Segment 1- Mindie Welcome to Episode 17 of the Thin Places Travel Podcast. This episode features Brittany France – an area with one of the largest collections of pre-Christian monuments in Europe. And these monuments are the run of the mill dolmens or passage tombs. The monuments in Brittany, in many instances, predate those in Ireland and the UK. Many believe the people who created the first of the monuments in Ireland and the UK came from Brittany. It was the Breton culture that established this pattern of erecting these ancient monuments. We are so lucky to have the Brittany expert, Wendy Mewes on the podcast today. If you search the internet for guides in Brittany or books written on the ancient Breton landscape, you will find Wendy’s name and her website…. Wendymewes.com She is a prolific writer and lecturer. On her website, she has a quote that reads, “My personal identity lies in the landscape.” Her books and writing speak to the concept that the landscape is alive and that there is an inherent “sense of place” unique to the Breton landscape. Wendy lives in Finistere – with its deep forests, sweeping shorelines and ancient stones – an amazing place for walking. Wendy has a background in ancient history, she is the author of numerous books about Brittany, and her articles have appeared widely in the press. In France, she has been filmed for TV and contributed to radio broadcasts on historical subjects. She has worked extensively in promoting Breton history and culture to English-speaking visitors through talks, courses, and guided visits. Wendy now concentrates on landscape writing, most recently with Spirit of Place in Finistere (2017). She is currently working on two new books: one about the Breton saints and the other on walking ancient paths in the region. Now … on to our interview with Wendy. segment 2 – interview with wendy mewes What is it about BRITTANY that is most compelling? Brittany has a very beautiful and unspoilt landscape, full of hidden sites beyond linear time where eternal elementals still share their presence. It also triumphs in economies of scale with a wide variety of natural surroundings – secret river valleys, open moorland, deep forest, wild coast – within a relatively short distance. Many point to the power of granite, a stone forged from fire, for the strong atmosphere – it seems to affect people both well and badly! There is nothing excessive here: the scale of Brittany is so in tune with human scale that one can perfectly identify with the environment. What is the background - history of the site or topic? Brittany was well-populated in the Neolithic period and has the greatest density of megaliths in Europe, with standing-stones and burial chambers widespread. These sacred places continued to be revered by succeeding Bronze and Iron Age inhabitants. The arrival of Celtic Christianity with evangelists from Great Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire saw many of these sites taken over and Christianised in the rivalry between Nature and God. Are there any legends or mythology tied to the site or topic? Brittany is the home of a vast treasury of legend, especially in the Celtic oral tradition. The megaliths in particular have their own stories of origin (usually involving giants or fairies), and there are hundreds of varieties of little people active in the landscape, as well as countless tales of the Breton saints with all their miracles and triumphs. One of the striking themes of oral culture here is the ubiquitous presence of Death (personified by Ankou, the Grim reaper). Do you think those stories have a deeper meaning? Stories inevitably spring from humans’ interest in themselves and our need for explanation and ‘certainty’. Many legends are self-referential and self-reverential. Often they resign us to our lack of control over life and death, making chaos less frightening. Here in Brittany they often reflect the early foundations of society as well as universal experiences. We look for intermediaries and intercession. Is it possible to pull back the curtain of culture and see a deeper state of being beyond? When you can reach out to landscape as a living thing rather than human being, magic can happen. What surprises travellers about the site? …. something one wouldn’t expect? Visitors to Brittany are often surprised by the continuing power of oral culture today and the manifest pride in local heritage at all levels of society. Native language and traditional costumes are distinctive. Sacred processions, pilgrimages and boundary-walking (based on legend) still tie people to the land, and memory is regarded as a vibrant tool to preserve the past and animate the future. What are your thoughts on thin places or liminal places where the physical and spiritual worlds seem to cross? For me personally these are usually places where the elements of earth (stone), air and water combine in a special harmony. Often it is necessary to get through the cultural filter to a purer state in order to feel oneself absolutely part of the natural world and truly alive. What advice would you give to a traveler who is seeking out thin places or sites with spiritual energy? The megaliths are a tangible target and for many people a conduit to spiritual energy, but don’t neglect places were there is no hand of man on display: the granite boulders in a wide forest, the changes on a tidal shore, the hill-tops on the heath… Wendy’s Books: Spirit of Place in Finistere Britany: A Cultural History Discovering the History of Brittany Walking the Brittany Coast Legends of Brittany FIND WENDY MEWES: www.wendymewes.com www.wendymewes.blogspot.com Twitter: @brittanyexpert email@example.com SEGMENT 3 – Mindie on Brittany sites PARIS to MOUNT ST-MICHEL Go late – arrive at 4pm or there abouts. Check the tides. Spend the night Awesome things to do in Finiestere Parish Closes – Parish Close at Saint-Thégonnec blog post by Mindie Burgoyne Beaches – Côte Savage - Menhirs Woodlands – Huelgoat, stones, forest walks, town. Rive Café Librairie – Hotel restaurant – Restaurant de Bretagne, very good food. Butter --- to die for. Baguettes, pastries, coffees – all good. Menhirs – Ty Hir Gite I See Hearts in Brittany – Menhir De Goalennac blog post by Mindie Burgoyne Wedge tombs (Alley grave) The Monts D’Arree Quote from Wendy Mewes’ book, Things to See and Do in the Monts D’Arrée The eerie landscape of trelless jutting crags, moors, peat-bogs and a misty bowl of marsh around the reservoir Lac St-Michel give a memorable impression of stark wilderness and is fittingly the source of many Breton legends SEGMENT 4 –2019 Tours By the time this podcast launches, I will be leading two group tours in Ireland. So for a total of three weeks, I’m not only away from my desk and podcasting equipment, I’m also under the pressures of managing a group tour. Before I left I tried very hard to get the information about our 2019 tours launched and published on the website. They are set, but I’m still refining the details. So for those of you who are interested, I will be leading three group tours to thin places and one group tour for Mind, Body, Spirit Travel. The first tour will be Scotland – The Western Isles. May 10 – 21 (11 days 10 nights) Second tour will be the Mind, Body, Spirit Tour – a group tour to Newfoundland and Labrador. Dates for that tour are June 22 – July 1 We will tour the upper peninsula and the lower ridge of Labrador visiting 3 world heritage sites and some of the most awesome scenery in North America. Third tour will be Discover the North in Ireland – September 8 to the 17th – Fourth tour will be immediately after that one – The Hags Journey – a tour of Western Ireland focusing on heroic Irish feminine figures – saints and goddesses. I intend to post something on the website http://thinplacestour.com about this so people can make note of the dates.
