Posts Tagged With: Ireland

Book Review: Confessions of a Pagan Nun

Confessions of a Pagan Nun

Kate Horsley’s fascinating novel is about an adept caught in the shifting landscape of the Pagan Religion and Christianity in 6th century Ireland.  Not only does it document the times, but also allows us a real taste of the struggle those based in the Earth Religions endured.

Perhaps even importantly, Horsley leads us into the heart and mind of one so troubled, with the internal conflicts she faces between what she knows as her soul’s truth and the instinct for physical survival. This tale is as haunting and bittersweet as it is joyful. Readers may come to find relevance for their own lives in weighing the prices we pay for the choices we make.

Available via Amazon and other bookstores.

Categories: Book Review, Indigenous Rights, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Holy Places

A Chance Encounter

In July 2012 I visited Ireland with my folks. We’d driven to the Cliffs of Moher finding the coast socked in with fog, nothing visible. Somewhat disappointed, we continued on the narrow, winding road toward the village of Liscannor following the map back to the cottage where we were lodged miles beyond. I almost didn’t see the small sign pointing off to the right that said: Saint Brigid’s Holy Well.

At the time, I didn’t know anything about Saint Brigid or Ireland’s holy wells. But I did know that springs, caves and other natural formations are often special places of ceremony and prayer for ancient and present-day peoples who connect with the Creator through those means. Due to the countless rituals and natural properties of such sites, pronounced energy resides in an ongoing way, a container. I’ve experienced many of them.


Altar at Saint Brigid’s Holy Well.
Photo: Carla Woody

 Saint Brigid’s Holy Well

The holy well wasn’t immediately apparent. In fact, we doubled back on the country lane that took us way back in farmers’ fields to return to the original intersection. On top of the hill was a cemetery but below was a small courtyard. Tucked into the hill was a slit just wide enough to hold one person. Visible even from the outside, figures of saints sat in a tight row leading into the darkened inner chamber; layers of rosaries adorned them. The short path ended in front of the spring. Prayer cards, handwritten messages and photos of loved ones covered the walls. One step inside and there was no doubt that we had entered sacred space; the energy was palpable. Petitions for healing, devotion and hope hung in the air. My mother said she felt sadness. I’m sure that was present, too.

But there was also celebration and gratitude. The note from five year-old Jimmy Delany said that at three weeks old he stopped breathing in his mother’s arms. He was revived but in a coma. He recovered without the side effects expected by the docs—that he’d be a “vegetable.” “Unexplainable,” they said.

Jimmy Delany's Note of Thanks

Jimmy Delany’s note of thanks.
Photo: Carla Woody

Holy Waters

Holy Waters
Photo: Carla Woody

I stayed there for quite a while, long after my folks went ahead to the cemetery, and performed my own ritual. Kneeling before the spring, I dipped my palms and brought the waters over my head, whispering my own prayer. And in that moment, I felt the sweetest sense of fullness, an energy transmission that deposited itself in my sacral chakra. I have no other way to speak of it—and it’s with me still, present every morning during meditation.

On the stairs up to the cemetery a small tree was covered with ribbons, small pieces of cloth and more rosaries. An old custom most often maintained by Ireland’s Travellers, when something is hung from a “rag tree” it’s believed to heal the person it belongs to as the item weathers and disintegrates.

I had no foreknowledge that: “…This site has a particularly mysterious atmosphere which may be felt at once by the pilgrims as they enter…” But I can speak from experience just as from other times at the holiest of places.

Before being claimed by the Christians, Brigid was known as the “exalted one” credited with miraculous healings and patron saint of the Celtic Druids. Saint Brigid’s crosses are seen all over Ireland. The story goes that, after healing a chieftain, she made a cross out of rush in thanks. I bought one to bring home but I need no reminder of my time at her holy well.

Categories: Healing, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

My Imagination Runs Wild

NJ airport

Newark, NJ Airport
©2012 Carla Woody

At this point I’ve lost track of how many hours I’ve been up without sleep in transit from Ireland back home. I’ve just spent two weeks traversing Counties Clare, Kerry and Waterford on my folks’ 60th anniversary trip where I was their willing driver. We had quite memorable travels and I’ll probably share bits of it over time. I’ve been up since 1:30 AM Ireland time for a wake-up at 5 AM—and it’s gone on from there.

But now I’m sitting in the Newark, NJ airport in a restaurant called Gallagher’s Steakhouse tucked into a corridor in the back, thankfully away from the chaos of the airport. I was attracted by the Caesar salad with grilled shrimp, there being a noticeable absence of fresh veggies in the last two weeks.

My folks are safely settled over in Terminal A waiting for their plane home and I’m here in C with another four hours yet before I take the next leg. You’d think that with the many hours of travel and absolutely no sleep, plus the onerous stress of travel these days, that I’d just want to veg and people watch. Part of that was true.

Gallagher's Steakhouse

Gallagher’s Steakhouse
©2012 Carla Woody

If you sit in a place long enough you begin to notice the dynamics of the interactions or let your imagination run wild—at least I do. I guess the first thing that sparked my interest was when the server approached my table, a dead ringer for Hattie McDaniel, in a black and white uniform. It was clear in no time that she ran the show, firing off side retorts to the other servers and some kind of gesture shorthand I didn’t understand—and they immediately snapped to. Or a look that screwed up her face and they scurried away in response. I filed away a mental note for a potential story later.

My mind quickly ran off to other times when I sat in restaurants, parks or other places and gave myself leeway to imagine the lives of the inhabitants.


In 1998 I sat in a pub in Brighton, England passing time. I happened to have a journal with me. I’d been leisurely observing two elderly gentlemen on their third or fourth stout: Beamish. Paul McCartney singing “Yesterday” came through the sound system and one of the gentlemen softly sang along under his breath, ending with “Ahhhh…yesterday.”

Spud's Place

Spud’s Place
©2012 Carla Woody

“Do you remember when Hudson’s used to be down along the corner? Now they were ones who offered service, not like it is today. They had those boys with bicycles and baskets.”

“Yea…delivery. And they had so many things. Sometimes they’d even throw in the odd bottle of wine. You know, to show your worth to them.

A few minutes passed in silence.

“Yea…Christmas will be here soon.”

“My daughter always gives those abominable books. The ones she likes to read, you know. Not me. Can’t tell her anything though. Quite so. She just pops off.”

“Yea…Well, must be pushing off now. Thursday then.”


Sometimes I’d have an accomplice and we’d muse together. I remember years ago in a small bagel shop outside Bar Harbour, Maine when my companion and I tried to decide if the man and woman who worked the place were married. We decided they were and then made up a life for them when the town virtually shut down for the winter.

It’s part of the license given to a writer—and one who imagines life into being. It’s an indulgence but also a creative exercise. In the meantime, here in Gallagher’s Steakhouse in the Newark, NJ airport I can see the woman at the table in the corner stealing looks at me as I write this…perhaps wondering what I’m up to. Hmmm. I wonder what her story is.

Written July 29, 2012.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, The Writing Life, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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