Leaving the supernatural behind, we drove straight into the temporal world by visiting Rathbaun Farm. I've been to this family run business at least five times and it never disappoints me to see the delight on the faces of our tour. After a wonderful tea and scone break (with wonderful spread and thick sweet Irish clotted cream and butter to smear on the scones), we proceeded to the barn where Fintan gave us a demonstration of herding the flock of sheep using his sheepdog. Some of our tour also had the chance to feed two very hungry lambs with bottles filled with milk. Fintan also had several breeds of sheep that the tour could look at. Having raised sheep as a youngster out in Woodstock, IL, I found this part of the tour most interesting as there were several breeds such as the Scottish blackface sheep that never made it over to our side of the pond. Others on our tour loved the authentic 200 year old farm house with the original turf fireplace, the thick slate floors and low doorways leading into tiny bedrooms and the always immaculate and ornate parlor. As Kathleen, Fintan's wife says, "they didn't have televisions in the room, no telephones or electric Iights, but they did not need such complications." Indeed, it was perhaps a harder time, but it was a much simpler time in which family was the center. That part of the Farm is still evident in the Family treat everybody received from these two warm, genuine people.
Our next stop was a great example of how the Irish walk in two worlds. A few miles from the modern visitor center at the Moher, Mick stopped the coach beside the holy well of Saint Brigid. A holy well is an ancient site that was originally used for worship by the Druids. Always involving a spring or a “well,” the site would have had curative powers or perhaps a dwelling place of Brede, or Brigid, where she could answer prayers of the supplicants. As Christianity took over, these wells became centers for the newly minted saints, such as Brigid, who retained their powers, but this time in service of the Lord. This well was still in use as a place for prayers for cures and also to ask intercession for the repose of souls of loved ones. The place has much in common with the native practices of the Mexicans and Native Americans. The shrine is covered with prayer cards, notes with prayers and requests for healing, rosaries, pacifiers representing ill babies and even a picture of a firefighter killed on 9/11 in New York. Past the well, on the path to an old cemetery, were hawthorn trees that had prayer cloths tied to them. The cloths were tied by those with particular intentions for healing or other requests and again, they show the physical manifestation of the prayer. Like Native American prayer trees, which I have seen out in South Dakota, one does not dare disturb these offerings. To do so would invoke the wrath of the "Sidhe" or fairies. It can be a confusing, even unsettling mix to someone from America, but for the Irish it defies explanation and only invites acceptance. I personally find it fascinating and deeply comforting as well, that there is a deep mystery to life and that people have found such a deeply moving way to channel their fears and grief that offers them a chance of release.
Read about Day 4
Read about Day 6
Click to start with Day 1