1Cronin, Dan. In the Shadow of the Paps. Killarney: Crede, Sliabh Luachra Heritage Group, 2001. 38+.
20 Giollain, Diarmuid. "Revisiting the Holy Well." Eire-Ireland 40.1&2 (2005): 27-8.
"Victor Turner uses the term 'liminality' to refer to any condition outside, or on the margins of, ordinary life, and which is potentially sacred. A visit to a sacred place at a time outside ordinary profane time, such as a pilgrimage on a feast day, is a particularly liminal occasion."
Carleton Jones defines "liminal" thusly: "A liminal area is an area that is in between. In a spiritual context, a liminal area can exist between two different levels of consciousness or experience. At Loughcrew, it is likely that the people who built the tombs lived in the surrounding low- lands rather than on the hilltops alongside the tombs and that they regarded the hilltops with their cairns as a liminal area or a threshold between the land of the living and the land of the dead ancestors." (Jones, Carleton. Temples of Stone: Exploring the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland. Cork: Collins, 2007. 209.)
3Weiner, Eric. "Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer." Travel. The New York Times, 8 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/travel/thin-places-where-we-are-jolted-out-of-old-ways-of-seeing-the-world.html?pagewanted=all>
A "thin place" is defined by Mindie Burgoyne as, "That place where one's spirit is totally whole, at home, with no longing or yearning to be anywhere else. A place of resurrection is not only the place where one's spirit will resurrect from its lifeless body upon death, but also the place where that spirit is most alive inside the living body." ("St. Gobnait, The Spiritual Mother of Ballyvourney - County Cork." Writing the Vision. Web. 28 Dec. 2012. <http://www.writingthevision.com/gobnait.htm>.)
4Cathair Crobh Dearg - The City. 6 June 1999. Information sign at the site. Shrone.
Sources differ on the names of the three saints, with some naming St. Laitiaran as one of the trio. According to the Diocese of Kerry, "This veneration extends to the modern parishes of Rathmore/Knocknagree, Milllstreet/Cullen, Dromtariffe and Ballydesmond. We don't get agreement on the names of her two sister saints in the tradition. Most usually Latiaran of Cullen and Crobhdhearg are found in the tradition but sometimes a saint called Iníon Buí is substituted for either Latiaran or Crobhdhearg." ("St Gobnait." Diocese of Kerry. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. <http://www.dioceseofkerry.ie/page/heritage/saints/st_gobnait/>.)
Frank Coyne notes that "It is significant that three female saints have holy wells, almost equidistant from each other, and have their feast days on three of the quarterly feasts of the old Irish year, with a site referring to the Cailleach perhaps representing Samhain, as a completion of the annual cycle." (Coyne, Frank. Islands in the Clouds: An Upland Archaeological Study on Mount Brandon and The Paps, County Kerry. Tralee, Co. Kerry: Kerry County Council in Association with Aegis Archaeology Limited, 2006. 21.)
Information on the Mórrígan may be found here. There may be an echo of the Mórrígan story in this tale, included by Dan Cronin in his book, as told to him by Own McCarthy: "Long ago there dwelt a beautiful maiden in a famous sidhe, Bergh Elda. On the Eve of Samhain, when nothing could be hidden in the sidhe forts, many of the men of Erin sought her hand in marriage. But the only reward that each one got for his trouble was that one of his party was killed, by whom or what could not be ascertained. However, when a friend to Fionn went to court the maiden and met with a like fate, Fionn sought counsel from an acknowledged champion, Fiacail Mac Conchinn, who advised him to go and take up a position between the two mountain peaks known as the Paps of Dana. While seated there on the side of the little pathway, to this day known as Bóthar á Chích, on Sarnhain Eve, Fionn saw two large mounds that were between the Paps, one on either side of Bóthar á Chích, open, disclosing a huge fire burning inside each of the mounds. Then he heard a general interchange of sounds and commotion being conducted between the mounds. A man emerged from one of the liosanna and he went in the direction of the other. He carried a wooden container, laden with food and some greenery. Fionn poised himself and threw a spear at the apparition. Immediately he heard loud weeping and keening in the rath from which the man had emerged. It has been claimed that Fionn's victim was the destroyer of the suitors followers." (Cronin 24-5.)
