Imbolg: the constancy of change, and the ‘end-of-history’ illusion

Imbolg, sometimes written as Imbolc, is probably derived from the Irish word bolg, for ‘belly’, so meaning ‘in the belly’; it has also been speculated that it might come from the word oimelc, meaning ‘ewe’s milk’.  (And please note: contrary to what many helpful sites on the web try to tell you, you don’t pronounce the ‘b’: the word is pronounced ‘i-molg’.) Imbolg is one of the festivals known as ‘cross-quarter days’; it comes midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Although it’s sometimes called St Brigid’s Day, or Lá Fhéile Bríde, this festival is ancient, and predates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It’s likely to have been associated with the old goddess Brigid, who was later appropriated into the new religion. Read More

Siar amach, siar go Conamara*

* Away to the west, back to Connemara

It is strange to be going south to the place of my belonging. I have always believed that belonging, for me, is a north-westerly phenomenon; now I find that actually, my internal compass points largely west. North may be a secondary component, but it is strange, nevertheless, to be heading homewards to the south.

I am on the road before 5am, with the sky crisp and the moon almost full. I love to travel in the dark, when the world is largely still asleep; it always feels as if I am travelling through a landscape peopled with the dreams of others. The car rattles, crammed with bedding and crockery, and all the contraptions I imagine I’ll need for the coming year of to-ing and fro-ing, of living here and living there: a year of navigating transience.

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The landscapes we are

We think of ourselves as in landscape, but sometimes forget that landscape is also in us. We are all landscapes, and the landscapes we are can change. Perhaps because we move to a new place, and the characteristics of that place begin slowly to seep into us. Or they might change because we focus in on a different aspect of the landscape in which we remain. If we allow ourselves to truly be in our places, to close our eyes and let ourselves fall, tumbling down into the dreaming of the land we inhabit, then that land will always live inside us, just as we live inside it. We will come to embody it, and it will embody us. Who then will be able to say where the land ends and we begin? Read More

The place where your foot first falls

I am a strong believer in the necessity for rooting deep in the place we actually inhabit, no matter how long we’re in it for. It’s just as necessary if you plan to be there for a year as it is if you plan to stay a lifetime. Partly, because it shows respect for this place which is nurturing us right here and now, whether it is the place we dream of and long for or not. Our places deserve nothing less of us. Read More

Falling into the land’s dreaming

This land dreams Horse. Of the Seven Sisters mountains who stand like a semi-circle of elders around this valley where we live, two are horses. An Eachla Bheag, the Little Horse, and An Eachla Mhór, the Big Horse. Look carefully at the image above, and perhaps you’ll see them: two horses, lying down. The body of An Eachla Bheag is on the left of the image, and her long nose (a paler shade of grey) is sloping down to the left, facing towards us. Curled up next to her, tail end to An Eachla Bheag’s head, and facing in the opposite direction, is An Eachla Mhór. Her neck curves away from us to the right, her nose pointing left, dipping down behind her own strong back. Read More