The Scribe in Me.

The Scribe in Me.

Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. Here are some of my travels and trevails on life's journey...

Kilcash Romanesque Church.

Kilcash Church lies on the slopes of Slievenamon on the Plain of Fémen in Co. Tipperary, Ireland. It is a Romanesque Church that dates from the 6th century and is dedicated to St Colman ua hEirc. Both the Plain of Fémen and Colman ua hEirc have strong associaltions with the Goddess and Saint Brigid.

The church is of the nave-and-chancel type. Beside it stands the Medieval and imposing Tower House that is Kilcash Castle. Within the graveyard lie the remains of some of the Butlers of Ormond, including Margaret Butler, Lady Iveagh (d. 1744) about whom the song 'Caoine Cill Cháis - Lament for Kilcash' was penned.

It is situated within the 2.5km restrictive Covid distance as the crow flies from my house. And it was to there I escaped the other day, when I needed to get out of the house and away from the troubles that had addled my head. Seeking refuge in an ancient graveyard and churchsite did strike me as ironic in these Covid times.

We are on the eve of Bealtaine, the cross quarter day that is midway between the Spring Equinox and the Midsummer Solstice. Its name is derived from the Gaelic for Brigid and Fire so it is no wonder I'd be drawn there really.  How lucky am I though to live so close to here?  It is as good a place as any to escape to. I met no one, well no one from this world anyway. I did invoke Brigid for protection though, as I often do. 

St Colman ua hEirc is translated as 'beautiful, bright Colman, Erc's descendant.' The Erc being St Erc of Slane a native of Munster who is believed to have been a druid and the only member of King Laoghaire's retinue to pay homage to Saint Patrick during the latter's confrontation with the druids at the Hill of Slane in that infamous showdown in 433. The annals tell us that Patrick converted him to Christianity and made him a Bishop, of course he did, Erc was already highly revered. Before St Patrick died in 461, he sent Bishop Erc back to Munster. Around the year 484, Brigit of Kildare was his travelling companion to his native province.

He is described as 'was an intimate friend of St. Brigid. At the synod of Mag-Femyn, ( Plain of Fémen) in Tipperary, it is related that Erk spoke highly of the great abbess of Kildare, and of the miraculous favours with which she was endowed by the Almighty.'  Some sources say that Brigid may even have been Colman's mother, or that she played a part in his conception at any rate. It is possible, since the abbatial succession in Irish monasteries was often kept within families. Mag-Femyn, (Fémen) in Tipperary is named after Brigid's sacred cows Fé and Men who grazed there. They were white cows with red ears.  St. Brigid was said to have travelled the land of Ireland in the company of these cows and it is believed that the animal not only sustained Brigid but also the poor she encountered on her travels.

These days the sun sets over Slievenamon and the Bealtaine sunsets have been stunning. The mountain is steeped in folklore and is associated with Fionn mac Cumhaill. On its summit are the remains of ancient burial cairns, which were seen as portals to the Otherworld. Two of the burial cairns (there are four in total) on the mountain are called Síd ar Femin (Sí ar Feimhin, the "fairy mound over Femen") and Sí Ghamhnaí ("fairy mound of the calves"). They were seen as the abodes of gods and entrances to the Otherworld. One of the burial cairns is said to be the abode of the god Bodhbh Dearg, son of the Dagda. Brigid is also a Daughter of the Dagda and I think that it is over one of these mounds the calf one maybe that the sun sets at Bealtaine, at least it seems so from my humble observations.

I leave you with a Brigid Blessing;

Smúraidh mi an tula mar a smúradh Brighde Muime.  Ainm naomh na Muime Bhith mu'n tula, bhith mu'n tán, bhith mu'n ardraich uile.

I will smoor the hearth as Brighid the Fostermother would smoor.  The Fostermother's holy name Be on the hearth, be on the herd, be on the household all.


Further Reading.

Rev. A. Cogan, The Diocese of Meath Ancient and Modern. Vol. I. (Dublin and London, 1862), 59-61.

