A Story of Transformation in Ireland, by Jill Swenson – Part 2 (days 7-12)

A Story of Transformation in Ireland, by Jill Swenson – Part 2 (days 7-12)

Day 7 – Dingal Peninsula, Gallarus Oratory, Kilmalkedar Church, beehive huts

This morning at breakfast we were all anxious to pick a Faerie card from the cards that Kathryn bought at one of our stops. After all, we were in the land of the Faeries. The book with the cards stated, “To believe in faeries is to step into an enchanted space where the rational mind meets the irrational heart, and all things become possible.” I drew the “Challenge” card. This card told me that if I was considering a new venture, but the voice in my head whispered that I wasn’t good enough to consider it, to remember that this was a challenge and I was being tested, so to go for it. Go for it I did, when that night I met the challenge and it was accepted with a wink and a smile. We even brought Kevin into our realm of Faerie cards and he was delighted when the first one he got was “The Speaker of Truth”. This card dealt with trust, acceptance and an open heart. Kevin could not have gotten a better card. It fit him so well, we all thought and he was very pleased with the card he drew. He was hooked too!

Gallarus Oratory

We boarded the bus this morning for another rainy day in paradise. Today we drove along the Dingal Peninsula. We stopped at the Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian church that resembled an upturned boat. The acoustics inside were amazing as we all joined hands in a circle and used the intonation “Ohmm” to hear the reverberations. As we sent out our unified thought for peace we closed our eyes. When we opened them some of us had seen the same thing … a sun.

Contract made in stone

Next we stopped at Kilmalkedar Church. Here we observed an Ogham Stone, sundial and St. Brendan’s House. Finbarr demonstrated how the term “contract made in stone” came about assisted by Loren. The stone had a hole in it and each of the two people would place their finger in the stone to meet the other’s and this constituted a contract made in stone. Finbarr produced a scarf and told us that we could make a wish on the stone by pulling the scarf slowly through the hole as we made our wish. Lots of wishes and mystery abound in the Irish Isle.

Inch Beach

As we journeyed on down the peninsula we came to the ocean. Wow what a view! It was a big surfing spot Finbarr told us. There were miles of beach there at Inch. I collected some sand from the beach and wrote my name in the sand as we walked out to the water and took some pictures.

Next we stopped at a place where we experienced “beehive huts”. These were uniquely made with stones to resemble a beehive. We all got inside one to see what it was like and Finbarr closed the gate on us leaving us inside to see what happened. We all agreed that they were very cold and wondered how the people who lived in them stayed warm.

This was a fun-filled day on the bus with both Kevin and Finbarr telling us lots of stories to keep us laughing. One story made the bus very quiet and as a former teacher, made me very sad. But true to their nature they began another story and said, “now we leave that behind us.” It was great to have Finbarr feeling well again!
We stopped in Portmagee to stay overnight at The Moorings.

Statue of Mary
Day 8 – Kenmare Stone Circle, Our Lady’s Holy Well and Cork

At breakfast this morning Kathryn told us that we were to concentrate and we’d all get a message for someone in the group and then we were to give it to them. When I went outside the hotel, I was immediately drawn across the street to the ocean where a huge black anchor sat on the dock. I walked around and around it, not knowing why and trying to figure out why it was holding me there. As I looked up at the mountains, the fog lifted off the top of one of them. I understood then that it was a message, but not a complete one. I was beginning to feel who I thought it was for, but I was sure it was not everything. That confused me.

When we boarded the bus, we again drove along the beautiful coastline. We were supposed to go to Skellig Michael, an island about eight miles off the coast and climb 620 steps to the top where the earliest monastic settlement had been. Due to the ocean being too rough for the boats to land that day, we were not able to see this. I was kind of disappointed as that had been one of the top things I wanted to experience. We did check out the museum and they showed us a video of the island. Just watching the video made me feel it was a holy place. When we came out, I walked down on the pier and as I looked down, I spotted a green piece of rope tied in knots. I had to let go of the railing to pick it up and suddenly realized what I was experiencing. As we continued along the coast we arrived at kind of an overlook where there was a huge statue of Mary, a parking area and a few vendors with food items. I left the bus and went directly to the statue of Mary with Janet where we took some pictures in front of the statue.

