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This is my first St. Brigid’s Day as a Christian and I’m in Ireland so I couldn’t let the day pass without making a St. Brigid’s cross. People usually make these out of freshly cut field reeds but I, always having to be different :p, made my first cross at a class today out of something else. I was so excited at the prospect, and the class was so chaotic, that I didn’t really catch what kind of reeds these were. What I do know is that the demonstrator cut them herself at the end of last summer and she had to wear chest-high waders to get them. Good woman! She might have said ‘bulrushes’ but don’t quote me on that. She told us that they can last for hundreds of years. People used to use them to make household items, and she still uses them to make things that she sells for a living.
The video I posted here originally has been deleted so if you’re still interested you can find it by clicking here.
I’ve lived in Ireland for about 15 years now, and I’ve been looking for a particular kind of walking trail for all those years. Now I’ve finally found it, and it was almost on my doorstep. I can’t tell you how happy I am. I haven’t had a chance to explore it properly yet but I took a few photos to show everyone. The walk goes past the round tower and ruined church that I shared on this blog on St. Patrick’s Day.
Since today is St. Patrick’s Day I wanted to do a post that was somewhat related to him. I feel a sort of affinity for Saint Patrick. Like me, he was born and raised in Wales but captured by Irishmen and dragged over to Ireland where his spirituality blossomed. I’m exaggerating somewhat, for effect, but you get the idea I hope.
Since I moved to Ireland in 2000, I have wondered about the round towers that one sees dotted about the landscape. Above is a photo of one at Turlough that I took last year. I was driving past it regularly back then, and one night there was a full moon which I wanted to capture. I’m not a particularly good photographer but I think it looks kind of atmospheric. It is claimed that Turlough Abbey was founded by St. Patrick in 441 A.D.
Up until I read about round towers in “The Golden Age of Irish Art” by Peter Harbison a few days ago, I thought they were for protecting people and valuables from raids by Vikings and other marauders. However, according to Harbison, the towers actually provided very little protection from that kind of attack. The floors and stairs of the towers were wooden, so a single, well-aimed fire arrow through a window could destroy the whole contents in a fiery inferno. The doors are raised several metres off the ground but I think this was probably to prevent opportunist burglary and access by animals. Here is a summary of what Harbison says about round towers.
About 65 round towers survive in various states of preservation on Ireland’s ancient monastic sites. Considerable discussion has arisen on the purpose and date of these towers, and most would agree that they had multiple functions. The first reference we have found in Irish historical sources is to a tower at Slane, Co. Meath, which was burned by the Vikings in 950 A.D. The towers are visible from a distance and probably served as a beacon to weary pilgrims. The old Irish word for the towers was cloicthech, literally a bell-house. It is possible that the towers were used to store bells that pilgrims carried, and later on to store larger bells which may have been rung in the towers, but the evidence is scant. Other valuables were probably also stored in the towers.
Here are some photos of another local tower, this one ruined. If you click on one of the photos it will take you into a slideshow.
Here is one final picture of Turlough tower that I took last year from the grounds of the National Museum of Country Life.
This is just a brief aside related to the name of my blog.
I’ve just returned from a short retreat in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. It’s strange that I had to go to a different county to learn something new about my adopted home county of Mayo (no condiment jokes please 😉 ). The closing speech of the retreat informed us that the full name of County Mayo in Gaelic is Maigh Eó na Sacsan, which means ‘Yew Plain of the Saxons’. Apparently, this name was used right up until the seventeenth century. It seems that the Saxons thought that this remote, windswept county was a perfect place to send their monks. The speaker at the retreat was suggesting that we shouldn’t be surprised to be learning Thai Buddhism from an English monk in Ennis because Ireland has had a long history of this kind of thing. He put it more eloquently than that though!
The Mayo Artists’ Show is a biennial exhibition that is open to all artists in the county of Mayo in Ireland. Artists can submit up to two pieces of art without providing evidence of any of the credentials that exhibitions usually require. This is great for me because I don’t have any art qualifications and I’ve never sold a piece of art in my life. I managed to get two pieces into the exhibition last time, and one the time before. Here they are (sorry about the rubbish photography):
The first one is called “Enemies at Dinas Emrys” after a story about dragons. It uses Celtic Interlace and stylized dragons. The second one is called “Cornucopia” and was produced by spraying paint through a piece of crochet and a few pieces of my childrens’ construction sets. The third one is called “Two bikes, two lights” and is a painting of the pattern made by… Can you guess?! The colour doesn’t show up very well in the photo; it’s actually more green than it looks here.
Well the show is coming around again so I’m planning two more pieces to submit. This year the entries have to be less than 20cm in any direction. This suits me very well because I naturally work small and have to make an effort to make my art big. I’ve decided to do one with Celtic interlace and one with origami and possibly some Japanese calligraphy. I hope I can get them ready in time for the submission dates (14th-16th November).
Belinda (http://busymindthinking.com/) is on a virtual tour of the world. Welcome to Ireland! On the horizon of the photo is Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland. If you click on the photo you will be able to see the mountain better. This is supposed to be where Saint Patrick stood when he banished snakes from Ireland.
Update: I have added Colleen to the title of this post. I would like to dedicate this post to all those people who are too sick to travel. May you get well soon.
This entry was inspired by a post featuring Japanese irises. I love to see the plants that grow in different countries; some of them are familiar, some not so familiar. Since you probably don’t live in Ireland (not many people do, apparently) I thought you might like to see some of the things that grow here.
I know I’m cheating a bit with this post. This blog is supposed to be about things I create, and while gardening can be creative I’m not sure it fits under my “Art and Craft” umbrella. In fact this post isn’t even mainly about gardening. It’s mostly just about how wonderfully abundant Mother Nature is. Ever since I moved to rural Ireland I’ve been amazed at the variety of wild plants that grow by the sides of the roads. These photos were all taken within a few hundred yards of my house. I haven’t even included them all. There are many more plants that didn’t make the cut. (I’m not a photographer so please forgive my less-than-professional snapshots.)
I’ve updated this post to try thumbnails instead of a slideshow. If you click on any of the thumbnails they should take you into a slideshow where the captions show up a bit better than in the original. Press <Esc> to come out of the slideshow.