5Jones, Carleton. Temples of Stone: Exploring the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland. Cork: Collins, 2007. 21-22.
The author states, "Although we do not know how the Mesolithic people explained them, in later prehistory they were named after Anu/Danu, the principle mother goddess in early Irish mythology (Danu was also worshipped on the Continent). In Medieval texts, the province of Munster (stretching away on all sides of the Paps of Anu), is described as particularly prosperous due to the bounty provided by Anu. Given their form, it seems likely that earlier people would also have made the association between these mountains and a female goddess. At some point in prehistory, cairns were built on both mountain tops, making them resemble breasts even more."
6Coyne, Frank. Islands in the Clouds: An Upland Archaeological Study on Mount Brandon and The Paps, County Kerry. Tralee, Co. Kerry: Kerry County Council in Association with Aegis Archaeology Limited, 2006. 12. This book may be read in its entirety here.
Citing Edmonds (1999, 7), Coyne suggests that "people experienced the world physically through a 'technology of memory,' in the way that they interact with certain monuments or landscapes, and that much of what happens in these places is constituted by the past by real or invented tradition and by what is already there. This 'technology of memory' allows people to re-use, re-absorb and re-work the past through their physical encounter with particular monuments or ritual events."
Some photographs of the "brocken-spectre" phenomenon may be viewed here.
The entire 1841 O'Donovan Ordnance Survey Letters quotation, as related by Coyne: "... in the townland of Gortnagowan in the east division of this parish there is a caher or circular stone fort called Caher-Crovderg [sic], the fort of the red-handed. In the west side of it is a holy well at which stations are performed by the peasantry on May Eve; who also drive their cattle into the fort and make them drink of the water of the holy well, which is believed to have virtue to preserve them from all contagious distempers during the ensuing year." (Coyne 47.)
The author further identifies this flagstone: "This particular path was, and still is, known as 'The Bridle Path'. Skirting the edge of Lough Glounafreaghaun...The peculiar signs on the flagstone are still there to be seen and the spot is known as Rian 'a Daimh. The Bridle Path is no longer used since it was replaced by a roadway, built in the late 1920s, and known as The Slyggudal Pass."
10Cronin, Dan. "Cromlech Cathair Crobh Dearg." Personal interview. 22 June 1999.
12Meehan, Cary. The Traveller's Guide to Sacred Ireland: A Guide to the Sacred Places of Ireland, Her Legends, Folklore and People. Glastonbury: Gothic Image, 2004. 25.
The author explains, "An idea of the number of pilgrims who visited The City on a given May Day - within living memory - can be had from accurate statistics for the year 1938. On May Day of that year, the 'deerhough' or person who attended the well, filling the water into bottles etc., collected for work the sum of £29. Now, in 1938 money was scarce and hard to come by, and that figure of £29 included no paper money. The largest coin in the 'takings' was a 6d piece (sixpennies in pre-decimalization days). Then there were threepenny bits, pennies and ha'pennies. From these figures one can gauge the number of pilgrims who visited the Well on that May Day."
The author concludes, "It can be suggested therefore that "The City" may not have always been used for habitation, and that its function also lies in the realm of the ritual and ceremonial, the focus for religious activity."
In comparing The City to the Ballynahatty Giant's Ring, the author states, "Perhaps a similar sequence may be suggested for 'The City'- the megalithic structure/tomb enclosed in the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age, and this enclosure substantially remodeled, adapted and added to as the ritual and ceremonial needs of the society itself evolved and changed over time."
18Cormac, John O'Donovan, and Whitley Stokes. Sanas Chormaic (Cormac's Glossary). Calcutta: Printed by O.T. Cutter for the Irish Archeological and Celtic Society, 1868. 17. This may be read in its entirety here.
Ronald Hutton put his own gloss on this: "[In the Glossary] she is called the mother of all deities, a further inflation of status from being the founder of her great Tuatha. But another text, Cóir Anman ('The Fitness of Names'), calls 'Anu' the tutelary goddess of the province of Munster, where indeed twin mountains are still said to represent her breasts. If Danu, Ana and Anu are the same then it is possible that a local goddess grew into a generalized one, perhaps aided by the fact that Cormac was a Munster leader. (Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd. 1991. 153.)
