by Steward of the Wood
Tara! Tara…symbolizes one of the most celebrated, sacred sites for all Celts, especially those of us with Druid connections. “And here I am…at Tara,” Steward of the Wood said out loud to himself. “Over the years of training in Druidry, I envisioned walking here among the Ancient Ones, gaining sensory images and trying to learn and understand the teachings,” he thought. And he made it. Little did he know, or could envision, what was about to unfold. Magick was afoot.
The Hill of Tara nestles into the landscape a few miles southeast of the sacred Boyne River. Visible from Tara, the ancient passage tombs of Knowth and Bru na Boinne watch silently but powerfully from hill tops about ten miles to the northeast. During ancient ceremonies, fires on these sites could be seen from one hill to another. This part of Ireland is truly a sacred landscape.
Arriving late in the day, Steward walked the site just before dusk, the liminal time when the Veil between the mundane world and the Other World assumes the form of mist. This is a time when the Ancestors and Nature Spirits roam freely among mortals and time is ephemeral. The Goddess Boann blessed him as the overcast sky began to rain lightly enhancing the feeling of being in the time and space between worlds. It was easy to see why the Ancestors chose this site as it is equal in elevation to the other hills as far as the eye could see. On a clearer, brighter day, Steward would be able to see for miles in any direction. Lush, thick, verdant grass covered the entire site with a few scattered hawthorn trees (faery trees); the earthen mounds were the only things that interrupted the field of view. It was quiet to the point of being eerie with only an occasional bird flying over and sheep peacefully grazing. A pastoral smell of earth, grass, and sheep manure, permeated the air but it was gentle and pleasant. It was the smell of the earth… of Danu.
Sensing the presence of ancient spirits, Steward communed with the Triad: Gods and Goddesses, Nature Spirits, and Ancestors. He introduced himself as a Druid with Ancestors from Ireland and asked them to allow him to visit and commune with them, gaining wisdom and understanding of this sacred site and how it fit with the patterns of the earth. Steward called on Ogma, the God of wisdom and magick, to teach him and help him gain the wisdom of a Druid. After a lifetime of studying earth wisdom and spirituality and dedicating himself to becoming a Druid four years ago, Steward longed to learn. “I feel impatient with myself,” he mused. Druidism has become integral to his way of life and he savored the signs of progress. “Sometimes it is hard not to question whether I am making enough progress,” he thought. “Open up and be present in this time and place,” he said out loud as if to chide.
After pausing a few minutes atop the Mound of the Hostages, Steward of the Wood headed south toward the flat topped, earthen mound that comprises the site of Cormac’s House. The ankle-high, wet grass brushed his boots as he walked, making a faint swooshing sound. Light rain continued to fall, ensuring life for the lush vegetation. He mounted the low hill and emerged on a flat top which was perhaps 50 feet wide. “Ancestors and Nature Spirits, I come to you this day asking for permission to enter your sacred space and commune with you,” he declared in a loud clear voice. Their consent enveloped him in calmness; and a tingling, excited feeling overtook Steward as they welcomed a Druid in their midst.
There in the middle of the hill was the fabled Lia Fáil, the Inauguration Stone, phallic in shape and about five feet tall. He lovingly approached it, circling in a deiseil fashion, praying to the Spirit of the stone, and asking permission to approach. “I am a Druid and I praise you, Lia Fáil, stone of many legends, I humbly seek to learn from you,” he intoned.
As he gently reached out to touch it, Steward was overtaken by a scene of the inauguration of Cormac Mac Airt, Ulfhada (long beard), as the Ard Rí (High King). The year was A.D. 227 [although nobody else there knew it -ed] and he was engulfed in a great gathering of the clans to celebrate the inauguration. The excitement and feeling that overtook him was palpable. “What happened?” Steward thought as he questioned his sanity.
People gathered from all over Ireland. Colorful tents and wooden structures covered the sacred site and hundreds of people were there. Steward could see Cormac walking around and talking with people. He was dressed in a brightly colored tunic of red and green with his iron armor shining. He wore a fine helmet with a raven on top, its wings moving slightly as he moved his head. The handle on his sword bore a swirling Celtic design with silver and gold intertwined. The glossy, leather scabbard was also highly adorned.
Cormac stopped to talk with an almost-equally adorned warrior. As Steward walked up to join the small crowd surrounding them, he realized that he too wore the tunic and armor of a Celtic Warrior and noticed how heavy it was, feeling like he was carrying a backpack weighing at least 30 pounds. He overheard Cormac address the other warrior as “Fionn” and he realized quickly that this was Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn mac Cool), leader of the famed Fianna Eireann. Fionn was surrounded by several of his warriors and they were all dressed in their finery in preparation for the marriage of kingship (Banais Ríghe) of Cormac with Sovereignty of Ireland in the form of a beautiful white mare.
“Fionn mac Cumhaill, son of the great warrior, Cumhaill, the marriage of kingship is upon us and we will celebrate with the Feast of Tara (Feis Temro) to mark this event. We are glad you and the Fianna Eireann, Protectors of this Isle, have joined us,” said Cormac.
“Greetings, honored Ard Rí,” said Fionn. “Your marriage and feast will be sumptuous and remembered by the Bards for all ages,” he continued. Loud cheering followed these words as more and more of the Fianna and others around them took up the chant, “Ard Rí, Ard Rí,” banging their weapons on their shields. The noise was almost deafening.