Celtic Women by Peter Berresford Ellis ISBN 0-8028-3808-1



Abernethy Round Tower & Pictish Symbol Stone

The Picts were a Celtic tribe that lived to the north of the rivers Forth and Clyde in Scotland during the late Bronze Age early Medieval Age. They had their own language culture, governance and society. They had very close links with the Irish kingdom of the Dál Riata and both societies merged around 900AD and had 'wide connections and parallels'with neighbouring communities. Pict is said to mean ‘painted or tattooed people’ and we know from what illustrated Pictish Stones that have survived, that they were very skilled and artistic as a people. The Irish annals record that there were 7 Pictish kingdoms with their centre or capital being in Abernethy in Perth and Kinross. I find them fascinating because it is thought that they practised matrilineal kingship succession. The Picts were farmers, lived in cluster communities and had huge associations with sea pirating.

I was drawn to Abernethy because of the roofless round tower that stands there one of the two remaining in Scotland and one of only four round towers which exist outside of Ireland. There is also an intriguing Pictish Symbol Stone that drew me there, two for the price of one so to speak. I was not disappointed. Standing in the grounds of Kirk Bride – Kirk means Church and Bride is from St Brigid the Irish saint. The church is said to have been founded by Darlugdach, second abbess of Kildare and dedicated to Brigid. The tower stands 74 ft (23 m) high, being built in two stages and said to date from the 11th or 12th century. It has been remodelled as a clock tower which was inserted in the late 1800’s and at its base it a carved Pictish Stone.

Irish poets portrayed their Pictish counterparts as very much like themselves and many of their standing stones have Ogham script. So for a stone mad woman Druid scribe, there are obvious links and things about their sites that would draw me to them. They stem from a polytheistic culture that evolved into Christianity and traditions place Saint Palladius in Pictland after he left Ireland, and link Abernethy with Saint Brigid of Kildare. Pictish art appears on stones, metalwork and small objects of stone and bone. It is La Tène style in style with the Christian symbols being of the Insular Art tradition. The symbols and patterns consist of animals including the Pictish Beast, the "rectangle", the "mirror and comb", "double-disc and Z-rod" and the "crescent and V-rod." In the 8th and 9th centuries, after Christianization, the Pictish elite adopted a particular form of the Celtic brooch from Ireland (similar to the Tara Brooch) and in my mind’s eye I see them fastening their cloaks with same.

It is a quaint little town with many beguiling charms, the least of which is the round tower. The location "Afarnach's Hall" referred to in the earliest mediaeval Arthurian literature is usually identified as Abernethy. The town has a long and eventful history. There are remains of a petrified hill fort on the outskirts of the village as well as remains of a Pictish fort. The site of a Roman camp is nearby in the river valley. In the 7th century Irish missionaries bringing Columba’s and Brigid’s message from Iona and Kildare settled in Abernethy before Scone became the centre of religious life in the area with its monasteries and religious houses. It was here too that Malcolm III of Scotland paid homage to William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings. So it is a place steeped in history and clearly a geographically significant site. Such places fascinate me and I am compelled to dig deeper to peel away the layers to see what is revealed.

So what of this ancient Gaelic named place. ‘Aber’ derives from mouth or fort and the Nethy Burn flows down from the Ochil Hills past the present village. Clearly it means ‘Fort of the River Nethy.’ The Monastic Kirk or church was founded by an Irish Abbess closely linked to the Irish St. Brigid of Kildare. Brigid shares her name and feast day (Feb. 1) with a Celtic goddess. It is thought that she was the last high priestess of the goddess Brigid, both Brigid’s are identified as one deity. We know that she was raised by Druids at a time when Christianity was taking hold in Ireland and was ordained a Bishop by St. Mel, Bishop of Ardagh such was her standing. Her monastic settlement in Kildare was a double monastery and welcomed both women and men and was a noted refuge for women. Darlughdach served as Brigid’s ambassador to the Pictish King Nechtan. She was also her “Anam Cara” or soul friend. The two women were so close that they slept in the same bed.