Kenmare Stone Circle

Later we traveled to Kenmare to visit a stone circle. There were many stones in a circle with one huge stone in the center of the circle. It was really cool. This was another place that was high on my list to see. Finbarr walked over to the center stone and said we should all lay on it and see what we experienced as he climbed up and lay on the rock. The peaceful expression on his face told me what to expect.

I climbed on the rock next. I lay down on my back and closed my eyes. The expression on his face is what I felt as I lay there. Then I saw myself on a concrete or stone road and it was as if the stone rose at my feet and rocketed me into space, all the while I could see myself in some kind of chair or seat going faster and higher. The closest thing I can compare it to is a ride I went on at Disney World in a car that rocketed out on a track over nothingness. The one thing all of us noticed was that the rocks were warm all over, even where the sun was not hitting them and one would think they would feel cool. The same was true of the center stone as I reached underneath it and felt the warmth. I could also tell Richard was feeling the energy of the stones as he encircled one of the big stones on the outside circle.

Our Ladys Holy Well

From there we journeyed to “Our Lady’s Holy Well” where unexplainable things are said to happen. I had the most peaceful powerful feeling as I entered the site. It was a beautiful garden with a statue of Mary and a small well that beckoned me. As I put handfuls of water on my head from the well, I felt an awesome warmth surround me. I thought of the little rose Kathryn had given me that morning and that she said she was told to give it to someone writing a journal. That was me, no one else was keeping a journal.

County Cork Sign

As we began our bus ride, I asked Kevin if there would be a sign that said “CORK” and if there was could we stop so I could have my picture taken by it. As per the “speaker of truth” my wish was granted. As we came to the sign, Kevin stopped the bus and off I got along with Dee another of our group who also had relatives from the area. Since Finbarr is originally from West Cork, I persuaded him that he should be in the picture with me. Just another example of what a wonderful tour guide we had.

We settled in at the Glengarriff Park Hotel for the next two nights and tonight we had one of the best meals of the trip. There was way more food than anyone could eat, the salmon was superb and the dessert was exquisite.

Day 9 – Saint Finbarr’s settlement, Garnish Island

Today we took the bus to Saint Finbarr’s first settlement at Gougane Barra. No, I don’t mean that our Finbarr had a settlement at Gougane Barra, but he touted the fact that there WAS a Saint Finbarr for whom he was named, I guess. (smile) We checked out the church where I attempted to light a candle with a lighter … no one told me they were electric lights … I stood there for a long time trying to light it while a certain someone stood in the back and laughed to himself. I hope my two dollar coin paid for the electricity!

Garnish Island

Next we took a small boat to Garnish Island, a 37 acre island with many gardens and large canopied trees. As we rode on the boat we passed several seals resting on rocks. How interesting. I went into the jungled overgrowth to one of the large canopied trees that had the moss-like fern covering it. I placed my hands on the tree and stood there silently. Soon I saw Mary holding a white dove and then releasing it to the heavens. I got the idea of the Holy Spirit, but I had to have help with what the message was. I’m beginning to see a pattern with experiencing Mary the past couple of days.

