Bealtaine, the month of May, is just days away! This will mark the 16th year of the Bealtaine Project…my vision of turning marginal, north facing, wet and rushy land in the west of Ireland into a woodland garden and Permaculture Food Forest.
As each year has passed, the land has become more fertile, with crop yields continuing to increase. The Food Forest also continues to expand in many planted and natural ways…edible mushrooms are a growing part of the natural landscape of healthy woodland.
Just recently the old henhouse, previously a playhouse for my two eldest grandsons now grown up, was removed and this opened up a beautiful vista of the growing woodland.
Also, planting against the cottage walls as a form of both insulation and vertical gardening has been a key element in the evolution of the gardens.
Clematis Montana covers the front wall of the cottage and has been planted against the She Shed.
Over the past few months the world has been taken up in its fight against Coronavirus and many countries have been in lockdown, where people are forced to stay in their homes. Sites such as Bealtaine Cottage have become safe, go-to places of sanctuary online…no advertisements, no talking heads and lots of birdsong. It will always be like this, as I planned it to be something that I, myself, would be drawn to…hence many like-minded people come here.
There was a quiet celebration of Bealtaine this year as friends and family are confined to their homes. Despite this, the Bealtaine Fire was lit amid the ushering in of Summer.
Here we are at the start of another year, relishing the thought of Spring and the return of the light as we rise towards Imbolc, the first of the seasonal celebrations in the the Celtic calendar.
Walking up the driveway with Jack this morning I noticed the tips of the Daffodils pushing through the soft, wet earth, though it will be another six or seven weeks before the show of yellow trumpets that will stand to attention on either side of the lane, a sure sign that Spring really is here, despite the occasional slide back into the frosty arms of Winter!
The love affair with white mornings, clear skies and bejewelled skeletons of last Summer’s foliage will be at an end. Mornings will be filled with birdsong and the young golden light of the sun as it rises ever steadily into the midday sky.
I have been very busy, hard at work with multiple chores across the woodland gardens and in the cottage. Part of this work involved cleaning out a small area of the shed opposite the veranda. To my surprise and delight I came across some of my artwork from some years back.
I love to work in watercolour…this was an old cat of mine named Irusan, after the Son of the King of the Cats from Celtic folklore.
Irusan went to stay with my eldest daughter for a while when I was moving to Ireland and she subsequently refused to give him back!
He lived for over seventeen years, passing into the Otherworld last Summer and returning to the ancestral home of Bealtaine Cottage.
Irusan was the most Otherworldly, magical and enchanting cat I have ever known!
Clearing weeds and grass from the gravel has been an ongoing arduous task throughout the winter…it continues with good results!
As does my growing fascination with naturally bonsai trees I rescue from roadside edges and woodland walks. It’s funny how new interests develop as restrictions are imposed, such as the lack of space for planting trees.
Since my family treated me to this beautiful pot, along with bare root trees and bulbs, I have been eyeing up other garden items at Ardcarne, my local garden centre…watch this space!
Viburnum tinus in flower…I have been informed by my eldest daughter Cara, who is something of a horticultural expert, that this makes a wonderful informal hedge. The remains of the Yule tree now supports it from falling out over the path.
It will be interesting to see the results of my heavy pruning in the Apple orchard…more to do!
Rhubarb pushing up in sheltered areas of the gardens.
A tangle of branches in part of the Apple Orchard, waiting to be pruned!
The tunnel still standing in this it’s sixteenth year! Same plastic!
Just look at that depth of leaf fall covering and fertilising the earth as it makes new soil!
Looking North East, towards Slieve Anierin.
The re-birthed Rowan tree through the great Ash overlooking the Fairy Wood.
Giant moss covered stones on the bank above the Fairy Wood.
I have purchased and planted seven Mahonia now in an effort to feed any early-waking bees…there are always a few!
bins…the best food for plants that was never invented, but part of an incredible design by Mother Earth to enable us to feed Her plants, which, in turn give us life!
What to do with a three-legged chair?
Plonk it into the shrubbery where it won’t be sat upon and makes an interesting garden ornament!