After Brigid turned 70, she warned Darlughdach that she expected to die soon. Her younger soulmate begged to die at the same time. Brigid wanted her to live so she could succeed her as abbess. Brigid died of natural causes on Feb. 1, 525. The bond between the women was so close that Darlughdach followed her soulmate in death some years later on Feb 1st. Nechtan Morbet the Pictish king was said to have reigned for twenty-four years. In the third year of his reign, Darlugdach, abbess of Kildare, came as an exile to Britain for the sake of Christ. The second year after her arrival Nechtan dedicated Abernethy to St. Brigid, and Darlugdach, who was present, shouted Alleluia in respect of that offering. Nechtan had been driven to Ireland during the reign of his brother Drust, and, having sought St. Brigid, she prayed God for him, and promised that if he returned to his country he would possess the kingdom of the Picts in peace. ’ It was for this reason that the king established a church in her honour. We must remember these chronicles and annals were transcribed by Christian Monks and thus are severely biased so we have to see through another layer here. Darlugdach name means "daughter of Lugh" (Lugh being a Celtic deity, making it likely that Darlughdach, like Brigid, was originally a Celtic Goddess who was later "translated" into a Christian nun).

The Pictish Stone present at Abernethy, is a fragment of a stone which measures H 0.84m, W 0.56m and is granite. It sits at the base of the round tower with a stone for a cap which protects it from the elements. It is incised with the tuning fork symbol, flanked by a hafted hammer and an anvil, and below there is the upper left part of a crescent and V-rod with an internal double-spiral design and is said to date from the 7th century. There are about fifty major Pictish picture-symbols. Some are easily identified as animals or mythical creatures; others are completely mysterious, such as the 'crescent and V-rod' and the 'double disk' emblems.

Bottom line, the symbols have not been deciphered, and their meaning has perplexed researchers for centuries. I have some ideas though that might float,, fascinated as I am by symbols. The ‘crescent and v-rod’ is an extremely common symbol, the ‘tuning fork’ less so. The ‘tuning fork’ is a particularly enigmatic. A tuning fork is a double pronged piece of steel usually, that resonates at a certain pitch. Musicians would use these to tune their instruments in the past, and if the same tuning fork was used to tune all of the instruments, then they would all be perfectly tuned together. They would have been used in prayer and meditation. I am sure there was or is a God frequency in sound. As a symbol it was also used in cultures like the Picts, to show that a particular site was part of the sacred geometry of the area activated by sound as opposed to sunlight. The hammer and the anvil are symbols of the god Goibniu, (Goban) and symbolise the union between male and female. They are also a symbol of Brigid who is associated with blacksmiths. Marriages ceremonies are carried out at Gretna Green over an anvil, but it is not entirely clear what the origins of these are.The V-rod appears to be a bent arrow superimposed on a crescent; it is assumed to be a symbol of death: In astronomical terms, this is clearly representing something related to the moon. Precisely what remains unclear. The stone predates the tower by about 400 years, dating to about the year 600 A.D and possibly dates from the foundation of this church. Here is something fascinating though; Brigid is associated with smiting, so the hammer and the anvil could be a nod to her.

In Irish mythology Brigid appears as a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the daughter of the Dagda and wife of Bres, with whom she had a son named Ruadán. She is associated with the spring season, fertility, healing, and poetry and smith craft. She is known as a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night." It is perhaps a mighty leap, but sure someone has to make it. I like how it fits though.



Capaill or Kelpie?

On the 3rd January 2020 I awoke from a dream at 3.33am. I’d sleep through a hurricane and rarely remember my dreams. This one though came to me in the form of an amber eyed horse nuzzling me awake and given that the time was so peculiar, it got me to thinking that it might have a deeper meaning and something that Carl Jung would have had a field day with. 

I was flying to Edinburgh later that day and I scanned my brain for a animal connection, the only one it made was that of lion and well, the two animals were distinctly different.

Some people believe that we all have a spirit guide that takes the form of an animal, a totem animal as it were. I sometimes think mine is a heron, more times a hare, often a raven, but, if I were to choose a spirit guide, mine would have to be tht of a horse. Very few animals convey such majesty, power, pride, and nobility of spirit as the horse. In Irish myth there is a mare known as ‘fíorláir’ or ‘true mare’ – the seventh consecutive filly foal born to a dam, which was safe from all evil and its rider safe from all harm. My amber eyed dream horse was trying to tell me something. I firmly believe there is a little bit of truth in every myth, we just need to decipher it.