19White, Gary C., and Elyn Aviva. Powerful Places in Ireland. Santa Fe, NM: Pilgrims Process, 2011.
See also: Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. 24.
A thorough discussion of the Anu/Danu relationship may be read here.
20Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. New York: Facts On File, 2003. 20.
In its entry on Danu, the Encyclopedia explains, "Danu's name has been derived from the Old Celtic dan, meaning "knowledge," and she has been linked to the Welsh mother goddess DÔN. Some texts call her the daughter of the mighty DAGDA, the good god of abundance, a connection that supports the contention that she was an ancient goddess of the land's fertility." (p. 117)
The Wikipedia entry for Anann adds, "As a goddess of cattle, she is responsible for culling the weak. She is therefore often referred to as 'Gentle Annie,' in an effort to avoid offense, a tactic which is similar to referring to the fairies as 'The Good People.'
Another sources suggests the original name for this Celtic mother-goddess "seems to have been Dánuv, which again is attested by a goddess-name among various Indo-European peoples (Indic Dánu, Greek Danaë)." (Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. "Patronage and Devotion in Ancient Irish Religion." History Ireland 8.4 (2000): 20-24.)
21Some examples of modern devotion to the goddess Anu/Danu may be noted here, and here. An image search yielded these examples.
No proponent of the "goddess-worshipping, woman-centered, peaceful creative Neolithic Balkan civilization, destroyed by savage patriarchal invaders," Ronald Hutton suggests, "there is, of course, a chance that such a being may have been venerated in the Neolithic, but it is beyond doubt that she would not now possess so many followers had not scholars like Professor Daniel proclaimed her existence with such certainly. It is a delicious irony that these establishment figures, themselves no friends to radicals or to 'alternative' archaeologists, may unwittingly have been the founders of a new religion." (Hutton 40.)
The author quotes Gimbutas (1999, 185) who suggested that the death goddess, the Neolithic vulture goddess (and tomb goddess) became known in ancient Irish tradition as Anu or Danu.
The author writes that offerings were generally placed by a woman, for the health of and fertility of family and livestock.
Archaeologist Frank Coyne added, "Traditions inform us that the Tuatha De Danann expect recognition of their power by little gifts, observance of seasonal rites and respect for their sacred sites, and if this is done, then all will be well and the land will prosper (Duinn 2005, 76). This custom, therefore, of placing gifts on top of The Paps is surely, consciously or otherwise, a continuation of this ritual." (Coyne 13.)
The author discusses a "court of poetry" located close to The City: "Indeed it has been known to historians as 'the literary Capital of Southern Ireland'. I recall being told that the principal annual get-together in these Courts was so arranged as to fall in with some popular local event - an appealing occasion which would bring crowds of people together from widely scattered areas. So the location selected for this particular Court - the spot, to this day, known as the 'Seana-Chúirt' - was ideal. It was a short quarter-mile from The City, where vast number assembled on May Day each year. Poet-scholars from the 'Southern Region," from BalIyvourney and Coolea, were not strangers here. Indeed Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin, one of the most famous Gaelic poets of that era, was a product of this well-known court. Sadly, this famous ruin has gone."
Cronin illustrated the conflict between paganism and Christianity by quoting from Oisín's poem when he returned from Tír na nÓg. "Finding his old pagan world almost vanquished by St. Patrick, he tells the Saint:
'When Oisín and Fionn lived
They loved the mountains better than the monastery.
Sweet to them the blackbird's call,
They would have despised the tolling of your bell.'"
29Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd. 1991. 156.
Hutton says of the Celtic Cross: "In its origins there was nothing Irish, or British, or 'Celtic', about it. It developed in the western Carpathian region around 3000 BC, upon pottery. During the next millennium it spread slowly across Europe, being especially popular upon metalwork of the so-called beaker culture. Traditionally it has always been regarded as a sun symbol, and the particular frequency with which it appears upon prehistoric gold objects would perhaps strengthen that supposition. It became virtually a brand-mark for the Irish work..."
31Carroll, Michael P. Irish Pilgrimage: Holy Wells and Popular Catholic Devotion. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999. 43.
The author explains that both the laity and the clergy in Ireland made the transition from self-exile as penance to the performance of penitential rounds at domestic sites.
