Coven WillowStar's
Trip to Ireland

Lough Derravaragh, Co. Meath, where the Children of Lyr
are said to have been turned into swans by the jealous Aoife

In late October of 2000 three members of Coven Willowstar traveled to Ireland as part of a Pagan tour led by our friend Ainsley Friedburg, founder of the Connecticut Wiccan and Pagan Network. Ainlsey turned out to be an excellent Pagan travel agent, indeed! This was the third or fourth trip she had arranged. Ainsley has put together a couple of other trips since; and by all accounts, they just keep getting better and better! We certainly look forward to traveling with her again!

We flew Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline, on an overnight flight from JFK to Dublin. We arrived in Dublin at about 7:00 a.m. where we were met at customs by Glenn, our native tour guide for the week. I use the term "native" pretty loosely here, as Glenn turned out to be a Pagan English expatriate who has lived in and studied Ireland for a number of years.

 

Glenn proceeded to gather us (and our luggage) up and to herd us all to a waiting tour bus, which was to serve as our chariot for the next 9 days.

 

Our first order of business was to check into The Wry Mill B&B, in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. This is located about an hour east of Dublin; and was to be our "base of operations" for our stay in the Emerald Isle. This is where we spent our nights and started each morning of our stay with a traditional (huge!) Irish breakfast.



The main focus of our explorations was ancient sacred sites. This exploration took the form of visits to hill and ring forts, sacred wells and three major Neolithic burial sites. The majority of photos on these pages relate to these three different sites containing stone-age tombs primarily of the passage tomb, or cairn type. These are what even today, are referred to by locals as "fairy mounds" or "fairy hills". We present these in the order in which they are believed to have been built, so as to demonstrate a bit about the evolution of this type of burial chamber.

The Fairy Hills
This type of tomb is believed to have been used continuously from about 4500 BCE until nearly 1000 CE. The oldest examples are found in the West of Ireland, while the latest are located in the East, perhaps indicating a pattern of migration. Although referred to a being "tombs". The majority of these structures were probably used for more than that. Most of the early cairns, and virtually all of the later ones were built with a distinctive cruciform floor plan. Upon excavation in modern times it was found upon entering the tomb, the left and right chambers were filled, frequently to the ceiling, with ashes and fragments of human bone. The central portion of the structures have usually been found to be relatively clear of these remains. Additionally, Irish passage tombs have been found to have a precise alignment to the setting or rising sun on the Summer solstice and in a few examples, to the Winter solstice. It is felt by some scholars this is proof of a ritual use for these tombs other than as mere mausoleums.


All Photos 2000 by Alphaeus