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Remembering Beltaine in Ireland

Updated: May 2

In 2022, My mother wanted to spend her 80th birthday in Ireland. She wanted to visit the place that her Aunt Betty had lived and died. This birthday also coincided with the pagan holiday Beltaine. Knowing that we would be there during this holiday, I set out to find an event that we could attend while we traveled through the land. I found Uisneach Hill Bealtaine Festival which is one of the oldest celebrations in Ireland. It was referred to as the 'gathering of all tribes.' These Bealtaine fires could be seen from more than 20 counties in Ireland. "One of the most important rituals that took place at Uisneach on Bealtaine was the lighting of the great bonfire. This fire was said to be a signal to other communities across Ireland to light their own fires, marking the beginning of the Summer season. " (Uisneach Facebook page post 3/5/23) We didn't take as many photos at Uisneach so I will be sharing some photos from professional photographers!

The festival itself had food trucks, beer gardens and vendors. The event had tents with ancestral skills being demonstrated such as wood carving, traditional foods, and wild food forging. There were multiple heritage talks and even a viking boat for kids to play on! Art played a strong role in this event. We saw at least four very large statues that were temporary installations for the event.

Beltaine 2022 at Uisneach had thousands of people in attendance. Because this event is considered a fire festival, there were many fire displays. They had fire dancers, wood poles burning along the trail to the top of the hill, and of course the massive bonfire in the center of the gathering. The bonfire was about 15 feet across and at least 20 feet tall, stacked with wood, straw bales and other natural burnable materials. The procession to the fire took hours, long lines of honored guests walked up a long hill to reach the top of land. Horse back riders raced around the perimeter of the bonfire while people sang songs, walked around the inner circles and performed ceremonies. Multiple groups attended, wearing their traditional clothing, some with painted faces, carrying symbols. The fire was lit at sunset after lots of ceremony, singing and displays of fire. There were also many fire sculptures that were lit along the way up the hill. There were a band of life sized horse-images that were ablaze, as well as tall pyres. Spinning wheels of fire, ancient symbols glowing in red hot flames. It surprised me that there was so much fire accessible to all of the people attending. An unattended child or inebriated person could have easily caused themselves harm, but the community was looking out for each other. I saw people catching other too close to the flames, caring for strangers as well as friends. There was a strong sense of community care which permeated the entire event.

We could not complete our trip to Ireland without honoring and connecting with the

Goddess Brigid. "In January 2022 the government announced that St. Brigid's Day and Imbolc would become Ireland's new annual national holiday from 2023, the first in honor of a woman, our matron saint, Celtic goddess, and a celebration of all Mná." ( Brigid has been honored in Ireland for as long as anyone can remember. The Garden we visited had beautiful sculptures and standing stones that honors the wheel of the year. They had a garden for each cross-quarter, Beltaine, Lammas, Samhain and Imbolc. Being a pagan practitioner for more then 30 years it was amazing to see a whole facility dedicated to the wheel of the year.

As many of people know, the wheel of the year is a primary focus of my personal practices so finding this gem of a garden was monumental for me. We walked the grounds together and separately, making time for each of us to have our own private experiences and also to experience these gardens together. We had lunch at this location as well as purchased some books of mythology written by Irish authors. I would highly recommend a visit to this beautiful place. Beltaine in Ireland was a amazing adventure to have with my Mom and my dear sister. In addition to spending time at the festival we also drove up the west coast of Ireland visiting the home of a relative that had passed more than 20 years before. The people of this small town remembered Aunt Betty and shared precious stories of her time in Ireland. I left feeling more connected to ancestral heritage. Nothing can replace the experience of walking in the literal footsteps of those who came before, eating at their tables, drinking in the ocean spray and sweet sunshine. My gratitude for this monumental experience has no bounds. If you have the chance the visit Ireland, go. Stroll the trails, see the megalithic structures, wander through the standing stones, walk through the green fields. Eat the foods prepared by the locals for generations before. It will change you to your core.

Karin Olsen is a healer, a seer, and a teacher. She has been studying plants for more than 20 years and owned an herb shop and metaphysical store for 15 years. She has been a massage therapist/healer for over 25 years.

Karin learned her psychic medium skills from her mother and sees clients via Zoom. She teaches classes and is a spiritual coach with a focus on earth-based spirituality through Moonhill Mystery School in the Salish Sea area. In 2021, she earned a Masters of Ecopsychology from Naropa University

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