Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Magical Meath, part 3: Newgrange passage tomb

The main focus of our recent jaunt round County Meath was a visit to Newgrange passage tomb. Newgrange is part of a complex of monuments built along a bend of the River Boyne known collectively as Brú na Bóinne and it was a place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance in Neolithic times. It was constructed by a farming community that prospered on the rich lands of the Boyne Valley over 5,000 years ago (about 3,200 B.C.), making it older than Stonehenge in England and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Far out.

Along with the nearby mounds of Knowth and Dowth (and about 35 smaller mounds in the area), Newgrange has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is a large kidney-shaped mound covering around an acre and retained at the base by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 19 metre long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof which has remained water-tight for all of its 5,000 year history. Far out.

Here's Danny crossing the powerful Boyne river. It is said that anyone who drinks from the Boyne in June will become a poet and even though we visited in June, the river was flowing so fast that I was scared to approach the banks for a sup lest I be swept away! 

This is the lightbox through which the rising winter solstice sun passes, illuminating the inner chamber. Ten lucky people are chosen from a ballot to be present in the chamber for the solstice but we had to make do with a simulation of the light travelling through the passage and into the large chamber but unfortunately photography is not allowed inside. The famous kerbstone outside it is carved with swirling symbols about whose meaning we can only guess because the people who carved it died 5,000 years ago. Far out.

I loves me some magic rocks. This one is a remnant of an old stone circle surrounding Newgrange.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Magical Meath, part 2: clootie tree

 I have been to Tara before but somehow was unaware that there is the most wonderful clootie tree there.
I've blogged before about a clootie tree we found in Connemara and St.Aiden's clootie well in Benevanagh but this is the most magical one yet.

  Lone hawthorn trees are usually known as fairy thorns in Ireland and those which are associated with a nearby sacred spring sometimes become 'clootie trees'. The branches are adorned with rag votives as an offering to a local deity, or more often in today's Catholic Ireland to accompany a prayer.

This tree is covered in the biggest array of objects I've ever seen, I suspect mostly left by tourists who have no knowledge of the age-old pagan practice they are taking part in! There are strips of material, hair bobbles, jewellery, christmas decorations, bits of plastic, cuddly boys and empty baggies all adorning this fairy thorn.

Another practice seen on trees in Ireland and Scotland and is to wedge coins into grooves in the bark of the tree and this thorn also has holy medals tucked away in the crannies of branches. It really is a wonder to behold. Here's the 10p offering we left.

The Hill of Tara itself is a sacred place which served as the spiritual and political capital of Ireland until at least the 6th Century. It was important since neolithic times and is part of the Bru na Boinne area which encompasses the nearby 5,000 year old passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. It can be hard to distinguish the true history of Tara from the many mythological stories about it, but why should we want to ruin that romance; the truth about what went down there in the past would probably turn out to be just as mind-blowing as the folklore associated with the site.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Magical Meath, part 1: Rath Maeve

At the weekend Danny and I escaped the big bad city and went to County Meath for two nights. We intended to camp on the first night but the rain put paid to that plan and instead we stayed in a lodge right opposite the entrance to the Newgrange complex of 5,000 year old passage tombs.

But more of that later. These photographs are from a little known ancient enclosure called Rath Maeve, which I henceforce claim as my spiritual home (my name is Maeve in case you didn't know). Maeve was an important Goddess and a fearsome queen who was married to nine successive high kings of Ireland.

Rath Maeve is a 750ft enclosure just a couple of minutes down the road from the hill of Tara, the seat of the high kings of Ireland which is often referenced in mythology. It is a simple large clearing with earthworks around much of the perimeter and an opening facing towards Tara. There is a beautiful peacefulness about the place, but then I'm biased because it was named after me.

Home at last.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A headless virgin

So you may remember that I had an exhibition in April that required me to transport virtually everything I own down to the PS2 project space, and then all back home again a month later. I was prepared for the simple fact that not everything would survive the perilous journey in the back of a van.

Mary was the sole casualty.
Mary is a treasured piece of my weird holy paraphenalia collection but she had already befallen a decapitation and been glued together again before I even bought her so this breakage was not a huge surprise. I did intend to glue her back together again but as with most decrepit things I own, I get to like them as they are after a while.

I found this glass cloche in TKMaxx the other day and a virgin's head seemed the only sensible thing to put under it. The gold frame was a bargain charity shop find and the photograph in it was one I took in Galway and exhibited in a photographic exhibition I had many moons ago. The actual sheep's skull was found on a separate jaunt (my mum wouldn't let me bring the one in the photo into her home!)

In case you're interested, the tall candle stick came from a Greek pottery studio we visited on honeymoon, the material came from Thailand and the tray is made up of loads of real butterfly wings. It's one of my favourite finds ever. Gosh It's all a bit macabre isn't it?

pretty garland goodness

I was racking my brains for a new papercraft activity to do at Sunday's class and then I remembered these streamer garlands that have popped up all over the blogosphere in recent months. And they really are the quickest, easiest and sweetest way to decorate a party. In fact I'd have this bit of girly fluffiness  up year-round.

(p.s. the picture is a charity shop find and is of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. I love it because it goes the with beautiful wooden figurines of those two dudes that my mum brought back from her first trip to Spain in the 70s, and which I've now appropriated.)

All you need for the garlands is some string, some tissue paper and scissors. And that's it! Cut lengths of tissue paper, gather some together and twist a 3 inch section in the centre. Then fold it in half over the string and twist the two halves together. You can add a little glue if you want to keep it in place but I didn't bother.

Et voila! I'll be making this again for sure.

I brought it down to my sister in law's awesome salon where I have a little cabinet full of lost & found wares like wedding bouquets and record bowls. My 'shop' drastically needs a make-over so hanging the garlands in the cabinet is the start of the beautifying process. Now to drag myself off the sofa and make some signage and price tags. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Once a carnie, always a carnie

I led one of my paper craft classes at the Crescent Arts Centre on Sunday and we did a couple of new crafts, including this big top made from an old book. I've been making book trees (below) for the past couple of christmases but never realised that by making just one fold instead of three, you end up with this circus tent design!

Wouldn't it be cute decorating a kid's room or birthday party? My lack of offspring won't stop me from displaying it in the house though. I like it because husband Danny and I met while working at a giant ferris wheel in Belfast so we're practically circus folk ourselves.

In Sunday's class we made the book trees/big tops, 3-D hanging stars, streamer garlands, giant paper pompoms and origami crane garlands. If you fancy learning some papercraft all of my classes will be repeated in the next term of the Crescent's jam-packed programme. 


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Beach Party

Summer has officially started ya'll - I've been to my first beach party of the summer. Within 30 minutes of hearing about the party Danny and were in a car on our way from Belfast to Portstewart for a little gathering in the dunes.

There were about 50 of us, a boombox, a toasty fire and good craic.



Arrival at the beach under the last of the sun's rays.


And a staple of every party in this country - Buckfast tonic wine.
Followed by the short walk home to my parent's house.
Don't you just love those nights that bring you somewhere you hadn't expected to be, having more fun than you were expecting to have? Would that there were more nights like this one.