In fact, horses dominate myth. Enbarr of the Flowing Mane is a horse in Irish Myth which could traverse both land and sea. Owned by the sea-god Manannan Mac Lir but provided to Lugh Lamh-fada to use at his disposal. Epona the Great Mare is a fertility goddess and was revered by the Druids. In Welsh mythology Rhiannon is a figure from the Otherworld, she rides an uncatchable white mare. Liath Macha (‘grey of Macha’) and Dub Sainglend (‘black of Saingliu’) are the two chariot-horses of the hero Cúchulainn. One, the king of horses dies with his master, the other avenging his death. Niamh of the Golden Hair arrives from the Tir na nOg on a white horse, declares her love for Oisin, and they ride off into the sunset together. Similarly, when Cliodhna fell in love with Ciabhán, she appeared on a white horse from over the sea. Étaín, is identified as a horse goddess in some versions of Irish Mythology.

I flew in mid-afternoon, hired my car and made the first jaunt into my 2020 of trips. I was heading to Aberdeen to spend Nollaig na mBán with my favourite woman in the world. She is known as Freedom. I wasn’t long on the road when I got a phonecall from said woman informing me she was in Falkirk and could I go that way please. As I love the road less travelled by, I was happy to oblige. We met for dinner in a place called The Bruce and whiled away a pleasant evening reminiscing. I mentioned my horse dream and she exclaimed, ’Oh my Gawd you have got to see the Kelpies!’

A kelpie is a shape-changing aquatic spirit of Scottish legend. Its name may derive from the Scottish Gaelic word ‘capaill’ meaning horse. Kelpies are said to haunt rivers and streams, usually in the shape of a horse. They have been immortalised in steel in Falkirk. So, now the dream began to make sense. This was no coincidence, this was the universe and sychronisity.

In our folklore, the importance of horses is reflected by the otherworldly powers assigned to them. They are credited, for example, with the ability to see ghosts, and there are many stories of horses refusing to ride past a haunted spot despite the exhortations of the riders. Creatures that live in water, but can shape-shift into horse form, feature in the entire Celtic world. Pwca is such a horse creature in Welsh myth. It is a spirit that appears linked in origin to the Irish Púca and Cornish Bucca and the Scottish Kelpie. The Kelpie is decidedly malevolent. It most commonly appears as a beautiful horse near or in running water and can be identified by the mane that seems to represent seaweed.

Horses have been immortalised in sculpture too. The Gaelic Chieftain by Maurice Hannon on the Boyle Bypass in Co. Sligo, Ireland is particularly significant. While ‘An Capall Mór’ depicting a Gaelic warhorse wearing a unicorn like spear helmet by sculptors O Donoghue and Ross in Clonkeen in Co Kerry, is also particularly captivating. There are no sculptures though that can surpass the Kelpies in Falkirk in Scotland. I would say they stand head and shoulders above all others if that weren't such a cliche.

Towering over a new canal extension which links the Forth & Clyde Canal to the North Sea. They stand 30 meters high, and are the largest equine sculptures in the world, as a monument to Scotland’s horse-powered industrial heritage. These works of art, created by artist Andy Scott, have become iconic on the landscape after being modelled on two Clydesdale horses, Duke and Baron. The Kelpies represent the lineage of the heavy horse of Scottish industry and economy, pulling the wagons, ploughs, barges and coal ships that shaped the geographical layout of Falkirk.

I have to say, hand on heart, they were mystifyingly alluring and standing beside them, walking between then and even entering the belly of the beast was almost like a religious experience. It was a rare day in January, when the sky was cloudless and blue and the sun cast shadows in the glint of steel and on the ripple of water and I was very captivated. I wonder which of them woke me up? What was the message, what was I to glean from this symbolic encounter with these two Kelpies?

The legend goes, the Kelpies are shapeshifting malevolent creatures from the other world. There is a Kelpie story associated with every body of water in Scotland, the most famous being the Loch Ness monster. They are black and their mane resembles seaweed or sea serpents and they wear their horseshoes backwards and a silver harness about their necks. They are said to have the gift of speech and their sole function is to lure you onto their backs from where upon there is no escape. They promptly dive beneath the waves and eat you.

