Pilgrimage to The Morrigan

A few months ago I posted on Facebook asking where I should go if I was to go to Ireland in honour of The Morrigan. The resounding response was Owenyagat, The Morrigans Cave. So I spent some weeks dithering about, and not actually arranging anything, like you do when you know you’ve got to do something life altering for The Great Queen.

Eventually I got myself together, booked some flights, booked a hire car and booked Lora O’Brien to guide me and a friend to the cave. Now, bear in mind I had never flown in my life, and my friend was going to meet me there, you can see where the first part of this trial lay.

Arriving

The trip happened this past weekend, just a few days after Beltane. I flew into Dublin on Friday evening, learning that flying really isn’t that bad at all once you’re up.  Found my way out of the airport, found my friend and collected the hire car. The blood red hire car. It made us feel we were expected.

The red chariot

We stayed over night in a great B&B just outside Dublin, found ourselves some dinner in a local pub and hung around to hear the advertised ‘live music’, that turned out to be one man and his keyboard doing bad cover versions….we opted to head off to bed instead.

On Saturday morning we drove across country to meet Lora in the village of Tulsk in Roscommon. We had an awesome visit to the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, getting to deeper grips with the stories of the area and admiring some fantastic artwork.  The centre do awesome work and the café is fantastic too (tea in a proper 6 cup pot no less!).

Mebh’s Throne

We drove up the road and visited Ogulla, the holy well. A natural triple spring with a shrine.  It has a statue of St Patrick and a story to go with it, but the story tells that it was once a sacred site looked after by pagan priestesses. It’s a beautiful, tucked away spot, easily missed. Sacred waters flowing, surrounded by sacred trees.

St Patrick at Ogulla

Waters of Ogulla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We drove on then to Rathcroghan mound. Now I’ve visited many sacred sites in my life, it was almost a hobby with my parents when I was growing up and I’ve done my share of visiting as an adult pagan too. Rathcroghan is something really quite special.  It looks quite unassuming, just a big grassy mound in the middle of field, surrounded by a fence and full of sheep who seem slightly disgruntled at the presence of two leggers. Lora told us what is known about the mound from the archaeology and led us to the top via the eastern face, where the ceremonial entrance would have been. I received strong visions here, memories, whether they were mine in a past life or just picking up on echoes I don’t yet know. But the place was familiar to me, and welcoming.

Rathcroghan Mound

We took a break for lunch before heading for Owenyagat, to take our turn to go into the ground and seek The Great Queen. When we arrived some other folk were there, so we took time to sit in the sun and Lora told us the story of how the cave got its name. For Owenyagat means ‘cave of cats’, and it refers not to a feline cat, but an otherworldly creature, a creature whom Mebh called from the cave, from the otherworld, to test young warriors including CuChulainn.

Lora O’Brien Storytelling at Owenyagat

Then it was time for us to go in, I had thought I would be anxious, but if anything I was eager, I had been waiting for this, I had broken my fear of flying to be here and do this. Lora went in first, pointing out various features as we went. It is deep, and yet it’s not, it’s cold and yet it’s not, it’s dark and. No, it’s really dark. After a brief time with torchlight, we took our seats and sat in the dark with our Queen. I can’t really tell you what passed at this point, it’s quite personal, but suffice to say we were graced with an audience.  It felt right and comfortable to be there and I know I’ll go back in the future.

Owenyagat

Inside the entrance

Inside the cave

Emerging into the sunlight afterwards was a little strange, time had gone all bendy, which I find it often does around Her. Lora commented that I had experienced all three worlds in a weekend, upper with my flight, middle in exploring the land and the lower with the descent into Her cave.

Cleaning up after the cave

After the cave

I had challenged myself in a number of ways for Her, because She asked it of me and without wanting to sound big-headed, I’m really proud that I lived up to it. I could have freaked and bailed from as early as arriving at Birmingham airport, right through to going into the cave. But I didn’t. Suddenly I know that anything is possible and that is a huge and wondrous feeling.

Heading home

Awen Clement © May 2017

If you are thinking of visiting Ireland, to see the sacred sites and honour The Great Queen, I sincerely recommend either contacting Lora O’Brien and seeing if she is available to guide you or alternatively join one of the magical tours run by Land Sea Sky Travel, who gave great support and advice in the planning of this trip.

***

Awen is a priestess of the Morrigan who lives and works in the West Midlands in the UK. She is a land guardian, storykeeper and priestess offering teaching and healing work for those who need it on their journey. She can be found at www.wildmagpie.co.uk

Please follow and like us:

Rag Tree Tradition by Lora O’Brien

So, I’ve worked for the last 12 years as a professional tour guide to the sacred sites of Ireland, and let me tell ya, I’ve seen some shit.

8 of those years were spent managing the sites and visitor centre at the royal complex of Rathcroghan, Cruachan; which (as many of you know, unless you’re believing the nonsense that there’s no Morrigan sites in Connacht), is where the Morrigan ‘resides’ – Her primary site in Ireland is the Cave of the Cats, Uaimh na gCait. This site is an ancient cave, worked by human hands in later times, known as the primary physical entrance to the Irish Otherworld, which Medieval Christian scribes referred to ‘the Gates of Hell’ due to the unfortunate amount of monsters and demons (to their perception) which flowed out from this hole in the earth on an all too regular basis.

