Travel theme: Freedom

My last post about the Cadillac Ranch has me yearning for the freedom of the open road once more. To quench the wanderlust that is starting to flood my senses, I have been looking through photos of past travels for shots that embody the spirit of freedom. Of course I began with the open road, this one under the big skies of Montana.

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A different type of freedom now, the freedom of expression, represented by this glorious stack of books at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven, CT.

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To escape the hustle and bustle of New York’s concrete jungle, I would head out to the Far Rockaways where the crashing waves released feel-good ions to soothe my soul and free my spirit.

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Last but not least, beautiful wild horses roaming freely on the slopes below Mount Leinster.

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What does freedom mean to you and what makes you feel truly free? If you would like to join in this week’s travel theme (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Freedom
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

xxx Ailsa

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe that they are free. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Just living is not enough; one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower. – Hans Christian Andersen

Posted in Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 62 Comments

Carmageddon

Just outside of Amarillo’s city limits, west along the grand old Mother Road, lies one of those roadside attractions you just don’t want to miss. Cadillac Ranch is an art installation that was created in 1974 by a San Fransiscan artists’ collective called The Ant Farm. Despite its relative ‘newness’ compared to other Route 66 attractions that date back much closer to the road’s inception in 1926, this quirky slice of Americana perfectly encapsulates the spirit of freedom that this legendary road has come to represent.

Keep your eyes peeled as you leave town, because you can’t access the ranch from the current highway; you have to turn off onto the southern Frontage Road that runs parallel to the highway, headed eastbound. A delicious graffiti-covered turnstile cobbled together out of bits of pipe guards the entrance.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

When I visited, even the local dumpster glowed pink, purple, green and yellow with a brand new coat of spray paint.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Clambering over the turnstile and traipsing along a dusty path through the pancake-flat Texas Panhandle, I encountered a steady stream of road trippers on their way back out; a vaguely anarchic gleam of satisfaction twinkling in their eyes as we passed and swapped glances.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

At the end of the dusty trail, ten grand old Cadillacs, once symbols of the American dream, were planted nose first in the ground; all in a row, all at the same depth and angle (purported to be the same angle as the sides of the Pyramids at Giza).

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

The cars were picked up second hand and installed with their original paintwork intact. It didn’t take long for visitors to start leaving their own marks on the installation – and this was encouraged by the artists and the local eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh 3, who paid to commission Cadillac Ranch. Before long, the cars were stripped down to the shells they are today and ever-changing layers of graffiti adorned every surface.

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Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

I loved everything about the Cadillacs. I’ve seen photos of the original installation and while the cars looked wonderful back then, there’s something about the way they look today that evokes the incomparable joy and freedom of the open road. The cars never look the same from one day to the next which parallels the ever-changing nature of a road trip. Allowing visitors to leave their own mark, giving them the freedom to express themselves, that is the decadent essence of the all-American road trip. Blazing your own trail, escaping the confines of the homogeneous. The rules are, there are no rules.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

The fact that the Caddies are half-buried face down in the dirt might put a damper on it for some, but for me, it’s all about the tail fins and they are still reaching for the sky.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas, roadside attractions, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

The American Dream may seem half-buried in these complicated times but in the middle of a dusty field out in the Texas Panhandle, hope springs eternal.

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So throw off your shackles, get your motors running and plan your next road trip.

xxx Ailsa

 

Posted in Photography, Texas, Travel, United States | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Travel theme: Slow

Can you believe it’s December already? The year seems to have flown by, so in an attempt to make time slow down a little, here’s a celebration of all things unhurried and plodding. Like these cows at Coral Pink Sand Dunes who were in no rush to get out of our way…

cows black coral pink sand dunes state park utah road trip

…or this girl in Boston who moved so slowly you wouldn’t even notice it.

street performer boston ma us road trip usa america

Passenger trains in the US make my slow list because I’ve experienced the greatness of their lateness first hand. They don’t own the tracks they travel on, so usually end up having to give way to money-making freight trains.

Lake Shore Limited, Amtrak, USA, train journey

Slower moving still, this sunken boat near Athy in Ireland.

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This one is a total cheat, it’s sloe berries, but they sound slow, don’t they? Anyway, it takes a long time for them to reach their pickable prime, lore has it you have to wait until after the first frost to pick them, so I suppose you could say they are slow to ripen.

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I’m hoping you can find some slow time to create your own interpretation of this theme. If you would like to join in this week’s travel theme (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Slow
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

xxx Ailsa

A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened. – Albert Camus

Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit. – Moliere

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , | 65 Comments

Travel theme: Above

I’ve been busy admiring the scenery of Glendalough from above recently, but have been lucky enough to have taken in several wonderful views around the world from above. First up, the lovely city of Seattle at nighttime, taken from the top of the Space Needle.