Some of my baby trees…beloved babies!
New additions…I shall die in debt! My final ambition!
Jack sees much more than any of us ever will…
Goddess Blessings to you all XXX Colette and Jack
Today is the day after my birthday. The morning is clear and sunny, a brightness fills the air. The woodland gardens are filled with birds eagerly seeking breakfast after a long cold night…and a Sparrow Hawk is hunting for his breakfast too.
He sits atop the bird table, very still, eyeing up the landscape. The small birds have felt his presence and flown! He may have to hunt further afield this cold morning for his breakfast!
To see such a hunting bird visit one’s garden is to witness the re-balancing of Nature in a once impoverished landscape. A very fitting celebration of my birthday, for my heart’s desire was to help Her become restored, vital and once more, abundant!
Rich woodland now surrounds the cottage…a mere few steps from the front door.
Those who talk about leaving Nature to regenerate on Her own in an impoverished landscape know little of the struggles She faces in a world where we have taken everything from Her and then tell Her to get on with it! Fifteen years of careful nurture, love and planting, planting, planting has brought Her back to healthy abundance…now She regenerates!
In the early days of the Bealtaine Project I cut the rushes, millions of rushes…and kept the land clear for my planting, so as the young trees would not be strangled by the monoculture mess of rushes left behind after decades of meat raising.
Yesterday, the day marking my 64th year with Mother Earth, I visited one of the most sacred sites in all of Ireland, Rathcroghan and Oweynagat, The Cave of the Cats…the portal into the Otherworld. Unlike all other cultures, the Celts believed we could cross back and forth to the Otherworld. It was not to be feared, but existed parallel to our own world.
This is from Wikipedia:
Rathcroghan (Irish: Ráth Cruachan, meaning “fort of Cruachan”) is a complex of archaeological sites near Tulsk in County Roscommon, Ireland. It is identified as the site of Cruachan, the traditional capital of the Connachta, the prehistoric and early historic rulers of the western territory. The Rathcroghan Complex (Crúachan Aí) is a unique archaeological landscape with many references found in early Irish medieval manuscripts.
Located on the plains of Connacht (Mag nAí/Machaire Connacht), Rathcroghan is one of the six Royal Sites of Ireland. This landscape which extends over six square kilometres, consists of 240 plus archaeological sites, sixty of which are protected national monuments.
These monuments range from the Neolithic (4000 – 2500 BC), through the Bronze (2500 – 500 BC) and Iron Age (500 BC – 400 AD), to the early medieval period and beyond. These monuments include burial mounds, ringforts and medieval field boundaries amongst others. The most fascinating of these are the multi period Rathcroghan Mound, the mysterious cave of Oweynagat, the Mucklaghs – a spectacular set of linear earthworks, as well as the Carnsmedieval complex.
There are many interesting historic references to Rathcroghan (Ráth Crúachan) recorded in early medieval manuscripts, including the 12th century Lebor na hUidre. Rathcroghan is recorded as the location of one of the great fairs of Ireland, as well as being one of the island’s three great heathen cemeteries. It is also the location for the beginning and end of a national epic tale – an Táin Bó Cúailnge, and the royal seat of Medb (Maeve), Connacht’s Warrior Queen.
Rathcroghan is said to provide entrance to the Otherworld, via Oweynagat (the Cave of the Cats). Sadly, the newly arrived Christians name-called this sacred site, “The Gates of Hell,’ despite the fact that Hell was a new concept to the Celts! The cave is the starting point for the ancient festival of Samhain, as well as being described as the “fit abode” of the Morrigan, a Celtic Goddess of pre-Christian Ireland.
I want to say a big “Thanks and Blessings!” to all who sent me good wishes and birthday presents!
I want to thank all of you who have supported me through Patreon during the past year…Bless you!
Also those of you who donate apart from Patreon…bless you!
Blessings to those who support the Bealtaine Cottage Press through the purchase of a book, map or calendar!
