Settling The Manor at Tara part 3

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 3: The Provinces and Their Attributes

One of our major sources for an Irish cosmological system is to be found in a 12th Century text, The Settling of the Manor at Tara. In the Settling of the Manor at Tara, there is unrest over the land because the right order of the island and its divisions have been forgotten, and from this forgetting there is also deep unrest in the natural order of things. We create meaning and uphold it, and in communities where we lose our sense of meaning, our common culture and understanding can also be shook to its core. In the Settling of the Manor, the common understanding of a culture had been forgotten, and discontent arose when the unified understanding was lost.

The Seanachie Fintan was called to the kings Hall at Tara and spoke of what we have forgotten – who we are and how we relate to the island, and by association ‘our universe’. In the Settling of the Manor a number of things happen – Fintan sets the island in relation to the wider world, so for example he mentions Spain to the south. In all of this he is placing the island of Ireland at the centre of a cosmological map – we are the centre of the world. Fintan also recounts the history and genealogy of those who have inhabited the island, again placing the island at the centre, this time in the stream of time.

Fintan also describes the island in Her geographical divisions, and it is this which we concern ourselves with. The seanachie is asked “how is Ireland divided” and Fintan answers immediately “It is not difficult” On one hand we have the utterance of a learned scholar, chronicler and wise man, but the question and answer process in Irish history and myth also shows a means of transmission of knowledge – through question and answer. The utterance “not difficult” can also be seen as a statement which takes into account the shared knowledge of a people – it is not hard because this is something we know.

He then says “Thus it was and ever it shall be…” – this description is an eternal truth, the land Herself and her qualities. He then offers us a cosmological model – knowledge in the west, battle in the north, prosperity in the east, harmony in the south and sovereignty at the centre.

In this series the Old Irish terms for these attributes are sometimes used. In the West is knowledge or Fis. In the North is battle or Cath. In the East is prosperity or Blath. In the South is harmony or Seis.

After the attributes of the directions is given, we are given more detailed descriptions of the attributes of each direction in a more narrative form, with the land called upon and personified as ‘Her’. For example in the West we are offered the following:

  Her learning, her foundation, her teaching, her alliance, her judgement, her chronicles, her counsels, her stories, her histories, her science, her comeliness, her eloquence, her beauty, her blushing, her bounty, her abundance, her wealth — from the western part in the west.’

So we are offered the first of our Irish mandalas and symbol sets.

1

From here Fintan is asked to define the reaches of each quality, which, as always, he answers with “not difficult” and proceeds to offer tangible geographical bounds.

Having five compass points, the four quarters and centre, we cannot help but attribute these to the five Irish provinces. In contemporary Ireland there are four provinces, but the Irish word for province is cuige, denoting a fifth. The fivefold division is not straight forward, as at different times in Irelands history it has been divided in various ways, but for our purposes (four directions and centre) we work with the provinces as the four contemporary provinces to the four directions and centre and the old Irish province of Mide or Meath.

 2

We have Connaught in the East, Ulster in the North, Leinster in the East and Munster in the South. To these we add Mide, or in more modern rendering Meath in the centre. The very word Mide means middle.

The ties between the provinces and the attributes of the directions are made explicit in a poem called Ard Ruide from the Dinnseanchas. It speaks these attributes as follows:

“Connacht in the west is the kingdom of learning, the seat of the greatest and wisest druids and magicians; the men of Connacht are famed for their eloquence, their handsomeness and their ability to pronounce true judgement.

 Ulster in the north is the seat of battle valour, of haughtiness, strife, boasting; the men of Ulster are the fiercest warriors of all Ireland, and the queens and goddesses of Ulster are associated with battle and death.

 Leinster, the eastern kingdom, is the seat of prosperity, hospitality, the importing of rich foreign wares like silk or wine; the men of Leinster are noble in speech and their women are exceptionally beautiful.

 Munster in the south is the kingdom of music and the arts, of harpers, of skilled ficheall players and of skilled horsemen. The fairs of Munster were the greatest in all Ireland.

 The last kingdom, Meath, is the kingdom of Kingship, of stewardship, of bounty in government; in Meath lies the Hill of Tara, the traditional seat of the High King of Ireland. The ancient earthwork of Tara is called Rath na Ríthe (‘Ringfort of the Kings’).”

This is the foundation of the work we are undertaking – the attributes and their directions, and it is upon these firm foundations that we can build an image of remembering what we too have forgotten, and to connect with a living Irish spiritual tradition.

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