Saturday, July 7, 2012

Setting Off On a Pilgrimage

I have one more day at home before I leave for Ireland. I get on the plane Monday morning and will be gone until August 16th, when I return to Seattle from Venice. I'll be joined in Ireland by eight fellow travelers and by Jhenah and Vyviane of the Sisterhood of Avalon, who have made all this possible.

While I am on the road, I'll be posting when I can, generally to my LiveJournal, where I hope to be able to let folks know where we are and what we're doing at least every few days. I'll be publishing photos when I can, though you should expect most of them when I return, as I won't be able to retrieve the photos from my camera until I return home. I'll be posting photos from my phone or possibly my iPad while I'm overseas.

We have all put a lot of work into preparing this journey and I'm honored that I was asked to make this pilgrimage and to offer my work to those who travel with us.

I arrive in Ireland on the 10th of July and we'll head to Kildare from there to meet the nuns at Solas Bríd, then make our way to the two Brigid's Wells in Kildare Town. After that, our journeys will take us to the Hill of Tara, Newgrange, and out to a B&B near Sligo Town, which will be our hearth and our center as we explore sites in the surrounding area.

From our opening ritual at Brigid's Well to our closing ritual at the Hill of Uisneach, we will be immersed in the history and myth of Ireland. We'll explore ourselves and our connections with the sacred through incubatory work and meditations, through rituals for Brigid and Airmed, and through hearing traditional storytellers telling the stories of place and of deities and heroes.

Each day, we'll explore new places and new themes, encountering sacred landscape and learning ways to connect ourselves not only to the land of Ireland, but to our own sacred landscapes in the places we live.

After Ireland, I'll be spending time in the Isle of Man, exploring places sacred to Manannán, and looking for three Brigid's wells noted in sources dating to the 1930s, to see if all three of them are still extant. I don't currently have any more recent information, but through the good graces of a friend, I was introduced to Breesha Maddrell, a Manx language and traditional music expert, and a PhD in Manx Studies. She'll be very busy wrapping up the Yn Chruinnaght music festival a couple of days before I arrive, but I hope to spend a day with her while I'm on the island once she's had a couple of days to catch her breath again.

While I'm there, I'll be visiting the iron age ring fort atop South Barrule, which is traditionally said to be Manannán's fortress, and where rent was paid to him, as reported in the Manx Traditionary Ballad. I'll be walking parts of the coastal trail, the Raad ny Foillan or road of the gull. As I visit these places and walk these trails, I'll be doing ritual for Manannán and learning what I can about the island and its culture, music, and language. During this visit, I'll be sleeping in a tent and will likely have only very sporadic internet access, though there is a web cafe in Douglas. It will not only be a time to focus on my relationship with Manannán, but to collect myself after the Brigid pilgrimage and process some of what I learn and experience in Ireland.

My trail from there will take me around the Lake District of northern England, visiting friends and acquaintances before I visit another friend in Brittany, just in time for the Festival Interceltique in Lorient. My friend Emma promises to take me to Arthurian and megalithic sites -- I know there is Merlin mythology in the area, and I will see if there are sites we can get to during my time there that are associated with him. Merlin's madness, like that of Suibhne Geilt, is of interest to me and visiting sites associated with him may, I hope, give me some insights that will be useful in my research on the geilta.

When I leave Brittany, I'll be off to Prague to visit another friend from Eugene, Oregon, who's teaching English there. She'll have a little time to show me around that beautiful and deeply magical city, and I'll be meeting my brother there before we road trip down to where he lives, in northern Italy. We'll spend time exploring where he's spent much of his life now, taking in the sights, and I'll be able to celebrate his birthday with him a couple of days before I return home. He promises we can visit Venice, and I have always wanted to go to the glass museums in the Murano.

When I was very young, back in the 1960s, my father was in the Navy and would sail from the east coast of the US, where he was stationed, out to the Mediterranean. He brought back Venetian glass animals from his travels that I still remember very fondly as things of great delicacy and beauty. It will be fascinating to visit some of the places places that my father did while I'm staying with my brother, who loves Italy very much and who recently finally got his permanent Italian residency a month or so ago.

I feel very blessed to be able to make this journey, in all its depth and variety. It's my honor to be able to share it with you.