Ireland Visit 2016
Friday, September 9, 2016
I arrived in Ireland yesterday morning, Friday September 9th. All 3 of the flights I had to take to get here were perfect – boarded on time, departed on time and arrived on time. It was overcast and rainy when I arrived in Ballyvaughan – Breada and her helper, Angela were just finishing up with their guests’ breakfasts. Breada greeted me with a strong cup of coffee. Because I did not get any sleep to speak of on the flights I decided to take a nap. I awoke after a couple of hours to partly cloudy skies.
Before I walked into the village to buy some things and have a late lunch I spent some time reading a book I found on one of Meadowfield’s bookshelves “Stones of Adoration: Sacred Stones and Mystic Mystic Megaliths of Ireland” by Christine Zucchelli, The Collins Press, Cork (West Link Park, Doughcloyne, Wilson), 2007.
The introduction of the book intrigued me and I found that some of the information helped provide a type of “foundation” for my thoughts regarding the piece of artwork “Back to the Garden” I’m in the process of creating for the February 2017 ALCHEMY exhibition at the Richmond Center for the Visual Arts at Western Michigan University.
About Sacred Landscapes . . .
“In numerous cultures all over the world, adorable or highly revered stones and stone monuments form integral parts of what we can describe as “sacred landscapes”. Other prominent aspects of these spiritual landscapes would be sacred trees, waters, islands or mountains. The term sacred is used here to denote a spiritual or religious significance, and does not necessarily appear in its Christian understanding. Generally spoken, sacred features of the landscape come into being when humans acknowledge the presence of an “anima loci”, the spirit or the essence of a place. The nature of the “anima loci” is determined by the concept of beliefs that prevails within a society. With history being a continuous process of cultural development and change, the spiritual and religious concepts develop and change as well, and so does the definition of what is considered sacred for a particular reason. A perfect mirror for the changing perceptions of sacredness is folklore, because it is conservative by its nature yet also absorbs new ideas and influences from outside, and likewise adapts older ideas to new situations.
“The earliest spiritual concept is the animistic tradition, which regards all natural features as spirited, animated parts of the earth. Where the earth is seen as the body of her creator, natural features in the landscape are regarded as body parts of the creating earth mother or earth goddess. This concept predates formal religions, and would still surface in the oral tradition of stones that walk about or speak. When polytheistic religions emerged, the earth mother manifested herself in the shape of various goddesses; male deities appeared by their sides, usually presided over by a father god; sacred stones and stone monuments became interpreted as homes of goddesses and gods. Monotheistic religions finally identify sacred sites as places chosen and blessed by members of the hold family, or by saints and prophets.”
The image on the left is a preliminary composite study of “Back to the Garden” where I have incorporated the female figure with images of flora. The above information challenged me to pose the question, “should I consider including additional features of the landscape in this composition?”
I continued on into the books first chapter entitled “Goddess, Hags, and Fairy Queens”—
“The goddess is understood as the life giving force and at the same time as the reaper, embodying the cycle of birth death and regeneration. She is the creator of the earth, and the earth is seen as her body. Mountains and hills are taken for her belly and breasts, caves for her womb and pillars for her navel.”
Many scholarly documents tell us that megalithic structures started being build in Ireland around 3,800 BCE and that the importance of fertile land, combined with the cult of the ancestors who took possession of a territory, had initiated the development of megaliths.
One such megalithic structures is known as “The Hag’s Chair” in Loughcrew, County Meath.The image on the left of “The Hag’s Chair” appears on page 4 of the book.
I immediately noticed the carvings on this megalith and saw that they were very similar to the spiral engravings I have seen on the kerbstones of Newgrange Passage Tomb in County Meath when I visited the site in 2006.
I would like to find out if there are any theories as to the meaning of the engravings – the guides at Newgrange on the day I visited could give us no information about them.
On page 17 of this book there is this information:
“The most common motifs are spirals, which are generally taken as symbols of the constant flow of energy and the cycle of life, and accordingly fir representations of the earth goddess; concentric circles and cup-marks, widely believed to symbolize the sun, or else the navel from which all life comes; zigzag lines standing for water; triangles and serpentine lines, again represent the earth mother.”