Settling the Manor at Tara Part 1

Part 1: Introduction 
Part 2: Models and Mandalas of Contemporary Initiation
Part 3: The Provinces and Their Attributes
Part 4: The Masters and the Treasures
Part 5: Elemental Attributes
Part 6: Thelemic Initiation Through The Provinces
Part 7: Afterword

Part 1: Introduction

This is the first of a series of posts on Irish cosmology, the Provinces and the Irish Order of Thelema

 As a child I grew up in a special, magical landscape in Co. Kildare in the Republic of Ireland. I grew up in a landscape whose very geography was shaped by the old stories, and Old Gods, and their identity and presence was deeply ingrained in the landscape. I grew up within a couple of miles of Dun Ailinne, where Finn Mac Cumhaill had residence and which served as the provincial royal site for the province of Leinster. Also within minutes’ walk from my home there was a Sheela na Gig in a ruined castle, stretching Her vulva, a face of femininity that stood as a stark contrast to the meek and mild view of womanhood otherwise available through the Catholic church, an institution I grew up on the periphery of.

I grew up next to earthworks, raths covered in massive towering native wood trees, rising like an island in the middle of an otherwise flat agricultural field. I grew up next to an old abandoned churchyard and church which was roofless, and open, covered and filled with plants, and being ripped down and transformed by ivy, just over the wall of which was a ‘holy well’. This meeting of land and church, the interweaving history of the land was a holy place, a place where nature and eminence and old Gods lived.

I grew up weaving Brigid’s crosses, collecting fruit from hedgerows, walking, and running and exploring fields and hedgerows with wide eyed wonder. Myth and story were a major part of my life as well as the sound bites of Irish which scattered my mother’s speech. I knew when I left the front gate my mother would offer her hand and say ‘tabhair dom do lámh’ and we would venture into the world, into nature, and on towards another adventure.

As a child I was brought to Kildare town where I stood in the ruins of the fire temple where a perpetual flame to Brigid, ancient Goddess and Irish Christian Saint, once burned brightly. I visited Brigids well and heard of its healing powers, and asked my mother about the rags and petitions adorning the tree next to it.

There was magic in the landscape, and stories and experiences and there was something that I instinctually knew as a child – the land is alive; a living, breathing, embodied being in Her own right.

And then, at some point along the way I lost my sense of wonder and joy. I grew up during the 80’s and 90’s, including the time of the so-called Celtic Tiger, a time of money and affluence and a feckless disregard for the sense of heritage which had long been repressed, and which had become important again. Families became distant, neighbours, even in rural areas, hardly knew each other, and even the almighty Church began to lose its power. Gaeilge, the oppressed tongue, lost its sense of magic and became an obligation of schooling. And I felt a deep and abiding sense of disconnection; from culture, from self, and from the land.

In my search for this sense of connection I turned to traditions emphasising a sense of experiential connection, and I started to explore various forms of Paganism. As time passes I feel less drawn to labels like Christian or Pagan, because I feel each person, wherever their sense of holism and spirituality brings them, can cultivate a relationship with the land and Her various faces. How they do that and what that means for them is really for them, but I am sharing my sense of connection in the hope that people will take their own very personal journeys. I believe that many people today, regardless of where they come from or what their faith background is, can hear the old stories and feel they are immediate and present in the land of Ireland, but this is a map, and not the territory. The territory can be found in nature, in the historical sites, in the old stories and in the engagement therewith.

My own journey also brought me to ask what about the age we live in? What is the zeitgeist of our time, and how do we live with our cultural heritage in a way that is relevant for today. This journey brought me to rhe law of thelema, which is expressed as “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”.

The series of posts deals with the cosmology of the provinces and related material which offers a workable horizontal cosmological system.

This series of posts is greatly informed by my experiences with the Irish Order of Thelema, a self-contracted body of individuals in an experiential tradition asking what we can learn from such a journey through the provinces and their qualities in a modern way. While I have journeyed through the provinces, some of the lessons I have learned on my journeys were quite individual, leading me to further research and experiment. This series reflects a universal exploration of how we can meet the provinces and the qualities, through offering musings and source material. It also deals more specifically with the approach of the Irish Order of Thelema. It also has relevance to the work of the Order of the Silver Branch, a contemporary school of magick and mysticism working with the traditions of the island of Ireland.

I offer seed thoughts for individuals to bring this work with the provinces in their own directions, as well as insight into some aspect of the Irish Order of Thelemas approach and system. For those who feel allied with our cause, a unique system of genuine initiation through the provinces and their attributes is available. Each path is individual, and this cosmology can be experienced in its own right by simply working with the material, and this land. What is of merit in this series is shared and inspired by those I have walked my path with, who have and who continue to add their knowledge and experience to this subject, but any deficit I claim as mine alone.

With these few initial words and thoughts I invite you the reader to join me on a journey through the Irish landscape and hopefully to a renewed or deepened relationship with Her. In looking forward I turn to the words of the Irish mystic George Russell (AE) in writing to the poet magician W B Yeats:

“The gods have returned to Erin and have centred themselves in the sacred mountains and blow the fires through the country. They have been seen by several in vision, they will awaken the magical instinct everywhere, and the universal heart of the people will turn to the old druidic beliefs…

…though now few we would soon be many, that a branch of the school for the revival of the ancient mysteries to teach real things would be formed here soon. Out of Ireland will arise a light to transform many ages and peoples.” 

May this revival continue to unfold individually, as a cross-fertilising within the community and as a conversation with the land Herself.

So tabhair dom do lámh, as we embark on a very special adventure.

Brian Breathnach/ Frater Fionn

Part 1: Introduction 
Part 2: Models and Mandalas of Contemporary Initiation
Part 3: The Provinces and Their Attributes
Part 4: The Masters and the Treasures
Part 5: Elemental Attributes
Part 6: Thelemic Initiation Through The Provinces
Part 7: Afterword