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Witchvox Chapter: Pagan Event Reviews
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Tara Summer Solstice 2005|
by Caroline Kenner
This year’s Summer Solstice ritual at Tara was the largest gathering of Druids, Pagans and Witches ever held in modern Ireland, with an estimated 2,000 attendees. People came from many countries in Europe and several other continents. The circle of supporting groves and covens offered blessings from across Ireland, from Denmark, Australia, and even, yes, America. And the most unique aspect of the event was that most of the people enjoying the ritual weren’t even Pagan.
Anette Peard, The Tara Festival Committee and noted healer and author Gina McGarry were the primary organizers of Tara Solstice 2005 under the auspices of An Conradh Draoithe na h’Eireann, usually known as CDE, or in English, the Convocation of Druids of Eire. They brought together Druid groves and Craft covens from across Ireland and abroad. Many talented and knowledgeable people joined together to offer a day of rituals and workshops appropriate to the historic site.
Tara is the heart and soul of Ireland, the royal seat of the High King of Ireland, where scores of Pagan monarchs reigned over Ireland’s four ancient provinces. Tragically, Tara is currently under threat of development: the M3 toll road is planned to be built within 150 meters of the High King of Ireland’s banqueting hall.
The current route will require the destruction more than 50 Pagan-era graves of nobles and royals. Archaeological excavations have already begun immediately surrounding Tara to facilitate the planned destruction. The National Roads Authority considered ten different routes for the road before choosing the route closest to Tara Hill.
No one disputes the need for the road, a commuter route to take workers from Meath into Dublin. Yet if the road is built as planned, Tara will be permanently changed by the noise, the pollution and the high-intensity lights. It seems that the sanctity of the site and the peace of the Pagan-era graves mean nothing to the current government.
|Janet and Gavin in the USA - 2005|
Florida - September 2nd, 3rd and 4th.- Inner Mysteries Intensive. Fort Myers. Contact: The Manna Reading Center, Fort Myers. Email: [click]. or Contact Wendyl at 239-277-7866. Limited Places. THIS IS BOOKING UP FAST!
Massachusetts - September 10th - WES Goddess Temple, Ashburnham - Trance Propesy Intensive, Contact: [click] Website: www.wesociety.com
Connecticut - September 15th to 18th - Harvest Home Gathering, Contact: [click] Website: www.cwpn.org
The road development may mean that Solstice 2005 will be the last tranquil Midsummer’s Day dawning over Tara. However, the Druids and Witches organizing the ceremony decided that it would be best to focus on celebrating the holiday rather than using the occasion to publicly oppose the M3 route. And so everyone tried to enjoy the moment, savoring the fragile beauty and the proud history of Royal Tara.
The schedule of events began with a dawn ritual organized by Adge, an Archdruid of the Hibernian Order of Druids. At Summer Solstice in Ireland, dawn comes early, about 4 am. As the first streaks of light appeared in the East, the assembled crowd turned to greet the midsummer sun, raising their staves in homage.
The midday ritual was an enactment of Lugh’s arrival at the court of the Tuatha de Danaan. Watching the Questioning of Lugh enacted by Druids while standing on Tara Hill was worth my Solstice pilgrimage to Ireland. Our Pagan sisters and brothers in Europe have a far more inspiring choice of ritual sites than we do in America. Those of us who worship the Old Goddesses and Gods from across the ocean sadly don’t have access to our ancestors’ sanctuaries. After several pilgrimages of this type, I am convinced that the spirits of the ancient places joyfully welcome us and gladly uphold our Pagan rites.
Throughout the entire day, there was a brightly colored mandala being built in the churchyard atop Tara by the group Solas Art. Constructed of hurley sticks, (an ancient Irish sport) small holed stones, painted limpet shells, rounds of wood and pine cones, the mandala was a technicolor gift to the public. Everyone kept checking back to see its progress, watching it grow until the swirling triple spirals were surrounded by brilliant fields of color. Each limpet shell had been painstakingly hand colored over the winter months in preparation for the event, a true labor of love. The mandala was a magnet for children, and several of the smaller folk had to be chased away from walking onto it. “No, darling, it’s not a labyrinth…Come away!!” I heard more than one parent shout as a limpet shell crunched under a small foot.
There was a workshop available somewhere on Tara almost every hour of the day. Gina McGarry, founder of Brighid’s Academy of Healing in Westmeath, taught a class on chanting. Corin Thistlewood, of the Australian College of Druidry, presented Celtic knot magic, and I offered shamanic healing sitting atop St. Patrick’s well. There was no charge for any of the events. Many of the attendees didn’t seem to be Pagan, but rather joined us in order to honor their traditions and their ancestors from ancient times. There were plenty of Pagan folk, however, coming from all of Ireland’s four provinces, Europe, Australia and America. Heidi, a Danish Druid and artist from the Grove of Love and Light in Ringkobing, showed us some of her T’ai Chi expertise. The young Lithuanians boasted that their country was the last Pagan country in Europe, and spoke nostalgically of the Summer Solstice bonfires in their ancient capital. Bob, a drummer from the Netherlands, assisted me in shamanic healing with his talking drum. I was grateful for his help: carrying a drum across the Atlantic seemed too difficult, considering that I was also bringing a ceremonial sword.
The crowd swelled considerably as dusk approached. Parking, a crowded problem by mid-afternoon, became complete madness and chaos. Multigenerational families with elders and children walked up the hill from the main road, now lined with parked cars. The teashop at Tara did a roaring trade, but ran out of water in the bathrooms and locked them shut for several hours. Public opinion forced them to open the bathrooms prior to the evening ritual, to everyone’s great relief.
