Following Celtic Ways

Ramblings and reviews by John Willmott as he travels the Celtic Ways and Waterways visiting hidden ancient Celtic temples, sacred wells, and provoking legends .... plus music and theatre along the way

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Flow Of Life at Solstice Time

by John Willmott of Celtic Ways

Today should have been a day of welcoming the summer solstice sun, but as I awoke before dawn I could see the clouds were heavy and no views to be seen. It has taken until 10:00 am for the sun to appear, here below the hill of Kesh (Ceis), and the clouds are still abundant. It could still be a memorable sunset, though.

There's certainly the lush of life around here. Ireland is very, very green right now. Most tall grass is still uncut for hay. Tree leaves are at their most dense, wild meadow flowers are long stemmed and waving in the breezes struggling to present and perform their colours.

For a few weeks I have been juggling with local words to try to discover the legendary interpretations of where I live. Co. Sligo is heavily named after wells, female imagery and imagery of life itself. Many Co. Sligo names include reference to cauldrons and hags but with life giving references rather than spells of evil.

A problem with Gaelic is interpretation. As it is a language largely based on imagery its sometimes impossible to give a true English interpretation. Even interpretation between different Gaelic cultures can fail. When I worked on Iona as a stone mason my foreman was given the job of creating a Gaelic banner to welcome teenage Irish visitors to a "Festival Of Youth". Though on Iona his Gaelic interpreted as "Welcome to the Festival Of Youth" for the Irish it interpreted as "Welcome to the Festival Of Virgins".

Here where I live in Kesh, its anglicized name, the local village have renamed with the spelling Keash to attempt to encourage a more correct pronunciation of its Gaelic "Ceis", yet even the Gaelic may be wrong as I have seen references to "Ceos" meaning something totally different.

Ceis and Kesh can mean wicker avenue but usually means wicker basket or casket. Ceis developed into cask, casket, even case. However, there is no evidence of willow, the ingredient of baskets. However, Ceos appears to mean "a woman carrying life", which many of us would logically interpret as pregnant woman.

Kesh is at the base of the Kesh Corran mountain, a mountain of many legends, especially around its huge caves above Keash village where I live. The most abundant legend is the mountain being known as the "womb of Ireland" and the caves being its vagina. There are several legends of regeneration within the caves. It is also quite symbolic with its gooish secretions leading into one of the most fertile valleys in Ireland. The Aquarian images are of a woman with chains broken and more recent water bearer, shown as an urn or cauldron bearing water. Urns and cauldrons are symbols of female energy.

From the top of Kesh Corran mountain is the highest cairn in Co. Sligo. From this you can look east into Lough Key, and the Gaelic is spelled Ce. This lake was home to several monastic sites. Though not proven, Columcille probably had one here as there are several legends of his "miracles" there. It is said that there was one monastic site in the middle of what is now Lough Key that was managed by an Abbot Ce. When he passed on it is said that the lake formed over his grave and monastic site.

Abbot Ce was said to be named after the word qui, pronounced key, used by Buddhists to describe the flow of life and a similar word used by Moslems for the calling of prayer. My interest is how the word Ce became part of Ceos or Ceis that became part of Keash where I live today.

Soon, my web sites will be featuring a lot of information, legends and photo galleries on Sheela na Gigs. More and more people are coming to Ireland to pay pilgrimage to these unique and surprisingly often grotesque symbols of life and sanctuary that are on many early Christian buildings. They are an Irish creation to tell the stories of sanctuary, regeneration and life. They are an interesting interpretation of the dedicated stone masons who created these buildings of sanctuary, worship, consecration and new life.

Here I am writing this at the base of Ireland's natural Sheela na Gig and facing the abundance that it has helped to provide. Through this imagery of fresh life I wish you all an abundance of life and fruits through this summer leading to a plentiful harvest.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts and stories on the next "holiday", Lughnasa, when the "male" energy and stewardship becomes honoured, e.g. the symbols of Lugh and St.Patrick.

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