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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
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Royal Tara Under Threat
Article ID: 8983
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,228
Times Read: 13,533
Author: Caroline Kenner [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 30th. 2005
Times Viewed: 13,533
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?
Tara is home to the Irish Pagan Gods and Goddesses. Tara is an entrance to the Celtic Otherworld, the realm of Faeries and Ancestors. Many of the archaeological sites surrounding the main hill are Pagan-era tombs. Putting a highway through Tara is like putting a highway through Egypt's Valley of the Kings, or the Vatican.
Rituals have been performed at Tara for 6000 years. The Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny upon which 142 Kings of Ireland were crowned, is part of Tara, along with Rath Lugh, a massive hillside fort. Other famous features include the Mound of Hostages, which is aligned with both the Sun and the Moon. It is a large and complicated site, a vital part of Irish history.
|What You Can Do To Help|
The best course of action is to send two copies of a letter through the mail to the following addresses:
The Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government
Leinster House, KildareStreet
Secretary: Deputy Sean Haughey
Dublin 2, Ireland
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Dick Roche, Customs House
Dublin 1, Ireland
Vincent Salafia drafted a letter on the Save Tara/Skryne Valley Campaign (www.taraskryne.org) and I based this sample letter on it:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I object to the planned routing of the M3 motorway through the Tara-Skryne valley.
I am a Pagan/Witch/Wiccan. Tara is a holy place for Pagans all over the world. You are in danger of harming one of the most spiritual places in Ireland. Putting a highway through the sacred precinct of Tara is like putting a highway through the Vatican, or Jerusalem.
I am in total agreement with the eminent Irish historians and archaeologists, who in letters to the Irish Independent and The Irish Examiner wrote: "The Hill of Tara constitutes the heart and Soul of Ireland. Its very name invokes the spirit and mystique of our people and is instantly recognisable worldwide. The plan approved recently by An Bord Pleanála for the M3 motorway to dissect the Tara-Skryne valley, Ireland's premier national monument, spells out a massive national and international tragedy that must be averted." I believe the importance of the whole area to Ireland and her people, and the Irish diaspora throughout the world.
I look forward to your reply, and in the meantime urge you to reroute the M3 away from the Tara/Skryne Valley.
Then sign the letter and give your address, including email address, under your signature and on the envelope. Then send it airmail, which costs 80 cents. The government is legally required to answer your letter.
It's good to elaborate your own feelings, and change the language of the sample letter offered here, but please be businesslike.
I am considering these letters as a love offering to the Goddess Brighid, and my organization is bringing printed letters for people to sign at our Imbolc celebration.
For an evocative and personal article about Tara by Liz Guerra of the Connecticut Wiccan Pagan Network, go to www.cwpn.org/savetara.html
“The question becomes, ‘What is Tara? Where are the boundaries of the ancient site?’” says Gavin Bone, prominent Pagan author and resident of Kells, on the M3 route. “The Roads Authority has defined the sacred precinct of Tara as the small area currently fenced off. But in truth the site is much larger: it sprawls across several hilltops, and includes the whole Skryne Valley.”
Thus, by more accurate definition, Tara is the entire complex of tombs, sacred landscape and monumental remains found in the Skryne Valley. This includes an adjacent hill crowned by a tall Christian church tower, Skreen Hill. The route for the M3 proposed by the Irish Road Authority will place a four-lane highway between Skreen Hill and the Hill of Tara. And they plan to build a 30-acre highway interchange within 1.5 kilometers of the High King of Ireland's Banqueting Hall atop Tara.
Adge, a Druid activist in Kells working to change the planned highway route, describes the effect on Tara: “The 30 acre interchange, which would be located 1000 yards north of the Hill of Tara, will be illuminated by high intensity lights on tall masts. There is also a redevelopment zone around the intersection, which will have a filling station, car dealerships, tire and exhaust repair shops, other shops and possibly some light industry. All of this will bring noise, light and air pollution within 1000 yards of Tara Hill.”
Everyone agrees that there is a clear need for a commuter route from Kells and Navan into Dublin, but proposing a highway route through the Hill of Tara archaeological complex has caused an international furor. The Irish road planners considered 10 different routes for the highway, weighing many different factors, not only archaeological issues, but also the road's impact on air and water, and on existing housing.
Local people in County Meath are very stressed out from their twice daily, hours-long commute to Dublin on a two-lane gridlocked road. Some local people support building the road as quickly as possible, no matter what route it takes. And some resent the international uproar over what they regard as a local planning decision.
