Elyn Aviva and Gary White

Elyn Aviva and Gary White

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Elyn Aviva (neé Ellen Feinberg), Ph.D., M.Div., is an independent researcher specializing in sacred sites, powerful places, comparative religion, and pilgrimage. Her Ph.D. (Princeton University 1985) was the first dissertation in cultural anthropology documenting the contemporary pilgrimage on the Spanish Camino de Santiago, which she first walked in 1982. Her book, Following the Milky Way, now in its second edition, was the first modern travel narrative by an American about walking the French Way. It describes what the Camino was like in 1982, before it became so popular. Elyn has walked the Camino several times and has also walked the French pilgrimage route from Le Puy en Velay to the Pyrenees.

Elyn is the author of numerous articles and over a dozen books, including novels based on the theme of pilgrimage. She is a long-time student of geomancy, dowsing, and related arts. Along with her husband, Gary White, Elyn is co-author of the transformational-travel guidebook series, “Powerful Places,” written for travellers who want to experience more deeply the locations they visit. This series includes: Powerful Places in Scotland , in Ireland , in Brittany , and more. She is also co-author, with Ferran Blasco, of Where Heaven and Earth Unite: Powerful Places, Sacred Sites, and You, a series of in-depth interviews that explores how megaliths, labyrinths, churches, and other sacred locations utilize telluric and solar energies. Her latest novel, The Secret — A Magical Fable , will be released in summer 2018. Elyn and Gary have been living in Spain since 2009; they currently live in Oviedo, Asturias.

More information on her publications is available on the Facebook page Elyn Aviva Writes and at Many of Elyn’s articles can be found at www.yourlifeisatrip/home/author/elynaviva.


Gary White

Gary White, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Iowa State University, where he was a professor of music theory and a successful composer. He is author of a number of college-level music theory textbooks. After his (early) retirement in 1994, he established Pilgrims Process Publishers, which has published over 30 books by different authors on a variety of subjects, including sacred sites, pilgrimage, fiction, and a series of seven books under the general title of “Powerful Places in . .” The series, which is co-authored with his wife, Elyn Aviva, includes: Powerful Places in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, Catalonia, Brittany, and the Caminos de Santiago. For more information, go to

White also blogs at and

    Elyn Aviva Gary White

    Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Powerful Places in Catalonia is not your usual guidebook. It's not about visiting places, it's about experiencing them. It invites you to explore a carefully chosen selection of places in this land of contrasts: medieval villages, cosmopolitan cities, and gorgeous nature preserves.Th ese fascinating sites include 5,000-year-old dolmens, a magical beechwood forest, a hidden valley in the Pyrenees, Black Madonnas-and much more. Th e book gives detailed descriptions of these powerful places, how to get there, and what to do when you arrive. Numerous maps, graphics, and photos bring the locations to life.If you are intrigued by the unusual if you long to connect more deeply with the places you visit if you have a nagging feeling that there's more to some places than meets the eye-this is the travel guide for you.

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    Publisher: Pilgrims Process, Inc. (March 24, 2011)

    Publication Date: March 24, 2011

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    I really loved this book, and first read it cover to cover just for the info and the stories within it. But when I actually took it with me on an excursion to Brittany in April, it truly revealed its value to me. Because of the careful explanations, I was able to locate standing stones in the Carnac region that were located "in the wild" and could be explored and enjoyed at any time, without buying a ticket and worrying about closing hours. There are tons of little gems of wisdom and advice to help you get the maximum experience from your quest. Let me emphasize that this is not a traditional tourist book nor is it meant to be. It does not cover all of Brittany, and in fact misses much of the north. But the beauty is that it is focused on a specific region which the authors clearly know well, and the memories we have from using this book are priceless. I am very grateful to the authors for sharing their secret places so generously with the rest of us. Don't leave home without it!

    Powerful Places in Brittany is the kind of book that actually transports your imagination to the rich landscapes of France before you even arrive at your destination. The personal accounts describing the sensations the authors felt when visiting the megaliths, churches and other places of power are so helpful when planning your trip. Many guidebooks describe the bricks and mortar of tourist sites but when you visit, the experience seems flat. With this guide, the locations are selected for the beauty, awe and emotion they evoke. If you are interested in the spiritual aspects of travel or really experiencing the ancient megaliths of Brittany (rather than witnessing them as a tourist), White and Aviva have written the perfect guide to start you on your way.Katrina Eldridge[. ]

    This might be OK if you're into mysticism, but it's too far out for me. I found it too esoteric for my tastes.

