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Article ID: 12452
Age Group: Adult
Posted: March 16th. 2008
The Ongoing Saga of Royal Tara and the Toll Road
by Caroline Kenner
Royal Tara, seat of the High King of Ireland in Pagan times, premiere portal to the Celtic Otherworlds, realm of the Ancestors and the Faeries, has a history dating back 6,000 years. But even in a span as long at Tara’s, the last few years have been unusually filled with incident. This week, while many of us are thinking of Ireland and her heritage (even as we deplore St. Patrick’s destruction of Irish Druidry) it is a good time to turn our thoughts to the situation at Tara. Here are some of the latest chapters in the Ongoing Saga of Royal Tara and the Toll Road.
For more than three years now, Royal Tara has been threatened with a superhighway, a toll road called the M3, being built within 1000 yards of the Hill of Tara. Despite heartfelt protests from international Celtic scholars, locals from County Meath, Irish citizens and members of the Irish diaspora, a couple of sympathetic politicians, many passionate activists, commissioners of the European Union, and, yes, Pagans from Ireland and around the world, the road building continues at Tara.
Dr Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin has been working on the Tara situation during the entire siege. She is a senior lecturer in Celtic Studies at the National University of Ireland. “From the beginning, archaeologists and experts warned that the chosen route for the M3 would damage and destroy the Gabhra Valley--The Valley of the White Mare in Gaelic—which is Tara's extended landscape. As a historian and lecturer on literature, Tara would be the most important site in Irish written sources if there were no archaeology. It is the most oft-mentioned place in our early literature. The 350 academics who signed the statement to the government have been proven right, the experts were right. The National Roads Authority were economical with the truth from the beginning.”
As the scholars and archaeologists foretold, numerous archaeological sites have been found, and in some cases deliberately destroyed, by the road building efforts. A massive prehistoric henge at Lismullen, roughly 2, 000 years old, is slated for destruction. Archaeologist Conor Newman said in a press release issued in May, 2007, by the Campaign to Save Tara: “(The Lismullen Henge) is a monument of major significance…..a discovery of this magnitude in a landscape so heavily invested with ceremonial monuments was predicted from the start (of the planned M3 route).” Despite the historical and cultural importance of the wooden henge at Lismullen, after the site is excavated, plotted and recorded for posterity, it will be ploughed under and paved for the road.
Now road-building activities are undermining Rath Lugh, a prehistoric monument which may be the burial mound of the Fianna, warrior band of the Fenian myth cycle. Built upon a fragile esker, a gravel and sand deposit left by a glacier many millennia ago, the edge of Rath Lugh has been deforested and subjected to bulldozers. Although the government has legally protected Rath Lugh, and excavations for the road skirt the edge of the esker, protesters have said the bulldozers are damaging the stately Rath.
This past week, a young woman sealed herself into a tunnel under the unstable esker and is risking her life to save Rath Lugh like an underground Julia Butterfly. The sand and gravel deposits are so unstable that use of bulldozers or any heavy machinery threatens to collapse the tunnel and bury her alive. The tunnel is narrow and small, and although the young woman has enough food and water for several months, there is no question that she has literally laid her life on the line to protect her Irish heritage.
The young woman in the tunnel is far from the only youthful protester standing vigil at Rath Lugh. Pagan people, including a member of Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone’s group Teampall Na Callaighe have been living on Rath Lugh since last summer. Joel Jacobs says, “Since staying at the Rath Lugh camp I have witnessed thousands of years of Celtic history be wiped away. As a resident of Ireland, I feel compelled to protect this nation’s heritage. The camps themselves have gone through many changes, sometime moving locations when necessary. But people have continued to support our cause, in fact the support has progressively grown in strength over time. We have resisted all attempts to be removed from site thus far. The Rath Lugh camp spirit is lively, and we always seem able to get a drum session going.”