Sep 8, 2018
1 hr 1 min
Segment 1- Mindie This episode is focused on the largest of Ireland’s islands – Achill Island. It lies of the coast of County Mayo, and can be accessed by a bridge. It’s an island of stories, of sorrow, of powerful women, and it has some of the most beautiful scenery is all of Ireland with sheer cliffs, amazing mountains, bogland, sandy beaches and historic villages. Achill Island - as my friend Ruth O’Hagan says, “… is one big, fat, giant amethyst sitting in Atlantic Ocean. And it’s true that amethysts were mined here, and one can still see the veins of purple in the gray rock cliff faces. Achill is old landscape. Inhabitants of the island are said to go back 5000 years. The Belfast born painter, Paul Henry visited Achill Island with the intent of staying a few weeks, but found that he couldn’t leave. He said of Achill Island, “Achill … called to me as no other place had ever done.” He ended us staying for years. Patricia Byrne is a writer who currently lives in Limerick, but is from County Mayo and has Achill Island ancestors. The stories of Achill Island and her ancestors captured her imagination so strongly that she has spent years researching and writing narrative non-fiction about the island’s history and people. She is a graduate of the NUI Galway writer program. Her most recently historical non fiction books are: The Preach and the Prelate: The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland And The Veiled Woman of Achill: Island Outrage and a Playboy Drama In our conversation today, Patricia and I talk about the stories in her books, but also about Achill Island itself and many opportunities for travelers to the island. Segment 2 - GUEST INTERVIEW What is it about Slievemore Deserted Village that is most compelling? It is the mountainside remains of a village that was deserted during and after Ireland’s Great Famine in the mid-nineteenth century. It includes the remains of over 80 cottages and also potato ridges – lazy beds. What is the background - history of the site? When the potato famine struck in 1845 the movement of people form the village started through a combination of famine death, emigration, evictions and movement of the people towards the sea. This movement continued after the Great Famine and the settlement developed into a ‘booley’ village – with people using the village for summer grazing of their animals on the mountain slopes and moving down to the villages of Dooagh and other areas by the sea in the winter. Are there any legends or mythology tied to the site? The people tell stories of suffering associated with the village; of losing their lands on Slievemore and being forced to build new soil from sand, seaweed and peat closer to the seashore. The ‘lazy bed’ potato ridges are clearly visible to this day and evoke memories of the trauma of suffering arising from the failure of the potato crop. Do you think those stories have a deeper meaning? The place and the stories carry the people’s memories of their history and their suffering. The historical trauma is buried in the soil. What surprises travelers about the site? …. something one wouldn’t expect? People are surprised when they come close to the site and observe the detail of the houses and their construction methods as well as the still evident shape of the potato ridges dug into the mountain slopes. The Nobel Laurate writer Heinrich Boll had a cottage nearby in the 1950s and spoke of his astonishment on coming upon this village, ‘a skeleton of human habitation’. What are your thoughts on thin places or liminal places where the physical and spiritual worlds seem to cross? The landscape carries powerful memories of our ancestors’ lives and their traumas. We can walk upon the ground where they lived, toiled and suffered. The place is a poignant image of leaving – through death and emigration – and absence. What advice would you give to a traveler who is seeking out thin places or sites with spiritual energy? Learn what you can of the place’s history and stories. Then go to the place, walk there quietly and reflect on what the place and landscape conveys to you. LINKS BOOKS BY PATRICIA BYRNE The Preach and the Prelate: The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland The Veiled Woman of Achill: Island Outrage and a Playboy Drama Patricia Byrne’s Website www.patriciabyrneauthor.com Twitter @pbyrnewrites Achill Heritage Center Slievemore Deserted Village sEGMENT 3 – mindie on achill island Additional commentary Other Sites and People Mentioned in this podcast Francis Van Male and the Red Fox Press Visual Poetry on Achill Island - by Mindie Burgoyne Amethyst Hotel - - Now Amethyst Bar Heinrich Böll – Irish Journal St. Dymphna’s Holy Well The Atlantic Drive Artists who fell in Love with the Rugged Beauty of Achill 2019 Ireland Tours – Scotland and Ireland – visit http://thinplacestour.com CONCLUSION Excerpt from Irish Journal by Heinrich Böll, read by Mindie
Aug 28, 2018
Segment 1- Introduction Dolores has always been a teacher and educator. And she’s one of the most educated people I’ve ever met. At one time she was a biochemistry lecturer holding a Master of Science degree from Trinity College Dublin. Now she is an author and lecturer on spirituality and also leads pilgrimages to the sacred places in Ireland and Iona, Scotland. Dolores has written extensively on education, creativity and Celtic Spirituality. She has facilitated workshops and retreats in Celtic Spirituality and personal empowerment for over 25 years. Her most recent book is Ever Ancient, Ever New: Celtic Spirituality in the 21st Century explores the wisdom of the Celtic tradition through the Celtic Year calendar and co created a perpetual Celtic calendar with US artist, the late Cynthia Matyi. Dolores loves to share her passion for the wisdom held within the Celtic Year calendar which celebrates the festivals associated with the seasons of the Celtic year . Her work has been featured on RTE Radio and on RTE Television Nationwide She is a co-founder of both The Brigid of Faughart Festival now in its 10th year and the Brigids Way Pilgrimage which is in its 5th year. segment 2 – Dolores whelan interview WEBSITE: Dolores Whelan website http://www.doloreswhelan.ie AUDIO CD: Journey through the Celtic Year CD by Dolores Whelan CALENDAR: Celtic Calendar – Dolores Whelan and Cynthia Matyi BOOK: Ever Ancient, Ever New: Celtic Spirituality in the 21st Century BOOKS: Dolores Whelan’s other titles Brigid of Faughart Festival Newgrange Beltany Stone Circle: Beltany a Thin Place in Donegal Bridge to the Otherworld: A Rainbow at Beltany Sliabh na Calliagh - Loughcrew Sean O’Duinn – Where Three Streams Meet Sean O’Duinn – The Rites of Brigid, Goddess and Saint Hill of Uisneach – Walking Meditation on the Hill of Uisneach Hill of Tara St. Brigid SEGMENT 5 - CONCLUDE Several of the sites mentioned by Dolores Whelan will be sites on our 2019 tours of thin places – in particular the Hill of Tara and Newgrange and Beltany Stone Circle. Stay tuned in our next episode for the announcement of dates and destinations for 2019. It looks like we will have 4 tours next year – Scotland – 2 in Ireland and one in North America
