MythLines 1: The Cailleach and the Wise Woman

For the past couple of years I’ve written a column, ‘MythLines’, for EarthLines Magazine. Since EarthLines has now closed its doors and soon will no longer be for sale, over the next few weeks I plan to post those articles here. The first is an article from Issue 13 in November 2015.

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The woods are lovely, dark and deep

It would be easy to say that I should never have left. It would be easy to tell myself that I should have known better, twenty years ago, than to leave. When a land claims you from the first moment you set foot upon it; when it is the only place you ever felt that your feet were in the right place, that you have ever felt that anything and maybe even everything in this crazy, fucked-up world we have created for ourselves might make sense, what sense can it ever make to go? Read More

Coming home

‘Have we died and gone to heaven?’ David asks, after our first dinner here in Connemara, cosied up around the old pine table which has sat in two other kitchens and seen many dramas unfold. It is the first dinner I have cooked on the old green reconditioned Rayburn; the first dinner in our big bright ochre-yellow kitchen, looking out of the back windows at the bee hives and chicken house. Yes, the bees came here first: the Blackthorn Beeing and its offspring from last year’s swarming season. Read More

The Hedge Revival: wisdom from the margins

It’s a funny creature, the word ‘hedge’: like all the best words, it’s something of a shapeshifter. In one sense we use it to convey a boundary, something which closes us in. Think of the modern suburban hedge: regimented rows of neatly clipped, soulless leylandii; privet which has been so harshly treated that it forgets how to bloom. But in another sense, we use the word ‘hedge’ to indicate something quite different: the wild margins which surround the cultivated fields. Think now of the gnarly old hedgerows of Britain and Ireland: thick, richly flowering, berried hawthorn and elder, blackthorn and hazel. An abundance of food and shelter for wild things. Secret places, where treasure might be found, where birds might speak to you, and foxes sing to the stars. An ancient hedge is a place where anything might happen. A liminal place, where the wisdom of the wild margins is available to all. Hedge wisdom. Read More

Resistance: the Mythos and the Logos

There’s a lot of talk about resistance right now. All kinds of people telling us what we must do, what we must not do, how to act, how we’re bad if we don’t act, how to make a radical act, how to be an activist, how to be the right kind of activist (their kind of activist), how to resist, resist, resist … Read More

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