This evening we enjoyed a fabulous meal. Of the three main selections, I chose roast beef. Their beef is grass fed and I have never tasted roast beef so wonderful as what I had that night. The gravy, the potatoes, everything was just as perfect as it could be. We were even fortunate to have Finbarr’s brother, sister-in-law and sister come to join us for dinner. I did enjoy his brother’s humor. This night was a first for me. I tasted moonshine for the first time, not just any moonshine, but Irish moonshine. I am pleased to say ,“I liked it.” Again, must be the DNA. I would have to say that Brian and Dee also liked it … and they had more than me. Thank you to the one who poured it for not giving me more, as I always say, “Less is more.” And thanks, Michael for the nice “goodbye”. (smile)

And off to the pub down the street we went in a little while. Kevin promised there would be music and dancing. Little did we know that a “50” birthday party in Ireland entailed oldies music from the United States. We had a wonderful time singing to the band and sharing the gift of the gods, except for Coleen, who enjoyed a Sprite. Our speaker of truth told of a town in Ireland that had a “matchmaker fair” every year. He regaled a story of his finding a match for a friend or relative and that all that she asked for he found for her in this man. However, he said the first thing she commented on was that he had a huge nose. Oh, Kevin, your stories made us laugh ‘til we cried. Kevin was so entertaining and little did we know this would be our last night together at the pubs. Kevin proposed a toast that we would all meet again in three years in Ireland. As we clinked our glasses, our hearts were full of the joy of new found friendship and the magic of Ireland.

Druids Altar
Day 10 – Dromberg Stone Circle, Druid’s Altar, Blarney Castle

The days dwindle down, to a precious few …

As we came out to board the bus, Kevin appeared with my request, a bag of dirt from Cork to put on my brother’s grave back home. My new brother, Kevin procuring dirt for my blood brother’s resting place, now that is going way beyond what a bus driver is expected to do. To add to that, he found bottles of Irish whiskey that were hard to find for Dee and he found a fire station so Brian, a volunteer fireman, could have his picture taken in front of it. I believe these lines describe Kevin:

“If your everyday practice is open to all your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that – then that will take you as far as you can go.” – Pema Chodron

Dromberg Stone Circle

It was a long drive today. Along the way Diane shuffled the faerie cards to see what was coming for her. We were to visit Drombeg Stone Circle … also known as the “Druid’s Altar.” This is another site aligned with the Winter Solstice. It would be great to be here and see the sun disappear behind the hill and then reappear in the lower valley when it illuminates the stone circle!! This was a place of great energy. Everyone felt the power of the stones and the altar. As we circled the stones a couple of times people began to break off and sit or lean on one of the stones. I moved to a couple of them.

Before I lay on the Druid’s Altar, I spotted a small center stone and soon saw Richard stand on it. I could see the results of the energy he was feeling and he remarked that it felt like huge bursts of energy were coming up from the ground through him. Dee and Janet also said that the Drombeg Stone Circle was one of their favorite spots and that they too felt the powerful energy of the little center stone when they stood on it.

Joanne said that each of the stone circles were power spots for her and when she sat on the stones things would pop into her mind. When I got on the little stone, I immediately felt the rush of force on my feet.

Water blessings at Druids Altar

From there, Finbarr called us over to another spot on the farther side of the circle where there were two more sites with ancient small stones. One looked like maybe it had been a building and the other was a well. Here Finbarr had each of us come to the well. He told us he was going to pour water on our heads to open our intuition. It was really neat to watch each person walk up to Finbarr and watch him trickle the water on their heads. I think he was amused judging by his expression when Brian, who is way over six feet tall, squatted down in front of him so he could put the water on his head. When it was my turn, I felt a unique gratitude for the opportunity to be a recipient of this ceremony.

As soon as we finished, I went directly back to the little center stone to stand on it again. This time I raised my arms out as I felt the rush of energy from the ground to help balance myself.

Finally, I went over to the Druid’s Altar, climbed up on it and sat down. The feeling was pretty much the same as laying on the big center stone at the Kenmare Stone Circle. It was an even more peaceful feeling. I noticed several people just sat on the altar, but I could tell by the expressions on their faces that they too were feeling the peacefulness of it. From what I observed, this was one of the most powerful of the stone circles.

From here we rode another hour or more to the Blarney Castle site. Here Finbarr herded us from the hotel like a shepherd and over to the castle grounds. I have always been interested in castles and the stories of King Arthur and his knights and this is where the Arthurian Legends were born, but Finbarr bypassed the castle and took us onto another part of the grounds. After seeing this and hearing the things he told about the sites we observed I wasn’t really that interested in seeing the castle.

