There is long tradition of poetry in Ireland and in that tradition, there is a very unique landscape where the tradition remained unbroken for centuries. That place is Sliabh Luachra. In travelling the length and breath of Ireland, I have spent many years researching and wandering the landscape to finally come to the place where the language of poetry remained as alive as it was aeons ago. I have learned that, to enter into this tradition, a devout humility is required, as is a very strong understanding that there will be many veils to walk through before a true perception is possible.
There are things in this world that can only be preserved by invisible hands and minds, in that way, if one wishes to follow in the footsteps of those past, it is necessary to honour all those who passed this way before. I have found that the path to this place is often a lonely one but not one where one is left alone. In the tradition of the mythology of this land, there were a great people called the Tuatha dé Danann. This tribe carried their traditions from far away lands to Ireland. As time and tide followed, they appear to have disappeared, and their ways remained hidden or forgotten, only to be discovered in song, dance, and poetry.
In seeking out the grounds where these people lived and worshipped, a doorway opened, and I found that the way of life that structures the true society of Ireland, remained alive, but was held in great sadness and longing. I understood that there were, and are laws, that abide above time and place, and these laws are upheld within those willing to walk towards that which one cannot see, but is felt.
The great gift I have found, in returning to these places, after a long sojourn by my own ancestors, is that this land’s memory remains long and unbroken in realms that remain invisible. The veil that protects these laws, and words, is a force that can only be understood by the heart, and in understanding this, a revelation is only possible with a surrender.
Every generation has her stewards that preserve traditions and protect places and, within these ranks, there are those who would make sure that the doorway is always open for those who not alone seek answers but are also seeking to carry the ancient truths to the land above. It is possible to understand these times through the myths, songs, dance and history of the past, but only if there is a willingness to linger in places where loneliness and desolation stand stoic.
The great discovery in walking towards these great places where stewards dwell are the willingness and generosity of these spirits is the testament to the character of a great people. In the virtue of presence, whether land or personhood, is the abiding spirit of several generations that preserves for future generations. I recognize that the gift to write is something bestowed when you are able to bow to something larger than yourself.
There is a presence in these places, and so there is a duty to honour that which wishes to be said; wishes to be seen. It is the song of our humanity that rings above all, that quiets the heart and mends the soul.
I wish to acknowledge here, that the unbroken tradition of Sliabh Luachra remains as strong as ever, and its welcome, its understanding of our greater truths as a people, as a nation, is a necessary part of our make up as Gaels, and as stewards of the world. I feel deeply honoured to have walked these lands and to finally arrive at this place, this landscape, and find that there is a heart that abides despite all. This is the truest gift a poet can meet on her journey.
It is my hope, that you might find here that the ancient myths are alive and speaking, and that the voices within these poems, are a part of our everyday lives; in the touchstone of a moment on a city street, to the whisper of primrose on a sacred mountaintop…It is all there, living and breathing as always, waiting for our return, with the invocation of our lives.
I have included in this book, some words and titles in Irish. My purpose in including Gaelic, is my small offering to the altar of this land and her people. I am not an Irish-speaker, but it is my desire to learn. As I have sat with many speakers in these past couple of years, and sought their knowledge of history and heritage, I have learned, that those who speak the language, are the great stewards of this land. My truest teachers, have been those who have bestowed their generosity of spirit, but most importantly shown me the great laws and ideals of this land that live in the language itself. Those whom speak Gaelic know that they are invoking the unbroken traditions of this land and upholding for their ancestors, a way of life. I am grateful to share my small contribution, and walk with those whom keep the language alive.
Ashley O’Neal 2019.