Yet even Druids question whether the direct action taken by the Rath Lugh protestors is the correct approach. Irish Druid and shamanic practitioner Annette Peard says “There is a large group of tents here with protestors monitoring the route of the road, which is going alongside the Rath and over the greater portion of the Lismullen Henge. It hurts me to see a motorway going through the valley, but I also worry about the sacredness of the Hills being 'used' in a not very sacred way. Camping was never sanctioned by the OPW (Order of Public Works) who are the care-takers of the site, although they never minded when a few came for the Solstices to celebrate with ceremonies, arriving and leaving quietly, in keeping with the site. Having said that, I must say that most of the protesters come with love in their hearts for Tara.”
One issue no one disagrees about is the need for a road to replace the N3 and improve access between Navan and Dublin. Annette Peard says “Everyone agrees that a new road is essential, given the traffic that the existing N3 carries each day to and from Dublin. The objection is that it should really have been directed away from this valley - a 3 mile section approx - to protect our Sacred Tara.”
Sylvia Socci, one of Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone’s coveners, says “As a driver of Meath Roads and a resident in County Meath, I am very familiar with the current traffic problems we are experiencing. I understand we desperately need a new road, but not at the expense of this country's heritage.”
Prominent Wiccan authors and residents of Kells, Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone say: “The issue is not the building of the M3. We’re the first to say that we need the road, and the bypass around Kells, where we live. The problem is the route and the impact it will have on the archaeology in the area. The National Roads Authority has been desperate to paint anyone against the route as being against the M3, so they can keep the local people, and more importantly the local business community on board. But now, more and more people are realising—including local business people--that they have been duped. This was particularly true when they found out that they had been mislead regarding the M3 being a public road, and discovered it was in fact going to be a toll road.”
Tragically, the process to choose the route of the M3 was far from transparent, according to Farrar and Bone. “As usual in Ireland, this has all been about money, or rather money in brown envelopes. Ireland has had a “black” economy since the time of British occupation. That was how the Irish people got around paying taxes to the British Empire, so not surprisingly this carried on within the two main political parties of Ireland after the partition in 1922. We live 25 minutes away, and are on the M3 route. We were not surprised to hear that members of various political parties had been told to buy up land along the current M3 corridor at least 5 years ago, and that they would do ‘very well’ out of the compulsory purchase orders on their land. This is very odd, considering that the route had not been chosen at the time. Right from the start people in Meath have been aware of the corruption that has gone on regarding the current M3 route; it is why the National Roads Authority (or rather those in it who are members of those two political parties) have been so keen to keep that route.”
The money issue continues to dominate the discussion about the M3. Gavin Bone and Janet Farrar say: “At present Ireland is in a recession. What was a roaring economy, “the Celtic Tiger” as it was known, is now on its last meows. The housing market is collapsing, builders are laid off work, and petrol, home fuel, and food prices increase weekly.”
Nobel Laureate and Irish bard Seamus Heaney agrees. In a recent documentary on BBC Radio Ulster about the situation, “Tar on Tara”, Seamus Heaney talked about the Celtic Tiger versus the ancient bardic symbol of Ireland, the Harp. “The priorities on these islands have changed, I mean the Celtic Tiger is now lashing its tail and smashing its way through the Irish Harp."
There are thousands of ways that people have been protesting the M3 over the past several years. One of the most beautiful events was held in front of the Dail, the Irish House of Representatives, at the Autumnal Equinox last year.
Their press release says: “On Saturday 22nd September 2007 at 3 p.m. the harpers of Ireland will gather at Dáil Éireann to demonstrate publicly the strength of their opposition to the destruction of historic cultural sites at the Tara/Skryne Valley as a result of the current route of the M3 motorway. The harpers will assemble with their harps along Kildare Street, and will submit a petition to Minister John Gormley insisting he implement alternatives to the continued destruction. Ireland is unique in having a musical instrument, the harp, as its national emblem. This indicates the primacy of the harp in Irish culture. The sites currently under threat are inextricably linked with the harping and bardic traditions for more than 2, 500 years. and Tara was the gathering place for thousands of harpers to 142 kings of Ireland, and the harp was an integral part of the ancient Irish parliament at Tara. The harp has been used in the coat of arms of Ireland since 1270 and is the symbol of the Irish State today. It is an outrage that the Irish people should be forced to choose between infrastructure and heritage. As a country we are embarrassed internationally by profit-driven, shortsighted planning, as exemplified by the fact that World Monument Fund has placed Tara on its list of 100 most endangered sites worldwide.”