There were strange rock formations and cave-like places and surreal trees all around the grounds. To peak people’s interest they had given the sites names. Kathryn and Finbarr commented that the names were just made up for tourists. Here we observed “the wishing steps” where you were supposed to close your eyes and walk down backwards and up again while you made a wish. They were steep and a bit slippery.

The “witch’s kitchen” was a cave that held unknown secrets. When I was in the cave, Jane came down and said it looked like I had two orange flames coming out of my head from up above … I believe it was the light on the orange lenses of my Oakleys. We both laughed.

Dolmen and portal

There were rocks that almost looked like they were placed a certain way. Finbarr and Kathryn said they might be portals to another world. I walked through one, but didn’t see anyone on the otherside. In another spot there was a huge balancing rock that formed a portal. That one was unique. When Richard and Janet and I went through it, I felt dizzy. Janet felt like the ground was moving when she came out on the other side.

I continued a walk along the path and came to a stand of trees that looked just like it could have been Sherwood Forest in the Robin Hood movies. I half expected to see a knight in full armor come charging through the trees.

I made my way back to the castle and met Brian and Jane just coming down, at the gift shop. Brian had kissed the Blarney Stone. I had no intention of doing that. I did buy a hat for my friend, Troy, that said, “Kiss a Legend” on the front and “Blarney Castle” on the back. I thought he’d get a chuckle out of it even though I knew he’d never wear it. I proceeded to climb the narrow stairway to the top, encountering Janet part way up. She was stopped in time and could not go further. I met Richard at the top and we circled the top of the castle where in the old days the men defended it from attack. Luckily there was a separate stairway to go back down or it would have been very tricky waiting for someone coming up.

That night as we all got together for a drink before dinner, there was the mystery of the missing glass of wine. I believe it was Jo Ann who switched the wine glasses after hers was empty. I saw her take a drink out of the full glass now in front of her. There was now an empty glass in another place where someone had just gotten up to do something and was coming back. We could have called on Kathryn and Loren, the lawyers, to solve it, and perhaps this mystery might never have been solved, had not the victim known exactly who had purveyed the trick. There’s one in every crowd. But, perhaps next time the victim will not watch someone try to light an electric candle with a lighter, laugh to themselves and say nothing. Or, one could just believe the faeries did it. We adjourned to dinner and later retired to our rooms knowing that tomorrow would be the last day in this enchanted land of mystical happenings and lovely people.

St. Brigids Well
Day 11- Kildare, St. Brigid’s Well, St. Brigid’s Flame

Today, Sept. 11 … we all know what day that is. The 10th anniversary of the Trade Center attacks. We traveled to Kildare to visit the Well of St. Brigid. As we entered the site I observed at one end a tree that had ribbons and other things attached to it. It was like a prayer tree.

There were even a pair of slippers tied to the tree. I didn’t have anything I could tie on it, so I took the identification tag off my backpack and wrote a message and buckled it to a branch. We gathered around the well after each of us had dipped our hands in the water. Finbarr had us join hands in a circle. He proceeded to tell us that “13” is a magic number. He said that whenever he’d had just 13 people on a tour, something magical happened. Well, it certainly did to me and it did for the whole group.

St. Brigids Well

So many things had to divinely fall into place for each of us to be there and that included Finbarr and Kevin. Remember, we didn’t start out with Kevin, but the fa¬eries saw to it that Kennet’s bus broke down and he had to send a different bus, with a different seat set up in the front, and our “speaker of truth,” Kevin. I believe each of these things had a purpose in the plan of our tour, right down to Finbarr being sick and missing the day we went to Muckross House and Tor Falls. For some reason he was not suppose to be with us that day and Kathryn herded us about with Kevin’s help.