There are three known ways to escape their clutches, the first is to cut your hand off where you first touch one, the second is to relieve him of his silver harness which gives you powers to change him into human form, though it is not known if he is any less dangerous as a man. The third way is to shoot him with a silver bullet.

I guess that says to believe in my own freedom, make my own choices. We are never really forced to do anything. Even though I did end up in the belly of the kelpie, I did so by choice, and I was utterly fascinated by the construction of his innards, thousands of pieces of steel, no two the same. Woman and beast enter a silent contract acknowledging mutual respect and awareness of responsibility to each other. I’m on a journey, his presence and pool of water is my 'imbas', my well spring of inspiration, the horse totem will guide me. And I have the means to best him, should he turn rogue.

“No mortal ear could have heard the kelpie passing through the night, for the great black hooves of it were as soundless in their stride as feathers falling.”

― Mollie Hunter, The Kelpie's Pearls


The Divine Goddess at Huntington Castle

Being of Ireland an island of mysticism and Goddess energy, it is no surprise that I’d be drawn to a female deity or at least the concept of one. I could never fully reconcile in myself, even after studying the Humanities, the notion of a threesome of maleness in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I always found myself searching for a Goddess energy in there for balance and symmetry. We are all born of a woman are we not?

I do not claim to understand the nature of divinity, nor do I even claim to be fully sold on the notion of divinity either, nor of one supreme being, but, I do leave the door open for it to be a possibility, for even science cannot rule out God. That said I do believe there is within each of us, a guiding force, a superintendent energy that causes us to live the way we do. Traditionally that would be known as conscience and traditionally and historicallly, in our modern patriarchal society, God and divinity has displayed itself as a masculine force. For me it is not exclusively male, there also exists a divine feminine.

In Ireland with Christianity superimposed upon our Druidic ways, Goddess and female powerhouses are very prevalent in our collective psyche. There are in our myths, several examples of strong, powerhouses of women who formed us, created our landscape, named our country, formed our laws, deigned our unions, married our High Kings, control our seasons and visit us annually in blessing and benevolence. Ireland is also the place where the principle of a Divine Feminine based religion was formed, with its Mecca being in Huntington Castle, Co Carlow, and the Temple of the Goddess.

The Divine Feminine is a sacred and dare I say it, a sensual force. The concept isn’t necessarily seen, but rather, it is something that is felt deep within us. It is a healing and a nurturing energy, intangible in a sense, yet mighty and affirming. The energy of it is in tune with Mother Earth, the changing seasons and the moon and planetary alignments.

In some sense our connection to the Divine Feminine hides in the shadows. We’ve forgotten, in this world that serves commerce, what it means to live by Divine Feminine principles and natural law and to be in tune with the rhythms of Mother Earth. Our lives are busy, we spend our days juggling balls in the air, whilst commuting to and from work, weeks meld into months, and sometimes we are like hamsters on the treadmill of life. So when I got a chance to spend a weekend away with two friends from school, well I grab it with both hands and chart my course. Where did we head for, but Huntington Castlein Co. Carlow, and it proved a great opportunity to nurture body and soul.

Huntington Castle is the ancient seat of the Esmonde family, Norman settlers who arrived in 1192. The castle which was constructed in 1625, firstly as a garrison, on the strategically important route from Wexford to Dublin eventually became the family home. Subsequent generations of the family added various extensions and details giving the effect of a truly unique and interesting building. The family name has changed twice due to inheritance down the female line and the present family name is Durdin Robertson, all are direct descendants of the Esmondes and today three generations of the family still live in the castle.

In the 1970’s the basement was converted into a temple to the Egyptian Goddess Isis, honouring the divine feminine. The Temple of the Goddess celebrates the divine feminine and is housed in the basement of the castle. It is fascinatingly eclectic and inspiring. It previously housed the dungeons, strongroom, old kitchen and well but in 1976 it became the foundation centre for the Fellowship of the Goddess. There is the sacred well of St Brigid, a main altar as well as dozens of other side altars reflecting different goddesses. The Fellowship sought to promote the female aspect of divinity and was founded by Olivia Robertson with her brother Lawrence (Derry) and Derry's wife Bobby. Today the Temple is at the heart of a recognised world religion with thousands of members from all over the world.