    A bit over the top. I am not one to get into feeling energies and movements of the spirit, as these authors do. Interesting but not much help.

    Good book to read before visiting Brittany.

    Elyn Aviva's writing is always clear, engaging and exciting. Her knowledge of and passion for mythology, iconography and history makes places and events come alive, and you are transported in time to the essence of place and people whose spirits continue to infuse and in-form. To not read "Powerful Places" guides when traveling to these locations is to miss out on a great deal of insight and connection. I highly recommend all her books!

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    Powerful Places in Malta (Paperback)

    Gary Elyn & White Aviva

    Published by Pilgrims' Process, United States, 2019

    New - Softcover
    Condition: New

    Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. This is not your usual travel guide. Powerful Places in Malta provides detailed descriptions of specifically selected powerful places. It also gives background information and an overview of the controversies, conflicts, and conspiracies that swirl around many of Malta's ancient sacred sites. In addition, it includes first-hand experiences and practical suggestions on how to turn casual tourism into transformational travel.Malta is a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean. Its gigantic stone temples are among the oldest free-standing monuments in the world--earlier than Stonehenge, earlier than the Great Pyramid at Giza. They are also unique in construction and floorplan. What is their relationship to the sun and stars? Why are there so many? Are the temples and the so-called Fat Lady statues evidence of ancient Goddess worship? What about the mysterious cart-ruts that crisscross the limestone plateaus? What are they? Was the ?al Saflieni Hypogeum only an underground mausoleum, or was it also used for initiations and dream incubation? These are just some of the questions we explore.Numerous maps, photos, and graphics enhance the descriptions of these fascinating places.

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    Pilgrims Process Publishing was founded on a passion for journeys of discovery and a belief in the transformational power of reading. We are not driven by profit, so we publish books that are of specialized interest as well as books that have continued demand. We take pride in the quality of our productions. You can be assured of careful editing and an attractive layout when you purchase our books.

    We don’t limit ourselves to any specialty, though our editorial focus is the theme of inspiration. We have published a number of satires and books on travel and pilgrimage. In addition, we publish a guidebook series entitled “Powerful Places In . “. Current titles include Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, the Caminos de Santiago and Catalonia.

    We are aware of the revolution that is taking place in the book publishing industry and have fully embraced technical developments such as print on demand (POD) and electronic books (eBooks). Many of our books are now available for reading on the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad. We are witnessing the merging of books with the resources of the internet, which allows for the inclusion of audio and video as well as instant updating of content. Some of our print books take advantage of these resources with the inclusion of QR codes.

    Browse our catalog. We hope you enjoy what you find there.

    Some History from our Publisher, Gary White

    Pilgrims Process founders Gary White and Elyn Aviva in Girona, Spain.

    Pilgrims Process, Inc. began publishing in 2001 when Elyn Aviva's classic travel narrative on the Camino de Santiago (Following the Milky Way) needed a new edition. University presses (which had published the first edition) were going out of business or severely limiting publication, and commercial publishers were only interested in best sellers. I saw a need and had the computer skills to do the production.

    Over the years, I have gradually expanded our offerings, publishing books that I think are worth being in print without regard to potential sales. I have enjoyed being part of the technical revolution in book publishing and try to keep up to date on new techniques that add to the value and content of our offerings.

    Elyn Aviva and Gary White - History

    1 O'Brien, Henry. The Round Towers of Ireland: Or, The History of the Tuath-de-danaans. London: Parbury and Allen, 1834. xlii.
    O'Brien further noted: "These, I conceive, were the halcyon days of Ireland's legendary and romantic greatness. In this sequestered isle, aloof from the tumults of a bustling world, this Tuath-de-danaan colony, all of a religious race, and all disposed to the pursuits of literature, united into a circle of international love, and spread the fame of their sanctity throughout the remotest regions of the universe." (p. 517)
    Obrien's text may be read in its entirely here.

    2 Cambrensis, Giraldus. The Topography of Ireland. (originally published 1187) in The Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis, Thomas Wright, ed. London: George Bell and Sons, 1882. 97.
    The author continued: "Not that [the fire]cannot be extinguished, but the nuns and holy women tend and feed it, adding fuel, with such watchful and diligent care, that from the time of the Virgin, it has continued burning through a long course of years and although such heaps of wood have been consumed during this long period, there has been no accumulation of ashes. As in the time of St. Brigit twenty nuns were here engaged in the Lord's warfare, she herself being the twentieth, after her glorious departure, nineteen have always formed the society, the number having never been increased. Each of them has the care of the fire for a single night in turn, and, on the evening before the twentieth night, the nun, having heaped wood upon the fire, says, 'Brigit, take charge of your own fire for this night belongs to you.' She then leaves the fire, and in the morning it is found that the fire has not gone out, and that the usual quantity of fuel has been used."
    This text may be read in its entirety here.

