Monday, 6 January 2014

Adventures through Ancient Ireland: Doagh Holestone

We chose a soggy and windswept Sunday morning to visit another one of the countless remnants of ancient Ireland left strewn across the country.
Doagh holestone is a bronze-age megalith (around 2000BC) not far from Ballymena in County Antrim and is one of only a few holestones from this period remaining in Ireland.
In recent centuries Irish couples have been known to pledge their love to each other while clasping hands through this stone. But was it erected for that same purpose 4000 years ago? The romantic in me would like to think so but one theory about holestones is that bronze-age men would have  inserted their penises in these groin-height holes in order to ensure fertility! 
Either way, the connection to love and marriage remains today and some young couples still travel to the stone after their wedding ceremonies, or for bethrothals or handfasting ceremonies. I know Danny and I will be back to this site (hopefully in sunnier weather) for one of our year(and-a-day)ly handfastings.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy New Year!

 In the Celtic wheel of the year, Samhain, or Hallowe'en as most of us now know it, marks the start of the new year and the change from the light half of the year to the dark half.
The pre-christian Irish calendar revolved around the summer and winter solstices (known as litha and Yule) and the spring and autumn equinoxes (known as Ostara and Mabon) between them. Most of the chambered tombs in Ireland are aligned to one of these four dates so that the rising sun fills the interior chambers with light.
Between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice lies Samhain. It is the time of the year when the spirit underworld and human world are closest and so the spirits of our ancestors, as well as evil spirits are able to enter our world. 
 To ward off evil spirits we disguise ourselves in costumes like theirs, so that they will pass us by unnoticed, and we leave food and light candles for our ancestors.
In the past people in Ireland carved swedes or turnips and placed candles inside. Once the christianised festival of hallowe'en was brought to America by Irish immigrants in the 19th Century, people started carving the more readily available pumpkins and gourds. 
These are two that I carved as presents for friends hosting Hallowe'en parties last weekend. And this time of year always holds fond memories for me because my brother was born on Hallowe'en so we grew up having great parties with pumpkins, apple-bobbing, sparklers and ghoulish costumes, and going trick-or-treating.
When christianity came to Ireland, the festival of the goddess Bride was made into St.Brigid's day, yule became Christmas and Samhain became all hallow's eve, when people pray for their dead.
While I'm no pagan, I'm trying to teach myself about our pre-christian history and customs and to understand the movements of the year so that I can have a better connection to the earth.
Happy new year to you all. May light guide your way through the darkness ahead.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Bell tent chandelier

As anyone who has been to this blog before will know, I'm obsessed with my beautiful bell tent. So for my birthday my siblings got me the most fabulous tealight chandelier to hang in it. It can be used in the house too of course, but it's all about the few times each year I get to bling out the tent like this:
image from
Below, the chandelier hanging in my living room, just begging to be let loose in the great outdoors.
 Thanks Helen, Colm and Maria.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Rock balancing at Murlough Bay

After going our trip to Fair Head, Dan and I drove down the VERY steep hill to Murlough Bay, a really magical piece of secluded coastline. We wandered around in the sunshine, got eaten alive by bugs and Dan worked on his rock-balancing skills.
I got down to the serious business of trying to find the prettiest stones on the beach to take home for my collection.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A 1000 year old crannog

Last weekend we went on another adventure through ancient Ireland. This time to Fair Head which is the most North-Easterly point of Northern Ireland. On top of the cliff are a couple of little lakes and one of those has a thousand year old crannog on it which I had been desperate to visit for ages (and scope out as a possible camping spot).
Crannogs are artificial (or partially artifical) islands used as dwellings in Scotland and Ireland in the Neolithic Period and sometimes inhabited as late as the 17th and 18th Centuries. This one on Fair Head has had some excavation and shown to be inhabited about 1000 years ago. There are about 1,200 of these structures in Ireland and they were often home to kings, lords, prosperous farmers and sometimes isolated monastic groups.
This one is pretty small and you can see in the picture above how the island has been strengthened with a circular stone wall. There were a few boats lying around the deserted lough but no oars so we weren't brave enough to venture out to the crannog.
Just beyond the lake is Fair Head itself, a sheer cliff which is popular with serious climbers. Lying down and looking over the cliff edge was as daring as we got.
So that's one more ancient Irish structure investigated, only about 50,000 more to go!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Handfasting number 5

For those of you new to Lost & Found, Danny and I have a small ceremony every year called a handfasting. It's a very ancient pagan marriage ceremony that binds a couple together for a year and a day. This was our fifth and the first time my parents were there to witness it.
It also happened to be during our holidays in Spain and the same day as our friends Macarena and Victor's wedding, so there was a lot of love around that day.
Our first handfasting was a year and a day before our 'official' wedding day and they've carried on each year and a day since. It is a short ceremony and usually only a few friends or family are present but I'm already planning a huge party for our tenth handfasting in an ancient Stone Circle at Ballynoe.
Married yet again!

love on a sunny day

My brother Colm married his gorgeous wife Dinali back in June, so here finally are a few more pictures from the day, which was the first of two weddings. The second will be next August and in SRI LANKA!!!!  Could I BE any more excited?
This wedding was a civil ceremony in Portrush town hall on the North Coast of Ireland and then we went to the famous Barry's Amusements, followed by the beach and the Giant's Causeway (a UNESCO World Heritage site) for some photos.
Di wore a delicate blue scarf round her wrist, the same one that us all O'Hara women have worn as our something old, borrowed and blue on our wedding days.
One wedding down, one to go.
Bring on Sri Lanka.

Small adventures - Ards Peninsula

Can you believe it's September already? It has been a fun filled and unusually warm summer here but I felt the blues come over me last night as I realised that the evenings are beginning to get shorter now.
Danny and I jumped in the car when he got home from work yesterday so as to make the most of the few long evenings left to us. We drove ten miles out of Belfast to the Ards Peninsula, where I've spent a lot of time this summer as a tour guide.
Speaking of which, working as a Northern Ireland tour guide has been so much fun but has kept me busy which is why I took a bit of a break from blogging, but I'm back now with lots of photos to show you from all the weddings and adventures I've been on.
We caught the last rays of the setting sun before heading back to the big smoke of Belfast.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Celtic Carvings at Kinnagoe Bay

Just in front of where we camped at the weekend there were some celtic carvings on some rocks, not unlike those on the stones at the neolithic Newgrange passage tomb in County Meath. Most of us there agreed that the chisel marks looked a bit fresh to be have been made by ancient man, but in a way it doesn't matter to me whether they're 'real' or not. It shows that the celtic spirit lives on in Ireland. And Kinnagoe Bay is one special place. Remote, beautiful, wild.
We found a charcoal stick just asking to be drawn with, so I drew what I always draw - the triple spiral I had tattooed on my foot recently.
Danny and I made a trip to the car for supplies and the tide was so high on the way back that we had to climb over some rocks instead of going round them, and that path revealed another spiral carving, more like a labyrinth. And the next time I looked for it I spotted yet another spiral, this one exactly the same as my tattoo (inspired by the Newgrange chamber carving). When I went back to photograph it, it had rained and it couldn't be seen as clearly. Have a look to see if you can spot it just below the crack in the photo below.

The long trek we took to our camping spot on the second beach meant that we saw not one stranger on our beach during the four days we were there.