I’m probably telling y’all stuff you already know here, being folk who are interested in Herself. I’ve been Her priestess for 13 years, and I know how hard she pushes us to do the work, and how important real information is to Her.

But what you might not be aware of, and what I’d really, really, like you to be aware of (and tell all your mates), is the absolute misconceptions and horrific disrespect that Pagan or ‘spiritual’ visitors to Ireland show at our sites.

Let’s talk about the Rag Tree tradition, shall we?

In Ireland, we have long had the custom of the ‘Raggedy Bush’ or Rag Tree, and there’s similar in Scotland, with what they call ‘clooties’ tied to certain trees. The trees are Hawthorn, one of our most prominent native trees/bushes – Crataegus Monogyna, or in Irish, the Sceach Gheal. The Irish name literally means something like, ‘that which makes the hedgerow bright’, and when it’s covered in colourful rags it sure does. Most often, there’s a particular hawthorn, growing near a particular holy well, and this is the local Rag Tree.

Occasionally there’s no well or spring to be found, but my theory on that is that there used to be one and it’s gone now, or that the misconceptions around Rag Trees stretch back further than your average modern American tour group, and some fecker just decided at some stage that a single growing hawthorn was actually a Rag Tree, way back in the mists of time, and it stuck. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s no magic there today… just that it probably didn’t start out that way. The water nearby is a pretty important part of the magic here.

What’s it all about then? Well, basically, the tradition goes that you take a piece of cloth from a sick person, tie it to the tree (often with prayers), and the sickness disappears as the rag rots away. The water nearby is most often a holy or healing well, which helps of course.

Sounds simple enough, right? From a magical perspective, we’ve got sympathetic magic in the rotting of the fabric – the visual representation of the illness losing power and strength and eventually disintegrating. We’ve got an energetic loop that’s formed between the sick person (it has to be an item they’ve worn while ill, so imbued with their DNA or essence) for illness to flow to the tree, and back the way then with the healing energies from the water, through the roots of the tree. Make sense? Sure!

You know what doesn’t make sense though? Folk who come along and tie their rubbish to the tree. Or tie strings or cloth so tight they damage the tree branches. I’ve removed everything from crème egg (candy) foil wrappers to junk jewellery rings to plastic covered wire wrap ties from the branches of our Rag Trees on this island. Not cool people, not cool. That, at least though, can be written off as ignorance of a ‘quaint’ local tradition they want to be a part of, by people who are really just here for lip smacking the Blarney Stone and the Guinness.

What’s more worrying is the visitors who come to sites where there’s no Rag Tree, on supposed spiritual pilgrimage, and tie their shit to whatever tree happens to be there.

The Cave at Cruachan is a prime example of this. I was a guardian there for 13 years, and for 8 of those I was paid to be in and out of it most days of the week. There’s a hawthorn that grows over the mouth of the cave, but it’s a relatively young one. Maybe 20 or 30 years old is all. It’s a fairy tree in the sense of it being smack bang over the mouth of a Sidhe dwelling, and it’s definitely magical… but it’s not a Rag Tree. Every week though, there’d be some new bit of tat tied to it. One tour group got a nylon umbrella off their bus, ripped it to bits, and tied the bits to the tree. Then they left the umbrella carcass in the field, got on their bus, and drove off.

There were obviously some who wanted to leave an ‘offering’ at the site, to connect themselves there in some way, and perhaps that’s how some of the cloth strips got into the tree. Maybe some were even cloth from the garments of sick people. But this is not a healing site. In my experience – personally, and collected from feedback of those who energetically interacted with the site – the entities at this site will gleefully follow any connection you choose to make there, go right back to source, and tear down anything weak that they find there. Ostensibly ‘for your own good’, of course, but they are absolutely merciless about it… if you lay a pathway for them they will follow it. This is not a good thing, for most people. Especially unprepared people. People who maybe think that Irish entities and Sidhe spirits are essentially pleasant and good natured, full of the craic, and harmless to let in. People who are perhaps sick, and not at full energetic defensive strength.

There was once a baby’s bib tied through the branches of the hawthorn tree at the Morrigan’s Cave. Just take a moment, and let that sink in for yourself.

You see now why I might be a bit ranty on this topic? Can we not do this anymore?

My best advice is to take local advice. If you want to find a real Rag Tree, there’s websites and books that will tell you where to begin your search, but first and foremost you should be talking to local people. Get exact directions. Check that the tree you think might be the one is actually the one. And remember, just because some eejit has tied something to it before you got there, doesn’t make it a Rag Tree.

Please, be sure?

13625325_10154343445948833_754878224_nLora O’Brien is a native Irish Author and Guide to Ireland, facilitating your authentic connection to Ireland one small step at a time. You can get involved with the excellent Irish Rewards by becoming a Patron of her work at www.Patreon.com/LoraOBrien, or visit her website to find out about her upcoming on-line course, Meeting the Morrigan. You can find Lora’s blog, books, mailing list, classes and more at www.LoraOBrien.com.

 

Please follow and like us: