraugh Mountains, the Mushera. The long sweeping ridge across the bald mountain was exposed to the whipping wind of the rain filled cloud that began to settle over the peak. The perilous trail was along the northern edge of the ridge. I had a mile and half of mud, rough tall grasses, slippery rocks, and running rain filled gutter tracks. I started to feel the power of the ram. This trail required all the experience I have gained over the past three weeks trekking across Ireland.
Still, I would walk this day over and over again to experience what lie ahead. Two miles after slogging off the Mushera ridge the road opened onto a scraggly forest peppered with wide sweeping grassy hills with roaming sheep. The road carried me down the edge of the hills to a small field off the road where the Knocknakilla Stone Circle stood. The prehistoric worship site was probably erected two thousand years before Christ. With trepidation and great reverence I stood in the middle of the circle where I could sense the haunting of ancient voices. As I touched the tallest stone still standing against the winds of times I felt the prayers of a millennia of peoples—I dared to add my own humble prayers, thanksgiving for the raven, awe of the ram, and the blessed safe care of God and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Indeed, the ancient and the postmodern are woven together as if 4,000 years ago were yesterday.
The omen had been given, the road walked, and another day had been experienced.
Priest, pilgrim, writer, alchemist—living into the mystery, the knowledge, and the practice of sacred alchemy. I've walked across Ireland, almost 400 miles of mountains, valleys, forests, and magic. The pilgrimage was a mirror of my life's journey, coach, president, priest. Traveler of the life's struggles—from failure to re-imagination—still walking.