As the clamor died down, Steward heard the squealing of pigs in the distance as they were being prepared for the feast. The delicious aromas of the cooking food were mixed with the pungent smell of wood smoke from the cooking fires. The smoke contributed to a bit of haze over the Hill but at least it wasn’t raining. Being twilight, the haze added even more to the ephemeral appearance of the Hill.
The general clamor of people talking, food preparation occurring, and children playing was thundering as Steward strained to hear Cormac and Fionn talk. Fionn was accompanied by three other warriors who appeared to be members of the Fianna. I wondered if they were Oisín, Diarmait, and Caílte. Finally I got close enough to hear Fionn compliment Cormac’s prowess in his most recent battle with the King of Connacht as Cormac sought to bring the recalcitrant men of Connacht under his rule. In turn, Cormac told Fionn that he could not have done so without the crucial help of the Fianna.
As he stood listening to Cormac and Fionn, Steward noticed a man dressed in a white robe and wearing a gold torc staring at him. He wore his hair long but it was shaved in the front of his head. As he looked at Steward with piercing blue eyes, he walked over and asked in a somewhat hushed tone close to Steward’s ear, “Are you Steward of the Wood?”
Steward replied, “Yes,” also in a hushed tone. The Druid said that he had a message for Steward as he moved away from the crowd and motioned Steward to follow.
They walked to a relatively private spot and he identified himself as Cathaír, the Druid. He said, “Steward of the Wood, Long Traveler, in my journey to the Other World a few days ago, I received a vision from Ogma that you would be visiting. He gave me a message for you. He said that you were a Druid from another time and far away from Eire. Ogma told me your studies are rewarded with knowledge about the Triad as well as the patterns of energy flow in the earth. He hears your requests for assistance and he will work with you.”
Cathaír looked at Steward with a questioning glance. “Do you understand?”
To which, Steward replied “Clearly. I have sought the advice of Ogma many times and am honored that he has heard me and seen the sincerity of my actions.”
Cathaír continued, “The Gods and Goddesses have seen and felt your presence at many sacred sites across the earth, on this Isle and beyond. They know that you have been seeking them and your Ancestors. The Nature Spirits told them that they feel your welcoming presence in the forests, beckoning them to commune with you. The spirits of the trees and streams love your gentle touch and they connect with your ancient spirit. Your magickal name fits you well, Steward of the Wood. Danu, our Earth Mother, loves you and your dedication to her and all her children. Your Ancestors take pride in your leadership and all your work to learn about them and especially your efforts to share this hard-won knowledge with your living kin. They feel your love and acknowledgement and are grateful for it. Through you and their living kin, they continue to live.”
His final message to Steward spoke of hardships. “Ogma told me to speak to you of a never-ending journey. Through your past lives, you have gained much wisdom and sometimes painful experiences. These serve you well now. At least during this lifetime, you will be a Long-traveler…a Seeker. You are fated to journey ceaselessly to sacred sites, to visit beings who can teach you and Ogma will be your guide. It is lonely at times, but your reward is passing on the knowledge that you have gained. Your greatest joy will be in reviving and sharing the knowledge of the Celts and their Gods and Goddesses and the Nature Spirits. Of equal joy will be demonstrating the nurturing value of having a personal relationship with the Ancestors. You are blessed, Steward of the Wood!”
At this, Cathaír clasped Steward’s hand in friendship, gave him the smile of a true brother and knowledge seeker. Returning from a state of awe and reverence, Steward said, “Honored Cathaír, I don’t know what to say. This acknowledgement is unexpected and I thank you for this wonderful news. I am so grateful that you were willing to carry the message to me.” Without saying another word, Cathaír quickly moved away into the crowd leaving Steward in stunned silence.
As Cathaír moved away, Steward experienced a shift in time back to the twilight presence where he began seemingly hours ago, but actually only a few minutes. Steward thought, “Did Ogma cause the shift in time? Had he been the one who drew me to Ireland in the first place?” Steward thought to himself, his mind was racing with questions. “I have prayed to Ogma many times, seeking his help and guidance. Even though I had learned to sense a measure of ‘leadings’ from my prayers, I had not felt a strong direct guidance. How would that change? Should I journey to the Otherworld in hopes of contacting him directly? Would Spirits be his intermediaries? Steward was stunned but exceedingly pleased by everything that just happened. He wanted to stay in the past. Steward gratefully raised his voice to Tara, “Oh powerful Ogma and my Ancestors, especially Cormac and Fionn, I thank you for allowing me to learn with you, to see you and begin to understand. I will never forget the grandeur of what I saw. Cathaír, I thank the Gods for you and your message.”
Descending the mound of Cormac’s House, he began to walk back across the Hill of Tara to his waiting car. Visiting Tara was a dream come true. The Gods and Goddesses, especially Ogma and Danu, the Ancestors, and the Nature Spirits seemed so close. What an incredible feeling. What a mystical and magickal site.
Footnote: Spirituality infuses everything and everyone at Tara if you open up to the experience. It is truly a place where all Druids should go and commune. Prepare yourself before the visit to understand better what you are seeing and sensing. Read about Tara, including the legends of Cormac, Fionn, and others. Tara is nourishing and reenergizing to the Druid spirit.
Our spirituality is growing stronger in the world and visiting these sacred sites and reconnecting with our past and present helps its growth. We as individuals are strengthened as are the Gods and Goddesses, the Ancestors, and the Nature Spirits. They feel our strength as their influence and power grows. It is a mutually-beneficial service. As we grow, then they grow; and in turn, our Druid community grows.
Walk with wisdom.