Bilberry Sunday – a story

Etain grumbled and groaned. 

“Why do I have to go? There will be enough people, it’s not like there are any Bilberries anymore. Sure, most of them are gone by the time of the walk, we should have it earlier.”

Her mother sighed. 

“Look, it really isn’t about how many Bilberries we get, it’s to keep the tradition going. The last Sunday of July, before Lughnasa. This goes back to ancient times and..”

“I know, I know, the High King had the rights to the heath fruits of Brí Leith, people kept up the tradition of Bilberry Sunday, though they had it the 1st Sunday of August here for a time maybe because the party used to be a week long, maybe because the church interfered, they kept it up until the 1960s, coniferous trees blah, blah, blah.”

Her mother smiled, her child might find it boring now but she was going to remember and pass it on and that was all that mattered. That had been the whole point of the revival of Bilberry Sunday and the purpose of the walk, nothing more, nothing less, everything else that came of it was a bonus. 

A couple of people in the village had an idea ten years ago and it kept going, even during ‘The Covid’. The first year of that they all went separately and took pictures and this year they were having a small social distance walk, no frills or frolicks but nice all the same. People get used to anything really.

Bilberries were returning too, along with the people, every year there were more and more pockets of them. It could be because the trees were being cut but maybe it was the will of the people marking the day year by year. She certainly liked to think so.

Etain looked at her mother wondering what nonsense was going on in her head now, smiling away to herself like an idiot. She loved her really, she wasn’t even her mother, she just cared for her since she was a young teenager and they faced many trials together.

“Ok,ok, I’ll go.”

“Thanks love, much appreciated.” 

They headed off to the meeting point, 11am at the GAA pitch. Strange time to pick but someone did and it continued. There were only a few gathered, those that understood the importance of heritage and the old ways. Etain recognised most of them, some were unfamiliar, every year some ‘newcomers’ joined from near and afar. Even these seemed familiar. They had a friendly spirit about them.

“Look at all the old souls” said her mother as she looked around her.

“Mother!”

“Sorry, did I say that out loud?”

Etain looked at her wearily. She smiled over at the group as one spoke telling everyone to “stay safe and keep your distance”. The leader, a gardener, who was at one with nature, then led them on the walk past his house and up the hill, stopping to give some knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area as he walked. She liked his way, there was an easiness about him and while he never really spoke to her and her mother she knew he knew they were there and was pleased they had come.

They walked up the hill and more gathered each side of them, quietly walking along, united in their purpose of remembrance. It was a fine sight to behold. The sun beat down on them, not as hot as it had been the weeks before but hot all the same. The weather had been strange this past while.

The tree cover shaded the walkers in places and the breeze helped with the heat. 

Etain saw her mother waving her hand from side to side ever so gently and singing to herself. She was happy. That was good to see, so much of her life had been filled with rage and anger at the injustices around her and set upon her.

They went off the trail a little and came to one of the stone cottages. They stopped for a while and chatted about the ancestors that lived on this hill when it was clustered with houses similar to this and they all went silent for a moment considering the lost. They were lost to famine and emigration, war and exploitation. A moment was the least they could give them.

“Did you see that!” a young girl broke the silence. 

“I had my eyes closed” said another 

“What did you see? Was it a deer? A hare? A Sparrowhawk?”

“No, no, I swear I saw some people dressed in costumes, from the 1800s or something, just standing beside the group with their caps in their hands and smiling at us.”

“Trick of the light”

“You imagined it.”

“I saw them too, I saw them too”

“The veil is thin here” the leader said and he smiled over at Etain who returned it with a cheeky grin.

“Do you think she saw ghosts?” one Walker asked their friend. 

“It was more like we were the ghosts in their reality.” 

the child replied as she skipped past, 

“like we slipped into their time because we were still.”

The group whispered and looked around them but no more visions did appear. They carried on, returning to the path, to the stories and the knowledge given as they sauntered up the trail.

“That was funny” said Etain.

“Was it though?” her mother replied getting slightly agitated. 

The breeze grew stronger, it was almost cold, a sharp winter feel to it though the walkers were relieved to feel it.

