Away With The Fairies: Danu, The Tuatha Dé, The Land & Me

Unsuspecting, fairy agnostic Bee landed in Ireland in 2001 and settled in the shade of Slieve Anieran, the mountain where the Tuatha dé Danaan first arrived in what was known as Erin. Over the years a relationship with the goddess they worshiped has unfolded with the land, even more than the myth associated with this band that latterly became the fairy race of Ireland, being spirit guide and mentor.

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Giant's Graves and Tall Tales

Giants are part of mythology, right?  Here I stand before a 'genuine' giant's grave, looking across a dry river valley towards another wedge tomb. The finger post would like to say that this one belongs to a giantess and the other a giant. The shaman in me says 'Humph!" to the finger post. One of the group I am tour leading says that since this point is higher than the other wedge tomb it is obvious that the higher status male would be buried here. The feminist in me who is familiar with goddess lore wants to say 'Humph!" to him, too.

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 There are many of these Bronze Age tombs, the 'youngest' of the megalithic tombs littering the Irish countryside. Wedge tombs like these Giants Graves are a mere 4,000 years old (give or take a millennium). They are most certainly  meters long, roomy enough for an extended family of average sized  21st century humans. Given that the Celts in Cavan seemed to favor cremation, there are no bones for a paleontologist to verify physical size.

As you can see, there are many ways into the Giant's Grave Story.  Before the new trails were built up to the Giant's Graves, making them more accessible to the public, there was a self-seeded beech nemeton at what the finger post would say was the male grave. Now, I have been up there with a gifted medium who felt the energy was very feminine. To me, beech trees are matriarch trees.  So in that light the Giant's Grave might have been a female's grave.

But on the other hand, in the days when giants were striding around sowing these mythic tales, it was the mystic marriage with the goddess who gave sovereignty to a chieftain. So perhaps the grave pictured above really was a female giant's grave. Women did have status back in the day.

Or here is another take on the Grave. This is truly a great height. On a clear day you can see Fermanagh and Lough MacNean in the north.  All 666 meters of Cuilcagh Mountain, where the river Shannon is burbling underground, is just to the east. Face northwest and you can see the misty outline of Dartry Mountain in Donegal; dead west is Leitrim's Benbo and further is the chain of dramatic drumlins charging towards the Sligo coast. Turn a full 360 degrees and you can see Lough Allen shimmering in the sunshine; on a clear day you can just make out Slieve Anieran, where the Tuatha dé Danaan first arrived in Erin. Beyond that the wind turbines on Arigna Mountain in North Roscommon lazily turn. They sometimes catch some sun glare and wink at you.

Then turn south east and you see the Bellavally Gap. It was here that the magical smith Gaibhnen had his forge where he created the magical swords and spears of the Tuatha dé Danaan. After kings and high priests, smiths were very high status Celts. Since they used the four elements of earth (willow for charcoal), fire, air (hide bellows) and water, they enjoyed a very high status indeed. It was only when the secret of Gaibhnen's forge was infilitrated that the Tuatha dé Danaan were defeated at the Second Battle of Moytura by the Milesians. Smiths were considered magicians since they shape shifted form; they were the earliest alchemists.

So up at this Giant's Grave we get a good view of the Bellavally Gap which Gaibhnen's Giant Green Cow, Bo Glas Gaibhleann ran amuck, carving the Gap in the first place. Perhaps this is Gaibhnen's Grave? The alternative could be the cairn atop Cuilcagh. But surely a goddess would bag that spot, just as Maeve reposes at Knocknarea just to the west in Sligo?

I value the work of archaeologists and those who beaver away at discerning the everyday details of our ancestors. But up at these heights I enjoy playing with story.  So many stories we tell ourselves.  Which ones do we need to help future generations keep heart? Can we become Giants again? Can we lift our eyes up and dream of the stars?

The blog post image is by Sara Garcia Hiolito (https://www.facebook.com/naturewithsara) of the wedge tomb on the Cavan Burren. Ursa Major shines overhead.

 

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Bee is a former columnist for Sagewoman, published poet, Brigit and Danu devotee (more about this later) and creatrix of guided walks and talks on the theme of Fairy Ireland and pilgrimage leader for Imbolc celebrations of Brigit in Ireland. You can learn more about tours on her website www.irishblessingstours.com.

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