I’m currently lucky enough to be in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where Saint Patrick’s Day – Paddy’s Day as it’s known here as elsewhere – is an unofficial holiday, not least because it often falls mid-way through lent giving those who observe this fasting period a “day off” and time of celebration before Easter. While winter still lingers in Newfoundland and the Shamrock green has yet to burrow its way up through the snow, my thoughts today warmly turn to memories of Ireland, with its rich folklore, inspiring landscapes and shrines connecting its spiritual past with our present pilgrimages.
|Croagh Patrick, Ireland|
Phil Cousineau, best-selling author, teacher and TV host, has been taking pilgrims to Ireland with Sacred Earth Journeys for some years now, and one of the places he will again lead a group to this September is Croagh Patrick, the holiest mountain in Ireland. It was on the summit of this mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD, and the tradition of pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in honour of Ireland’s patron saint stretches back over 5,000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption.(1) For the 2013 Sacred Earth Journeys tour Phil will lead the group up to the first prayer station – around a half hour walk – and will there share a fascinating history of St. Patrick and the tradition of pilgrimage.
Colloquially known as The Reek, Croagh Patrick also presents one of Ireland’s most breathtaking vistas from all stages of the ascent. Located close to the picturesque town of Westport, the mountain stands tall and proud distinguishing itself from its neighbouring rolling hills by its stature (2,500 ft above sea level) and conical presence. The place where, according to legend, Saint Patrick banished snakes from Ireland forever! Today, a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick is a fitting place to banish our own – more metaphorical – snakes and breath in that lung-expanding pure Irish air while absorbing the spectacular views over County Mayo.
There are still some places on the 2013 sacred journey to Ireland: The Mythic Heart of Ireland with Phil Cousineau if you’d like to experience for yourself the majesty of Croagh Patrick as well as discover Ireland’s stunning landscapes and vibrant cities. Until then, as the old Irish blessing goes, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Visit the Press section of the Sacred Earth Journey’s website for a couple of recent fascinating articles by Phil Cousineau about the art of pilgrimage and what it means to be a pilgrim: https://www.sacredearthjourneys.ca/sections/about-us-x.htm
(1) Factual information taken from the Croagh Patrick Visitor’s Centre: http://www.croagh-patrick.com/visitorcentre/holy-mountain
~ Kim Bridgett