The "penitential rounds" for The City, as told to Dan Cronin by Jim Meirsheen (Cronin 41-44.):
"1. Commencing at the Gap: Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory, said seven times while kneeling.
2. Go around The City, three times on the outside, deiseal (keeping the right hand inside). Say a Rosary on each round, finishing each time at the Gap.
3. At the western Station, near the house, say Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory, five times, kneeling.
4. Go around The City three times inside, clockwise, saying a Rosary each time, always finishing at the Gap.
5. Repeat (3), then make three crosses on the western Station, with a pebble or with your finger, mentioning your intention. If for yourself, rub the dust on your forehead.
6. Repeat (3) again, this time at the northern Station.
7. Go around the central Gallán, clockwise, saying the Rosary.
8. Repeat (5) at the northern Station.
9. Go from northern Station to the Altar at the eastern side, saying a decade of the Rosary.
10. At the Altar say Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory seven times. Repeat crosses as at (5), also circle. Pray to Our Lady for your intentions.
11. Say Our Father, Hall Mary and Glory three times at the Well. Have a drink of the water and take some with you."
The author further explains the early Irish system of Penance: "An arnamchara or soul-friend was utilised to advise the penitent on the extent of the severity of the penance necessary in order to be cleansed before coming into the presence of what they considered holy. The arnamchara was indispensable, because of the fact that he took on the responsibility from the penitent as to what would be enough, not-too much or too little, to placate the god or gods. For, had the penitent decided for himself how much penance he was obliged to do, he figured that he was putting himself in the place of his god in deciding what was suitable. His idea was that a little could in no way be enough, yet, severe (for good measure) would be considered pride or overdoing it. This method was practised in many parts of Ireland, until the Christian clerics converted the rite to Christianity, using it to cleanse the penitent, thus enabling him to receive the Holy Eucharist of Christ. Where the official Church had lesser influence, especially in remote places, the peasant continued the old form of penitential rite - without the anamchara, who, incidentally, had been made redundant by the Christian influence! but remained popular up to the end of the 19th century. They fell out of favour due to ridicule by English Protestants and as people became more educated. Even though the Irish penitential system was severely criticized at first, it eventually got to be accepted as a good thing. The Irish practice of administering bodily punishment came across as a humbling penance, showing a good proof of sorrow for sin confessed. It was also required to compensate victims for wrongs done. The Council of Trent emphasized the sacramental status of Penance, and the use of confessional boxes became customary in places."
34More information on climbing the Paps may be found here, and here.
We made our climb in 2001, starting at The City, with Deidre O'Sullivan, of Tailor Made Tours.
Coyne notes that the western Pap is connected figuratively and literally to the eastern Pap "by a series of jagged protruding rocks set on edge, many of which are naturally-occurring, but some undoubtedly erected by hand, and known locally as the Fiacla, or teeth. These form a direct line along the 'cleavage' of the two Paps, and may mark a ceremonial route-way between the two peaks."
36O'Sullivan, Muiris, and Liam Downey. "Summit Cairns." Archaeology Ireland 25.3 (2011): 20-23.
The authors count more than 2,000 cairns if modern triangulation specimens are included. They noted, "The degree of overlap between the positioning of prehistoric cairns/passage tombs and the sites identified by engineers as optimal for the erection of triangulation stations testified to the spatial and technical understanding applied by the societies that erected these monuments so as to ensure their distant visibility, and indeed intervisibility."
Coyne notes, "Certainly the large and immovable man-made structures such as megalithic tombs presented very clear messages of ownership, and the same is applicable to the mountaintop cairns." (Coyne 24-251.)
Coyne's rescue excavation was intended to mitigate the damage done when modern climbers used stones from the cairns to construct their own small cairns at the top of the original monument, or to construct shelters from the weather. The archaeologist wrote of his work at the western cairn, "The modern disturbance was removed, and excavated down to the natural material, which was a compact, grey gravel in a dark peaty matrix. When this modem disturbance was excavated, the exposed section was drawn, and then the cairn material re-installed. No charcoal samples were retained, as the modem burning would have contaminated any charcoal recovered."
38Monaghan, Patricia. The Red-haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2003. 209.