Imrama agus Imbas ag an Bealtaine

I gCuimhne Tadgh Jonathon. Suaimhneas síoraí.

Senbecc grandson of Ebrecc, from the sídhe, came from the plain of Segais seeking imbas, and Cú Chulainn encountered him on the River Boyne. Cú Chulainn captured him, and he explained that he had come looking for the fruit of the nuts of a fair-bearing hazel. There are nine fair-bearing hazels from he got imbas: it used to drop into the wells, so that the stream bears the imbas into the Boyne. Then Senbecc sang to him some of his lore, and a song:

“I am not a lad, I am not a man,

I am not a child in learning.

The mysteries of god had made me gifted.

I am Abcán, a sage of learning, a poet from Segais.

Senbecc is my name, Ebrecc’s grandson from the sídhe.”

Then Senbecc offered great rewards to Cú Chulainn for letting him go free, and Cú Chulainn would not grant it. Then he stretched out his hand to his harp. He played him a wailing-strain, so that he was wailing and lamenting; he played him a laughing-strain so that he was laughing; and finally he played him a sleeping-strain so that he cast him into slumber. Then Senbecc escaped down the Boyne in a bronze boat.

Imrama agus imbas leis an carr

On the first Sunday of the month, I travelled up to Beenalaght early in the morning hoping to conduct my Bealtaine personal decompression ritual at sunrise but unfortunately it was raining down from the heavens all through the half hour drive. By the time I had walked through the field from the car up to the standing stones, it stopped and then continued to pour when I got back to the car after the ritual. I was very lucky on that one but unfortunately still couldn’t catch the sunrise coming through the Bronze Age monuments. Later, my partner suggested that we go to a Bealtaine Fair in a village called Knockanore north of Youghal as a family day trip as she is originally from the area and wanted to show the little seoíge where her mammy spent time as a little girl. The fair was a small craft exhibition in an equally small community hall, and I was inwardly groaning but I came across an exhibit hosted by the KGK (Knockanore Glendine and Kilwatermoy) Heritage and Historical Society. My partner did a face palm. While she went around the various stalls, I was caught up in conversation. They recently (in the last few years previous to the pandemic lockdown) uncovered a Bronze Age burial urn (which is the one pictured on their poster) and donated it to the Cork Museum of History. I had never realised how many standing stones, ogham stones and ring forts were in the area ( and I thought West Cork and East Kerry were heavily populated with them). I was given a printout of a map with very one of the above that the group had located.

I couldn’t go around the area looking for some of these sites as time was pressing on and it was a family day out, but journeys have their rewards and the best ones are those that are completely unexpected (like finding a heritage conservation group in the middle of nowhere). My partner wanted to go to Glendine church which is in a deep small valley halfway between Knockanore and Youghal along the Blackwater to show the seoíge another place of her childhood. On both sides of the road, the floor is carpeted with beautiful blue flowers in between trees for miles. There is a beautiful small waterfall that comes out from under the road and makes up for its size with harmonious noise. There is lime cast steps that lead to nothing up the side of the hill ( I read up later that there was a national school there for several years from 1865 onwards before there ever was a church built there later around 1890 ). There area is so beautiful, it’s no wonder nature is a religion in herself. You could spend hours there just wandering around listening to the water roar in the background just lost in contemplation.

Imrama agus imbas leis an bad

Last year I bought an inflatable two seat kayak and never got the chance to use it for a whole year. Finally, I got out at 5.30am on Sunday morning a week later and headed out to Passage West in Cork Harbour. The water was so calm and there was a thick mist all around. It was nothing but total peace. I paddled up alongside the Greenway (it’s an old railway line that was converted to a cycleway and walkway) between Passage and Rochestown and back. I even went out a small bit out into the mouth surrounding myself with the early morning mist on all sides which reminded me of the Myth of the Gaedhil looking for the shores of Ireland to exact revenge for their slain brother, Ith. In my minds eye, I could see the figure, Amergin, rise up amongst the warriors and sing his famed amhrán (song) which lifted the heavy blanket of fog that the druid’s of the Tuatha Dé shrouded the Island in.