The World Monument Fund UK chief executive Dr Jonathan Foyle has compared the Irish government's actions in routing the motorway through Tara’s valley to the actions of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
According to BBC Radio Ulster, Dr. Foyle says "The World Monuments Fund watch list contains all sorts of endangered sites. The situation at Tara actually reminds me of the Bamiyan Buddhas which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 against international uproar. It was a government that decided that these monuments would be erased….Tara is of equal significance to the Bamiyan Buddhas - let's face it, Tara and its entire site is the equivalent of Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey for its royal associations, Canterbury for its Christian associations - all rolled into one.”
During his interview with BBC Radio Ulster for the documentary “Tar on Tara” Seamus Heaney, Irish bard and Nobel Laureate says: “Tara means something equivalent to me to what Delphi means to the Greeks or maybe Stonehenge to an English person, or Nara in Japan, which is one of the most famous sites in the world. It's a word that conjures an aura - it conjures up what they call in Irish dúchas, a sense of belonging, a sense of patrimony, a sense of an ideal, an ideal of the spirit if you like, that belongs in the place and if anywhere in Ireland conjures that up - it's Tara - it's a mythical site of course. I mean the traces of Tara are in the grass, are in the earth….they are about origin, they're about beginning, they're about the mythological, spiritual source - a source and a guarantee of something old in the country and something that gives the country its distinctive spirit."
Byron Ballard, Village Witch of Asheville, NC and member of the Irish diaspora agrees with Heaney’s assessment of the spiritual importance of Tara. “The loss of sacred landscape is as devastating to a culture as the loss of language. There is an ineffable quality that encompasses our mythic origins, our history and our ancestors and is a vital part of cultural identity. As we race headlong into the abyss of globalization, we are willfully destroying those markers that identify who we are as a people and as a cultural entity. That Ireland--who faced (and still faces) the loss of her living language and the induced diaspora of her people--could willingly endorse this short-sighted and suicidal rape of her innermost self in the name of progress is breathtaking. The spiritual implications speak volumes about the loss of Ireland's great soul.”
Gavin Bone and Janet Farrar are now facing another environmental vs. business dispute in their own back yard: “It is highly likely that there are covert plans by the National Roads Authority to zone land at the interchange at the base of Tara Hill. This will very likely consist of a business park, which is going to need electricity. Currently, Eirgrid, the builders of the electricity supply system in Ireland, has managed to infuriate people by planning to build giant pylons from Dublin, then on to Tara and eventually on to the west coast. Just like the National Roads Authority, Eirgrid is having a “consultation process” – in other words, “we’ll listen to what you have to say, and then we’ll TELL YOU WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN!” We have been trying to make people realise that what is happening in the Tara-Skryne Valley with the M3 and the planned route of these pylons by Eirgrid are part of a bigger picture. People are realising that the current M3 route and the current planning by Eirgrid are both taking away their rights in favour of big business concerns.
“You see this has now grown bigger than just about the Tara-Skryne Valley or the anti pylon campaign – it is a becoming a very fight for the soul of Ireland itself. Ireland, once the land of Saints and Scholars, has become infected with business-oriented ideals which are in conflict with its traditional spiritual nature. In all aspects of society the man-in-the-street is rapidly losing his or her rights. The heavy machinery that has begun its insidious work in the Tara-Skryne Valley is not just trampling our heritage into the ground but is also drowning out the voice of the common people: the democratic principles many in Ireland fought and died for as well as its spiritual heart. Shame on the governmental despots for the disregard you have for our beloved land and its peoples.”
