Power and Landscape in Ireland
Copyright © 1985, 1986, 1988, 1994 Cainteanna na Luise
May be reposted as long as the above attribution and copyright notice are retained
The following presents a reworking and combining of articles which previously appeared in Cainteanna na Luise, with the addition of new material in the “examples” section.
In Irish druidism “power” in the landscape is conceived by rather different ontological parameters than in Hermetic Magic or in systems using “leys”.
There are, first, two types of “power” (there are, in fact, three, but the first is simply that by which a thing exists at all – X has it, and exists, or X does not have it (is functionally self-contradictory, etc.) and doesn’t exist. There is no “amount” to this and so it cannot be “patterned”). The two types (which can be patterned) are:
Brн – intrinsic, inherent power. This may be “developed” or “atrophied” but can not, substantially, be changed in potential amount.
Bua – power that is gained or lost, depending upon actions.
Landscape has, as does everything else, both types. Skipping, for the moment, that these may be “keyed” to certain affinities, in summary a place’s brн is linked to it’s basic nature. Isolated hills, sea cliffs, etc., have higher intrinsic brн. A place’s bua is determined (and changed) by what occurs there (a major battle, etc.). In fact, it is more complicated because humans deliberately pick high-brн places for their religious and, less often, political centers, thus layering bua over the already existing brн. While usually this occurs so that the bua develops the brн, the opposite can occur. The Mallacht Dhealъis, great curse of bareness, laid upon Teamhair by a coven of 13 Irish saints is an example. In this case, the saints’ own brн-empowered bua was used to drain and ward-restrict the bua of “Tara” and hinder its bua. The site once had a great deal of both, but it now has fairly low bua, while retaining brн in a form difficult, but not impossible, to access.
Brн may be “keyed” by its basic nature, but bua is far more likely to be keyed because it is gained or lost by specific actions. Personally keying may involve not only one’s own bua being compatible but season, time of day, and so forth, since such bua is highly contextual.
Brн, and far more often bua, may become “keyed”, that is it may gain affinity or malevolence toward other types of brн/bua (some people may, for example feel “at home” in a place that others will feel uncomfortable in). In a few cases, a place will have general malevolence (the term frithbhuachбn is used for either a place or thing that drains bua and assaults brн. (see also the note on Drombeg below.)
Taking brн and bua together, no man-made-like grid patterns these powers. The “map” of a country’s power does not resemble a geometric human network, but a naturally occurring one, resembling maps showing rainfall or physical elevation. That is, there may be sharp demarcations, or gradual ones. Entire areas may be low in both bua and brн (except in small limited areas, a high bua level is unlikely to occur without at least moderately high brн, although the reverse is not true: indeed the feeling of “awe” experienced at some natural “wilderness” sites results from them having quite high brн, although they may have only minimal bua.
IRELAND IN GENERAL
Again, taking brн and bua together, the “power-map” of Ireland shows great contrasts. (The reader is here warned that the author has spent a good deal of time throughout much of Ireland but there exist substantial areas he has not visited; a “reading of the literature” can only supply indications, and he will use “seems” for those areas he has not verified personally.) Overall, the west is higher in power. Major concentrations (i.e. fairly large areas with high levels of power) exist in the Inishowen peninsula and the area north of Sligo to fairly far south of it. This seems to also be the case for western Co.Mayo. The area around Cong, the Aran Islands, and the peninsulas of Kerry and western Cork have quite to very high power. Eastern Ireland seems to have far less areas of high brн/bua. The author has not visited most of Antrim, but none of the seanchais or ancient tales indicate this are as having a high degree of power and this would seem to be the case for most of northeastern Ireland. There are patchy areas of high power near Armagh and the Mournes (including Sliabh Guillion). Cos. Meath and West Meath contain the largest areas in the east, with additional patchy areas in a band south of there, from the Sliabh Blooms through Kildare and Wicklow. The entire southeast seems to have little power at all (the author has not visited this area much, but it is not mentioned at all in the seanchais as having any power and it is traditionally the area at which Ireland has always been invaded by foreign cultures and was the first to lose both the traditional and the Irish language so these historic facts are substantial evidence that it indeed is “power poor”.
The following, better known sites, may serve as examples. Cainteanna na Luise No.11 (Samhain 1986) contains additional information on the author’s personal experiences at various sites; the below is deliberately slanted toward the general, and to exemplify a variety of types of sites.
Teamhair: there is still a great deal of keyed brн here. Both the author and others have worked here to specific activate the brн, and support the remaining bua while adding to it. These activities have caused changes, including, it appears, counter-reaction, perhaps deliberately but more likely as a result of the Mallacht Dhealъis reacting to being opposed (the outward manifestations include the statue of Patrick which a co-worker of the author magically cracked being soon taken down, but the Irish government having begun to newly limit access).
Tlachtga: the hill of the Brune Samhna or Samhain fire ritual contains mangled bua and brн.
