I met Dara Molloy over 20 years ago when we were both at a Céile Dé conference in County Wicklow. I met many great thinkers and spiritual leaders at that conference – many of whom are friends today. That conference gave me a proper introduction to Celtic Spirituality. Dara and his wife were a young couple at the time, living on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. Back then, Inis Mór was even more remote than it is today. They had their young son with them. At some point in the conference, I think it was actually a break out session because there were few of us in the room – Dara spoke about living on the island and the hardships of living without modern conveniences (like washing machines). And I recall that one crystal clear moment when he said something that I never forgot. He said, “Inis Mór is my place of resurrection.”
I’ve spent the last twenty years or so, contemplating that concept and what it means. The clip that you heard from Dara during the intro is his definition of a place of I’ve heard the story of St. Gobnait and we shared her story in episode one. Just to briefly recap, St. Gobnait was a 6th century young woman fleeing from some persecutor. She landed in the Aran Islands and set up a monastic community on Inis Oírr (the smallest island). Then she had a vision that she was to go on a journey to find her place of resurrection. She was to journey across Ireland until she found nine white deer grazing. There she would find her place of resurrection. She traveled through the beautiful hills and valleys of west cork and finally found her nine white deer in Ballyvourney. She set up her community there and performed many great works for the local people. They still revere her today especially around her burial site, church ruins and her holy well.
There so many sacred places in Ireland. And Inis Mór has an abundance. Let’s get to the interview with Dara and hear more about the island and places of resurrection.
segment 2 – guest interview
Highlights from the Dara Molloy interview
ON PLACES OF RESURRECTION
[The term Places of Resurrection] came from the Celtic monks. The Celtic monks, I think were very creative and imaginative in the way the they understood scripture. And particularly I think they were interested in images and parables and stories and metaphors because that’s the approach to spirituality that the Celtic monks have always taken. It’s not logical. It’s not analytical. They never became theologians. They more became poets.
Part of their whole way of life as spiritual people was to – in their earlier part of life – was to wander … ‘wander for Christ’ they ended up calling it. … This wandering generally didn’t have a focal point. It wasn’t like they were on pilgrimage to place X or place Y. It more that they were allowing the spirit to guide them wherever it led them. And they believed that if they did that authentically that eventually they would find their place of resurrection – that’s what they called it. The place of resurrection would be where they settled down and that would be where they would discover who they were really meant to be, and the work they were meant to do.
ON INIS MÓR
The best way to describe Inis Mór is that it’s magical. It’s amazing. It’s an experiential place. You might go to a library where you learn something that you might get into your head. But when you come to Inis Mór, you experience something… you can then go off and have a look at your experience and put words on it and give a narrative and so on – which, of course is what I did and what I continue to do – but the island itself has an energy about it which is very light in the sense of “bright”… and it has a depth to it that you can sense especially in the spiritual places.
ON HOLY WELLS
Our pagan traditions influenced hugely the development of Christianity in Ireland. It’s like a seamless robe that has some threads from the pagan tradition and some threads from the Christian tradition. Doing the “rounds” began in the pagan tradition. So if you take a holy well today, they’re all named in Ireland after a saint… but before Christianity these wells were also sacred places. And for the druids who were the spiritual leaders for these Celtic peoples, the wells were sacred because they marked an entrance into the womb of the earth itself. And the earth was a mother, and she was a goddess.
WHAT SURPRISES PEOPLE WHEN THEY COME TO INIS MÓR?
When you come to any of the three Aran Islands, they’re quite flat, there are no tree and there isn’t anything to block your view. And what you see are stone walls – everywhere. And I think it’s kind of surprising and shocking to people to see just how many stone walls are, how intricately they’re built, how many different styles there are to building a stone wall, how small the fields are, and just how far they can see in every direction. So when you come to Aran, you get a long distance view of life… Aran is expansive.
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The Aran Islands by John Millington Synge, c. 1907
Commentary written about the years he spend in the Aran Islands, the people, traditions, culture and landscape. Written as beautifully as any great travel writer could do.
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Perfect little guidebook written by a local guide who blends history, mythology and spiritualty all through the descriptions.