LIFE AS MYTH

Index

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JOURNAL

Index

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JOURNAL 2013

A living myth

Seven year cycles

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SPRING 2013

A song of hope

Index 2013

The birth of hope

The color of hope

Praying for rain

Mythology of water

The great flood

The churning of the milky ocean

Mythology of Irish waters

Water rituals

The waters of life

A song of hope

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LIFEWORKS

About

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ARCHIVES

Index

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SPRING 2013
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THE MYTHOLOGY OF IRISH WATERS

brigid

 

Brigid's Well. Liscannor, Ireland.

The word "spring" has Dutch and German roots (springen). The early meaning was ‘head of a well’ or ‘a sudden surge or stream’. This contributed to the evolution of the word's meaning as initiate a beginning.

(below) Beach at Inishbofin. Historians estimate that the island has had human inhabitants as far back as 8000 BC. It is a breeding area for the Corncrake, a rare and threatened bird species.

 

According to Irish folklore, Brigid's well at Liscannor contains healing waters.  At one time the well was in a pasture, directly across the road from its current site.  When a villager misused the sacred waters, the offended well dried up in response. Shortly thereafter, it reemerged in its present location.  There has been one report that St. Brigid appeared to a local girl at the well and the saint healed her of an unspecified affliction.

 

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Inishbofin

I spent a day on Inishbofin this week, traveling there by ferry from the dock at Cleggan. Inishbofin or Inis Bo Finne means "Island of the White Cow" which links the island to Boann, a member of the Celtic pantheon, the Tuatha Dé Danann. Boann is a fertility goddess associated with the River Boyne.

The day was absolute perfection, made even more wonderful by the unrelenting rain and storms of the past two weeks. I spent several hours exploring the island on foot -- had a long conversation with a woman who was sitting on the stone wall in front of her cottage, came upon a large sapphire watered lake filled with swans, collected sea glass on a small rock beach.

 

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  clonfert mermaid

Romanesque doorway. St. Brendan's Church at Clonfert, Ireland.

The mermaid at St. Brendan's Church.

 

Situated on the grounds of the 6th Century monastery founded by St. Brendan, his namesake cathedral is the oldest church in Ireland with an unbroken history of public worship. At one time Clonfert was a noted seat of learning with 3000 monks in residence. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it was a proposed location for the university which later became Trinity College, Dublin.

In modern times, religious services occur only every month or so, usually when a priest comes to the parish as part of a rotating schedule. In between visits, the church is locked and in order to view it, you have to get the keys from the couple that live in a cottage adjacent to the church grounds.

There are two particularly notable architectural features. One is the ornately carved Romanesque doorway (right). The other is a pagan icon, found in the church, which might be linked to the mythology surrounding St. Brendan.

According to Celtic legend, St. Brendan (also known as Brendan the Voyager), accompanied by a large group of monks, sailed off in search of a mythic island paradise. After seven years, they reached The Isle of the Blessed, or Terra Repromissionis, an island paradise with lush vegetation. Brendan's narrative of the island makes the location difficult to determine. One interpretation supports a location not far off the west coast of Ireland. Another places the island further south, making it synonymous with the ancient "Fortunate Isles".

The maritime based mythology surrounding St. Brendan might explain the presence of a mermaid at Clonfert (installed next to the pulpit). It is not unusual in Irish myth and iconography for pagan and sacred traditions to exist side by side and to inform each other. However, what the mermaid represents in this particular context is not known.

 

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