I’m feeling so inspired this Beltane season.
My personal craft points of reference and experience are solely US and UK based but I would be remiss to skip over the Beltane customs of the Emerald Isle (btw: I’m not trying to slight the Welsh, Manx, Cornish or Briton traditions, but I know nothing about them). I’m not even going to try and pretend that I’m anything but your classic American mutt. Branches of my family tree on my mother’s side trace back to ancestors who participated in founding of These United States, and I have enough First Nation heritage that I’m comfortable calling myself Métis, but my father’s side of the family is 100% Irish, from County Westmeath, as far back as anyone can remember – from what I understand the family is one of the oldest/longest established families in the County.
I can’t fault my father for jumping whole-heartedly into the American experience, but, unfortunately, it left me a little bereft of old world cultural heritage. So I decided to do a little poking around into the Beltane customs of the area and discovered some very interesting history. According to lookaroundireland.com
“Uisneach Hill is an historical site in County Westmeath located near the village of Ballymore, and is considered the omphalos (mystical navel) of Ireland, whereupon rests a great stone (Ail na Mreann, which means stone of divisions) marked with lines indicating the provincial borders of Connacht, Leinster, Ulster and Munster.
Tradition tells that Uisneach was a site favored for Beltane fires and Druidical ceremonies Archaeologically the site consists of a set of monuments spreading over two square kilometres and includes enclosures and barrows, a megalithic tomb and two ancient roads.
There was an excavation in the 1920s and this showed occupation evidence from Neolithic up to the medieval period.
The Hill of Uisneach was the ancient seat of the Kings of Meath.
Uisneach has also been famous as a meeting place in pre-history as a place of cattle rituals and other May Day assemblies, and in more recent times as the meeting place for an important twelfth century synod.”
And philipcoppens.com and Turtlebury.com provide some very interesting information on the mythic history of the place.
I think it’s time for me to do some exploration of the deities associated with where this side of my family hails from.
P.S. The following picture is considered a Sheela-na-Gig from Carne Castle, County Westmeath – now in the National Museum, Dublin. Here is further information on what the author calls “exhibitionist figures on mediæval churches”.