When they reached the top they stopped a while to admire the view. They could see The motte in Granard, Cairn Hill and Sliabh Bawn. Some thought they saw Loughcrew.

“} could see Brí Leith from Uisneach one day I was there” one said “I wonder if we could see Uisneach from here”

“Once, you could, when the landscape was different, fires were lit from hill to hill, it was a wondrous sight to behold” someone replied. No one looked to see who, they were too busy trying to figure out which way to look for Uisneach.

“Now that was funny!” her mother whispered in her ear. Etain smiled. The breeze got warmer.

They crossed over the road and to the other side, it was marshy on this side and full of life, frogs and newts, dragonflies and butterflies, the birdsong consumed the walkers. 

“This year seems different” one said, “otherworldly.”

“Doesn’t it just, you can almost feel the gods around us.”

“It is so beautiful up here, you’d nearly forget all the troubles of the world.”

“Good for the soul.”

The child who had disturbed the silence earlier at the ruined cottage did it again. 

“There’s more people up ahead, do you see? Is it a party? Why are they dressed in tunics and capes? Look how the gold on their shoulders and necks shine.”

Everyone looked, nobody saw. 

“She has a great imagination,” her mother said.

“Stop saying that. They’re there, can’t you see them?”

Etain stepped forward.

“I can” she waved her hands. At first nobody noticed and then they all looked at her and her mother. 

“Is that Etain? Is that Fuamnach?”

“Did you organise this? This is so cool! Is there going to be a reenactment? “

“Organise what? No, we had nothing to do with this. We’ve no idea who these are.”

“Yes you do and you’ve everything to do with it. Come let’s join the others.” Fuamnach replied as she invited the group to join the party that now was joined by the people from the cottages. 

More and more kept arriving yet it never seemed crowded. They weren’t sure how long it went on, it seemed to be days, then suddenly it was over and they were standing on the hill, no party, no costumes no Etain, no Fuamnach.

“Probably best we don’t speak of this” the gardener said.

No one replied.

” 

The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne – a retelling

Everybody knows what a great warrior king Fionn MacCumhaill was and if they don’t they should find out but not from me today they won’t!

I’m going to tell you how like many a man he got a bit cantankerous and stubborn as he aged and being a King, for perhaps too long, his pride caused heartache and mayhem to all and to two young lovers in particular. No one should remain in power too long, if you remember nothing from this story, remember that. 

The story goes that old Fionn lost his wife Maigneis and the grief he had was so great that his aging band of Fianna thought they better do something about it and rather than listening to him or telling him to cry and let it all out these old men came up with the bright idea of replacing the love of his life with a young girl called Gráinne.

Of course that wasn’t going to end well he being ancient and she being young but that was their solution.  

Gráinne was the daughter of High King Cormac mac Airt and a worthy match in all the men’s eyes but not in Gráinne’s.

At their betrothal feast which went on for days and nights as was the custom Gráinne noticed the handsome warrior Diarmuid whose “lovespot” in the middle of his forehead made him irresistible to all.

Gráinne was trained in the art of magic and potions so when she got the chance she slipped a sleeping potion in the drinks of all but Diarmuid and tried to get him to run away with her.

Now Diarmaid was a loyal warrior of the Fianna and loved Fionn so he refused at first but she was oh so beautiful and a little bit scary, she threatened him with a geis (a curse) which all at that time were wary of and so he went and they hid in a forest across the River Shannon.

When the men all woke up with a pain in their heads and a grumpiness no one could endure Fionn noticed the pair were missing and he immediately made everyone get up and out and pursue the runaways all over Ireland.

We know they went all over because there are many a Dolmen on this fair land named Leaba Diarmaid agus Gráinne (the bed of Diarmaid and Gráinne).

Indeed there is one over the road in Aughnacliffe, Co. Longford, near Leebeen Lough, a mighty fine one you should visit it. Some say it’s a portal to the Otherworld

There is a rock now called “Granny’s Rock” out the Tromra Road 500 metres from Knights and Conquest Heritage Centre, Granard town, that is another Leaba Diarmaid agus Gráinne.