Another event to publicize the plight of Tara and the dangers of the M3 was held in front of the Dail in honor of International Women’s Day 2007. Here is a quote from the press release written by Dr. Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin of the National University of Ireland. “On Thursday 8th March, three women walked to the Dáil, where a Proclamation was read out. The Proclamation asserts the rights of the people of Ireland to their heritage and historical places, and the duty of the Government to protect that heritage. The demonstration is organized by the Campaign to Save Tara to protest at the routing of the proposed M3 tolled motorway through the Tara/ Skryne Valley in County Meath. The three women represent the three ancient Goddesses of Ireland; Ériu, Banbha, and Fódhla, who traditionally stand for Sovereignty, Wisdom and Justice. The protesters claim that these three principles are being breached by the proposed motorway. The Proclamation says:“The Government and National Roads Authority scheme to deface the Tara/ Skryne Valley with the M3 tolled motorway signals a massive National and International tragedy that must be prevented. The destruction of our ancestral past inflicts a wound on the collective memory, and so this cultural vandalism presents a clear and present threat to the welfare of future generations.”
Terry Tuit, an Irish bard and shamanic practitioner living in West Cork, about 7 ? hours by car distant from Tara, has been another of the faithful warriors working to protect Tara from the M3. Terry, whose environmental activism includes resisting the European Union-organized mussel farming that has ruined the regular fishing in Bantry Bay near his home, recently commissioned a national survey about Tara and the M3, and paid for it himself. The survey, done by Red C Research, said that 62% opposed the route of the road, almost double the 32% in favor.
Terry maintains a website at www.sacredireland.org
which contains information about the proposed Meath World Heritage Park that we hope will replace the road building initiative.
Here is Terry’s description of the recent Imbolc ceremony held at Lismullen Henge, amidst the mud, bulldozed earth and fallen trees: “Surrounded by 300 white crosses in memory of Irish freedom fighters who in 1798 were hanged on both sides of Soldier’s Hill, a ceremony took place at Lismullin Henge February 3rd, 2008. It was perhaps the first Imbolc ceremony held there in thousands of years.
“We went to Rath Lugh and carried the crosses through plenty of mud. Someone had scratched a triskelion in the black coarse sand that now covers part of the Henge. Everyone stuck the crosses into the ground in the estimated perimeter of Lismullen Henge, including the 1/3 still covered with turf in the green field. We formed a circle within this circle and joined hands.
“I played Mna na hEireann on the tin whistle. We called in Danu and Brighid, and asked for protection, healing and the continued emergence and recognition of the Sacred Feminine. We made mention that this might be the last ceremony that ever took place at Lismullen Henge, although we all hoped that this would not be the case. We called in the ancestors from 5, 000 years ago through to the present day. We made mention of all the warriors who had worked for Tara throughout the campaign, the ones who were standing in circle and the ones who gave what they could in the best way they could, and those who continue to do so. The spirituality within our DNA was mentioned, that 23 chromosomes make up our DNA and that there were 23 of us in circle. Someone sang a song, someone said a poem, people said their own silent prayers. The circle dispersed, and we gathered up the crosses and returned the way we had come. People went away with their own thoughts. I had wanted to do ceremony on the Henge from the moment it was discovered. For me, it was a very powerful experience.
“On a more practical level, the Tara situation changes daily. I spend my time at the computer and the telephone, working as liaison between the camps, the legal system, the political system, and dreaming of the Meath World Heritage Park. The battle against the M3 is intensifying and the energy level among the Tara warriors is high. The negative energy from the men in the machines and the security men guarding the site is intrusive. Many of them are not from Ireland, and destroying Irish heritage is only another job. The Gardai, the local police, must carry out their duties but inside their uniforms, they are Irish people, and some of them care about their heritage, too. We are seeking an injunction to protect Rath Lugh. Please send some positive energy in the direction of the people who are giving all they can to the protection of this ancient heritage and spirituality.”