Aug 18, 2018
Segment 1- Mindie Welcome to Episode 14 of the Thin Places Travel podcast. This episode is a follow up to episode 13 where I interviewed Irish ancient monument expert, Anthony Murphy. Anthony is a husband and father of five who currently works full time as a journalist. He spends a portion of his free time examining, studying and photographing the ancient monuments in the Boyne Valley – a World Heritage Site. This Valley is not too far from where Anthony lives and if you follow his facebook page – Mythical Ireland, you’ll see that he gets out quite often to photograph the area at various stages of daylight and twilight throughout the changing seasons of the year. In July of this year – 2018, Anthony and a friend were in the Boyne Valley doing some arial photography with drones. Anthony was able to see a previously undiscovered henge and two smaller mounds in a farmer’s field. The postholes were only evident because of the recent drought that Ireland had suffered. Anthony reported his findings and shared the videos with local television and by the next morning, his discovery had moved around the world – featured in the Washington Post, New York Times, NPR Radio and Time magazine. In this interview Anthony shares information about the discovery and what it possible tells us about the ancient people who lived there. Anthony Murphy on NEW henge discovery Video that captures the new discovery THE NEW HENGE OF NEWGRANGE - A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME DISCOVERY Additional video regarding the new discovery THE NEWGRANGE HENGE: A PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF POSSIBLE ASTRONOMICAL ALIGNMENT Mythical Ireland - Anthony Murphy – website Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past New book by Anthony Murphy (amazon ink) For autographed copy, purchase from Anthony’s website https://www.mythicalireland.com/ The New Henge of Newgrange: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Discovery – blog post by Anthony Murphy on the new henge he and a friend discovered in July 2018 Anthony Murphy YouTube Channel – Mythical ireland Anthony Murphy Amazon Author Page Mythical Ireland Facebook Page Newgrange and Bru na Boinne – World Heritage Site SEGMENT 5 - CONCLUDE Thank you for listening to the Thin Places Travel Podcast. You can find us on the web at thinplacespodcast.com. You can also find me on twitter at @travelhags and facebook.com/thinplaces. And if you enjoyed this episode, please give us quick rating and review on iTunes –and consider subscribing,
Aug 9, 2018
Welcome to Episode 13 of the Thin Places Travel Podcast. In this episode I interviewed Anthony Murphy, a historian and journalist and a remarkable photographer who lives in Drogheda, one of Ireland most ancient towns. Most of Drogheda is in County Louth, but a portion of it runs into County Meath – the ancient royal capital of Ireland where you find the Hill of Tara and the massive collection of ancient monuments in the Boyne Valley. Anthony is an author, a husband and father of five children. By day he works as a journalist, but he has a passions include photography, astronomy and Irish mythology especially as they pertain to the ancient monuments found in the Boyne Valley near where he live and throughout Ireland. Anthony is the author of Island of the Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland’s Ancient Astronomers as well as several other books. His most recent work Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past features many of the same concepts and subjects that Anthony talks about on his YouTube Channel and in this interview. This guy is full of information and ideas about the ancients. We use Anthony as a local guide for some of our Ireland tours. I recorded this interview in May of 2018, and Anthony spoke about Newgrange and the Boyne Valley and the ancient people who once lived in the area. He talks extensively about the monuments and how they tie into Irish mythology. We closed that interview and I saved it for production in the summer of 2018. But early one weekend morning in July of 2018, while doing some Arial photography of the Boyne Valley using drones with a friend, Anthony located a yet undiscovered ancient monument- actually several. The monuments were only visible because of the recent drought in Ireland. By the next day, Anthony’s photos and videos were featured on RTE television, and by the following day Anthony’s discovery was on NPR, The Washington Post, the New York Times and Time Magazine. I couldn’t publish this general interview with Anthony without mentioning or including his new amazing discovery. So, we did a second interview, and it is featured in the next episode – Episode 14. So, sit back and relax. Prepare to hear from one of the most brilliant, fresh minds focused on ancient Ireland. This interview with Anthony Murphy will give you a wealth of information on the ancient monuments of Ireland and the mystery that surrounds them. Anthony Murphy on the boyne valley Anthony Murphy discusses the Boyne Valley – Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth and Irish Mythology related to this World Heritage Site. Mythical Ireland - Anthony Murphy – website Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past New book by Anthony Murphy (amazon ink) For autographed copy, purchase from Anthony’s website https://www.mythicalireland.com/ The New Henge of Newgrange: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Discovery – blog post by Anthony Murphy on the new henge he and a friend discovered in July 2018 Anthony Murphy YouTube Channel – Mythical ireland Anthony Murphy Amazon Author Page Mythical Ireland Facebook Page Newgrange and Bru na Boinne – World Heritage Site Mindie - Conclusion We thank Anthony Murphy for being so generous with his time and offering such wisdom to you, our listeners. Please tune in to the next episode to hear about Anthony’s recent discovery of more ancient monuments in the Boyne – how the discovery was made and what the monuments tell us about the people of that time.
