Ireland & the Celtic Imagination

The blood means nothing;
the spirit, the ghost of the land moves in the blood,
moves the blood
– William Carlos Williams

People have lived in Ireland for about 7000 years settling there after the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age. The burial tombs at Newgrange are a thousand years older than the pyramids. On Winter Solstice a single beam of light lasting for seventeen minutes shines into the middle of the tombs. It’s thought that this might be intended to allow the souls to ride the beam to wherever they needed to go.

The Celts arrived in Ireland about 4000 years ago. Since Ireland was never invaded by the Romans the influence of the Celts is most keenly preserved there. The Irish language (one of the forms of Gaelic) is derived from the ancient language of the Celts. Still spoken as the everyday language in parts of Ireland, it is so different from English that translation is difficult.

There are no words for yes and no. There are words to express how when you love a place, the place loves you back. The language is earth-based and sensual, reflecting the fact that the Celts saw no separation between themselves and the land that sustained them. The word for the land and the people is one word, currah.

The Celts had no written language so information was passed on through a rich oral and storytelling tradition which lives on today. The reverence for words is also expressed in the Irish prominence in English literature and the fact that in Ireland books of poetry are bestsellers.

Some years ago Ireland began calling to me. My grandparents came from Ireland and settled in San Francisco where my father was born; part of the generation of Americans who left behind their culture roots in order to assimilate. Yet on my first trip to Ireland as the plane swept low on approach to the Shannon airport and saw at the edge of the runway, a stone paddock holding a lone sheep, tears began to trickle down my cheeks as the word home echoed through my mind.

I told this story to a native Irish speaker I know who lives now in California and she responded, “Well now that would be the ancestors winking in and out welcoming you home.” I found in Ireland not only a feeling of home but a sense of the sacred in the air. Since then I’ve studied the history, the myths and begun to learn the language and continue to feel the pull of the magic and enchantment of the Celtic imagination that lingers in the misty Irish air and moves I think in all who have some Irish blood.

Consider joining me on a Journey to the West of Ireland. For more information on the next trip visit

2 Responses »

  1. Love the last paragraph. We have some Celtic blood in my family too, and I’ve always been enamored with Celtic mythology. I haven’t made it to Ireland yet, but I hope to some day. My sister went a few years ago and she just loved it.


    suzanne Reply:

    Thanks Amber for your comment. I do think that we have ties to our ancestors in our blood. I certainly felt the pull.


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