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|The Rock Of Cashel||“6C”||01 /07/20|
|Spiritual/Esoteric ref||Gaeilge||Eytmological Root|
|The Castle, The Fort , The Rock||Caiseal or Sid-Druim||A Stone Ring Fort or Fairy Hill|
My main memory of The Rock of Cashel is arriving down from Dublin to County Tipperary perhaps Late in the evening and seeing the majestic Castle Rock rising high in the landscape in the distance while seated in the back of my parents car. My Mum and Dad would know from the road when we were coming close and they would tell me we are nearly there now as it was not much further to our destination in Tipperary Town, then the citadel would come into view to confirm their reassuring prediction . Looking back on it now It is similar in conception to the Acropolis in Greece , but I knew nothing about such places then . Cashel is beautiful and striking and one of the most memorable landmarks along The Crystal Path.
The Devils Bit
As we went by I would ask my Dad yet again about the legend about how the devil, who was walking across the county saw the mountains and thought he they would be just right to eat! But the land was too fertile and good and too good for the Devils taste so he spat it out at what became known as the prominent Rock of Cashel leaving an appropriate giant bite sized gap in the nearby mountains known as “The Devils Bit“ . I would climb this unusually named gap in the skyline one day as a kid with my father. Of course the next question I would have would be if the land at the Devils bit was the same type as the land at Cashel and my Father would tell me he didn’t know but that it was a great story….and it was. It spoke about Ireland being a precious place so good that it was too unsavoury for the Devil to bear. It also seemed to imply that there was something really special about Cashel too. That it was a holy place for millennia from an ancient time when a giant devil walked the land spitting out huge rocks onto the landscape below. It’s a marvellous tale for a child to hear. And indeed this part of the country as I understand it is amongst the most fertile soil in the world with grass so green and luscious you can imagine that our grazing cattle and sheep must find it sweet and rich to eat. You only really notice how green Ireland is the you have been away abroad in other places such as France or The States where the grass is seldom as green as it is here. If you fly back during daylight you come look out of the airplanes portal and see the deep, deep green patchwork of crisscrossing hedgerows and treelines where that really stoke you if you come from abroad.
I was intrigued enough by the Cashel rock itself to visit there without my family . I have a lovely memory as a teenager when I also cycled there on a wonderful summers day from Tipp town with a friend of mine, she loved to write even at that young age and we talked about poetry and art and we liked the same music and looked forward to escaping secondary school. We picnicked on the rock over-looking the plain below. I drew it, and sketched it and it’s surrounds. As you get older you realise how precious those simple memories are. They lay dormant and as as images they quietly remain in your mind like flowers that suddenly bloom to your surprise after a burst of sunlight that brings them back to life in your mind and you realise how lucky you were to have had such memories with others in such beautiful places.
When you look at the rock It’s first medieval structure you see is a round tower followed by a rather beautiful Romanesque yellow stone church, then added to that is the cathedral which had its roof taken off by a archbishop who hated the walk up the hill everyday and moved to premises in the town as the main place of worship ….or so the story goes. (I’m sure it’s more complicated than that …or maybe not, as he was heavily criticised for it ) He built a church in the town along with lodgings. There used to be an archbishops palace built into to the cathedral the structure of which is still imposing today .
The Accidental Baptism of King Aengus
In AD 450 Saint Patrick was said to have performed baptisms and baptised King Aengus there. That story states that during such an occasion Patrick’s pointy crozier went straight through the kings foot but the king didn’t say a word about it because he thought it was part of the baptism ceremony! I remember when I heard that story first I thought it was rubbish because after all who would allow someone to stick a crozier through their foot or at least shout out “stop!!!” Or “ouch” even. But as I heard more about rituals and ceremonies from our ancient past you could imagine that it might be possible that the King thought it was part of the ritual or a test that day. But like the other story about Cashel it may point to something else that contains another type of truth if not the literal truth.
Looking back further in time I believe The Rock of Cashel is also a Neolithic site of tremendous importance. It is easy to see it in my minds eye ….many buildings around the Rock throughout its history appearing more huddled than they currently are and the Rock offering protection to the towns inhabitants. I wonder if there was or is a well upon it too as there is on the acropolis. There are numerous church and abbey buildings such as Hoare Abbey in the surrounding landscape, the ruins of which remain to this day. There were numerous orders of monks in the area.
It has been a place of importance to the kings of Ireland. The baptism hints at the relevance of water for the rock and those that availed of it perhaps making it important for rituals there. I have a strong sense of it’s association with a particular Irish pre Christian god. Perhaps one also associated with the power and fertility of the land. I get a strong sense of smoke and fires lit there, I see it’s landscape permeated by the smoke rising from the flames which have their own symbolism. Processions wind their way up a well worn but gentle incline to the top of the outcrop. Bealtaine seems to be the important time of the year here. But it’s importance precedes even the time of this festival.
A Jewelled Chakra
In my minds eye I see it as being associated with the The Jewelled City Chakra. The home of our sense of contentment. Our sense of safety resides there. It is the citadel of our body. Or as it was known , the temple of the spirit . All the carvings in Cashel and the incredible ornate entrances to the Romanesque Cormacs chapel seem to point visually towards a celebration of the sun and The arch of the sky . A great effort was spent on these entrances.
A crown crafted in burnished metal and resting on a blue enamel surface forms part of a thirteenth-century crozier head found near Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock Of Cashel. It refers to the shield of Munster. It was the seat of the Kings of Munster from early Christian times through to the fifteenth century. In the case of the ‘king-bishops’ of Cashel, the placing of the antique crown on their crozier, could be interpreted as a symbolic assertion of their right to the political sovereignty of Munster. It is suggested therefore that the sovereignty of Munster, as expressed in heraldic format, uses the antique crown in triplicate. The Blue colour of the Munster shield in Gaelic mythology represented the sacred sovereignty of Munster who was personified in Mór Muman– a lady or goddess dressed in deep blue. When Ireland was christianised these ideas were absorbed into the catholic structure and Cashel and the significance of Cashel remains to this day in name as part of the see of Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly (However the cathedra (the episcopal seat) was moved to Thurles instead since the late 1700’s )
Mór Muman …or Mór Mumain ….or Mór Mhumhan (depending on which spelling you select as they are all given in various texts) …is a figure from Irish legend believed to have been a queen of Munster and daughter of king Áed Bennnán Mac Crimthainn. Her name means “the Great Mother” and the province of Munster is named after her. She is believed to be a mother Goddess and sovereignty figure of the province, particularly of the Eóganachta. Mór Muman personifies the land of Munster and she is also known as Mugain and may be the same figure as Anu and The Morrígan. This is a complicated association with many historical figures being associated with her that I will go into more about when I visit Emhain Macha.
In case you don’t believe that any of these ancient associations mean anything for modern times then remember the time in our recent history when there was an attempt to declare A Munster Republic as a basis for creating an All Ireland Republic at the beginning of the Irish The Civil War in 1922, 100 years ago this year. Liam Lynch the republican commander in chief hoped to use it as a basis for re-negotiating the treaty. The province is still known as Munster today one of what originally were the five provinces, four names of which remain in use.
To finish on an an anecdote. When researching the literary renaissance and the wealth of knowledge preserved by Irish writers such as Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats about the ancient past. I came across this unusual tale outlining Yeats’s experience when visiting Cashel. “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes” is a poem written by W. B. Yeats featuring his own experiences of a visit to the “grey rock of Cashel”. In it he specifically mentions Cormac’s chapel and a vision he had there. I leave you to discover it for yourself here at this link