Aug 9, 2018
Segment 1- Mindie Kinsale – County Cork – off the coast of southern Ireland Kinsale isn’t a thin place… sometimes you need to relax and rejuvenate and have fun. Most lovers of thin places and liminal spaces also love history and stories of local people – heroes, villains – and Kinsale is very rich in history that impacted the evolvement of society in the western world with the famous “Battle of Kinsale.” Kinsale has two historic forts, Charles and James Forts. And so many other bits of interesting history. Kinsale is of my favorite towns for relaxing. I love the vibe. The town is clean, vibrant It’s an art and foodie town. The people are friendly. It’s totally walkable and everywhere you look is color and light. When you go to Kinsale a good way to get your bearings is to go on a tour guided by Don or Barry – on Don and Barry’s Historic Strolls. I was lucky enough to get an interview with Barry when I was in Kinsale recently. segment 2 – guest interview Barry Moloney – Don and Barry’s Kinsale Historic Stroll Don and Barry’s Historic Stroll in Kinsale offers a walking tour full of history and interesting information about this seaside town in County Cork. SEGMENT 3– Kinsale ghost tour There are a few consistently operated ghost tours in Ireland. Being the owner of a ghost tour company here in the states, I always like to see what other companies and groups do when crafting and putting on a ghost tour. I’ve been on the ghost tour in Belfast and the Ghost Bus in Dublin. Both were great experiences through very different. Kinsale has an interesting ghost tour. The term Ghost tour is so subjective. It can have multiple definitions in people’s minds. People can perceive ghost tours as anything from paranormal investigations to history walks to people dressed in character leading a theatrical performance. Kinsale ghost tour is that kind of ghost tour – a performance and it’s quite comedic. Two actors, Brian O’Neill and Don Herlihy dress in character and lead their group of guests around the historic Kinsale town center and recount stories of ghosts and historical figures in way that keeps the guests’ attention and keeps guests laughing. This performance is so well done. And there are some elements of surprise. The tour starts at Kinsale’s oldest tavern - the Tap Tavern, which has been owned by Brian O’Neill’s family since 1886. His mother, Mary O’Neill still owns it today and she and Brian manage the operations. Mary is often there when guests gather for the ghost tour. I had the pleasure of meeting her while I waited to speak to Brian. The tour takes about 90 minutes. It covers all the interesting parts of the town and it is very entertaining. An evening well spent. Don’t miss it if you’re in Kinsale. Kinsale Ghost Tours http://kinsaleperformanceevents.com/hentertainment/ghost-tout/ SEGMENT 4 – Ardmore in County Waterford Ard Mohr means Great Height Ardmore: Great Height – blog post by Mindie Burgoyne A seaside resort and fishing village. It’s near Youghal in the south of Ireland – not too far from Kinsale or Cork City. Ardmore is a thin place. I guess I sense the thinness of a place on the approach. Maybe there’s something about the round tower, maybe something about the old ruins. But as you climb the hill to the old monastic ruins you get a jolt of something when the round tower comes into view. It’s a seaside town with a beautiful beach and sheltered bay. It’s a resort town for tourists with stunning views of the bay and a cliff walk above the town. There are also ecclesiastical ruins in Ardmore are associated with St. Declan, a 5th-century saint who established this monastic community here on a hill at Ardmore… in fact the name Ard Mor – means “Great Height.” The devotional stops in Ardmore are traveled by pilgrims and associated with St. Declan. They include the ecclesiastical ruins up on the hill, a holy well, and a large stone on the beach. According to one of the Lives written about him, St. Declan was born in this region and later went to Rome and became a bishop. He left Rome and returned to County Waterford - - to Ardmore with plans to build a monastery. However, he left without his bell. A bishop’s bell was similar to his crozier. A symbol of his authority. But because Declan was so special and so blessed, the angels set his bell afloat on a stone that traveled all the way across the sea to Ardmore. It still sits on the beach. It’s a large stone sitting atop two smaller ones and the stone is said to have curative powers for those who crawl under it. That would be a task. But these old legends were begun in a different and told to people who have a different perspective. Thinking patterns were very abstract. The meaning of the story was rooted in the understanding that an object could connect people in this world to the powers and graces of the eternal world. Maybe that connection brought healing. Maybe it brought wisdom. But being close to these sacred monuments elevates our awareness and spiritual vibration. I’ve stood by that stone and thought about the stories and all the pilgrims who have stood in the same place. I’ve even found one small stone in the shape of a heart on that rocky beach around St. Declan’s stone that I brought home with me. Holding it in my hand 3000 miles away from Ardmore can take me back there in my mind. There is value in these thin places. From the stone on the beach, the pilgrims travel up the main road where there is access to a path that turns into a gorgeous cliff walk. On the path is St. Declan’s Holy well. It is a beautiful spot. The well has clean water (also said to have curative powers) and a little shrine has been built around it with stone. It has an opening for the well and then three stone crosses atop. Actually, that’s only two now. The crosses were said to represent Calvary. One cross on the left for the unrepentant thief, a high cross in the middle to represent Jesus and a cross on the right to