(10) : The Burning Wheel of Uisneach

Image of “(10) : The Burning Wheel of Uisneach” Digital Painting

PlaceCard No.Date
Rathnew Loughnavalley
“10” 12/09/20
Spiritual/Esoteric  refGaeilgeEtymological Root
The Place of The Air and The High Air. The Hearth
The Place of The Fire. The Navel of Ireland
Uisneach or UisnachPlace of the Hearth or the Place of Cinders

Uisneach, meaning the Place of the Hearth or the Place of Cinders is mentioned very early in “Lady Gregory’s complete Irish Mythology” in the first chapter . This is because it was there at Uisneach that Lugh  of the Long Hand arrived with his army, the riders of the Sidhe, from the land of promise from, “The High Air”, he of the bright face like the setting sun. He with a bright flaming sword known as Fragarach (The answerer).   Lugh seems to have been like a sun god or god of light. Light is associated with knowledge and he was also master of every craft. This arrival signals the time of great feats and epic battles in early Irish Mythology.

“From The High Air” Digital Painting

Lú, ‘as Gaelige’ (in Irish), means light and it is noticeable to me that it is the first two letters of the word Lucifer which means light bearer and is the name given to the brightest of Gods Angels, God’s companion, who falls away from his freindship seeing himself as a a rival in the pride of his brightness. In so doing he creates the fall of which all creation is a part. The Irish god Lú is the master builder and craftsman of all trades. It would take more enquiry to decide if this the same as the ‘architect of the universe’, another title given to the Light Bearer.

But this could also be revisionist historian monks at work interpreting the mythology with an early Christian mindset. The name Lucifer does not mean the same as Satan . In the book of Revelation for example chapter 21 verse 16 it states that “I Jesus have sent my Angel to make these revelations to you for the sake of the churches. I am of David’s line, the root of David and the bright star of the morning ”. ‘The Morning Star’ is another title for Lucifer. Ideas about this title are more complex than shallow readings allow. Its also one of many areas where gnostic thought, early Christianity and Irish mythology overlap. As my essay on the four treasures of the Tuatha Dé Dannan will show.

The Stone of The Divisions also Known as The Cat Stone

Uisneach being at the geographic centre of Ireland, at the fires hearth so to speak, became the place were all its kings would meet… and it was from there in celebration that the first fire was lit.  Uisneach was hub of the burning wheel of Ireland. It was its navel. Uisneach, where all paths met. “The Stone of The Divisions” which can be still seen to this day, marked the exact centre. It’s lit fires signalled to the people waiting at every other hilltop of significance in the country that they could also light a fire during Lá Beltaine on the first of May, May Day, halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.  As soon as this fire was seen, the country wide festival could start.  

“Image of A Soul” Watercolour and Biro Sketch

The festival involved lighting two fires on the top of each hill. The cattle would  then be driven between the fires. It was believed This kept them safe from disease.  After this the people celebrated.  They themselves jumped over the fires and  at the end of the celebration passed the embers around to light their home fires directly from it.  This festival was an annual event and is still celebrated today at the hill of Uisneach.  One wonders did the smoke protect the leapers and the cattle from disease , is there something to this idea? In Native American culture and many others around the world we often see smoke being used around the afflicted , wafted in the air.  This is known there as smudging. Numerous herbs were burnt and have been proven to purify the air as most of these herbs are known to have antiseptic features. 

Saining is an another name for this and it is an age-old Celtic practice.

“The Hill At Uisneach” (Digital Image)

Smoke cleansing was traditionally used in Europe in much more secular ways as well. In the 14th and 15th centuries, people burned rosemary in their homes as a means to protect themselves from bubonic plague and other contagions. Into the 20th century, French doctors recommended burning rosemary and thyme in sickrooms and hospitals to purify the air.

Today what is seen to be the main Uisneach Rath itself or ‘The Palace’ as it is called is a figure of eight just like Slane, Tara, Emain Macha and also, I believe, Newgrange (which has its second ring mostly farmed away leaving only the stone monument remains ) . Irish culture has popularised the ring and the spiral as the its most prominent feature when in fact the figure of eight or double spiral motif may in fact be its most meaningful.

