In the spring of 2018, I guided 13 women on a sacred pilgrimage to Ireland—the land of their ancestors and a very special place that has preserved much of the mysteries of earth-based, pre-Christian traditions. Each of us journeyed there with our own intentions, and our week together culminated with a powerful ritual to welcome in the season of light with a great fire (more on that below).
I wanted to give you a little recap of what we experienced there since it was such a powerful week for so many of us (including me!). I hope it inspires you on your own journey—whether that be to the lands of your ancestors or the navigation of the inward path.
The sacred cat stone on Uisneach—the center point of Ireland
We began together in the Glen of Imaal, in the Wicklow Mountains, by opening our circle and spending time and care making agreements about how we were going to treat each other, principles of reciprocity, confidentiality, self-responsibility, and reverence of lineage. We practiced the art of sistering (witnessing, empty presence, deep compassion), created our altar, and set our intentions for our time together on ancient land.
Karen Ward, a Dubliner who connects women to Celtic tradition and the moon, led us in sacred ceremony on The Hill of Tara—including the maiden rites of Grainne, a journey with the grandmother hawthorn fairy tree, meeting Sheela Na Gig, and circling the Lia Fáil – the stone of Destiny.
Karen and I at the Well of the White Cow on Tara
Karen also shared with us the beauty and magic of the goddess Brigid, in Kildare. We visited her fire temple, saw the eternal flame being kept by the 3 Solas Bride sisters, and blessed ourselves and each other with the water from her healing and garden wells.
Karen giving me the fire blessing of Brigid in Kildare
We explored the forest together (both within ourselves and in the Glen of Imaal) and crafted our own Celtic tree ogham medicine bags and incense blends with local herbalist and artist Sherrie Scott.
Women’s ceremony before greeting the men and lighting the fire on Bealtaine
We traveled to the Hill of Uisneach (often referred to as the navel of Ireland and a place many don’t know about, and easily pass on the road with its cloak of invisibility) to join in on the Bealtaine fire festival. Bealtaine (pronounced “ bee-YAWL-tinnuh”, also known as Beltane) symbolizes the beginning of the season of light and the end of winter.
For thousands of years, a great fire was burned on this hill, as the community gathered to celebrate the great union of the masculine and feminine energies—represented by goddess of the land, Eiru and sun god Lugh.
Goddesses of Bealtaine feeling our timelessness after lighting the fire on Uisneach
Our group was honored to be asked to participate in the women’s ceremony—carrying fire torches in and around the bonfire, dancing and sending energy out to every corner of the world. I’m still struggling to find the words to adequately describe the experience of being on that hill on that night with that fire. It was powerful and will remain in my bones for many lifetimes.
After taking some time to recover from and integrate our experiences with the great fire, we completed our time together in sacred ceremony and danced the night away at our final high dinner with traditional musicians and dance lessons.
Photos taken by myself, Katina Mercadante, and Ewelina Wu