represent the repentant thief. Sadly, the cross representing the unrepentant thief has vanished. The locals say it was stolen. … which is ironic. Farther past the well is a pathway that winds along the cliffs with spectacular views of the bay and ocean. Then atop the hill behind the village are the remains of an old monastery. The buildings date back to the eighth century and were placed atop the site where Declan had his monastery in the 5th century. Those building – likely made of wood are long gone. The oldest of the ruins is St. Declan’s oratory which is said to have been erected overtop the remains of the saint. There is also a 12th century round tower which is in beautiful shape. It’s about 100 feet high, which is typical for round towers. Human remains were found facing east below the Ardmore’s round tower, which indicates that it was built over graves in a graveyard. There’s a sorrowful tale associated with the round tower. It was a refuge for Irish being pursued by English forces. About 20 of them were holed up in the tower on various floors. They surrendered and were all hanged. There’s also a roofless 13th-century church ruin with a giant 8th century carving from an earlier church attached to the gable wall. The carving nearly spans the width of the gable wall and the designs are similar to what you see on high crosses. There’s an image of Adam and Eve, Gift of the Magi and of the Judgement of Solomon. These were likely used for teaching the local people about the faith. I stood in front of the Gable wall and pointed out the carving to my tour group and they like most visitors, thought the carvings were beautiful. But when I told the story of the Judgement of Solomon to the group in front of the carving, there was a moment of transformation. I said … "You remember the story. Two women claim to be mother to the same baby and they go to King Solomon to get him to resolve the matter. King Solomon said, since you two can’t agree, I will cut the baby in half and give each of you a share. He called for his swordsman to do the deed and one of the women cried out, 'No. Don’t. The child is not mine.' And pointing to the other woman said, 'She is the real mother.' Solomon in his wisdom knew that this woman who was speaking had to be the baby’s rightful mother because only a mother’s love would be so unselfish as to sacrifice her own her own happiness and endure almost unbearable sorrow in order to save her child. So, Solomon made his judgment and gave the child to the woman who cried out. At the end of the story, the etched images in the gable wall seemed to have so much more depth, meaning. There’s something about marrying the spoken word of a sacred story to a physical image that represents the story. Something greater than the sum of those two elements grows. It becomes an experience. One of the guests said she imagined the artist, what he was thinking as he carved those images so long ago - - and she wondered if he ever imagined people would be admiring his work ten centuries after he carved it. It was such a powerful moment for all of us. Inside the church ruins in a little niche is a very well-preserved ogham stone. This is a tall stone with old Irish writing that consists of etch marks along the sides. These were often personal inscriptions… the name of the person etching the stone – a mark of memory to leave behind. Ardmore may not be one of the top sights that pilgrims seek out, but it’s every bit as powerful as the other sacred sites. Thank you for listening to the Thin Places Travel Podcast. You can find us on the web at thinplacespodcast.com. You can also find me on twitter at @travelhags and facebook.com/thinplaces.
Jul 14, 2018
Segment 1- Mindie Martin Byrne lives in Cliffony in north County Sligo, but he spent many years living at Carrowkeel, close to the shores of Lough Arrow. Carrowkeel is a 5000 year old megalithic complex of ancient buildings that served as tombs scattered across the summits of the Bricklieve Mountains. This area is in the close company of other megalithic sites that include Kesh Corran also known as the caves of kesh, the Heapstown Cairn, Creevykeel Court tomb, Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, Knocknarea – the sacred mountain with the large cairn on top. Martin states on his website that several of the Carrowkeel megalithic chambers are illuminated by the light of the sun and the moon. Martin has spent many years entering content onto his website carrowkeel.com. It’s one of the most comprehensive websites for information on sacred Ireland. He is a husband and father, a musician and writer and tour guide. You might be able to meet Martin if you visit Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery in Sligo, because he works there as a guide. For the last 20 years Martin been a freelance guide. Now he works for Ireland’s OPW (Office of Public Works - which includes tourist sites), based at Carrowmore and research local history, specifically Fr Michael O'Flanagan, a local rebel priest who was in Sligo in 1915. Martin also teaches and plays traditional Irish music. he and his musician colleagues have a session in the house every week, with up to 30 people attending. We’re very happy to have Martin as a guest on this podcast. . segment 2 – Martin byrne interview Martin Byrne - About Martin Byrne Martin’s websites and discussion groups Carrowkeel – Sacred Ireland website The Carrowmore Circles Creevykeel Court Tomb Martin Byrne on Facebook Fr. Michael O’Flanagan website SEGMENT 3 – CALDRAGH ANCIENT CEMETERY Janus Figure - after Janus the roman god with two faces Caldragh Cemetery St. Brynach’s Church in Nevern, Wales – Nevern High Cross Bleeding Yews of Nevern Sacred Ireland, by Cary Meehan Five Steps for the Traveler to Thin Places: How were you led there? Trace the route that led you Notice the signs as you enter - elevate your senses Record your memories. Build your internal gateway at home.
