Stories from the Pilgrimage, Pt 1

hag stone 3

hag stone 2

My lady sits on a cliff top, looking out across the bay, where land, sea and sky meet. She is the mountain embodied, the land given form as a god.


She waits for her husband, the sea god. She watches her land and her people.

hag stone 1

She asked me to dedicate myself three times.

Once in the presence of Manannan mac Lir, at the bay where I met him many years ago. Manannan her husband; Manannan the lord of all my journeys. King of the Wanderers, Lord of the Sea.

sealbay

And once in the presence of Duibhne, goddess of the Corca Duibhne people, her sister and my first ancestor. I did this part at a spot I discovered because there was literally a rainbow sitting over it as I drove past the previous day. (I’d been on the Corca Duibhne peninsula for a few days at the beginning of my trip, but nowhere there quite worked like this spot did.)

In the mist and the rain…

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…and on a clear day

But at last I was headed to the Hag of Beara Stone, for the final dedication, to Beara* alone, and I was incredibly nervous. This is the spot where my Lady is most famous. I’ve met her in different parts of the land, and found that she is different everywhere. She’s wild in the mountains, warm and protective in the valleys, stormy by the sea… What if her aspect at the Hag Stone didn’t know me, or I didn’t recognise her?

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A gate guards the way to the stone

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An information plate about the stone, something I’ve only seen in one or two other places on the Peninsula

It was good that I was prepared. The Hag Stone was overwhelming. There, she’s like a great wind that forever rages across the mountain, exposed and open. I was hit with the force of dozens of centuries of stories told about this single geological feature, its total captivation of the people who saw it. In the offerings on and around the stone, I knew I was not alone in my worship of An Chailleach Bhearra, even though it may sometimes seem that way, and even though I may not understand the ways in which others relate to her. We are still all her people.

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Offerings are all over the stone. This is a sacred place for many more people than just me.

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The view across the bay from just behind the stone

I feel like a liminal person when it comes to many different things. In many parts of my life. The way I relate to my gods is just one thing that’s difficult to reconcile with what others around me do. I feel different – whether I actually am or not.

It’s time to stop being ashamed of my differences, and to embrace them – all of them. It’s time to stand on the clifftop and shout out Beara’s name to the waiting land below. It’s time to start learning how to stand proudly, like she does, between.

It’s time to start learning how to be her priestess.

More stories from the pilgrimage soon.

Sunset over Bantry Bay

Sunset over Bantry Bay

*Look, I’m learning how lenition works in Irish! :D

15 thoughts on “Stories from the Pilgrimage, Pt 1

  1. I loved everything about this post. I am trying to get my other half to agree to go down that way for a little trip becasue you have me hooked lol,I dont have any relationship with Beara herself I tried but it came to noting but all worked out fine for me in the end as other relationships took over and popped up.

  2. Thank you for sharing these beautiful beautiful words and images you must be so happy and overawed in your devotion to Beara. I think we all must find ou relationships with and walk with our gods in different ways. Your story is so inspiring :)

    I can relate to what you say about Beara appearing differently in different places, I’ve had similar experiences with Gwyn appearing in different guises in different places, times and otherworlds…

  3. Wonderful; I felt too like I was on pilgrimage when I visited Ireland and Scotland, and connected with ancestral places. I loved Bantry Bay; reminded me of the Puget Sound where I grew up. :)

  4. Beare was named after her, but she wasn’t just ‘from’ there! She was from all over the Atlantic coast of Europe. You’ll find her sat anywhere from Spain, Portugal, Brittany, to Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Mann (where her husband had his office, so they say). If you look closely you’ll find her sat by the rivers of ancient central Europe too, under the guise of many celtic ‘local’ river goddesses…

    • Well, that’s not my interpretation. I don’t believe that all the Cailleachan are the same goddess. She’s a local deity. In a way that’s hard to understand unless you go to the Beara peninsula (although not impossible).

      • In the Isle of Man she was called ‘Berrey Dhone’ or ‘Berrey Dowin’ – ‘Berrey’ was pronounced ‘Beara’, the name meaning ‘Brown Beara’ or ‘Ox-Beara’ (after her cow). Manx only developed a written form in the 18thC so the oral traditions are not so set in definitions as the Irish ones! I think she was called ‘Cally Berry’ in Ulster, which had the closest ancient cultural links with Mannin, although these were shared by the Scottish Islands, Argyll and the West Highlands, where she is also ‘Beara’. The Manx legends ultimately seem to link her (under various guises) to Manannan, which would fit your interpretation and intuition on the matter. Why do you think the Cailleachan are not all the same mythical figure – I’d be interested in your opinion? Thanks.

      • I understand the facts of the name similarities. That doesn’t make them the same deity. As a polytheist and local cultist I simply see them differently. Their myths are actually quite different even though there are overlaps. Ultimately it comes down to what I’ve experienced of them in each area. They are simply different.

      • Obviously, name-similarities are not evidence of identity, but the general convergence of Cailleach-centred mythology across Ireland and the wider Gaeltacht is certainly highly intriguing! I would say that we do not know enough from the limited and fragmented local traditions that remain to us (e.g.- those recorded in the Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann transcripts at UCD, and in medieval manuscripts) to state definitely either way… I find her everywhere, and pervasive. For me, she comes from a time when places, landscape, people and animals were one, and therefore she has no true ‘locus’, except (as in Cork and Kerry, the Isle of Man etc) where her spirit and traditions remain strong.

      • Understood that that’s your view. Mine is different. I’m widely researched and I understand the evidence. I go by first hand experience as well as textual evidence. I’m not a reconstructionist. Textual evidence is great, but my beliefs remain. Given the fragmentary evidence, my beliefs are based on experience of Beara and where she leads me, as well as local Cork evidence eg oral tradition. My Lady is my guide in this. I appreciate your input, but my goddess herself is my primary source here, as well as the vast local evidence that remains in Cork (much of which I rarely or never read in books). Ultimately, a genius locus can only be met in the land and encountered in their local community among their local people.

      • I think our viewpoints are actually not too dissimilar, after all! The personal inner conflict between the exegesis of the broader traditions with our own eisegesis (or received personal gnosis) of local traditions inevitably leads to such exchanges within the pagan community. It is not my intention to cause offence in any way, so please excuse me if such occurred! I have the same personal experience as you with a different Cailleach of a different locus, it just leads me to a philosophical interest in all the others! As ‘pioneers’ or explorers in search of these spirits who write about them publically, it is inevitable that we ought to seek to share and pool the gnosis. I also respect that the profession of faith and testimony is an important part of this process, and that it is not always open to debate, so I am sorry if I caused upset. I too like cats.

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