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A rainy day on the via Condotti in Rome, taken from the top of the Spanish Steps.

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It is only from above that you can truly appreciate how much of Manhattan is taken up by Central Park – this is the jaw-dropping view looking north from the Top of the Rock.

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One of my favourite views of all time, flying over the Alps with my nose pressed up against the window, watching those amazing mountains spread out for miles like the stippled icing on top of a Christmas cake.

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Do you have a favourite view from above? If you would like to join in this week’s travel theme (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Above
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

xxx Ailsa

This above all; to thine own self be true. – William Shakespeare

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. – Edward Abbey

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 111 Comments

The Spinc of No Return

Glendalough is a gem in the heart of the Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains. The name is Irish for “Valley of the Two Lakes” and the area is teaming with monastic ruins and abandoned mining villages. Most of these sites are accessible via short, easygoing trails, but to appreciate the true splendour of the location, you have to work a little harder.

The Spinc is one of the best trails to get you up to a height where you can admire the glacial landscape in all its glory. “An Spinc” is the Irish for ‘pointed hill’ and the trail is appropriately steep. It is one of the more popular trails, so in 2002, in an attempt to protect delicate bog lands from being trampled to oblivion by avid hikers, the Irish Army constructed an impressive boardwalk out of studded railroad ties. Now, instead of scrambling up a muddy slope, you ascend a zigzagging wooden staircase with about 600 steps.

I had psyched myself up for the 600 steps but was undecided as to whether or not it would be wise to count the steps as I went. I couldn’t figure out whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing to know how many more steps I still had to go as I struggled up the hill. The trail didn’t waste any time at all getting serious. 2 minutes into the trail I was clambering up steep steps alongside Poulanass Waterfall – Poulanass is Irish for “Hole of the Waterfall” and true to its name, there were several plunge pools carved into the rocks below by the force of the water.

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Distracted by the spectacle of the falls, I forgot to count the steps, and mentioned it to my friend as we traipsed along. “Oh, these steps aren’t part of the trail”, he explained, “that comes later.” I gulped inwardly, trying to calm my inner wussy hiker. I can hike for miles on end if the trail is moderately flat, but substantial elevation gain takes away my will to live. This wasn’t the steep part?

Leaving the waterfall behind the trail veered off to the right through thickening forest and up ahead I spotted the start of the infamous steps.

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They didn’t look too bad, I told myself, starting up the steps with a bound. I actively deciding against counting which turned out to be the right decision. After two flights I was a hot mess, bright red in the face and bathed in perspiration. The only thing that kept me going was not knowing for sure how far along the trail I was. With each turn in the staircase, I imagined the peak of the mountain would be right around the next corner. If I had been counting, I would have known there were still 579 steps to go and I would probably have cried.

With a lot of patience on my friend’s behalf, and sheer doggedness from my side, we scaled the steps and somewhere along the way, with blood pounding in my ears, the forest thinned and then disappeared altogether. Tufts of heather and spikes of grass dotted the heath and just as we crested the hill, the sun came out and lit up the golds and browns of the dried ferns and sedges.

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The two lakes sparkled deep blue as we made our way along the boardwalk. I had to layer up again; the air was much cooler up here, and the trail had leveled out so my pulse returned to normal and my face stopped glowing. We stopped for lunch, homemade sandwiches gobbled hungrily as we sat gazing out across the lakes and the lush surroundings. Fortified, we continued onwards. Up ahead, the most dramatic of sights greeted us, the staggering beauty of Glendalough’s glacial valley.

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This is the spectacular landscape you don’t get to appreciate from down below. The sight of that wondrous vista made every single one of those 600 steps worthwhile.

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glendalough, spinc, spinc trail. blue trail, hiking, wicklow mountains, wicklow national park, wicklow, ireland, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

xxx  Ailsa

Posted in Europe, Ireland, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Travel theme: Colourful

Around this time of year, as the light grows dim and the nights close in up in the northern hemisphere, I start feeling the need for an injection of colour to counteract the low light. So I have been leafing through my brightest, most colour-drenched photographs to liven things up. My first stop was a garden in Guatemala where these fabulous parrots stood guard (or should that be ‘perched guard’) over the entryway.

parrots antigua guatemala casa santo domingo

Out in the Hamptons one sunny summer afternoon, these pretty pastel bikes made for a delicious sight.

summer bike bicycle

The first time I laid eyes on a red cardinal, it was just after a snow storm in Manhattan. Wandering through Central Park, I rounded a corner and happened upon a whole flock of the reddest birds I had ever seen, and they weren’t in the least bit phased by my presence. Here’s one of the perkiest of them, posing for the camera.

red cardinal central park new york snow manhattan

This lovely lady was a living statue at the Folk Life Festival in Seattle. The burst of colour makes me smile and I adore that parasol. I do believe the world would be a better place if we brought back widespread use of parasols. All that delicate lace is just too wonderful for words.