Apr 28, 2018
Segment 1- Mindie I am so delighted to have Mary Reynolds on the podcast today. Mary is quite an extraordinary person. She’s a garden designer, a philosopher – a writer. She is the youngest woman to win a Gold Medal for garden design at the Chelsea Flower Show – since its inception over 100 years ago. Mary grew up on a small mixed farm in Wexford, in the south of Ireland. 20 years ago she set up her own company designing gardens in Dublin. A few years later, having lost the will to live from constantly creating modern gardens, she realized that she could no longer continue shaping land in the same way and re-imagined her work to become nature rather than human centered. Mary brought her new, still relatively unformed ideas to be showcased at the Chelsea flower show in London where she achieved a gold medal, unusual at the time for a first-time effort. Since that time, she has built up quite a cult following in the world of garden design and is considered unique in her field. Another U-turn came a few years ago when Mary realized we had to rethink the whole relationship we had with the land and re-examine what it means to truly design in harmony with nature. Those latest revelations lead to ‘The Garden Awakening – Designs to Nurture Our Land and Ourselves’ being born, which imparts so much wisdom to people who are fashioning their own gardens and wild places. The book was written at night, over four years, when her two young kids were asleep… and Mary was almost awake. It was published in 2016. The book was given a video accolade by British anthropologist, Jane Goodall. Mary has appeared on numerous television programs, podcasts. She offers talks and workshops about her work she does and her core beliefs. and she likes to campaign against evil multinational efforts to cull us all off with pesticides, herbicides and GMO’s. Her views are wonderfully articulated in a TEDx Talk that we’ve posted in the show notes. Mary is trained as a Reiki master, and … in her own words - is not a bad cook (to her mother’s eternal surprise) Mary states that she spends a lot of time growing and guiding her own land into a place where people can come and stay and learn, but most of her time is spent being a harassed single mum, trying to grow two cheeky but wonderful boy and girl monsters and a crazy golden-doodle with as much grace and love as possible. The Irish writer and director Vivienne De Courcy made a movie about a journey in Mary’s life – Dare to be Wild, released in 2014 - now available on Netflix. In the final credits of that film there is statement that Mary Reynolds is listed as one of the 10 best garden designers of all time. segment 2 – Mary Reynolds interview Mary Reynolds website marymary.ie Skype maryreynoldsireland The Garden Awakening – book by Mary Reynolds Dare to Be Wild – Movie on Netflix Meet the Makers – YouTube video by Irish National Heritage Park Mary Reynolds TED Talk Mary Reynolds YouTube Channel The Chelsea Flower Show - website SEGMENT 3 – Wicklow sites Tomnafinnoge Wood – Ancient woodland Last remaining native oak woodland in Ireland. Last surviving fragment of the Great Oak forests in South Wicklow – believe to have covered 1000 acres in the 15th century. Widely exploited during the 16th century when the British were building war ships. Today it has about 2000 trees and covers about 165 acres. 3 different marked trails. The Oak Walk and the Hazel Walk are both looped and easy to navigate. Though it sits along the old rail bed and there is signage marking the trails, the woodland has a strong energy about it. It feels more wild as you move into it and away from the river and railbed. It’s not easy to find. From Tinahely head south on the R749. Pass the Tinahely Farm and at the next crossroad make a left.. The signage says to Coolboy and Tomnafinnoge Wood. Down that road about a mile is the car park for the wood entrance. Tinahely Farm is a great stopping place for lunch. Great shop, good food and farm activities for kids. Shillelagh – Old Shillelagh Stick Makers. Shillelaghs still being handcrafted today. Run by Liam Kealy Great Grandfather Denis passed the skill to Liam’s father, and he on to Liam. Family has a long history of craftsmen. Making a shillelagh from blackthorn is a three year process. Great storyteller. Interesting craftsman. Sticks and wands of various sizes mostly made of blackthorn or oak. LINKS Tomnafinnoge Wood Tinahely Farm Shop Old Shillelagh Stick Maker Shillelagh Stick Maker, Liam O’ Caidhla
Apr 21, 2018
The burren – County Clare The Burren in west County Clare is our featured destination in this podcast. Entire books are written about this 200 acres of rocky limestone that borders the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a landscape of myths and legends and sacred ground with archaeological remnants that date back thousands of years. It’s also a landscape of contrasts – the gray rock against the blue sky, mountains and hills that rise out of a seemingly endless flat bedrock. The contrasts are particularly powerful in the spring when the flowers of the Burren come into bloom. Tiny little orchids pop up in between the slabs of limestone Most people who visit the Burren drive through and stop at the most famous locations such as the Poulnabrone dolmen or the Burren Perfumery. They take the obligatory photo of Lamanegh Castle and maybe stop at Corcomroe Abbey. The Buren is a sacred landscape. The poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, who was from the Burren region said of the Burren: It’s a bare limestone landscape. And I often think that the forms of the limestone are so abstract and aesthetic, it is as if they were all laid down by some wild surrealistic kind of deity. Being a child and coming out into that, it was like a huge wild invitation to extend your imagination. Quote extracted from the Onbeing podcast – March 18, 2016 I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been to the Burren. On my first trip to Ireland, I had no role in planning the itinerary. I simply went along with friends who’d invited me and enjoyed the sites they chose. I can recall my