At this time of year here in America, we celebrate our love of Ireland with meals of cabbage and potatoes washed down with green-dyed beer. We buy Guinness, Bass, Baileys Irish Cream and Jameson’s whiskey, and we often drink too much around March 17th. Perhaps this St. Patrick’s Day, we could do something more spiritual, something that might help protect Tara. Here are the address, phone and fax number for the Embassy of Ireland here in Washington. Below that is the phone number and email contact information for the National Tourism Development Authority, which is a governmental agency. If you are so moved, please consider calling or writing to one of these places to register your disapproval and opposition to the planned route of the M3 motorway through the world heritage sacred site, Tara and the surrounding valley landscape:
Embassy of Ireland
2234 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC 20008
Main Tel: 1-202-462-3939
National Tourism Development Authority, New York office
And we who care about Tara should take warning from the horrible fate of Stonehenge, which has a large road cutting through the original processional avenue to the iconic dolmens. Until recently, there was a government plan to bury the road in a tunnel. But as Jonathan Jones laments in a story published in the Guardian newspaper on March 5th, 2008, that plan has been cancelled for lack of funds. To add insult to injury, Tesco, a national grocery chain, now plans to build a massive warehouse facility nearby. This will increase truck traffic astronomically along the A303 road.
As long ago as 1997, a parliamentary report describe the state of Stonehenge as a national disgrace, but in December 2007, Tom Harris, British under-secretary of state for transport, declared that plans to enclose the A303 in a tunnel under Salisbury Plain "would not represent best use of taxpayers' money".
Jones writes: “The first view of Stonehenge as you approach from Salisbury is a clutter of what looks like scrap metal. It reminded me of a rural junkyard, but on closer inspection this turns out to be the Stonehenge car park. You can see why English Heritage feels the need to apologise to visitors before they even reach the turnstile; plaques acknowledge the unsatisfactory state of Stonehenge and describe, with beautiful diagrams of an underground museum and visitors' centre, the utopian near-future. None of this is now going to happen.”
All of us who care for Tara must realize that once the M3 is built, it will never go away in our lifetimes. Please help Tara now by calling or writing the Irish Embassy and the Irish Tourism Authority, and most of all, by praying to the Old Gods and Goddesses of our beloved and sacred Ireland to rise up in defense of Tara. It is not too late to act, even now as the bulldozers wait to eradicate Lismullen Henge, as a young woman holds a dark vigil buried beneath Rath Lugh, as brave Celtic warriors gather once again in defense of heritage. Join us, stand with us, to protect Royal Tara, the most sacred place in all Ireland, home to generations of High Kings and Harpers, home to Faeries, Gods and Goddesses. Let us stand together to dream into being the Meath World Heritage Park, a new route away from Tara for the M3 and rail options to decrease local traffic. Help us keep the Emerald Isle Green! So Mote It Be!
Jonathan Jones' article for the Guardian:
http://arts.guardian.co.uk/art/heritage/story/0, , 2262215, 00.html
BBC interview with Seamus Heaney:
Terry's site for more information about the Red C survey, how to help, and the Meath Heritage Park: http://www.sacredireland.org
Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone's site: www.wicca.utvinternet.com
aerial shot of Human Harp on Tara: thanks to The Campaign to Save Tara and internationally renowned aerial artist John Quigley
Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone with Sophie at the Lia Fail, The Stone of Destiny, at Tara: Caroline Kenner
Other photos courtesy of Dr. Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin from her photobucket site: LINK
| ABOUT... |
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner is a Washington Witchdoctor, trained as a shamanic healer for twelve years by Michael Harner, Sandra Ingerman and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. Caroline began studying Witchcraft in 1983 with Andras Corban Arthen. She is initiated into two branches of Wicca: the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, a Wiccan organization based in the mid-Atlantic, and the magical family of Anglo-Irish Witches Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone. Caroline has received initiatory ceremonies in La Regla de Ocha de Lukumi, also known as Cuban Santeria, including the Elekes, the Warriors and two Orishas in the Santo Lavado ritual. Caroline serves as a media spokesperson for the Washington, DC and Baltimore Pagan community. She works to dispel misconceptions in the public mind about Paganism and Witchcraft. Caroline also serves on the board of the Sacred Space Foundation, which puts on the Sacred Space Conference, held at Imbolc in the Washington, DC area. Caroline holds an A.B. in anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, and an M.S. in communications from Boston University.
Other Articles: Caroline Kenner has posted 23 additional articles- View them?
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