Friday, April 13, 2007

Incarnations of the Beara Breifne Way

I connect a lot of our Bréifne tours to tours around the Bearra Peninsula on the Cork and Kerry border and the variations on spelling there go all over the place, Berra, Beara, Bhearra, and so it goes on.


What also fascinates me in Ireland is how certain stories seem to incarnate themselves over time, and sometimes in reverse.


As part of my Brighid goddess tours we visit Loughcrew, which is better named Slieve na Cailleach Bhéarra, hills of the "goddess" Beara. The word "cailleach" pronounced in Scotland as "kyack" like any ancient Gaelic word has all kinds of interpretations which sadly include hag and witch. In Scotland the word is still used for "wife" in the same spirit that men ask other men today " 'ow's the missus".


In ancient times it is said that High Kings were chosen by goddesses and the high king of all of the land was chosen by the incarnation of Brighid of the time. A ceremony to crown a High King was not a coronation but a marriage ceremony with the goddess who became his spiritual wife and guide. So when Scottish men ask "how's the cailleach?" they are asking "how's your goddess", rather than hag or witch.


Anyway, to get back on topic. Loughcrew was once part of Bréifne and Cailleach Bhéarra was the name of the "brighid" goddess wife of High King Ollamh, speculated around 900 BC, who wanted to call this island country Fodhla, one of the triple human entities of goddess Morrigan, Brighid and Bhéarra's mother. A wise move trying to name the country after your goddess mother in law.


Fodhla is said to have marched down into Kerry and Cork to spread the idea of the Fodhla name and set up a Feis to honour it. Bhéarra followed him and now we have the beautiful Berra or Beara peninsula on the Cork and Kerry border that most people miss as they circle the Ring Of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula instead.


Meanwhile, the people of Munster wanted to call this land Eirin and Ulster people preferred Banba, the two other entities of Morrigan, so we know who won.


I recently read the story about a march in 1603 by Donal O'Sullivan Bere from the Beara Peninsula to Bréifne after British Crown forces defeated him and his supporting Spanish army. Along this long march starting with about 1000 people several of them stopped and settled along the way and became known as "bearas" When Donal finally reached Bréifne to be greeted by the O'Rourkes he was only accompanied by 35 people.


I just thought this was an amazing reverse of an ancient legend. Today the Bréifne tourist board are also trying to revive awareness of this march to encourage visitors to the popular Cork and Kerry regions to also follow the trail of the march to Bréifne ad discover what is here. Of course, like with Donal, probably for every 1000 visitors that think about it maybe only 35 actually make it all of the way here :-)


 

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