Monday, November 16, 2009

Oireachtas 2009-Heading for Denver

On Thursday morning we head for Denver for the Western Region Irish Dance Championships.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Westport and Croagh Patrick

Westport Town, County Mayo

There is a real swan in there with the swan boats.

Flower baskets everywhere.  They were so pretty.


Known in Irish Celtic as Cruach Phádraig and colloquially as "the Reek," Mt. Croagh Patrick has been a sacred site since ancient times. Before the arrival of Christianity, the Celtic people regarded the mountain as the dwelling place of the deity Crom Dubh.

The mountain was the focus of the harvest festival of Lughnasa, traditionally held around August 1. The sacred mountain was especially important for women, who would sleep on the summit during Lughnasa to encourage fertility.

Neolithic art can still be seen on a rock outcropping known as "St. Patrick's Chair" along the path to the top, and a Celtic hill fort was recently uncovered at the base of the mountain.

According to Christian tradition, St. Patrick went up the sacred mountain at festival time in 441 AD. After fasting at the summit for 40 days, he banished all the snakes and demons from Ireland.

The site quickly became an important place of Christian pilgrimage. A stone oratory dating to between 430 and 890 AD was recently discovered on the summit.


Mt. Croagh Patrick is the most important Catholic pilgrimage destination in Ireland. Nearly one million visitors, most of them pilgrims, climb to the top every year. Almost 30,000 pilgrims make the trek on the last Sunday in July, known as "Reek Sunday."

For most Catholics who visit Mt. Croagh Patrick, especially on Reek Sunday, the pilgrimage to the top of the sacred mountain is an act of penance. Accordingly, some untake the journey barefoot or even on their knees. The summit has a small chapel where Mass is held each day.

The full pilgrimage route originates in the village of Murrisk, 8km outside Westport. The first main sight on the pilgrimage path is a statue of St. Patrick, erected in 1928 by a Westport pastor. Although it is not one of the official stations it has become a place of prayer and makes a good goal for those not able to climb all the way to the top.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Céide Fields

So just when you think you're getting the hang of Gaelic, they give you Céide Fields. I'm cool with "fields" but the "Céide". Kady-Kidy-Katy-Kity-WRONG! "Kay-Ja" Fields-who knew.

This was absolutely the most impressive place to me. The one place I just couldn't wrap my mind around. Céide Fields is an area where the remains of ancient (work on that word in your "growing up in the US" brain) stone field walls, houses and tombs are preserved beneath a blanket of peat over several square miles.

Have you worked on "ancient"? I grew up in Southern California. Our chain of Missions up the California Coast are the oldest buildings/ruins I've ever seen. Maybe a few hundred years old. And you East Coasters can add a few hundred years onto that.

The Céide Fields are the oldest known field systems in the world, over five and a half millennia old. That's before Christ. It's beyond what my mind can fathom.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

A little Gaelic for you.

Caisleán Bhun Raithe, meaning Castle at the Mouth of the Ratty

We stopped at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park on our way North to County Mayo. The present castle dates back to 1425. There are four towers to climb up to, a banquet hall, many furnished rooms and even a dungeon. The Folk Park is a reproduction of a 19th Century Village. Very cool! There were different types of buildings, cottages, farm equipment and lots of animals.

Are you supposed to ride the cannon?

A little girl and a little door.

Do you see "first born" written all over this?

The countryside from one of the towers.

Flying the pride.

You can just make out the flag where we were on top of the tower.

One of the reproduction cottages.

Sweet pony. The girl is sweet most of the time.

There was a "Viking Faire" going on while we were there. This was the coolest display of birds. He must have had 30 or 40 birds of pray. Even a California Condor.

Barn Owl hiding in his box.