Uisneach is also the burial site of the Earth Goddess Ériu & the Sun God Lugh and as such was regarded as also a sacred burial ground. Uisneach was seen as a gate to the mythical fifth province, Mide, which held the four more familiar provinces together. For centuries, the fifth province was accessed at ‘Aill na Mireann’ (the Stone of Divisions), a sacred, fissured and fragmenting limestone boulder on the south west slope of the hill. A Glacial erratic, this huge six metre, thirty tonne boulder symbolises Ireland united in its divisions. It has also been known as ‘Umbilicus Hiberniae’, and ‘Axis Mundi’. Today, it is the most famous of over forty surviving features on Uisneach, although it is more commonly known as the ‘Catstone’, named so because it resembles a cat watching a mouse. It is under the ‘Catstone’ itself that Ériu is resting.

A point of interest to remember is that the names of London and Lyon and County Louth (Lú, as gaelige) have their origins with Lugh’s name even the name of the Leprechaun is descended from Old Irish luchorpán, via various Middle Irish forms such as luchrapán, lupraccán, (or var. luchrupán) . Which may derive from the name for Lu’s Stooped or small body as in Lugh Chorpán with the Irish word “chorp” meaning body and the word án as being a variation of the spelling of “ín” as in chorpín, as in little body. Chorp án can also mean body of water. But I am no expert in this at all and I am interested in any advice on the matter.

Dagda, the good god and leader of the Tuatha Dé Dannan, also lived at Uisneach, and one of the most extraordinary finds on Uisneach was the stable of his ‘solar horses’. These stables lie on the north flank of the hill, under a wheel-shaped enclosure which concealed two astonishing souterrains beneath a paved floor-one in the shape of what’s is interpreted to be, the divine mare, pursued by a galloping stallion, their forms similar to the famous White Horse in Berkshire, England.

At this centre of Uisneach under the auspice of the good god the fate of Ireland was worked out and decisions both spiritual and temporal were made. The burning Wheel of Fortune turned on this sacred hub. But of course the real wheel of fortune is the burning soul’s fate and that is decided by the decisions we take in relation to events we are faced with.

Map of Dagdas Stables with horse shaped souterrains
“Wheels Within Me” An A5 size sketch from The Crystal Path Notebooks Biro , Markers and Tippex

The Hare at Uisneach

“Come draw strength from Me
As you face the the worlds
wrath and fear,
invisible foes and enemies 
and all that surround you here 

I know of faults
Piling weight
upon that building
lies and hate,
their effect.
That tower we reject 
and its crumbling edifice “

I pray to become pure 
I pray to walk though the hawthorn gate 
I pray to step along the sacred branch. 

I pray to You, 
Seek Permission to enter
Your inner circle 
overgrown with moss 
and danced across 
by the leaping hare 
That led me here. 

Three steps up 
To the royal palace of yours
almost overrun
that has not yet succumbed. 
As I stand
and overlook 
four corners of Your Land
The Fire Burns me away 

And in the middle fifth
the hare speaks to say
from where
she lay
in her form,
like the daisies that adorn 
the walls of this seat.
Embedded the gems glisten…

“Now I am still and I listen “

Version 2

Another Hare

As I arrive 
This Hare dashes across the palace 
Away he flees, away from my gaze 
from endless days of duty and love 
Watching him grow from here 
Another seventh year. 

I burn at the hearth 
Wheels within me 
Prayers sent above
I burn and the young hare unafaid 
Tests the boundaries 
Fair haired 

Disregarding divine advice 
Liquid eyes looking 
Searching for the absent mother 
Craving love, dying to be loved 
A child shunning school 
Wisdom of the elders ignored 
His future in the balance 
The burning wheel turns
Wheels within wheels. 

An electric culture 
With lures and snares 
Await at each gap 
Music without song 
Beats without drum. 
Tears in the eyes 
of the guardians…
Do we lose our young
Who flee our hearth ? 
Temptations apart 
Never still
The hare runs on.  
Seeking ideas of companions 
Fire in his mouth 

Let this be the prayer to You of return. 
Return from the whisperers 
Who fill his long ears with lies
Return from the wandering 
From the cold, cold night 
Return from the reckless flight
Back to The Path 
Back to the palace of Our Heart. 

11 October 2022

“Fire in his mouth” digital painting on card, with biro, watercolour and tippex

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