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I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling cheerier already. I’ll leave you with one of the most unforgettable of flowers, a stunning jade flower I happened across in Central America.

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Are you ready to celebrate colour? If you would like to join in this week’s travel theme (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Colourful
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

xxx Ailsa

Your life is a canvas. Make sure you paint yourself a whole lot of colourful days. – Anon

Perusing colourful storylines on the backs of book jackets, I realized that none of them could possibly be as dramatic as my life to date. – Sarah Kay

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 141 Comments

Travel theme: Belonging

Looking at the photos of the Fremont dinosaurs I am struck by how much they seem to belong where they are, and I thought that might make an interesting topic for this week’s travel theme. What does belonging mean? It could be a treasured possession that belongs to one person – like Winnie-the-Pooh belonged to Christopher Robin…

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The original Winnie-the-Pooh looking a little homesick; it’s a long way from New York to 100 Acre Wood.

…or a park that belongs to a nation.

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Grand Tetons National Park

It could be a community that creates a sense of belonging…

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Circle of hands at Holi Festival

… or just one special person.

holding-hands-together-in-grand-central

It could be something so old it can’t help but belong…

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Temples at dawn in Tikal

…or a place you know so well it feels like home.

new york, manhattan, travel, travelogue, photography, ailsa prideaux-mooney

What does belonging mean to you? If you would like to join in this week’s travel theme (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Belonging
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

xxx Ailsa

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. – Aldo Leopold

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. – Walt Whitman

 

 

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 74 Comments

The dinosaurs that escaped extinction

If you’re ever in Seattle’s Fremont neighbourhood, keep your eyes peeled for two dinosaurs who cheated death and went on to live long, happy lives along the banks of the ship canal.

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The mother and baby dinosaurs were part of an exhibit at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center in the 1980’s but when the exhibit came to an end, the dinos were scheduled for destruction. Luckily for dino lovers everywhere, a group of Fremont locals got together and purchased the exhibit for the grand total of $1 and orchestrated the difficult task of transporting the 66 foot long steel frames, weighing 5 tonnes, to their new habitat. Once the frames were in place, thousands of ivy plants were brought in and lovingly tended to over the years until the frames were completely covered and the dinos roamed free once again.

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The mother apatosaurus and her baby can be found lolling along the Burke-Gilman Trail at the corner of N. 34th and Phinney. Some of you might recognize the shape as being that of a brontosaurus and you would be correct. In 1877, a Professor of Paleontology at Yale by the name of Othniel Charles Marsh recorded a juvenile, incomplete skeleton, naming it Apatosaurus, which translates as deceptive lizard. Two years later, he recorded another skeleton, but because it was so much larger, he thought it was another species which he dubbed Brontosaurus, or thunder lizard. It wasn’t until 1903 that the mistake was uncovered, so technically, the brontosaurus never really existed. But on the banks of the ship canal in Fremont, the topiary dinos don’t care what they’re called. They’re just happy to have escaped extinction.

Posted in Photography, Travel, United States, Washington | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Travel theme: Arches

I saw a black cat this afternoon scaring off the unwanted attentions of a passing dog by hissing and curling its body into a perfect arch. When I got home I started looking through photos to see what arches I had captured on my travels. I found bright blue Christmas arches in London

blue christmas london

A blue Christmas in London

…delicate, aged window arches in Yale University

yale university windows

…ornate and rose-decked arches in Washington DC

tradition franciscan monastery washington dc

…and arches of antiquity in Rome.

Circus Maximus, Ancient Rome, Roman Forum, travel, travelogue, photography, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney, Italy

Now that I’ve started looking, I’m seeing arches everywhere and I’m willing to bet almost everyone has got at least one amazing arch photo to share. If you would like to join in this week’s travel theme (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Arches
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

xxx Ailsa

All experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move. – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Human society is like an arch, kept from falling by the mutual pressure of its parts. -Seneca

 

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , | 118 Comments

Echoing the Ancients in the Cradle of Samhain

The morning of October 31st started off grey and rainy and got stormier as the afternoon approached. I pressed my nose up against the window and watched as the clouds grew thicker and rain spilled down in sheets. It was the worst kind of weather, the kind that thwarts carefully hatched plans. This year I had decided to give the usual Hallowe’en fare of trick-or-treating and costume parties a miss in favour of something a little different. Ireland’s County Meath, sometimes referred to as the Royal County because it was once the seat of High Kings, is home to a wealth of historic sites. Popular destinations include the Hill of Tara and Newgrange but there are plenty of lesser-known treasures too, such as the Loughcrew Cairns.