Samhain Blessings to you all
Colette and Jack
Dunluce Castle is a now-ruined medieval site in Northern Ireland, the seat of Clan McDonnell. This is also a place where an early Irish fort once stood.
The first historical recording of the people called the Celts was in Ancient Greece around 700 BC.
Moving from East and Central Europe, the Celts first arrived in Ireland about 500 BC.
The story of their arrival is intermingled with that of the coming of the Tuatha de Danaan, a mythical tribe of the Goddess Danu.
With the arrival of Christianity in the fifth century AD, written records then observe that the Celtic language was being spoken all over the island of Ireland.
However, the Celtic Ogham script was used in Ireland from the fourth century AD to the eighth century AD.
The script consisted of strokes or notches cut along the edge of a standing stone. Therefore, Ogham is seen as being the first written records of life in Ancient Ireland.
The written word was not, however, much required in Celtic life, as the hierarchy placed the storyteller high in importance within the tribe.
Within this is also placed the Druid, whose powers of recall, knowledge and tribal history, as well as poetry and lore, was central to the wellbeing and social standing of the tribe or clan.
In this, the Celts loved storytelling. Before they learned to write, the Celts passed on their stories from one generation to another. Here is my grandfather, Hugh O’Neill of Tyrone, who was both a wonderfully gifted storyteller and musician. My elder brothers, Phelim and Sean are with him by the fireside in Omagh, County Tyrone.
The Celts built large earthen banks or stone walls around their farms to protect themselves and their animals.
These walls were called raths or duns.
Many place names in Ireland include the word rath or dun.
Examples such as Rathcormac and Dunloe come to mind…try looking at a map of Ireland and see how many you can pick out!
Many of the fortified homes were enlarged to become know as Hillforts, offering more protection and domination of the landscape. Oftentimes these sites were used later to build castles and larger settlements.
Ireland is covered with the memories of our ancient tribes and people.<
The summer is fading into autumn, one can feel it in the air. The full force of Lughnasadh dominates the mornings and evenings, cool and silvery, temperature and light heading the change, now no longer subtle.
Cleaning the lower pond on a fine day in early October was, as always, part of preparing for yet another change, that of Lughnasadh into Samhain. Once more, the reflective light of water is welcomed into a darkening environment, as the days contract and clear night skies become as important as daylight, especially when illuminated with a full moon.
The beautiful vase purchased in Rathcormack Market, created from the earth and displaying a wonderful otherworldly kind of beauty. This pottery is called “Raku,” and originates in Japan. The hedgerow bouquet, filled with many magical herbs and flowers, was freely picked as I walked Jack.
I have been exploring many ancient sites in North West Ireland, taking photographs for my upcoming book. Many are to be found near old monastic sites, confirming what I always thought was the specific energy found in these locations and therefore appealing to the more contemporary religion.
The stones hold the energy in many of these sites and can relay the stories if one is prepared to listen…
Rowan Tree in the Fairy Wood
It’s not just the stones that hold onto the stories and act as connections to the Otherworld, trees resonate with Earth magic too and can take the pulse of the land. One learns to read these and tune into what lies beneath and around!
Fennel adds scent, shape and colour to the sitting room. I have brought the old coffee table in from the lodge veranda for a cosier nest for the months ahead.
I shall begin with Bealtaine Cottage… The plan in the beginning was to create a garden with hundreds of trees interspersed with paths that would become a symbol of regeneration and hope in a landscape that represented one of the poorest and therefore cheapest places to create. North-facing, thin, poor soil- my first book, ‘A Cottage and Three Acres,’ details the story well.
(And, by the way, the tunnel is fifteen years old with the original plastic covering…nothing special, 6mm and middle price range in case you are interested!)
The plan evolved into a full Permaculture design in the first year, with swales and ponds, drainage and raised beds, fruit and vegetable gardens and so on. Then, as the years progressed and trees began to grow, the energy changed. It became evident to me and those who were following my journey, (online since around 2010), that Bealtaine Cottage and the Project was heading in a different direction, fuelled by a potent and powerful energy!