friend, Hal McConnell – a great mystic with a brilliant and the planner of our Ireland tour saying, “Now, we’ll enter a mystical landscape – the Burren where everything seems harsh and stark, but there’s an underlying sacredness about the place. Though you can catch glimpses of the highlights by driving through, a better experience is to walk the Burren. Get out into the landscape and place yourself in that sacred space. It’s so worth stopping, moving, absorbing that special energy unique to the Burren. Or better yet, treat yourself to a walking tour led by a guide who knows his or her way around and can reveal parts of the landscape you won’t be able to see on your own. Our favorite Burren tour guide is Tony Kirby. And he’s our guest on this podcast. Interview with Tony Kirby Tony Kirby is full time tour operator offering walking tours through the Burren. He’s been offering these tours for 15 years through his company, Heart of the Burren Walking Tours www.heartofburrenwalks.com Tony Kirby Facebook Page The Burren and the Aran Islands: A Walking Guide by Tony Kirby Tony comments about the Burren that it is a rare global landform – limestone pavement. Of world importance botanically for its unique mélange of wild flowers. Exceedingly rich cultural (archaeological) landscape – “a vast memorial to bygone cultures” with a 6,000-year-old story of low-scale pastoralism. The Burren’s natural and cultural landscape is home to much legend and mythology. His favorite site in the Burren is St Colmán’s Hermitage – a mainland equivalent of Skellig Michael. A hermitage of Early Christian origin set in mature forest at the base of the region’s sheerest cliff. Rich in legend of the Saint Colmán. The Burren (200 sq miles) is less visited than other big-ticket Irish Atlantic destinations like the Cliffs of Moher, peninsular Kerry, Connemara, the Aran islands and Galway city. However, those that visit the Burrren are struck by how important a heritage landscape it is internationally and secondly by the fact the extensive rocky landscape is in part man-made i.e. caused by prehistoric agri-vandalism. Tony’s has a blog about the Burren that is done with renowned landscape photographer Carsten Krieger at www.burrentales.com Tony is soon launching a site with photographer Karin Funke. - The Holy Wells of the Burren www.burrenholywells.com Launching website very soon – The Killeens of the Burren. Killeens are burial grounds of unbaptised children. Politics by W.B. Yeats corcomroe Abbey Corcomroe Abbey is a 12th century monastic ruin that was once occupied by the Cistercians. It is a place of two worlds. If you ever wanted test yourself for sensitivity to the otherworld, this would be a perfect spot to start. Have you ever felt like you were being surrounded by memories? Graveyards do this to me. I know I feel differently when I cross the threshold into a graveyard… but if I really examine what it is that I’m feeling, it’s a swirling around of memories – the stories of the dead, of those who mourned them, stood by the gravesides, came back and visited, the sculpture who created the ornate markers, the stone cutter who etched the names into stone… Corcomroe projects its memories into the landscape. If you quiet yourself as you approach the abbey ruins, you’ll begin to feel the memories. This often happens to me in monastic ruins, but none so much as at Corcomroe. Notice the details. They’ll speak to you. In your mind, talk to the effigy of the Chieftain king. Internally hear what he says to you. Look above him and notice the smile on the bishop’s face. With your inner eye, see the monks walking the cloister walk. Follow them, hear their prayers. It is so easy to step back in time here. I have this little spiritual exercise I do when I walk in the wild places. As I internally communicate with the spirit world, I find that I’m often confirmed by the shape of hearts. Heart shaped stones, shapes in the trees, clouds, leaves on the ground. I see hearts. But only at these special times. The last time I was Corcomroe, I snapped a picture with my phone of the gable wall with the large window. I didn’t see it until I looked at the digital image – but there – big as life on the wall was shadow cast by the sun in the perfect shape of a heart. I’ll post that picture in the Shownotes. The effigy of King Conor O’Brien is what people tend to remember about Corcomroe. And that’s just what was intended some 750 years ago when it placed there. In 1268 Conor O'Brien, Lord Thomond and his son, his daughter, his grandson and a number of others were slain in a battle very near the abbey. Conor O'Brien's body was laid in a tomb under the floor of Corcomroe abbey against the north wall. A niche was cut in over it and an effigy placed on top of the tomb. This effigy atop King Conor O'Brien's tomb is one of only two effigies of Irish kings. the two kings died about the same time and the effigies appear identical. Beneath the floor next to him are the graves of some of his warriors. This short poem appeared in the Irish Monthly in 1911 by R.M.G. Conor O'Brien of the kings. How sound you sleep in Corcomroe! The night wind in the choir sings The hymns of many a year ago. What day was that when you were borne By warriors from the field of red ! Your blade was broke, your side was torn: They laid you in your royal bed. They ripped the chancel's paven floor And laid your warriors there in rows: Their requiem is the tempest's roar, Their souls are sped where no man knows. ~Background music Long Road Ahead by Kevin MadLeod – incompetech.com Corcomroe Abbey – Monastic Ruins in the Burren by Mindie Burgoyne Thank you for listening to the Thin Places Travel Podcast. You can find us on the web at thinplacespodcast.com. You can also find me on twitter at @travelhags and facebook.com/thinplaces. And if you enjoyed this episode, please give us quick rating and review on iTunes – under Thin Places Travel Podcast. And consider subscribing. In our next episode, our guest will be Mary Reynolds, an Irish garden and landscape designer famous for her wild gardens and her focus on bringing back the wild places. So long, for now.
