During my journey home I was met by a moment of choice and convergence of fates. A message found its way to me through unlikely sources, accompanied by auspicious and fateful signs. It was a message from a woman who I had a brief but passionate relationship with while living in a red desert cathedral. The message was that she was pregnant and that I was the father.
She wasn’t telling me to pressure me, she wasn’t asking for anything that I didn’t want to freely give. But she was going to have a child and I was the father of that child and she knew that I would want to know. And I sat and faced that choice that is not a choice the only way I could and still be able to live with myself. I became a father, and Ireland became a distant island once more.
These moments where your life path shifts direction, these moments of decision, moments of trust in your fate, or your Wyrd, or the Gods, are the challenges and feats that define who we are and our place in the world. The part of myself that made my shift from the identity of seeker to the identity of father so inevitable is the part of me that stands firmly on the path of honor. There was no choice for me, and yet it was the best choice I’ve ever made.
So my life changed, and I went west and raised two brilliant and determined daughters, and I studied archaeology in California. My love and connection in Ireland never changed. As my studies went deeper my spirituality became more complex and tied to that place. I learned its history, music, and culture and filled myself with the lore and literature of this land that dominated my inner landscape.My life continued to change and evolve. My marriage ended, my kids grew up, my relationship with The Morrigan grew and deepened, and 23 years after I had bought my first ticket to Dublin, I found myself standing in the Dublin Airport alongside a woman who was as brilliant, beautiful, and bold as a queen in the tales from this land.
Now I wasn’t just going to Ireland for personal growth and exploration, we were there as the vanguard of a Celtic polytheist priesthood, called by and dedicated to the Morrigan. We were there to pay respects to the sacred sites, lead a group of 17 people on a tour of sacred sites connected to our Queen, and to ground our tradition in the stones and turf of this holy land.
We had come 4 days earlier than the rest of the tour. We needed to spend some time with the land, to make our own introductions and connections, to adjust to the change of place and change of time before we were responsible for other people’s experiences here.
We were giddy and bleary eyed as we approached the customs officer in the airport.
“What is the purpose of your visit?”
“We are taking a tour of sacred sites here” we say, groggily, stumbling to get our brains working after 21 hours of cramped travel.
He looks at us and with a practiced air of indifference asks “What’s the name of this tour?”
Once again we stumble a bit with our answer, not expecting to need further details. “It’s called the Coru: Body of the Morrigan Tour”
He stared at us and questioned “The Morrigan?”
We were a little confused, we helpfully added “The Irish Goddess of prophecy, sovereignty, and battle”
He stared a little longer making us wonder if we had somehow made a mistake, said the wrong thing to him, given him an answer that made him suspicious of us.
“Never heard of Her” he wryly declared as he stamped our passports. “Have a good journey”
It was very clear to us that the first act that we need to do to make offerings to that land that we were finally standing on, so we quickly started looking for something that would make a suitable one. We settled on a cup of cream from the cafe in the airport, went outside to find a piece of ground that wasn’t covered by pavement, and there, with the sound of jets, coaches and cabs surrounding us, we thanked Eriú and the land, and the spirits of that place for welcoming us and we thanked the guardians that protected us on our journey for helping us arrive safely and we poured the offering out on the earth.Dublin is a city that has had a place in my internal landscape since I was a child. As I grew I learned of the Rising, I studied the histories, I struggled through Joyce. The music and poetry, the antiquities and the ancient art, the beauty and the seediness, all took their places in my imagination.
The city was exactly what I hoped for. Grey and chilly, dark water and warm pubs, busy narrow streets and friendly faces. We got off the bus and awkwardly dragged our bags across cobblestone streets, through streams of cars and coaches, toward our hotel in the heart of the city. We could have stayed at a hotel near the airport but that seemed like a waste to me. I wanted to immediately immerse myself in sights and sounds of the city.
As we crossed a bridge over the Liffey, we stopped to greet the river. Like a sluggish, sleepy beast, She slipped under us, mutely dominating the city. We poured offerings, we thanked her, we made formal introductions, and we listened, as we stood between a the flow of water and streams of traffic. She accepted our offerings and answered us.The loudest voices in Dublin are the voices of the dead, and the revolutionary dead dominate them. We had time to kill, hours to force ourselves to remain awake in order to start shifting our bodies to a new time zone, so after we dropped off our bags, and struggled to eat a meal, we wandered through the city alongside the ghosts. We wandered through grey streets, past cathedrals and castles, through legendary universities and places from the books of my youth. We slipped in and out of welcoming and warm pubs and bookstores. We played the tourist, wide-eyed and excited as children, grabbing each other as each new sight or recognized place revealed itself. All the time we were being led to the place where the dead spoke the loudest, St Stephan’s Green.
As we entered the park the revolutionary dead crowded around us, curious and quiet. We stood with them and spoke of their struggles, we thanked them and we poured whiskey offerings to them, we listened and drank with them.
One of the lessons that I learned that day way that when giving offering to the dead in this land, they always want you to drink with them, to share a sip or raise a glass, speak their names fondly and tell tales of their deeds. And so we did.Dublin
Grey brick upon brick,
On sombre pedestals –
O’Connell, Grattan, Moore –
And the brewery tugs and the swans
On the balustraded stream
And the bare bones of a fanlight
Over a hungry door
And the air soft on the cheek
And porter running from the taps
With a head of yellow cream
And Nelson on his pillar
Watching his world collapse.
This never was my town,
I was not born or bred
Nor schooled here and she will not
Have me alive or dead
But yet she holds my mind
With her seedy elegance,
With her gentle veils of rain
And all her ghosts that walk
And all that hide behind
Her Georgian facades –
The catcalls and the pain,
The glamour of her squalor,
The bravado of her talk.
The lights jig in the river
With a concertina movement
And the sun comes up in the morning
Like barley-sugar on the water
And the mist on the Wicklow hills
Is close, as close
As the peasantry were to the landlord,
As the Irish to the Anglo-Irish,
As the killer is close one moment
To the man he kills,
Or as the moment itself
Is close to the next moment.
She is not an Irish town
And she is not English,
Historic with guns and vermin
And the cold renown
Of a fragment of Church latin,
Of an oratorical phrase.
But oh the days are soft,
Soft enough to forget
The lesson better learnt,
The bullet on the wet
Streets, the crooked deal,
The steel behind the laugh,
The Four Courts burnt.
Fort of the Dane,
Garrison of the Saxon,
Of a Gaelic nation,
The alien brought,
You give me time for thought
And by a juggler’s trick
You poise the toppling hour –
O greyness run to flower,
Grey stone, grey water,
And brick upon grey brick.
— Louis MacNeice