Newgrange: traditionally a cуmhla bhreac or gate to the Otherworld, it has brн and bua, but has had so much “alternate” bua attempted to be imposed on it, that these are reduced (by the last is meant that many people have directed buanna (bua-plural) of radically conflicting types at Newgrange – imagine a Christian shrine for peace being the scene of a battle between Moslems and Hindus at which immediately afterward a group of atheists put on a comedy show – or a commercial for cigarettes during a documentary on the dangers of smoking!). Newgrange, like Teotihuacan, has had tens of thousands of people actively directing their totally incompatible (with it, but as importantly with each other!) energies at it and the original balance is quite, literally, stewed.
Maynoth: no brн to speak of, but high bua specifically keyed to the dominance of the Christian church. (if you are pagan and go, one of the few places you need wards.)
Aran Islands: Dъn Aoghusa has high natural brн, more than its bua, but the latter is also quite high. Dъn Dubh Cathair has both high, but less bua (in total and as ratio to brн) than Dъn Aohghusa. On Inish Maen, Dъn Conor exhibits more bua than brн. Other areas, here unnamed because of on-going workings, on the Islands contain at least as high, probably higher levels of brн.
Sligo Area: the entire area around Sligo has fairly to very high brн, and moderate to high bua. Knocknarae, Carrowmore, Kesh, Ben Bulben, Magh Tuiread (no.2), Carrowkeel, Deerpark, Kreevykeel, etc., all have good levels of both brн and bua.
Donegal: Sliabh Liag is fairly high brн with a little bua, of a rather hard to define type, mixed in. “Malin Head” (or Fнorcheann na hЙireann, the True Top of Ireland, to give it its proper name) has little bua, but massive brн. Indeed the highest brн is separated from the mainland by a violent gash in the earth which always appears to be a deliberate separating-itself from tampering. The Grianбn of Aileach has muted brн and moderate bua.
Belteny: high bua and brн, with the bua, if you can key to it, somewhat higher.
Kerry: the Kenmare River estuary, Inbher Scйine has moderately low brн, but can exhibit superb bua if properly keyed (in this case, all the seanchais and the author’s own experience are explicit: this is where Amhairghin first arrived in Ireland). Dunmore Head, the most westerly point of Ireland has strong brн. The author is unable to comment on the general bua due to personally imposed keying.
West Cork: the only time the author visited the “most photographed stone circle in Ireland”, Drombeg, he could hardly rate the brн for the extremely negative iarrairdeall (one of several druidic methods of “sensing” different types of “vibes”, beyond the scope of this article). This was not bua in the general sense, but a reaction of the site to its bua having been (recently, but not by him!) assaulted. This did not appear frithbhuachбn in the usual sense, i.e. not a “keying”. Such an occurrence is rare but makes accurate readings difficult.
Dublin: the Garden of Remembrance, comparatively meager in brн, has a very high level of bua, surprisingly for a modern monument with some Christian elements, keyed specifically to pagan druidism. (The most Christian element is the cross-shaped pool, almost all of the rest, including the golden dedication and the magnificent “Children of Lir” is thoroughly – that it is in downtown Dublin, awesomely – pagan. It is, in effect, a “war memorial”, but one like none other in the world, and it honors ALL of those “who died for Irish freedom”, by the intent of its designers or by the gods having a hand, in its motifs honoring the Tuatha Dй Danann and Amhairghin’s Men of Mнl more than it does those of the Easter Uprising.
The general public notions of the “Otherworld” being located at the bottom of lakes, on distant islands, in hills, etc., is totally contradicted by the seanchais. It exists everywhere. The druidic conception of it is far closer to the “parallel universes” described in science fiction novels than to the way it is depicted in medieval (largely Christian influenced) folktales. The islands, caves, and other motifs are the result of a simplistic reading of sloppy translations. What is being exemplified is idircheo (literally “between fogs”) or the idea that “you can’t get there from here”. Unless the direct intervention of the Sнdhe is involved as a “leading-by-the-hand” guide, mortals cannot enter an Saol Eile (the Irish term for the Otherworld and not the same as Tнr na Marbh, or the Land of the Dead) directly, but must first traverse a “null zone” . The dark passage of a cave, a fog at sea, etc., are simply examples of this idircheo. Places “associated with” the Otherworld are more likely to simply be ones where idircheo are more stable than in others, although a few more-or-less permanent cуmhlaн breac (“speckled gates”, i.e. accesses) exist.
There exists a large body of seanchais termed “Dinnseanchas” which purport to explain why points of landscape bear specific names. The tradition itself is quite valid, and is somewhat similar (and not at all identical) to the attitude toward the land held by native Australians. However, the dinnseanchais are the most “monk-eyed”/monkeyed-with of all “ancient” Irish literature. The majority of them are worthless. Their compilers sought to include as many places as possible, and as with all such “quantity over quality” attempts, the result is a farce. Many of the “explanations” given are early medieval or Norse, others are the result of the local people in one township bearing a grudge against those living in the neighboring township and so concocting folklore to support “it really happened here!”, and a large number are pure invention by the compilers themselves, taking the actual name and inventing stories (often directly contradicted in valid seanchais) to explain the name. (“Let’s see – ‘Washing Ton’ – there was a giant with a lot of laundry and…”). Unless one is well versed in all of the ancient literature, and able to read it in the original (for the names are often based on just such “alternate readings” as “Washing Ton”), one best avoids the dinnseanchas completely.