So, Diarmaid and Gráinne moved around Ireland with Fionn following. They were helped by many because all knew Fionn would not be kind if he found them and everyone loved Diarmaid, must be the spot in the middle of the forehead.

Even some of the Fianna helped and also Aengus Óg, who we met in an earlier tale (Midir and Etain). Aengus Óg wasn’t too Óg at this stage but a name sticks. He had been Diarmuid’s foster father, and loved the lad and being the God of Love, loved Gráinne too. 

Aengus hid Gráinne in his cloak of invisibility while Diarmuid lept over the pursuers’ heads so they say.

At first Diarmuid refused to be with Gráinne out of respect for Fionn and kept telling her he would be taking her back to marry Fionn and she teased him for that but he eventually  fell in love with her and they were together a long long time hiding on Fionn, they even crossed over to Scotland a while.

After a time Gráinne found out she was having a child and had a craving for rowan berries from the magic Rowan tree guarded by the one eyed giant Searbhán;  Searbhán was friendly at first but he got angry and refused to give up the berries so Diarmuid fought him. Searbhán’s magic protected him from Diarmuid’s weapons, but Diarmuid eventually won by turning the giant’s own iron club against him.

After many other adventures, Diarmuid’s foster father Aengus negotiated peace with Fionn and the lovers settled in Keshcorran, County Sligo where they had five children. Fionn married Gráinne’s sister and all was forgiven. I’m not sure how the sister felt as no one tells her story and what happened next makes you wonder did Fionn really ever forgive.

One day Fionn organised a boar hunt near Benbulbin and Diarmuid joined in even though when he was a little boy a geis was put on him that he would be killed by a boar. He may have been lovely but he was certainly foolish.

The boar wounded him fatally and the only one who could heal him was Fionn. Fionn had the power to heal by letting the dying man drink water from his hands, but he let the water slip through his fingers twice. Oscar, Fionn’s grandson threatened Fionn so he went to the well again but when he returned it was too late, poor Diarmuid was dead.

There are different stories about Gráinne after Diarmaid has died, we like to think Aengus took Diarmuid’s body to his home at Brú na Bóinne and while some say Gráinne grieved until she died, others say that she made her children swear revenge on Fionn and a more peaceful end says she married Fionn eventually and there was peace between the clans.

AGS 2018

I couldn’t decide on Diarmaid or Diarmuid so you must put up with both.

A squirrel’s tale

Once upon a time in the great oak woods, an Dhóire Mór,, some strangers appeared that were bigger and stronger than those who had lived there in harmony for generations.

The new arrivals with their wild grey fur and fierce appetites were welcomed by the native bushy tailed tribe of red squirrels, na Ioraí Rua, with curiosity and interest.

The enthusiasm of the grey squirrels was catching and the two groups mingled happily at first. Na Ioraí Rua showed their new neighbours where all the good nuts grew, where safe dreys could be made to live a happy and contented life as they had lived for many a year.

Soon it was noticed that the appetite of the grey was much greater than that of na Ioraí Rua. They wanted more and more. They never wanted to share, or maybe they just didn’t know how as they regularly fought amongst themselves for the tiniest acorn while they sat on a pile. 
They took all the best dreys.

Na Ioraí Rua had to move up higher and higher in the trees, nearer the sky, their homes swaying precariously in the wind.

The greys followed na Ioraí Rua around, watching as they gathered their acorns together for winter and as they planted some acorns in order to grow great big oaks for future generations. Na Ioraí Rua were always willing to teach them their ways and happy to share their skills.

Na Ioraí Rua seemed always to be content with their lot, loving what they did together, for each other, and were always aware of the world around them, being careful to tread lightly for there were many weaker more delicate creatures to care for. Their happiness irritated the ever hungry greys.

By this time the grey squirrels were well settled and had plenty of acorns at home that could sustain their appetite but they wanted more. They wanted everything, they wanted the happiness of na Ioraí Rua and they were prepared to take it all and so they did.

In their greed they abandoned their own acorns, leaving them to rot in their dreys, moving from one drey to another, all the while digging up the winter supplies of their smaller red neighbours. They even ate the bark from the saplings that had been planted by na Ioraí Rua who had worked with all living things in their world together since time began.