As we moved from the well over to the statue of St. Brigid, we enjoyed a photo opportunity with Kathryn taking off her “Wicked” hat and placing it on St. Brigid. I think Brigid liked it.

St. Brigids Flame

Next, we went to St. Brigid’s Cathedral where we saw the spot her flame had burned for over a 1,000 years prior to the English reformation. It was rekindled in 1993 by the Brigidine sisters. St. Brigid is believed to have been a Druidic priestess who converted to Christianity.

A surprise came when Finbarr told us we were going to the sister’s home that keeps the flame burning still. I was off the bus first and walked up the sidewalk to greet her. She had an angelic look about her and I was captivated immediately. She had eyes that looked right into your soul. She said, “I’ve met you before.” I thought I must look like someone she’d met. As we went into the little room where the flame was kept I noticed a beautiful tapestry that captured my attention. It was called the “God Consciousness.”

Sister Mary talked a little about St. Brigid and then put on a CD of music and lit a candle in the middle of the floor from St. Brigid’s flame. We all closed our eyes, I think, or at least I did and within a minute or two I could feel the tears welling up behind my eyelids. I was a little embarrassed because I didn’t know what was going on, this emotion was coming out of nowhere.

When the CD ended Sister Mary looked at me and said, ”Tears are a sign that God is present.” That was an awesome moment for me, I didn’t quite understand it, but it made me feel good. Then sister’s helper made a St. Brigid cross as we watched and gave her our intentions as she wove it. It was then presented to Kathryn to take home.

St. Brigids Cathedral

We had a little silent time for the people who lost their lives in 9-11. I’ve thought more about this time and about Sister Mary since I’ve been home. I wish I could have talked to her in private for awhile. I felt there was some kind of a connection that I couldn’t explain. I also know that the name Brigid has a definite connection to my life.

As we pulled up in front of our hotel, Kevin took the microphone and stood in front of the bus. He told us what a wonderful group we’d been and how he’d felt so much a part of us. He said that this trip had not been a job to him because of all of us. Then he honored Finbarr by saying that he’d learned things from Finbarr that he didn’t know about his own country.

Did I mention that Finbarr said we were the Magic 13? We could never have been on this Magical Mystical Tour unless Kathryn had arranged it, Finbarr could have squeezed it into his tour schedule, Kennet’s bus had broken down and Kevin was sent by the faeries to be the final piece of magic. It was goodbye to Kevin as he unloaded our luggage and he left with the bus. But in my head I heard his toast to meet again in Glengarriff in three years.

This would be our last night in Ireland. We all met in Loren and Kathryn’s room for a sip of wine and a little chatter before dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful and memorable meal in Dublin as we all sat together one last time, around a long table. Finbarr was at one end of the table and Kathryn at the other … just like mom and dad and all the kids. After dinner, hugs were given all around for everyone was leaving in the morning and not all on the same plane. “Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night ‘til it be ‘morrow.“

Sacred Feminine Spiral
Day 12 – Departure Day

We were up and off to the airport at 7:30 a.m. so we could get through customs and make our plane. My seatmates were a young couple from Dublin, going to America for the first time to spend a week in New York. She was a chef so we had a good discussion on Irish food and … potatoes. We talked about all the processed food in the U.S and the issue of obesity. We also discussed the Catholic Church in Ireland and young people’s non-attendance at Mass. It was a very good flight with some conscious conversation and a lingering time of still holding onto the Irish Isle.

As we flew into New York, I looked for the Statue of Liberty, but she was no where in sight from the window. The TV’s in the airport were showing some footage of the 9-11 anniversary events of the day before. The thought crossed my mind that this was the same airport that some of the hijacked flights flew out of 10 years before. I reflected on Kevin’s attitude as a spiritual being living a human life, on Kathyrn’s intuitive wisdom that guided us and what Finbarr is attempting to accomplish with his tours of holy places. I am in a state of gratitude for heaven and earth aligning so that I could be a part of this Magical Mystical Journey. My thanks will not be enough, I am ready for what I will be asked.