Apr 14, 2018
Today we’re talking about Fairies. There are many concepts about fairies. My only association with the word fairy was the Tinkerbelle sort in Peter Pan. Sort of a Fairy Godmother. The tooth fairy. A good little angel. Fairies that I heard about growing up were good… and there was never any worry about a fairy causing mischief or harm. But in the pre-Christian Celtic countries the concept of fairies was different. These beings were feared because they could curse you or bring you bad luck. You didn’t mess with the fairies. You didn’t disturb their domain or their rath. You stayed away from fairy hills or forts. You didn’t cut down the lone hawthorn bush because it might be a fairy tree – a fairy domain. There’s a well-known poem about fairies, written by a man from County Donegal named William Allingham. It describes this apprehension about interacting with the fairies. Up the airy mountain Down the rushy glen, We daren’t go a -hunting For fear of little men. Fairies were known to steal babies and replace them with a fairy changeling who would bring bad luck to the house. They stole little Bridget For seven years long; When she came down again Her friends were all gone. They have kept her ever since Deep within the lake On a bed of flag-leaves Watching till she wake. The hawthorns are associated with the fairies. All across Ireland you see lone hawthorn trees and bushes standing solitary in fields. Many of the farmers won’t cut them. Ireland built a dual lane highway around one hawthorn bush because none of the workers laying down the highway would cut the bush down. Eventually they rerouted the highway around the bush so as not to disturb it. By the craggy hill-side Through the mosses bare, They have planted thorn-trees For pleasure here and there. Is any man so daring As dig them up in spite, He shall find their sharpest thorns In his bed at night. To many people – especially in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England – fairies are real. They are part of a communion of elemental beings that exist in a parallel realm or dimension. And there are people who interact with the fairies and connect with their energy. Our guest today is one of these people. She not only connects with the fairies – she uses their energy in holistic healing practices. Carmel Costello is a Spiritual Healer and kinesiologist who grew up on a farm in Co. Kilkenny. And on that farm, Carmel developed a healthy sense of respect for nature and what it produced. After finishing school, she spent years in the catering industry and had her own restaurant. In the year 2000, Carmel found herself working with adults who had learning difficulties, and it was from that experience that she developed her skill with energy healing. Carmel says that she always knew I was different. I felt different energies outside of me. I felt other people’s energy and the energy in nature – the plants and animals. In 2007 she studied kinesiology for two years and received a diploma in 2009 completing her training in many energy therapies such as Reiki, Quantum touch and Magnified Healing. At present she works as a healer supported by the energies of the divine, the fairies, the little people, the nature spirits. This support came about once she acknowledged their presence and recognized that they came to help. Carmel has felt the fairy energy quite strong. They’ve guided her in many ways – specifically in making fairy houses as healing tools. Carmel also has a unique sense of the landscape and the layers of energy and elemental beings in the sacred landscape, and we’re going to talk with her today about the sacred landscape in Kilkenny. Doon Hill is located in Aberfoyle, Scotland - about 30 miles north of Glasgow near Loch Lomond – actually located in the Trossachs National Park. The fairies stories associated with Doon Hill came from folklorist and minister, Robert Kirk. He was born – the son of a minister in 1644. He was the seventh son and said to have the gift of second sight. There was a belief that a kind of magic built up in a woman’s womb with the birth of each son, so that by the 7th son, the magic was ripe and imparted to that child giving him special gifts – usually of the psychic nature. Kirk who became known as the Fairy Minister - is mostly known today for his communing with the fairies on Doon Hill. His manse was located near it – he could see it. He would take walks on the hill and commune with the fairies. Eventually he wrote down his experiences between 1691 and 1692 but died before it could be published. 123 years later, Sir Walter Scott published the book under the title The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies. It is still in print today. Kirk describes the fairies as ….said to be of middle nature between man and angel Intelligent fluidous spirits, light changeable bodies. Somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud Best seen at twilight On one of his nightly walks, Kirk disappeared. Some say he was not seen for days and was eventually found dead at the top of Doon Hill in his nightshirt. Many people surmised that the fairies had taken him because he was revealing their secrets in his writings. Some say that the whole story about him being found dead is a lie. That he was never found. There was an incident where someone said they saw Kirk shortly after he disappeared. He told the person that the fairies had kidnapped him and he was to tell one of Kirk’s relations - named Graham that the only way he (Kirk) would attend Graham’s yet to be born son’s baptism and at that moment of appearance, Graham was to throw a dirk (knife) directly over Kirk’s head. This ritual would release him from captivity. Kirk did appear at the baptism, but Graham was too frightened by the vision and the fairies. He didn’t throw the dirk. So Robert Kirk – the man with second site - faded away… forever to be known as the Minister of the Fairy Queen. People believe that his soul is trapped inside the tall Scots Pine tree at the top of Doon Hill – The tree is no known as “The Minister’s Pine.” Such a mystery. His old manse sits just up from the graveyard. They both face Doon Hill –known now as the Fairy Knowe. Fairy knowe is a Scottish term. The Irish use the term “rath” as you hear from Carmel to refer to small hills where the fairies live. A fairy knowe in Scotland is typically a small hillock, often wooded with mature deciduous trees. There is also some sort of archaeological feature – a slab, a well or as on Doon Hill – a tree. The fairy knowes are entrances into a mystical realm. A private domain of the fairies that is fiercely protected. These places were especially “active” during liminal times – dawn and twilight. We visited the Fairy Knowe, which is Doon Hill. It’s not a huge hill or a mountain that is quickly noticed in the landscape. But it is a little unusual in that it has a little “cap” on the top.. A small bump almost like a nipple. That bump is the Minister’s Pine. The pathway to the top is clearly marked. It begins as a slow wind around the base of the hill. There is a little stopping place before the path gets too steep. In that place is a fairy cottage that someone carved out of an oak stump. The stump is taller than a man – maybe 6 and half feet. It’s perfectly carved to make a very tall fairy house complete with a doors and windows – front steps, roof shingles and a chimney. It sits in a small oak grove. Young oak saplings cover the ground. People have left tokens – crystals, stones, little objects – all around the house. Many have pushed coins into the stump – so you see rows and rows of coins half embedded in the wood – reminders of fairy pilgrims who stopped at this little fairy cottage. There’s another stump that has been carved into a large mushroom – also with half visible coins pushed into it. At the top of the hill, The Minister’s Pine is evident. It’s right in the middle of the clearing and covered with ribbons, rags, notes, and other tokens left behind. There are similar tokens on the surrounding trees. There are also clusters of sticks and wood shaped into little mounds – kind of like building a cairn with wood. Children have left notes with wishes on them. One that I saw said “More Legos” another said, “I wish for a cupcake every Monday.” It’s a powerful spot. People are naturally quiet there. I shot a little video near the Fairy cottage and got a little dancing green light in the lower portion of the screen. It could have been caused by the rays of the sun … or not. Doon Hill is a worthy visit for those who love thin places. I’ve included links to the walking routes around the hill. The entire experience takes about two hours. The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns & Fairies , by Robert Kirk Walking Route for Doon Hill – Aberfoyle Aberfoyle Walking Brochure
Apr 7, 2018