a1sx2_Thumbnail1_knocknarea.jpgThis Beltane I returned to one of the homes of my heart. I embarked upon a simple quest once more to feel my own soul strong within me, and spent some time on retreat in Sligo, Ireland. Not a long journey from where I live really, especially in these modern times, but a great distance travelled within, in the heart and mind. Furthest west, to the waters and the waves....No phones, no internet, no TV; a peat fire and the sound of the sea roaring beneath our little cottage.....and just beyond our garden, ours alone to visit, an ancient barrow mound, untouched but for the shaggy brown bull that munched on the rich grass that grew upon it.

On Beltane eve as dusk gathered, turning the sky to turquoise and the low hillsides to emerald velvet, I gathered my shawl around me and looked out at Sliabh Gamh the Ox Mountains, sacred to the goddess Aine, encircling me with an ancient and warm embrace. Ahead, Knocknarea stood tall and proud as Queen Medb herself, who is said to lie in the cairn upon its summit, and to the west, foaming around her toes was the wild grey Atlantic. This was an ancestral Beltane for me, one where I felt my roots grow deep and nourished by the very earth herself, where the wind and the rain and the crackling of the fire stirred up the very fibres of my being and made me anew in her bubbling cauldron.  In this place, at Beltane, the old gods, the Tuatha de Danann, the children of the goddess Danu, came to the mortal world.

Leaving behind me the little golden light in the window of my cottage,  I felt the Otherworld lay across the fields around me like thick living blanket, saw the everyday turn strange, and wondrous, deepen somehow like every stone and flower and blade of grass spoke its own wild language of the spirit, had soul all of its own. I felt the hosts of the Sidhe breathing in my hair, stroking my cheek with pale fingers I could not see, I felt the pull of them upon my soul like the tugging waves below.

I walked slow and steady towards the mound, my footfalls solid and real in a night of swirling spirits, my fingers gripping a bowl of Connaught cream as an offering, an ancient exchange of goodwill and kinship. Ahead of me, shimmering shapes crossed the path, glowing silver and pale gold in the shadowy night. Here was a test of my courage, for my faerie friends are not slips of girls with iridescent wings, or little men with green felt caps...I walk the life of the Old Faith, I see the Sidhe in their pride, in their primal elemental magnificence...these are the gods, the powers of earth and sky and wave, these are the ancestors, impossibly ancient, prowing west before the lands broke apart, carving the world with their antler picks and flint...lighting beacon fires on Knocknarea that all would honour their wise queen, Sovereignty, the heart of the earth Herself... 

I placed my offering at the foot of the mound, my heart a thudding and a fluttering. I stilled myself to listen to the waves and the soft breeze. And I felt them gather all around me, the Ancient Ones, the Good Neighbours, the people of the mound. When you stand upon the very edge, when those moments come when the immanence of  the gods is inescapable, those are the times when you discover who you are, what you believe, all illusions are stripped away in the face of experience, of what is happening right here, right now. I slowed my breathing, my senses stretching out to meet those around me, an anxious visitor, would I be welcome? I held my breath till I felt their response. And their reply came like a belly laugh from the soul of the world, as light as dawn sunlight, as bubbling streams on the hills....Of course I was welcome! I am but a child to those who gather here and they have known me forever! All my fears and worries cast into the shadows were my own; I brought them with me, but they were of no concern to Them, especially on such a night as this! Such gentleness, such easy kindness, wrapped me in the darkness, saw to the guts of me, and smiled....Wholesome, goodness, goddess...

Something in me melted then, like a spring thaw, and was renewed. A small thing, as vast as the ocean and the stars above.

This is why I walk this path. It's a true one, for me. Nothing fancy, just simple, and true, and very very old.      

┬ęDanuForest 2014