Permaculture alone seemed complete and static as the trees began to develop and dominate the landscape. I had to give in to the force that was awakening in the Earth below my feet and so, Goddess Permaculture was birthed!
I explain this by way of the word, “innovate.” The tremendous force of energy that was growing around me innovated Goddess Permaculture.
Innovate: To give new form of that which exists.
This force of Nature was a Divine Feminine force of such tremendous power, that it was impossible to resist. Those who have visited Bealtaine Cottage will bear witness to this energy!
I felt drawn towards the story of the Goddess and began to explore the relationship my ancestors had with this powerful Creatrix. Academics like Maria Gimbutas, opened doors into the world of the Goddess and slowly, slowly, the dire situation developing in the outside world began to make sense! We had abandoned our relationship with the Great Goddess, Mother Earth, fuelled by a belief system that was inherently patriarchal and dominating of Mother Earth.
We had developed a totally extractive way of living with Earth…out for all we could extract from Her…greed has overwhelmed everything!
The overwhelming sense of loss began to be replaced with a powerful sense of regeneration and re-birth. My second book, “In Search of the Goddess Rising,” heralded the beginning of my understanding of the Great Awakening!
Yesterday I felt compelled to write a note on social media, expressing something of the dilemma many people feel and are unable or even fearful to articulate…
As we enter the
We sacrificed our divinity to sky gods, religions, a promised afterlife,
ignoring the sacredness of
the abundance She creates in joy for us all!
We were taught dominion over Her.
And so it is.
In order to move forward and embrace great change, it is imperative we accept what we have done. We are all included here…
Arrogance, hubris and ego will be our downfall if we fail to make the radical changes needed to live in peace with Mother Earth!
There is so much more to say, but I am both mentally and physically exhausted at present and am embracing a regeneration for my own health, in the form of a Juice Fast for the next few weeks.
Blessings to you all XXX Colette and Jack
PS: I noticed that my address on the website had been changed…and have no idea why or how this happened! The past two weeks have been rather strange in that I have not received any mail, which led me to check the address!…please check the website as I have corrected the address. please understand that I don’t have the time to respond to personal emails or letters, though read all.
I am in Derry for the Vegan Festival and will be happy to report all to you on my return home. As you can see from the photos, home is very much in full bloom!
Driving into Northern Ireland from the west of Ireland brings back memories of my youth, much of which involved “the troubles,” as they are referred to…bombings, killings and the constant uncertainty of war.
My father was a Civil Rights leader and our tiny home was a hub for much social and political activity.
I learned over the course of my growing up in Omagh that the world was not fair and equality did not exist in social terms…it had to occupy one’s being instead, like an essential component of one’s own integrity.
My moral backbone grew strong in this respect, as I ventured into the world.
My love of Nature stemmed from this time also. Born at home, delivered by my father into a tiny room where he had himself been born, was a singular honour. I was named Frances after my father, whose name was Phelim Francis O’Neill. The tiny terraced house had only a small concrete yard enclosed by a tall brick wall…there was no garden, or indeed gardens in the area. The grey streets made up a larger area known as “Gallows Hill,” …you can guess what used to happen there in days of old!
So, driving into this part of Northern Ireland brings back memories, none of which are particularly sad. That said, this journey allows me the space and small time to look back over my shoulder and understand why I am this woman and what evolved in me to bring me to where I now find myself. The past is indeed a foreign country, as L.P. Hartley wrote:
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” So runs the famous first line of L.P. Hartley’s novel, “The Go-Between.”
“But men still shoot each other, don’t they?”
Lyra Catherine McKee was a journalist from Northern Ireland who wrote for several publications about the consequences of the Troubles.
She also served as an editor for Mediagazer, a news aggregator website.
On 18 April 2019, McKee was fatally shot during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry.
My journey today has helped me understand who I am…and why I plant trees and tend Mother Earth.
In a time of destruction, create something: a poem, a parade, a community, a school, a vow, a moral principle; one peaceful moment.
When I return home to Bealtaine Cottage, I will plant a tree in honour of Lyra, in hope the tragedy of her death will be the last of so, so many acts of senseless violence and destruction.