Wednesday 10 February 2021

St Fursey's Altar

I am steaming across the landscape of 32 Words for Field until we pause at Loughanleagh = Lochán Leagha = Lake Doctor where, <cue Twilight Zone>, there is no lake. In exchange . . . A local person will tell you to look out for St Patrick's knee-mark on a rock near where the well of the lake was; on your next visit you will find it and clear see an indentation carved into stone in the shape of a rough horseshoe, but because it faces towards the rising sun over Dundalk Bay it is likely that it too is far older than St Patrick. It's a remnant of a ritual of our sun-worshipping ancestors." [p.155]

That seems really sketchy 'evidence' for inferring a) the date of the handiwork b) the religious beliefs of the handiworker. But, wahay, it's no more than you'd expect from the Arts Block. And I've been happy enough to patter on about the Earth Mother when showing visitors the markings on our Ringstone. If you're expecting evidence [aka confirmation bias] of heliolatry you have two chances of being right: depending on whether you're C for catching the rays or the 180° opposite galloping towards them. And Eee, 'appen, we have one of them horseshoes as well. [see R with stick for orientation] 

Nothing would satisfy me but that I should yomp 1500m N and 250m up the hill to determine the direction our mythic hoof-print was facing. I left at 1100hrs: it wasn't exactly raining but it was a grand soft day with clouds obscuring all the hill tops. I found myself unaccountably delighted to be up on the hill with nobody to bother me with chat and any distracting horizons obscured by the enveloping cloud. As I headed up to the Giant's Table, a golden plover Pluvialis apricaria started up from the wet grass almost under my gallumphing feet and whirred South across the tundra. Mystic! Wonderful!

Arriving at the dolmen. I laid down a straightish stick in line with the hoof-print and got a compass-bearing on the invisible sea to the SE. It was 125° which old style sailors would call southeast by east. The catechism continues:
Q. On which day, if any, does the sun rise at 125° when view from the Sunny SouthEast of Ireland. 
A. Upon the 16th January.
Q. And which [Irish] saint is venerated upon that day?
A. St Fursey of Killursa [Cill Fhursa] near Headford, one of an Ceathrar Álainn, miracle worker in East Anglia and Picardy.

It is as clear a message as could be. St Fursey is the patron of our hill and the Holistic Landscape at its foot. We must all meet at his Altar at Sunrise every 16th January: bring your wretched and dispossessed, they will be made whole. Sunrise is easy: 08:36hrs. Sausinge sandwiches and hot-to-trot strong tea after witnessing the sunrise. It will be entirely appropriate to cut branches of whin / gorse / fursey Ulex gallii as you approach the altar. I have his sandal!

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