The place that was calling my name on All Hallows’ Eve was the ancient site of Tlachtga, known today as the Hill of Ward, just outside the town of Athboy. This barely-explored archaeological site is held by many to be the birthplace of Samhain and the origin of today’s Hallowe’en. In the swirling mists of ancient Ireland, this was believed to be a ‘thin place'; a spot where the veil between this world and the next grows thin, particularly around the time of Samhain. The monument itself consists of a circular central plateau surrounded by a beautiful series of concentric circular hills and ditches.

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Aerial image of Tlachtga c/o Bing Maps. I’m not that tall and don’t have a helicopter.

The complexity of the site suggests it was a place of great prestige in olden times. Whilst Bronze and Iron Age activities remain shrouded in mystery, historical records show Tlachtga endured in importance. The last High King of Ireland held a synod here in 1167, attended by thousands. In 1172 the King of Bréifne, Tigernán Ua Ruairc, travelled to Tlachtga to negotiate disputed territory with Norman Lord Hugh de Lacy, but found himself rudely separated from his head in a gruesome assassination. Over the years, however, Tlachtga’s significance faded and it was mostly forgotten about, until in recent times, local resident Joe Conlon decided to raise awareness with an annual Samhain Fire Festival.

My windshield wipers were working overtime on the road north, but I was still holding out hope for a break in the downpour. Somewhere between Trim Castle and Athboy, without me even noticing, the rain abated. I made a quick pit stop at the Darnley Lodge Hotel on Athboy’s main street; they were serving up toffee apples for the kids and great big cups of pumpkin soup for the grown ups.

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Warmed by the soup and thrilled by the sudden absence of precipitation, I set off for the Fair Green where folk were beginning to assemble, armed with flashlights, lanterns and flaming torches.

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In the flickering light the crowd listened to tales of early Samhain, how it was a time to remember those who had passed and be thankful for the good things that had befallen them in the past year. Samhain was the Celtic New Year; they believed everything began in the dark and emerged into the light, just like a seed starts growing underground and reaches towards the daylight.

There was also a report from the first formal archaeological dig at Tlachtga which took place this summer and has already made significant finds, including evidence that the existing monument, which likely dates back to the Iron Age, may have been built upon an even older monument from neolithic times.

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Local storyteller Gemma McGowan got the crowd warmed up, teaching a song to be used later in the procession; a song in honour of the goddess/druidess Tlachtga who lent her name to the hill.

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The procession from the Fair Green to Tlachtga was about a mile along a narrow country road with no street lights, but the way was lit by fire pits and Swedish fire torches that guttered and danced in the breeze. Residents gathered at the gateways of their houses to watch the procession and hand out chocolate and biscuits. Along the way, three seers waited in the chill of night to offer festival-goers blessings for the New Year.

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A simple wooden stile guarded the entrance to this once-eminent site. Its plainness was perfectly lovely.

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The grassy slope, closely shorn by grazing sheep, rose gently away from the stile, then bobbed up and down in waves over the hills and ditches to the centre where crowds gathered in a circle and the pageant began, with pipers and bodhráns…

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masqued performers telling the story of Tlachtga…

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singing and ceremony to honour the memory of Tlachtga…

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Annette Peard closing the ceremony with the Dismissal of the Quarters

and remembrances of loved ones who had passed.

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Sinead C Kavanagh reading remembrances

It was an intoxicating mix of good will, turf smoke, drum beats and rosy, flame-lit faces etched in deep relief. People from all corners of the world and of all ages joined in, raising their voices and echoing the ancients in celebration of their loved ones, their ancestors, the dark that precedes the light, and a long-forgotten goddess.  As the ceremonies drew to a close, warming cups of hot cider were passed around and sipped in the glint of firelight.

Tlachtga has long been associated with Samhain and fire ceremonies. A text called The History of Ireland, written by Geoffrey Keating in the 17th century, explains that all across Ireland fires were extinguished on Samhain. Druids would then gather at Tlachtga to light a massive ceremonial fire and embers from this fire were taken to the Hill of Tara to light another great fire there. Once these two fires were blazing, the rest of the fires in Ireland could be rekindled. Some believe they were to be rekindled with embers from one of the two original ceremonial fires, but that would have been logistically impossible.

The fires on Tlachtga sputtered and went out; the crowd dispersed and we made our way back along the country lane to the Fair Green. As I got into the car a tiny drop of rain hit the windshield and glittered under the streetlights. In the frosted air and pale moonlight, I imagined Tlachtga holding back the stormy weather for just the right amount of time.

I’ll leave you with a little snippet of the Samhain Fire Festival on Tlachtga.

Happy Celtic New Year.

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