The greys were never satisfied. They kept wanting more and they increased their territory further and further afield while na Ioraí Rua started to drift away into smaller and smaller clusters finding tiny pockets of sanctuary where they could create little paradises for their own and still they were happy.

Some of the greys left their own and joined the tribe of na Ioraí Rua, knowing that sharing gave more happiness than hoarding for themselves, for those that hoarded all the acorns were always looking over their shoulders in case someone might take even the tiniest little one.

The two- legged giants that roamed the same land doing their best to destroy all that was unique and beautiful about it, had introduced these grey intruders for that’s what they were though na Ioraí Rua in their naivety had first thought they were friends.

 These giants helped the grey squirrels establish themselves more by clearing their way. The same hunters that would have kept their numbers manageable also liked chickens and small farm animals so the giants destroyed all before them to mind their own food.

The grey squirrels thrived with all this help as they never would have without it and na Ioraí Rua retreated higher in the trees and further from the giants.

One day some of the two-legged giants noticed how few hunters there were, their numbers were dangerously low, in their language they were “endangered species”,  “close to extinction”.

They also noticed they were quite pretty really and like everything in an ecosystem they had their place so they announced that the Pine Marten, Tree Cat, An Cat Crainn, was a “protected species”.

Once this decision was made an Cat Crainn came out of hiding. Their numbers started to grow and spread through the country as once they had before and in doing so they killed off as many of the grey squirrels as they could.

Some of na Ioraí Rua were lost too but they knew how to hide in the tops of trees, away from giants and from an Cat Crainn. They were light on their feet and in body because they were light in their souls and their numbers grew and so the numbers of acorns that grew into saplings grew and then great oaks grew.

This happened because there is a place for everyone and everyone has a place. The place and space for the grey squirrel shrunk because having all the space in the world and all the acorns never made them happy and never was enough. Still na Ioraí Rua happily guided and helped the grey as only a good squirrel can. ❤🐿

The Cock’s step on the dunkill

My mother, myself and my youngest son were discussing the very slight change in the length of day today. I was saying I better go home soon to lock the hens in though I noticed it was nearly five before they went in yesterday and my mother said:

 “From the 1st of January you notice a change of a cock’s step on the dunkill.”

I laughed and said “I don’t remember you saying that one before” which surprised her as she says she often. said it and heard it lots. She remembers her parents saying it.

“What’s a dunkill?” says my lad.”Well it’s dung hill really” says she but we always say the saying as “dunkill”. “The cock’s step on the dunkill.”It has a nicer ring to it no doubt, more poetic. I thought.

She remembers as a child being told that was how they measured the day getting longer. She asked could they measure it and was told if she wanted to then go out to the dunghill and measure it. I don’t think she did. But that’s about as much as the day gets longer daily from January 1st, about as much as “the cock’s step on the dunkill.” 😉🐓💩 🌞

Antigen Testing.

Antigen testing: Use it as a screening test and if positive go for a PCR.

I can only speak from the experience we have had:

Our experience of antigen testing meant our household contained Covid. Our son hadn’t been home in a while, came home, didn’t feel well, decided to do an antigen test “before we visit Granny”, his decision.

We have antigen tests in the house for this very occasion.

Our thoughts are it is a good idea to keep them in the house to have on hand. Much like we keep paracetamol, ibuprofen, cider vinegar, lemons, honey, turmeric, ginger, garlic, many herbs, a variety of vitamins (vitamin C and D for certain) and good old lemsips in the house at all times.

He tested positive. We all did one, we were negative. He isolated. He was really good at it in fairness to him. His PCR came back positive. We continued with antigens.

Our youngest had a PCR because she was not vaccinated – we followed the rules. Negative. We didn’t get it and he recovered. We did all the staying at home and isolating as a recommended.

That is our experience of using antigen tests. We are glad we had them in our house and that our son had the wherewithal to decide of his own accord to test before visiting Granny.

Our daughter has come home now, she did one before coming home to us. Negative.

That’s it. That’s the story. Nothing complicated. Nothing exciting. Just our experience.

