The Hill of Uisneach
Of legend, lore and returning gifts
Tales are powerful, even more so then most think, for they hold within their well woven words the insights and whispers of a deeper world, of a common kin of being and the awakening realisation of a shared grace.
The Hill of Uisneach, which is cradled in the legendary centre of the Irish isle is a place of legend, magic and age old mystery, drenched deep in the alchemy of the old world, potent symbolism and the living threads to the Elder ways and so too, it is a place of tales. It is a reminder that the history of our land is not just a faint echo where the faithful pearch their ears to hear but a loud chorus of presence and ongoing importance, a well worn and warmed sacredness that has not only stood the test of time but has very much being a weaver of it.
Uisneach, which rests tall in the valley of Rathnew was once seen as the omphalos, the navel of Ireland, as it stood in the Capital of Midhe, thought to be both the physical centre and the fifth providence of the Isle. It was a place of communion, counsel and shared space for the wider kingdom. Not only did the kings of the providences gather there but it was where those that kept the laws of nature, the Druids set flame and illumination on it’s peak as a welcome gift to all those that could see it, awakening and renewing the guiding flames and bonefires across the land.
Uisneach is a place of powerful alchemy, where oppisites were transmuted and transformed, where divisions were healed, darkenss over come and union was held in the harmony of the ages. The legends and lore of Uuisneach are filled with many examples, such as that of Lugh, the Leader of the Thuath De Dannan and keeper of the flames, who gave his life in sacrafice in the waters of a near by lake one which continues to hold his name.
The hill itself is one of fire and burning, warm ambers and scattering soot, yet hosts a well to Brigid, an ancient Goddess come Saint, who carries both Flame and Water in her guises.
On Uisneach stands a stone, known as “Ail na Mireann” or the “Catstone”, where many see within its form the image of a cat, perched above a mouse which is not only another example of the polarities brought to union but a lingering symbolism of power, combat and negotiation
Eriú, a tutelary Goddess, who gave her name to the land, is said to rest in waiting beneath the stone, for the day that her land once again claims its high king. Interesting enough it was Eriú herself that gave sovereignty to the so children of the Milesians, who displaced the semi-divine Tuatha Dé Danann, to rule the land.
Uisneach is also sacred to Dagda, the “Good-God” of the Thatha Dé Danann who was not only the father of Brigid but was said to keep his two horses there. In modern times there remains two souterrains, inside a wheel shaped enclosure. The first is shaped like a mare, pursued by a galloping stallion. A sight many feel is a lingering memory of the Dagda and his horses which were said to carry the Sun across the daytime sky.
The hill is also said to be a part of the bóthair naofa, the sacred road that links the Hill of Tara with the mound of Rathcroghan and a common place of rest for the Sidhe, the ancient primal spirits of the land, as they travelled across the country on the Solstice days.
The above references are somewhat well known, but what is often lacking is the knowledge that tales are not just in the listening, but in the speaking and sharing. A way to reach one another and the past, bridged by symbolism and a share communal heritage.
Gifting, be it in word or object is a part of the Irish tradition, a willed thanksgiving or rejoicing act of connection. What was of importance was not bound by the object given but by the pure intention behind it. This tradition is one that is still passed one, albeit in a more unconscious but never the less potent way.
If you are to go to Uineach and wish to leave a gift, like many do, please remind yourself to be respectful, ecologicaly minded and most of all aware, that in the elder ways, only gifts, given in truth and honour would be welcomed.
Using the tales, and the insights they whisper we can call together appropriate and honouring gifts that speak not only of our own knowledge but the ongoing odyssey of Uisneach
Among them would be…
Song of the Fili,
The Fili were known seers and poets of the Elder Irish system, who carried with them age old wisdom and well tuned lyrics. However in honouring our past we too need to understand that our present is just a joined as then and our voices just as truthful. Many, like myself believe that a song to the Sidhe or to the Deities associated with the land, sung with spirit and a soulful rhythm is a kind sharing of respect, acknowledgement and gathering experience.
Known in Gaelic as ‘uisce beatha’, the waters of life is a clear gift that draws memory to the union of flame and water as well as to shared grace and celebration.
Music and good cheer,
The Hill of Uisneach was one of the primary venues for the Lunasa fair, a harvest festival where laws where proclaimed and tributes were given to the kings of the land.
A simple candle, kept safe from trouble and the danger of a wild open flame is especially auspicious, especially near the Ail na Mireann. Some saw the stone not only as the navel of the land but a doorway into the underworld, a place of peace and understanding but sometimes of a damp earthy coldness. It is said that those who aid the wandering souls would be gifted with kindness and warmth on their own journey.
Wheat and fresh clean water,
For the thirst and hunger of the horses of Daghda.
Of wild local flowers and those of the rowan are said to be especially welcomed at the site.
Most of all let your thoughts rise and meander to their choice, listed or unlisted just be sure to let any gifts be made in a loving respect. It is also interesting to note that regardless of its lore, legends and reawakening energy the Hill of Uisneach is a sacred site, not only to the history of Ireland but to any who wish to leave themselves open to the experience.
As we travel on we look back in memory and as we recall, we see the world anew… may your journey and tales be a blessed one x