Ireland's Druid School Jul 8, 2014 20:53:07 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Jul 8, 2014 20:53:07 GMT -5
Ancient wisdom on the curriculum at Ireland’s only Druid school
The Celtic Druid Temple, Ireland’s only Druid school, sits on a six-hectare farm surrounded by pine forests near Castlerea in County Roscommon. The summer solstice seems like an ideal time to learn more about the place, so I imagine sitting in on ceremonies and visiting sacred sites, partaking in its archery and leathercraft lessons, or maybe even camping out beneath the stars. But that isn’t quite what they have in mind.
A notice on the school’s website (yes, Druids use the internet) stipulates that any media coverage must be approved before publication, something The Irish Times has a policy against. Con Connor, who runs the school with his partner, Niamh, explains this is because of the long history of misrepresentation surrounding Druidism, dating from Roman times to recent Irish schoolbooks on religion. They do not wish to be misunderstood or portrayed as eccentric cranks.
After consulting with a core community of about 40 Druids, Connor instead proposes an email interview. We proceed with an air of cautious optimism. The most important thing to understand about Druidism, Connor explains, is its reverence for nature.
“Druidism is an expression of the indigenous wisdom tradition of pagan Ireland connecting us to nature as the supreme being and to the spirit of our ancestors.” Put another way, Celtic Druidism is a means of knowing yourself, understanding where you came from and realising your potential. Progressing along that path, Connor says, is to “feel and respect the inherent life-force in all things”.
Curious choice. The internet, then, seems like a curious choice of medium. (More than 12,000 people worldwide follow the school’s feed on Facebook.) At first Connor jokes that if they trained pigeons or sent messengers with ogham (an early-medieval alphabet) carved on sticks, people would probably find that fascinating too. But I ask again, hoping for clarity.
“Modern communication technology has many benefits but the virtual world simply starves our spirit as it isolates us from the natural world,” comes the reply. “We must visit real forests to see, feel and connect with nature because this nurtures our spirit.”
This connection isn’t just philosophical conjecture, according to Connor. It involves a practical, hands-on approach that means getting your hands dirty by chopping wood, carrying water, planting trees, growing crops and cleaning sacred sites.
Part of the attraction is that spirituality takes on a different dimension outdoors. Today the solstice will be celebrated with a pilgrimage to Croagh Crom (better known as Croagh Patrick), and every full moon the school also organizes open ceremonies at the Hill of Tara, in County Meath, and Rath Niamh, in County Roscommon.
Source: Cian Traynor, The Irish Times, June 21, 2014.