I wish I was a tree

I wish I was a tree

high in a mountain 

far from interference 

of the human touch.


I wish I was a tree

slowly growing 

deep in the belly

of the warm earth.


I wish I was a tree

stretching roots out, 

down, around, through 

obstacles in my path.


I wish I was a tree

bursting through the soil

to find the light of sun,

moon and stars.

 
I wish I was a tree,

steadily stretching

outwards and upwards,

swaying in the wind.


I wish I was a tree

with parents standing tall

near enough to see

far enough to love.


I wish I was a tree

sending children out

on the wind, to fly, explore

find their space in the world.


I wish I was a tree

watching many saplings grow

sending messages of love

near and never quite that far.


I wish I was a tree

full of creatures running 

up and down, scratching, 

eating, sleeping, living well.


I wish I was a tree

not living in the presence

of malevolent and often worse,

benevolent man.

AGS 27/10/2021

Vaccination/No Vaccination

I’ve been searching for up to date data on Covid vaccines. The gist from what I have found is :

Vaccines reduce the spread of Covid 19.

The severity of this virus, if contracted when vaccined, is reduced.

If you get vaccinated you are 11% likely to transmit Covid 19 to your family. If you don’t get the vaccine you are 31% likely to transmit to your family.

You can still get Covid and you can still spread it but you are more likely to not get severely ill and you are less likely to spread it.

Some people are asymptomatic and vaccinated but they probably were asymptomatic anyway without the vaccine and they would spread it more if they weren’t vaccinated.

We need boosters. Boosters are there for other vaccination programs since forever, this is a normal part of vaccination programs.

Some people have had rashes and fewer have had more severe reactions and this is still a normal part of vaccination programs.

You’re more likely to get severely sick if you contract Covid and are unvaccinated.

You’re also more likely, if unvaccinated, to spread it to your children, loved ones and also to the community if you are out and about, shopping, working, “getting back to normal”.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/08/study-ties-covid-vaccines-lower-transmission-rates

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/fully-vaccinated-people.html

Sleeping Beauty and Climate Change

(Image : Sweet Dreams by Mary Smyth Art, https://www.facebook.com/marysmythlongford/, https://www.behance.net/marysmyth )

What if….. everyone has interpreted Sleeping Beauty wrong and it was about climate change all along? Hear me out, this came on a walk on Brí Leith so it must be true.😂 Midir! 🤔😂

What if Sleeping Beauty walking towards the spinning wheel pricking her finger is all of us sleepwalking into climate change?

What if Maleficent is Capitalism wooing us towards our demise? We know it is wrong, we all do but we want the shiny thing, we believe the lies, we are mesmerised, we are under the spell of sell, sell, sell, buy, buy, buy, take, take, take, profit, profit, profit and it is so strong we can’t fight it.

What if the fairies who change the spell to 100 years sleep instead of death are representatives of nature trying to save the planet? Flora, Fauna and Merryweather….. ahem!

What if 100 years is all it will take to correct the wrongs we did and save the planet and all we need to do is go to sleep… as in “stop”, just “stop”? Stop over farming and let the land rewild, stop over fishing and give the ocean a rest, stop over producing and produce and buy local in small communities, stop over travelling and stay where we are or go in a slower, more environmentally stable manner, stop exploiting nature and people and be a community that cooperates instead of competes. This paragraph could keep going but my train of thought is racing by and I need to catch the next carriage.

What if the briars were a reminder to let Nature do the work and just stay away from her while she does it because you’ll get hurt or maybe dead so just let her enclose you and keep you safe and warm while you “stop”?

Briars regenerate the land.

What if when the 100 years are up we will be fine as long as we all sleep (“stop”) and as long as the right way of being gets through the briars to wake us up and work with us to create a better world for us and our people?

What if they knew this? The Grimm Brothers, in the middle of the century of the industrial revolution and they thought about it and didn’t want others to figure it out…. just yet… so they twisted the tale to make it about women and men and oh dear me, here we go on another century of Patriarchy and more intense Capitalism.

