The Sacred Centre

I needed a few days to let all the mythology and mystical feeling of Uisneach to settle and process. It was only just Saturday when I was travelling with many of my Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark guide colleagues to Ireland’s Heartland to visit what is considered Ireland’s sacred centre, a nexis of mythology and ancient cosmology.

Just to prove how we are never more than three degrees separated from anyone in Ireland, we had no sooner disembarked when I met an acquaintance who introduced me as “The Poet.” (That was very edifying Kathleen!) By the time our tour had concluded ninety minutes later I saw more familiar faces and found that they were gathered for a memorial service for Kevin Hayes whom I had not met, but perhaps only my an accident given the number of common acquaintances.

The south processional road to the King's Palace at UIsneach
The southern processional route to the King’s Palace at Uisneach. The mountains in the background are those of the southern kingdom of Munster

Uisneach is a natural gathering point since it is near as damn all the geographical centre of this island. If you imagine Ireland as a shallow bowl, Uisneach rises out of the flatland to have a 360 degree view of Ireland on a clear day. You can see all the mountain ranges east, south, west and north. There were processional roads from each direction for the gathering each Bealtaine when the sacred flame was relit in a pit as large as a footbal field. And as soon as those not present saw Uisneach’s flame, they ignited their own mountain top pyres in a unique ceremony of call and response involving and uniting four kingdoms at the central place of the High King. Last May at Bealtaine, President Higgins took the place of the High King and lit the Bealtaine fire.

The Sun God Lugh, a sculpture at Uisneach

What is remarkable is that Uisneach’s mythology and cosmology is united in celebrating both the sacred masculine and sacred feminine. Lugh is the primal sacred masculine presence at Uisneach, a solar god upon which the agricultural calendar relied. The souterain beneath the High King’s Palace, may have been practically used for food storage. But it also symbolised the womb of the earth as life giver. With the invention of agriculture there was a secure food supply and that was symbolised in the fecunditty of Mother Earth. What is now called the Cat Stone is also known as Hiberniae Umbilicus, the umbilical cord of Eriu, Ireland.

THe Cat Stone, or Hiberniae Umbilicus at Uisneach is the presence of the sacred feminine Eriu
Eriu is the sacred feminine presence at Uisneach and this is the Hiberniae Umbilicus

And so now to the poem about Uisneach from the so kindly named ‘the Poet.’ The Poetry Daily:

The Sacred Centre

If you follow the sun and stars
you will have plenty
and peace.
The earth's belly is full
so feast.

Our King Lugh and Queen Eriu
are the royal road
to the sacred centre.
Just follow the sun and stars and
keep walking towards
the centre. And do not
make of it a mere altarpiece.
You know that you owe
this peace to the plenty.

You must follow the sun and stars
sow in time, and hoe,
reap and feast - an unmarred
life follows sun, stars, royal code.
Our King Lugh relies
upon Queen Eriu.
If you follow the sun and stars,
give back to the earth
as Eriu gives all
fruit for the feast under sun, stars,
you shall have great peace
following the plenty

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Thanks goes to Marty Mulligan, our guide and storyteller, who brought Uisneach’s ancient landscape alive. He pointed out that the original inhabitants were not a war like people. It was only with the incursion of the people we now call the Celts around 500BCE that warfare became the stuff of bardic lore. Uisneach was the seat of abiding peace and mediation of disputes at a time when under Brehon law men and women had equal rights.

Marty Mulligan tour guide and storyteller at Uisneach
Marty Mulligan, tour guide at Uisneach

Thanks also to Nuala McCann, the Cavan County Council employee for Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark programmes. She is an excellent event organiser! It was great to get an insight into how other Hidden Gems in Ireland are allowing sustainable tourism to evolve. Uisneach is a shining example.