Two Saturday’s later, I brought the seoíge out on the kayak at Garryvoe strand in East Cork which is 5 miles from where I grew up in Mogeely. The wind was fairly strong but it was very warm at the same time. We were cooking in our wetsuits driving down to the beach but once out in the water, it was worth wearing them. Popped her at the seat in the prow and slid into my seat and grabbed the double-sided oar. The water was very choppy and the small one was enjoying being bashed from the sides by the waves and generally being tossed from side to side unless I went perpendicular to them, and the swells have us go up and down smoothly.  At this point, it wasn’t too hard to see Aonbhar, an capal bán naofa  Manannan mac Lír(sacred white horse) rise out of the water and gallop gracefully from crest to crest until his charge has reached the shore. When sppeding to the shore on the boat, in my minds eye, the kayak became the chariot of electrum and the small one a water sprite calling instruction to the white steed of an Domhan Eile Naofa (Sacred Otherworld) for safe passage to land. As well as this inward scene, I could also picture an early expedition of the mythic early Gaedhil exiled from Scythia and searching for a new home:

They found a fair island there,

in the Libyan Sea of the warriors’ swords;

for a year and a season, with renown,

they dwelt on that day;

the radiance of the hands of Lámfhind

was like fair candles.

They had four leaders, it was not feeble,      

after crossing the Libyan Sea:

Elloth, Lámfhind swift across the deep,

Cing and his brother Caicher.

Caicher found a remedy for them   

against the mermaids beguiling;

this is the remedy which fair Caicher found:

pouring wax into their ears.

It is Caicher, an illustrious union,

who prophesied to them

at the Rhipaean mountains, with harmony:

‘There is no rest for us until [we reach] Ireland’.

‘Where is lofty Ireland?’

said Lámfhind the savage warrior.

‘Far away’, said Caicher:   

‘not we but our fair children will reach it.’

They set their course[?] venomously, in their company,

southward past the Rhipaean headlands;

the descendants of Gáedel, with purity,

conquered the Marshes.

An illustrious child was born there  

to Lámfhind son of Agnoman:

Éber Glúnfhind, the pure gryphon,

curly-haired grandfather of Febri.

The kindred of bright nimble Gáedel

were in that land for three hundred years;

they dwelt there from then

until the coming of victorious Bráth.

Occe and Ucce, without reproach,

were the two sons of Elloth son of Noenual;

Mantán son of Caicher, Bráth the good-

those were their four leaders.

Fourteen men, with their wives,

was the crew of each warrior-laden ship,

together with six splendid mercenaries;

they won three battles in Spain.

Imrame agus Imbas leis an rothar

Again this year, I took on a virtual charity cycle (Special Olympics Ireland) for the month of May. The challenge was to either cycle the length (600km) or the breadth (300km) of Ireland. I had to take on the 300km as I didn’t have time this month to even attempt the 600km. On one of these cycles, I set off on a Saturday morning at 5.30am and took the Blarney route. I got to the top of Clogheen Hill and it’s impossible to give justice on what I saw. The morning fog was carpeting the valley at sunrise. I hope the accompanying pictures that I took will strike you the same as it did me that morning. Even the thick mist rising from the small river in the wildlife sanctuary between Blarney village and Killeens was something to stop for. On all cycles, the white blossom veil of the Giving tree of the Sídhe hangs from branches in abundance. Again, these wonders of Nature can bring about a very profound experience.

Another cycle was from Youghal to Kelly’s Cross, going into West Waterford on the main road. It is all uphill and the sun was baking. I reached the cross and sat down for a small break. At the start of the return journey I spotted a single standing stone in the middle of a field to my right (later I checked it on the map above and is the solitary site to the upper right of Ardmore). Halfway way down before the Gaeltacht ends, I passed Cosán Deaglaín Naofa (St. Declans Way) which is a medieval pilgrimage trail from Ardmore, county Waterford to Cashel in Tipperary. Here is the link on its folklore, Home – St. Declan’s Way (stdeclansway.ie) . Historically, Cashel was the seat of the of Munster and wasn’t handed over as a gift to the church until roughly the 10th Century when the roundtower and church was built. The church and round tower in Ardmore date to the 12th Century. Among the medieval sculptures of New and Old Testament biblical scenes, there are two 5th century Ogham stones located there as well.

Guím gach beannacht oraibh agus ar do chosán mar atá sibh á lorg imbas ar do imrama.

Le meas,

Seán Ó Tuama.

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