What if they knew? Walt Disney, at the beginning of the age of cinema and wrong messages and people falling asleep in front of a screen, lapping it up as “Gospel”, “The American Dream”, “the innocent child”, ” the evil witch”. There’s only two types of women right? Innocent and waiting to be rescued and led or evil bitches tearing the innocent one to shreds. Nothing to see here, carry on buying and selling and taking and raping the world and her people. Look, there’s a shiny thing! Ignore the message that was just “Stop!”

What if they knew? The 1%, bankers and capitalists all, those who tore at the land that was never theirs and plundered her essence, those that murdered her people with war, famine, slavery, every brutality they could think of because they knew and didn’t care and just keep wanting more for themselves.

What if they know it takes 100 years for her to recover and they’re setting their own up to be on top again to start the ball rolling again while we all walk mesmerised to prick our finger on the spinning wheel and sleep? What if the race to space was just a distraction to stop us looking over there at the real rulers in the banks?

What if all of them are going to be ready to sit it out on the land they are grabbing? They are grabbing more than enough to sustain them and theirs, on their islands they purchased. They will slow down behind their walls of briar and wait for the rest of the planet to recover and instead of saving us all, the people, they’re leaving us outside the walls of their kitchen gardens and hunting grounds to die of famine and war and whatever horrors are to come.

Are we going to be left outside the wall or do we tear it down and create a better way before it is too late? We do know there is only a small kingdom of the few behind the wall right? They’ve no intention of letting us by their dragon no matter how successful we think we are in this imaginary world we live in.

This happened before, it will happen again. Empires fall, leave destruction behind, small groups of people survive and others who have been planning all along for the next “pyramid” scheme begin more brutal than before, each time grabbing more, in the end it is a pyramid scheme within a pyramid scheme within a pyramid scheme and the percentage at the top gets smaller and smaller until eventually it will be one who most likely will declare themselves a god and off we go again… as I did on another train of thought…. for another day, let’s dismantle Cinderella next..

The message Nature is giving is clear to me and to many, we need to stop and let her breathe, give her time without us “doing”, and she will be alright but it is up to us whether we will be. If we don’t stop, she’ll take us down and make us stop, virus, plague, not so merry weather, diseases in the flora and fauna we need to survive. It doesn’t matter, it will happen. This planet needs to live and if we continue to destroy we will be destroyed in the end so just “Stop”.

This is what happens when you walk on Brí Leith with family and the forest trys to take you and yours. 🤔😉 Midir destroys the fairytale on you. ❤💚🌹🦋

Left and Right language

Some stupid terms :

Far Right, the correct term is fascist and it just suits the establishment to use far right as it somehow seems less but it really isn’t and the establishment are using the actions of small pockets of fascists to keep their own elitism intact and to take away our rights bit by bit.

Far Left, this is also used by the establishment but in this case it is to put fear into people because they immediately begin thinking of communism under Russia and Mao and all that Hollywood has told them. Getting people to think this suits the ruling class because what they are truly afraid of is an equal society which is what ‘Left’ parties want.

Even the terms Right and Left aren’t helpful. Tradition/Religion has always had the good on the right and the bad on the left. The repentant thief was to the right of Jesus on the cross, being a “Citeog”, left handed person was frowned on in school, and society, for such a long time, “bet out of” people even.

Language is powerful, everyday language is powerful. We should be really conscious of the words we use but we aren’t.

I don’t like calling my politics “left”, as in not “right”, all that is “left” after the greedy have taken most but that seems the only word for it.

I want an equitable society. I want the dignity of all people, of all living flora and fauna and the planet at the core of every decision. Why are we not taught that? Why are we not taught to stop and think about how our decisions might impact on others and the planet? Why is that not a core question in all decision making policies? If it was we wouldn’t be in the dreadful mess we are in, the mess this egocentric society has created.

Less emphasis on greed and competition and more on sharing and cooperation is needed now, it was always needed but it is at a critical point now. Being happy with enough so others don’t have to suffer for one person’s more is what we should have because we live in, and are part of, an ecosystem. Presently the only term for the politics that thinks in ecosystem terms rather than egocentric terms is ‘left’ it seems, so I am ‘left, with that.