As a young witch, I developed a dislike of anything to do with Celtic mysticism. At the time it seemed that anybody who wanted to make a quick buck from Wicca, Paganism or New Age would dub their product ‘authentically Celtic’ and that would then turn it into a sure top-seller. The eight Wiccan Festivals became the ‘Celtic Wheel of the Year’ and Ogham (mispronounced as OGAM) turned into an ancient Druidic form of fortune telling. Having studied history at University, I have always had a fondness for research and accurate facts.
The Gods have a funny sense of humour: I ended up falling head over heels in love with an Irishman who was studying Celtic Civilisation. We got married and even though we decided to travel Europe first for several years, it was clear that we eventually would settle in Ireland.
I still remember vividly how I sat at the edge of the Shannon shortly before the wedding ceremony, trying to reach out to the local Gods of the Land and introduce myself. I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I found. I had never thought that the New Age image of the Irish Gods was a correct one, but the response I received was actually rather unfriendly: “Who are you, and why do you feel you need to be on my land?” It was the start of a tense relationship.
Unlike most of the countries I have lived in, Ireland seems to have a pretty much unbroken connection with its historical heritage. Obviously a lot of the Gods have changed form over the centuries and have been absorbed by Catholicism, but the Celtic Gods were not forgotten. As a result, it seems to me like the Irish Gods are much more present, more lucid and awake than in other countries where I have lived. And they don’t take any nonsense from anyone!
My Irish partner and I moved back to Ireland permanently in 2010. I soon became pregnant with our fourth child, and shortly after his birth we separated. In spite of the fact that I had been coming to Ireland, on and off, for 10 years by then, I had failed to make a lasting connection to the Land. I still felt like an outsider, an intruder who was tolerated. I know of many other people who have instantly felt a connection with Eire (Ireland), but I am not one of them.
On those days that my now ex-partner looked after our children, I decided to explore Ireland – something I had not been able to do very much before then. I went to visit stone circles, the site of Queen Medb’s palace, the cave of the cats and several other places. It involved very dirty boots, rain and the kind of dampness that gets into your bones. It was worth it though. Sitting quietly on my own, enjoying the stillness of the land, an understanding started to grow between us. I managed to slowly take peaks behind the stern and guarded exterior. During that time I also happened to have invited a group of Wiccan friends to come over and visit me here in Ireland. We created a ritual honouring Erin – the Goddess of the Land. During that ritual many things changed. While I connected with that Goddess, I finally managed to connect fully with the Land and was accepted.
Now that I have that connection, I realise why I was unable to connect properly before. As a person with a Nomadic disposition, I have not lived in the same place for more than a few years at a time since I became an adult. I haven’t had any roots in more than two decades. It was as if the Spirit of the Land wasn’t willing to risk a ‘one night stand’. Connecting with Ireland is something irreversible and permanent. For the first time I have found myself growing roots, now that I am welcomed here. If, at some point in my life, I would want to leave Ireland and live somewhere else, I would always be connected here and feel compelled to come back. As a Witch of 20 years it was a very humbling experience to really learn what it is to be part of a Land, to be called to serve it. I feel secure in the knowledge that now that I have committed to the Land, I will find peace, acceptance and prosperity.
By Sophia Boann