One of our repeat travellers requested a visit to a site on the Cork and Kerry border called “The City”, below the Paps of Anu.
I looked on the Ordnance survey map, no luck.
I looked on the internet, no luck, except a comment on a hillwalker’s site for the walking group to meet at “The City” for a ramble along the Duhallow Way. I grabbed my Ordnance Survey map to find the Duhallow Way and noticed an “Ogham Stone” was on the route, so this is where we headed for.
We arrived in Shrone village, which is quite large complete with church and school but not clearly featured on the map. Here we found a very informative sign telling us all about “The City”, but not how to get to it.
There is a loop road from Shrone that meets up with the Duhallow Way. Thinking of all of the ramblers meeting and parking their cars we started to look for a place where several cars could park, and believed this could be by “The City”. We never found such a place, so asked a farmer who was cutting his hedge.
“The City” is right by his house, and quite a large site it is!
The ramblers car parking is still a mystery as I only just found a spot that fitted my minibus.
There’s quite a range of relics within “The City” and the farmer confirmed that the site was an ancient Bealtaine site and that Mass is still held there on May 2nd each year (where do they park?). We were just a few days before this Mass, though a Mass would be so different to what this site once was.
On this beautiful sunny day there was an instant feel of ancient frolicking, of it being a site of ancient “spring breaks” under the watching eyes of Anu
To recap, Bealtaine was a time of “intense courting” between single boys and girls who would have traveled to this site from many miles around, certainly from most of what is now Munster. This seasonal mating dance would have included very active music and dancing. Mates would be chosen, couples formed, and probably fairly instant romantic mating would complete the festival.
In ancient times it was practical to try and conceive at this time so that babies would be born the following Spring and miss the risks of winter. Marriage probably did not happen until the child was born because that was when couples committed themselves to a unity for the raising of children. The equivalent of both marriage and christening may have been a joint ceremony around Imbolc. If a couple did not produce a healthy child by Imbolc it may be that they re-entered the Bealtaine “dance” to find new mates.
Looking over the city from a cairn. You can see its small entrance below the thin lintel stone.
Up until around mid 1980s a May Day fair was held here with an assortment of traders and May dances.
I do not know if a change of priest cause change of use but now on May 2nd each year a religious mass is held here instead of a fair.
The left stone appears to be what is listed on the OS map as an ogham stone but I suspect it is the remains of a mating stone.
A Mating Stones has a hole near the top. When a boy feels he has wooed a girl he places his finger through the stone. If she accepts the advance she places her finger through the hole to accept his proposal, an ancient engagement. At that point they are free to mate.
The ogham definition may have been caused by lovers inscribing a sort of ogham “JD luvs JC” graffiti in ogham language.
Though not obvious from the photos, this is a beautiful bubbling spring well. Cattle used to be brought here to drink at Bealtaine.
There was a statue above this mass alter and the farmer said that the person who stole it is now in jail.
I would have thought a better punishment would have been to teach him how to make statues and then build a replacement.
Guaranteed, he would not want anyone stealing something he made.
This is some of the ancient city wall.
At May Mass today the pilgrims walk clockwise outside and inside of these walls while praying with their rosary beads.
The Paps Of Anu seen over the city walls.
Though not visible in this picture, each mountain has a cairn mounted on the top.