It is a special spot, no doubt about it, in the grounds are an ancient abbey and a yew walk as well as tearooms, a craft shop and delightful gardens which sweep down to the river, and peacocks on the lawn. It would do your soul good without any deities being present. We stayed in the 17th century gate lodge and were made to feel very welcome by Alex Durdin Robertson, his castle was our castle, and our host could not do enough for us. The weekend away ended all too soon, and weeks later and I still feel the benefit of the place.

Megalithiques Tuchenn Pol - the divil of a monument.

My fascination with megaliths monuments is old news. My radar for them is legendary. I will forever be drawn to and will always seek out an ancient place, that is just how I am made, that is the wanderer in me. I am not an archaeologist though; in fact I think I'm agnostic about archaeologists! So dear reader, any ancient places that I share with you will be peppered with my musings and seasoned with some science.

In defence of archaeologists, they work darn hard in their excavations, and apply a heck of a lot of science to their discoveries, and of course I believe deep in the core of every archaeologist is a treasure hunter, and part of me can so relate to that. There be times when I wish they wouldn't excavate, but rather develop scientific techniques that inform their study and leave these sites intact. Some have, it has to be said, with things like LIDAR scanning and Geo Phys for example. Ultimately though, the Druid in me abhors their destruction, their desecration, the excavations, I need to honour these places and leave them alone.

The south coast of Brittany is like mana from heaven for a stone mad druid scribe. Everybody knows of Carnac (and I will blog about that) but this coast is literally littered with megalithic monuments. I have often said that I do not understand the logic of the ancient Bretons, why they constructed the monuments they did, why they placed them where they placed them, and I have no comprehension of their rock art nor their types of monuments, nor how they are oriented, but, I am slowly developing an understanding. I do have a great insight into Irish monuments and I have to be careful not to be applying those preconceived ideas here because I have come to know that we must be very careful of the lens we use in which to view history.

Here is what I have discerned thus far. The south of Brittany contains some of the most enigmatic stone alignments and stone complexes anywhere in the world. In fact, all of Brittany does, not just the south. Brittany is the westernmost region of France and most of these sites have an eastern alignment. They span a time line of 7.000 years, from Neolithic sites to sites that became Christianised in medieval times. These megaliths range from a single standing stone, to vast alignments of stone rows that stretch for miles, to dolmens and mounds, stone circles, cromlechs and passage tombs. In short, every classification of megalithic monument can be found here and then some. In fact they enjoy a pre-eminent status among the megalithic sites of Europe.

The early sites of Brittany usually contained a simple floor plan. Narrow, long corridors lead to a large round polygonal or angular chambers, which were covered with stone slabe or a tholos. As monument building progressed some monuments were given additional side chambers and many were accessed by covered alleys known as' Allée couverte.' and many of these sites had carvings which indicate they were dedicated to a mother Goddess, for example cup marks or circle type carvings. Each site from the most simple to the most complex is utterly fascinating. 

Along the coast from Doëlan , as you head inland to the east, is a vast sweep of beach near to a place called Guidel Plage. It is a surfer's paradise. It has been developed in such a way that provides paths for cyclists and walkers too and sometimes I walk for ages along here. I enjoy the levelness, and the ions from the sea (to be fair I enjoy watching the surfers in their wetsuits too) and it is open and not secluded which can be important for a woman walking alone. It is called Boulevard de l'Atlantique.

The other day I ventured further than I ever had, I was just wandering aimlessly just enjoying it, heading for nowhere in particular. To my left were sand dunes and hidden enclaves of camper van Aires a mecca for surfer dude types, even in winter and a golf course. You can imagine my delight when I spot a tiny fingerpost sign which read 'Megalithiques Tuchenn Pol.' well, if you were me, you'd have to follow that sign!

