The ancient is commonplace across the Irish landscape. Children play in castles decaying in the backyard. Churches long ago torched by Cromwell stand on the village hill still receiving the dead. Tiny dwellings of rock piled together 500 years past, thatched roofs long ago fell to rot, now resting vacant by the road near the farm house of the Celtic Tiger. The ancient and the postmodern intertwined as if 5,000 years ago were yesterday.
Our visit to Lough Gur was like a tourist in the jaunty car, observing today’s vision while riding the mode of yesterday. Standing among the Stone Circle at Grange erected over 4,000 years ago by souls seeking to connect to the gods of harvest and impending winter, affords a feeling of being in the midst of a unifying ache existing timeless in the human psyche. The longing to know the presence of God calls us all to our rituals. To ignore the Presence is to deny the existence of the circle of 113 stones standing eight feet above the floor and as well to ignore the houses we worship in our time. Indeed, man has built the cathedrals of time, yet still it is the inner instinct calling us to seek the face beyond the veil of the seen that beckons us to construct our palaces of worship.
To touch the stones of the ancients is to be in tune with the vibration of the people who called upon Crom Dubh of the harvest (mid-summer solstice of August 1) and Samhain god of the winter night and all souls (November 1). What rituals these ancient Celtic people practiced are left to speculation and imagination. The standing stones, circle stones, wedge tombs, and burial mounds each visited are testimony to the worship of the Creator God, the force of the Sun dominating all washed in its life giving rays.
In Ireland, the sun is still worshipped in some sorts. Cloudy, rainy, windy days fill the calendar, but let the sun’s summer warmth appear and observe the people parade out of their homes and shops to the beach and the park, wearing vestments of shorts, tank tops and swimming costumes. A modest people abandon their propriety to bathe in the rare life giving warmth of Father Sky. Consciously or otherwise, we worship what sustains us. The ancients looked to the sky and we join them still searching for the beyond. Even the atheist gives ascent to his own presumed existential omniscience, a kind of self-being “above the misguided.” Admittedly, although I am more comfortable on a miserable day of Samhain’s dark, cold, and rain, a little dawn sunlight among the clouds heartens my morning practice. Even if begrudgingly, in my case, we give some nod in acknowledgement of the god of light, or God of Light if you prefer.
So, what is the attraction to these holy pre-Christian sites? What is the draw to these living stones, historical, archeological, curiosity, or odd marvel? Places have presence. Stones, while holding silence, are a keeper of memory. Holy stones are monuments to the thoughts and ideals of the humans who gathered them. These simple porous rocks retain the sweat of those who carefully with great planning moved them into the exact place they remain. The stones begin to take on divinity in the incarnation with the oil of human hands. In formation, the standing carrick is an altar of the spattering of blood, eat my body and drink my blood. Divination moves across the eons of human cries for recognition from the one of Oneness. The spiritually longing soul desires a union no different today than yesteryear.
Recognizing now, my pilgrimage began at birth. The raven seen and the inner Raven of another world of imaginative contemplation have often guided this recent walk of Way markers. The Raven has been present each day of the walk, in flight nearby, casting shadow overhead, acknowledging a correct choice of path, leaving feathers as tokens, I have not walked alone. Even the specter of the majestic Ram was accompanied by a conversation with the old wise Raven of the woods. Here now, in the Circle of Stones, I am offered one more gift, the most beautiful perfectly curved onyx wisp of natures artistry from Raven’s quill. Do I know such as its meaning for this moment in life? I am not so presumptuous a postmodern seeker. The time of the ancient God may tease out the revelation, or not. I can only wait, like a stone in testimony to what I have experienced and observed.
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.