And yet, people internationally are moved to protest Tara's plight. Liz Guerra, of the Connecticut Wiccan Pagan Network, says, “I truly love Tara. It's a place of peace and spirit. Its heart is alive with thousands of years of history just yearning to tell its stories. I worry that greed and corruption will silence her. I hope and pray that day never comes.”
Apparently, there is reason to worry about corruption. The Irish media and the governing political party are pursuing allegations of bribery and favoritism in a land sale involving the local Parliamentary candidate, who supports the current route of the M3. The land sale involves an offshore company registered in the South Pacific, a business partner with a history of bribing elected officials in rezoning cases, and 11 acres of County Meath under threat of development. There is now considerable doubt over whether the candidate will receive the necessary ratification to allow him to run in the election, according to The Irish Times.
Was there full transparency and fairness in the process by which the route for the M3 was chosen? Or were brown envelopes of money being passed among interested parties?
At minimum, the current route violates Ireland's laws to protect national monuments. Vincent Salafia, an Irish lawyer who has founded a group called Save Tara Skryne Valley, says, “Placing the M3 through the Skryne Valley so close to Tara is not only illegal, but unconstitutional. My legal team and I will not hesitate to file an injunction against the National Road Authority to stop construction of the M3 through Tara. Litigation could take years to complete, which will delay the completion of the motorway indefinitely. Realistically, completion of the motorway, under the current plan, cannot occur until at least 2015. It would be quicker to go back to the drawing board and take a route that does not harm Tara.”
According to the BBC, archaeologists will need to excavate 28 sites and monuments in the road's actual corridor. But that is just the beginning: they expect many more sites to be affected. There are 48 archaeological zones within 500 meters of the road corridor and about one site every 300 meters along the road itself.
All of these archaeological sites would need to be excavated before ground could be broken for that part of the M3. And since Ireland has signed the European Constitution, archaeological excavations must now be done to European standards, more exacting than local Irish archaeological regulations. Even if the protests and litigation don't succeed in holding up the route through Tara, archaeological requirements for the site will delay road construction for many years and add millions of Euros to the eventual cost of the road.
The protests against the M3 route through Tara include not only Pagans inspired by religious devotion, but also archaeologists, historians and other academics. In September 2004, seventeen university professors sent a letter to The Irish Times, deploring the placement of the M3 highway through “one of the richest and best-known archaeological landscapes in Europe” and going on to write: “We are not opponents of progress and development, but sometimes, in exceptional circumstances, it is necessary to question and reconsider major development decisions. The case of Tara is just such an exception. Are we in danger of repeating the same bitterly regretted mistakes we made at Stonehenge? In that instance, a major road has to be replaced by a tunnel, at enormous expense, in an attempt to ameliorate the irreversible damage inflicted on Britain's foremost archaeological monument and cultural landscape.”
For those of us who believe that the spirits of the land are sacred, living beings, the whole idea of a highway dividing an ancient sacred site is repugnant. Donna Darkwolf Vos, leader of Circle of the African Moon in Cape Town, South Africa, was shocked to hear about the situation at Tara. “I knew long before I made my own pilgrimage to Ireland that it is one of the most magickal parts of the world. It is magickal not so much for its leprechauns but for the land that spawned them. It is always a controversial struggle to find a balance between necessary progress whilst maintaining the links to our roots. In South Africa, our tribal lords, chiefs and clans ensure that the Ancestors and their land continue to be honored in a way that supports both progress and our roots in the past. There is no reason Ireland cannot do that also.”
The proposed M3 route through the sacred precinct at Tara threatens to alienate the very people most drawn to make a pilgrimage to the site for religious and ancestral reasons. As Byron Ballard, Pagan community leader in Asheville, NC, says, “I've traveled the road from the Boyne valley to Tara, driving carefully on the left and squinting for signposts. I have knelt in awe before the Mound of the Hostages and meditated with sheep grazing the windy hills. As an Irish-American, this is some of my own history, too. And as a Pagan, Tara is part of the sacred landscape that always draws me back to Ireland--as a pilgrim and as a tour & workshop leader. It is my hope that the planners and developers and elected officials will give heed to the landscape that calls so many of us in the Irish diaspora home.”
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner is a Pagan community leader living in Silver Spring, Maryland. She is a Harner and Ingerman trained shamanic healer, and a proud initiate of La Regla de Ocha, Cuban Santeria. Caroline has been practicing Paganism for 21 years and sits on the board of Chesapeake Pagan Community. When she was a young person, Caroline spent several summers in Great Britain excavating archaeological sites. This article is dedicated to the Goddess Brighid in all of Her manifestations.
Other Articles: Caroline Kenner has posted 25 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
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