The world is a big place, and the human race is a migratory species. There were other places these ancestors could have gone to. But they held on.
The forces and factors that kept them here may be the same ones that make me a captive of this wondrous island. Ireland's landscape is lush and fertile. It is beautiful and enrapturing. Many places have an otherwordly placidity about them, even today.
In modern times, there is a tendency to over-rationalise and analyse, such that a landscape that has always been seen as somewhat magical and austere is reduced to something functional and banal. I suggest we refuse to occupy that space. Let us open up to a mystical vista.
Over the past few years in particular, I’ve spent a lot of time at Newgrange, the place most associated with the Tuatha Dé Danann in mythology, known variously as Brugh na Bóinne, Síd in Broga, Síd Mac Ind Oc and the Palace of the Boyne. It’s lovely spending time out there on my own.
I find it such a pleasurable and peaceful and introspective experience. I wrote about this in Newgrange: Monument to Immortality. I can go there, and can feel that, although I am only miles from home, I might have ventured to far distant otherworlds beyond the senses.
I expect that plenty of other people have spent time alone in the evening at Newgrange, but I hardly ever see anyone out there at night. I like it that way.
|Newgrange . . . a sacred place with a message for today.|
With the shortest days and longest nights upon us, in this, the season of the winter solstice, it would be nice now to think about how we first arrived into Ireland, and how our own journeying here perhaps reflects some of the other journeying going on in the world right now.
In Ireland today, our story is the same as it has always been, since the first days after the ice age. It is a story of comings and goings, of arrivals and departures. Dublin Airport is a great metaphor for Irish mythology and history. There are always people arriving, and always people departing. Some are going on holidays. Others are leaving forever.
How we arrive into Ireland is central to the nature of our belonging here. This is something the late John Moriarty realised and wrote about. Do we descend upon this island from a cloud, wrapped in a mist, like the Dananns? Or do we sail across the rough seas, like the Milesians, with their flotilla of ships – a Spanish Armada of the prehistoric world – to take Ireland, in an act of jealous longing, a rapacious conquest, driven by vengeance?
If we do that, we will never belong here.
I’d much prefer to descend into Ireland in a mist, from the stars, and set my foot gently upon her soil, wrapped up in the Féth Fiada with Manannán by my side. That way, my arrival might take place unknown, so that I could gently tiptoe across dew-covered grasses into some otherworldly copse, and there enchant my every thought with the newfound joy of arrival into an earthly paradise.
I would much prefer this to a Milesian arrival. From a distance of nine waves, as a Milesian you come in sturdy ships, beating drums of battle, and unfurl your banner of war, your standard of conquest.
But no nation ever conquested in spite or by subjugation or force could afterwards live a peaceful existence.
So I urge you to come like the Tuatha Dé Danann. Come in a mist. Arrive magically. And ask Eriú, gently, if perchance you can stay awhile, and dance and sing upon her carpet of tender green, and write joyous words and sing merry songs about netherworlds concealed in the ditches and vales of her beautiful quarters.
And I urge you, as the light creeps up through the dark womb of Newgrange into her cold interior, to think about the fact that, as an Irish person, you are just a visitor to this wonderful place. In essence, you are a migrant. We all came here from over the sea. As a human, you are a born traveller.
And if you arrive into Ireland, Danann-like – magically – you will know, as they did, that there is always room for others. This solstice, let’s share a little bit of that midwinter illumination, for the world of mankind is often dark, and right now it could do with a little bit more of that magical light.