The majority of the crowd was not Pagan. They came to see how their ancestors worshipped on Tara, the site of such ceremonies for millennia. Feeling amongst locals about the planned M3 route may have added to the crowd this year. The Mound of the Hostages was invisible, covered with onlookers vying for a good view. The most important television channel in Ireland sent a remote truck, and we were live on the evening news. The rituals were pictured in many national newspapers the next day. My eyes stung with sentimental tears as I watched the children and the elders admiring the pageantry.
The evening ritual at Tara is justly famous for its torchlit procession through the churchyard and past the Mound of the Hostages. As the midsummer sun began to set, and dusk descend, Gavin Bone became the quartermaster, doling out torches, robes and capes to the assembled Druids and Witches. Preparations reached a feverish pitch, women squinted into rearview mirrors to apply makeup and held capes around each other to change into ceremonial garb in the parking lot. Men buckled swords around their robes and held each others’ staves while they adjusted their gear.
Anticipation rose as we gathered in the churchyard to begin the procession. Gavin Bone was the master of ceremonies, beating a drum to attract the attention of the crowd. Janet Farrar made a brilliant Sun Goddess in a coppery gown with a sunset chiffon stole. Her Sun Lord, Stefan, a professional dancer, was priestly and shimmery in orange, with golden-sprayed hair. The Triple Morrigan, attired in black, was embodied by red-haired Gina McGarry as the Crone, with raven-haired Gemma as the Mother and blonde Lena as the Maiden, a dramatic and beautiful contrast. Adge was the organizing Druid. Many participants carried Adge’s hand-carved bog oak staves, made from oak preserved in peat bogs for several thousand years. A colorful procession of Druids and Witches from around the world, all attired in ceremonial robes carrying bright banners, waited for Gavin’s cue to step out and begin our sacred journey to the ritual site. When the torches were finally lit, it was truly a sight to make a Pagan proud.
Not all was in harmony, however. A band of disaffected drummers banged discordantly, imagining they were banishing an apocryphal “curse” laid on Tara by priests in the Middle Ages. Once the torchlit procession began, many of the drummers drifted away to watch the real ritual. Also in disharmony was a small but noisy group of Jehovah’s Witnesses standing on the hill of the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny. They shouted loud prayers for our “salvation”, enough to annoy any Pagan, Witch or Druid. Finally, Gavin Bone and Janet Farrar dispatched Feargal Gallagher, Captain of the Guard, armed with enough weaponry to dismantle any intruder. “Where is your church?” Feargal inquired. The Christians answered with the address of their sanctuary, and said hopefully “You would be welcome to join us at any service…” but then Feargal said “Well, would I be welcome to stand outside the window of your church during a ceremony and shout about the love of the Goddess?” After that, the Jehovah’s Witnesses uncharacteristically showed some respect for another religion.
The torchbearers moved in to the center of the circle and held their torches high. Just as in days of old, the four torchbearers represented Ireland’s traditional Four Provinces, all four provinces visible from Tara. Then they lowered their torches together to light the ceremonial brazier, laden with scraps of 6,000 year old bog oak from Adge’s workshop. A pungent perfume wafted through the air as the brazier flamed high. Those trees, found in a peat bog near the site of the Battle of Moytura between the Tuatha de Danan and the Fomorians, could have witnessed the miracles of Lugh, the workmanship of Gobnu, the healing of Brighid, the bounty of The Dagda. The lump in my throat rose, and I wept to see such a magnificent Pagan spectacle.
A score of representatives from covens and groves across Ireland, from Australia and from Denmark stepped forward to offer their blessings to the circle. I was proud to represent my own collective from Maryland, Chesapeake Pagan Community. As I cast a handful of incense into the brazier, I offered the following blessing: “Let us always remember that which divides us is tiny compared to all that unites us, even if what divides us sometimes seems as wide as the Atlantic Ocean.”
|Tara Under Threat|
Tara. Its very name evokes the majesty of ancient Pagan Ireland. Royal seat of Ireland's High Kings for millenia, Tara has a unique place in Irish history. The front-page headline in the Washington Post on Saturday, January 22, thus came as a nasty shock: “In Ireland, Commuters vs. Kings: Road Plan Clashes with Protection of Ancient Tara”. A four-lane highway planned to cut through an ancient Pagan site?? How could the Irish road planners possibly contemplate such a route? [more]
After the ritual was over and we had packed everything back into our cars, international hugs exchanged, email addresses given and websites shared, we carefully drove back to Kells, down the congested N3. People kept honking at us, and Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone were sure that other Pagans were signaling their excitement at the glory of the occasion. However, as it happened, the brazier of bog oak continued to smolder in the trailer, threatening to set the Druidical robes alight. Was this a metaphor of the persistence of Pagan beliefs after two millennia of Christian oppression…..or perhaps of the intensity of the sun at midsummer? We had a good hearty laugh and doused it with water, secure in the knowledge that we were holding faith with our ancestors. After all, we had just done our ancestors proud on Tara Hill, in this new millennium of renewed Pagan worship.
I pray to the Goddesses and Gods of Old Ireland that Tara will be spared the bulldozer, the tarmac and the congestion that threaten her sanctity. I pray that Solstice 2006 will dawn as tranquil and quiet as this year’s holy day. So Mote It Be!
| ABOUT... |
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner is a Harner and Ingerman trained shamanic healer living in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. Caroline is a founding member of Chesapeake Pagan Community, a Pagan collective sponsoring a Lughnasadh gathering in northern Maryland. Join us for Spirits of the Land, featuring Ivo Dominguez, Jr. and Andras Corban Arthen, on August 4th through 7th.
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Article ID: 9841
Posted: June 26th. 2005
Days Up: 4,296
Times Viewed: 31996