There is a stone at the heart of Ireland called Aille na Muirean [EL na MIRren], the stone of division. It sits on the side of the Hill of Uisneach [OOSH-nach], and it is the point, more or less, where Ireland’s four provinces come together. Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht [KONaht] are large, general regions, in which there are many counties, towns, parishes, and villages. Each province is the realm of a goddess—Macha, Bride [BREEDjuh], Áine [AWNyah], and Mebh [maev] respectively.
There is a fifth province, a place of the heart and spirit. Located in the sacred realm, it interconnects and participates in the other four, just as they look to it for continuity and balance. This province is the realm of Eriu [EY-roo], the goddess of the whole island and for whom Ireland is named.
Aille na Muirean is the connection point of the five. The stone has been a ritual site for many thousands of years; a man-made berm of earth and stone surrounds and focuses the energy. Under the rock is a narrow passageway, a sort of tunnel from east to west. It is said that to make the journey through the rock is to invite spiritual rebirth—or to risk it, depending on your point of view. It can also be done symbolically by walking sunwise around the rock from the east to the west.On a day near Bealtaine, the sacred celebration of the lighting of new fire that begins May, I stood facing the stone and its passageway. Our group of 19 had been there for about 15 minutes, simply being aware of the space and its energy. I felt summoned into the journey of the passageway, and I was waiting for something—I didn’t know what. At around noon two musicians began to play from a suite that celebrates all five goddesses. As they started the fifth movement, Eriu’s movement, I began to crawl under Aille na Muirean.
At first I could go on hands and knees—difficult enough. Then I had to go flat on my belly over rocks that turned me sideways and tugged at my clothing. Oh, well, I thought, one should be born naked. I knew I was not allowed to move the rocks—I don’t know how I knew, I just did. Perhaps for someone else it would be acceptable, but I was not supposed to “manage” my own rebirth that way.
At a transitional point in the music, I emerged into the sunlight and stood up, walking up out of the hollow and onto the circular ridge that surrounds the stone.
The well-known so-called “passage tombs” in Ireland—Newgrange and her sisters Knowth and Dowth—have been dated to several hundred years earlier than the great pyramid and a couple thousand earlier than Stonehenge. And they are the younger sites. Some of the cairns in Ireland may be several thousand years older still. Age alone does not make the spirit of a place stronger; that is the work of renewing spiritual energy in the continuing dance of heart and soul. Of the famous sites, Knowth has been managed to quiescence; it is possible that one day she will re-awaken to the fullness of her inner power. Newgrange retains her inner strength; Dowth is sequestered. This management is a little sad; many other sites have kept their power open and clean and free for those whose hearts and minds are receptive to it.
Aille na Muirean sits on the side of hill, visible from a roadway. Most people haven’t a clue about what is there; they just see another rock. They would feel her absence, I suspect, and more and more of us are learning about her power. But she does not need us to know her to be her self, to continue weaving her energies throughout the realms of land and spirit. Aille na Muirean is pulsing with Eriu’s own strength; she is the quietly beating heart of Ireland. I knew this even as she hovered above me—several tons of rock—while I made the journey from the place of beginnings to the place of new continuings.
Some of that strength is mine now.