Old Castles and Lumpy Lawns

I’m of course referring to the majestic Boyne Valley, home to some of Ireland’s oldest history. We enjoyed it, as you may be expecting, ON A MAGICAL BUS TOUR! Actually, we were a smaller group so we took a van thing instead. COZY. Our guide, Leo, entertained us with stories and tidbits about Irish culture. FOR EXAMPLE: When you get your driver’s license in Ireland you have to put a big “N” on your car for “Novice” so people know you’re still learning and probably suck at driving. You keep your novice status for two years. People with permits have to drive around with an “L” for learner. He also told us that the statue of Anna Livia, located in the middle of a fountain, is known by locals as “the floozie in the jacuzzi.” These are important facts to know.

Leo’s stories made the drive go quickly. Our first stop was Royal County–this is where all the lumpy lawns were. As we filed out of the van, Leo warned us that “the wind up here will skin you alive.” It didn’t seem like it from the parking lot, but LEO WAS NOT KIDDING. He said no matter what time of year or what time of day, the wind is always howling. SPOOKY.

Seriously though–isn’t that church creepy? And there were a ton of crows squawking and flapping around all ominous.

The lawns are lumpy because of burial mounds. And other reasons? I don’t remember. But this area dates back 3,000 years. This was like the royal court for the Kings of Ireland. Leo also told us that women were held in equal regard to men in the ancient tribes. They ruled equally, lived equally, and even went into battle side by side with men–stark naked, bodies painted, hair standing on end. It’s a great image.

Leo also pointed out that even though women were held in high regard, the ancients still loved their phallic symbols. I guess it’s basically impossible to escape penis worship.

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We also saw a rag tree, which is an ancient celtic tradition. A person who’s sick or in need will cut off a piece of their clothing and tie it to the tree as an offering. I presume the hope is that their god/goddess/spirit guide will heal them. I’m sure it works.

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Next we went to Trim Castle which was built in the 1100s. IT’S THE SITE WHERE THEY FILMED BRAVEHEART. And that’s pretty much the coolest thing about it. It’s really old and crumbly, and we didn’t get to go inside. I’m not sad about it though. I’m sure the inside was just as old and crumbly as the outside.

Did you know that a million people died during the famine in Ireland. A MILLION. Ireland was still exporting food while people starved. Farmers had to choose between eating (rather than selling) the food they grew and risk being evicted or starving. And by evicted, I mean thrown out and forced to watch their home demolished and burned down to ensure that they couldn’t go back. Brutal. A Native America Tribe from North Dakota sent aide during the famine. Leo was baffled by that. He said, “imagine those people who barely had anything themselves, sending aid.” But it’s usually the people with the least who help the most because they know what it is to suffer. There was a lot of suffering. The population of Ireland dropped from 8 million to 3 million in 60 years. People were leaving in droves, but life wasn’t much better for them elsewhere. Working conditions in factories in the U.S. were so bad that many immigrants didn’t live longer than 7 years. SEVEN YEARS. Leo told us some sad shit.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE–my favorite Irish Clan, the O’Neill Clan, was one of the most powerful families in Ireland during the Cromwell era. So don’t fuck with the O’Neills.

We had two more stops after Trim Castle, but I’m going to continue the adventure in the next post. I’ve rambled enough for one day, and I’M TIRED. Semester is almost over, ya’ll. Nose  to the grindstone.

 

 

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