The first thing I spotted was a standing stone at the left of a narrow lane and upon further study I could see that there was some sort of a carving on it, which might have been an axe, but I am no expert and that was my impression. Further in there was a sign with a legend in French and it read 'on remarque des dessins sculptés dont une hâche' - which I took to mean one of two thing; that it was a carving of an axe or that the carving was made with an axe, so for me the jury is out and my French is nowhere near good enough yet to be an absolute authority, though it is improving.  I am mindful too that Hafted axes are found for example in: Mané Kerioned, Kerran, Mané Lud, La Table des Marchands, Manio and others in Brittany and I have to be careful not to be influenced by that. Here they call standing stones 'menhirs.'

This monument turned out to be a whole complex of monuments, three of which I found evidence of. And again, when you read 'complexe' on a sign in French you have to be careful to interpret it both ways;  firstly as a complicated structure and  secondly as a vast array of things. The other thing to be mindful in deciphering the name of a site, is that often here in Brittany, they are in Breton and not in French, to further complicate my enquiry. 

You can imagine my intrigue when the sign named these respectively  as Tuchenn Pol ('butte du diable'), (the devil's mound), circular in shape (diameter of 27 m), the Tuchenn er Gouc'h ('mound of the man') rectangular (34 m long and 12 m wide) and the Tuchenn er Hroëk ('mound of the good woman') also rectangular (45 m long for 25 m wide). I couldn't help wondering why the woman was defined as 'good' while the man had no such honouring. These were described as 'tumuli' which is plural for 'tumulus' which depicts an ancient burial mound; a barrow. There was also evidence of a cist type burial where were found a child's remains.

The Tuchenn Pol mound covered a structure consisting of a long, north-westerly corridor leading into a large rectangular north-east / south-west chamber. Two alcoves, at the north and east corners of this sepulchral chamber, completed the whole. Several slabs delimiting the main chamber and the entrance hall had engravings, nothing of which I could decipher.

It had been excavated 1891 and two jadeite axes,  and calla beads were found which dated the site as Neolithic. Suffice to say, pretty old. It is known that this complex did suffer some degradation from a nearby quarry, during the second world war and from the construction of a nearby golf course. I still found it utterly beguiling. 

I walked back wondering about these ancient dieties interred here, a child, a man a devil and a good woman and I was left with no answers, save one, that it was a 'divil' of a monument to understand, but that too was okay. 

Saintes be Praised.

I have become a nomad, wandering aimlessly through France. I short of shunt from cathedral to cathedral, sunny spot to sunny spot, camp site to camp site. Will this quest never end? I have to admit that I never tire of them, what my brother calls ‘old buildings’. It is not so much the old buildings that fascinate me, though they are very interesting, but more the medieval iconography depicted in them. I love deciphering the symbolism.

Saintes had a world of surprises. Massive east windows with glass intact, a carved tomb slab of a medieval lady in costume of the time, so like a tomb in lady in Jerpoint Abbey in Co Kilkenny. There was half a knight, obviously he was vandalised during the Protestant wars. Immediately I wanted to know more about him, who the effigy depicted, why he was destroyed etc. At times like this I wish my French stretched beyond my few pigeon phrases. Of course I love the flamboyant style of architecture, so named from the French flamboyant, "flaming" as I’ve mentioned before, I keep trying to find another Kilcooley Window. Sigh, one of these days.

And unexpectedly I found a mermaid carving and those are always a delight. It was a pleasure to wander her ancient streets and stumble upon the ancient Roman remains also. The Arch of Germanicus for example, how wondrous and how noble a construct is that? It was built around 18BC by a rich citizen of the town. In Roman times, Saintes was known as Mediolanum Santonum, and during much of its history, the name of the city was spelled Xaintes and Xainctes. It was dedicated to the emperor Tiberius, his son Drusus Julius Caesar, and his adoptive son Germanicus. It has two bays and was originally sited over the terminus of the Roman road from Lyon to Saintes. You’d have to feel privileged to stand in the shadow of that arch.

I stopped in Bordeaux enroute there, the most radioactive city in the world. It’s something to do with the amount of nuclear power stations near the city. It did take the gloss of it for me a bit I have to admit. I did go to visit Bordeaux Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux) the place where in 1137 the 13-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII, a few months before she became Queen. Fontevraud Abbey near Chinon is where she is buried and where her effigy lies. She married two Kings and was mother to three more. That is pretty impressive.

Arch of Germanicus