    3 Leerssen, Joep. Remembrance and Imagination: Patterns in the Historical and Literary Representation of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame in Association with Field Day, 1997. 111.
    Leerssen comments: "O'Brien started out from four clues. One was the Round Towers look like erect penises the second. was that the word 'Erin' looks like the word 'Iran' the third was that Iran lies in the east, the cradle of Irish civilization, and that in the east there are pagodas, which, to the extend that they look like Round Towers, also look like erect penises, and the fourth one (clinching the matter) was that the Gaelic word for penis, bod, looks like the first syllable in the word 'Buddhism', denoting an eastern religion. The rest follows as a matter of course." (p. 118) .
    In O'Brien's own book from 1834, however, he includes in the prefix a number of favorable reviews:
    "'Astonishing talents, wonderful learning, powers of deep research and mental scope.'—Metropolitan Magazine.
    'A galaxy of discoveries the most interesting, and, were it not for the irresistible arguments by which they are confirmed, the most incredible, burst upon us at every page.'—People's Conservative.
    'Marvelous analogies and discoveries Our wonder at the unparalleled variety of resources A rank from which it could not be deposed by envy or by criticism.'—Atlas."
    (O'Brien, Henry. The Round Towers of Ireland: Or, The History of the Tuath-de-danaans. London: Parbury and Allen, 1834.)
    Contrary to Victorian sensibilities, O'Brien uses the word "phallic" or "phallus" in his text no less than 16 times.

    4 "Kildare Cathedral, Ireland." County Kildare History and Heritage. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <>.
    See also Wikipedia article on Kildare Cathedral.
    A legend explains how Brigid received the land for her monastery from the high king of Leinster: The king offered her, obstinately, "as much land as her cloak would cover." However when Brigid set down her cloak it miraculously spread out to cover all the Kildare acreage she required.
    One of her hagiographies, written c. 980, reported that the trunk of the saint's great oak tree remained in place in his own time: "In that place there stood a mighty oak tree, much beloved of Brigid, indeed blessed by her: the trunk survives to this day and none dare cut it with an axe. It possesses a property so great, that any person able to break off a part of it with their hands can hope thereby to win God's aid. Many miracles, by the blessings of Blessed Brigid, have been received through that oak tree." (Wright, Brian. Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint. Stroud [England: History, 2009. 51.)
    In 2013 there were reported to be a Church of Ireland congregation of only 20 members holding its Sunday services in Kildare Cathedral during the its (open) summer season. While the major restoration of the structure was completed in 1896, additional work has been done to the cathedral in recent years as part of its centenary.

    5 Barrow, Lennox. The Round Towers of Ireland: a Study and Gazetteer. Dublin: Academy, 1979. 15.

    8 Leerssen 118.
    The author adds: "Unlike the mysteries and the irretrievable disparition of ancient Irish culture, lost, inaccessible and largely unknown, the Round Towers were still part of the here and now they formed a physical link with a past that was so mysterious and unknown that it may just as well have been wholly non-existent." (p. 109).

    9 Historical Cloyne and Surrounds. Cloyne, Ireland, 2010.

    10 Westropp, T. J. "A List of the Round Towers of Ireland, with Notes on Those Which Have Been Demolished, and on Four in the County of Mayo". Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 5 (1898 - 1900). 455.

    13 Corlett, Chris. "Interpretation of Round Towers: Public Appeal or Professional Opinion?" Archaeology Ireland 12.2 (Summer, 1998): 26.

    19 Keane, Marcu. The Towers and Temples of Ancient Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Smith and Co. 1867. xix, xvii.

    20 Petrie, George. The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland: An Essay on the Origin and Uses of the Round Towers of Ireland. Dublin: Hodges and Smith. 1845. ii.

    21 Bonwick, James. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. London: Griffith, Farran & Co.1894. 215.

    22 Wilkes, Anna. Ireland: Ur of-the Chaldees. London: Trübner & Co. 1873. 39, 44-50.

    28 Stalley, R. A. Irish round Towers. Dublin: Country House, 2000. 10.
    "Victorian phallocentric Orientalism" is a quote from John Waddell. (Waddell, John. Foundation Myths: The Beginnings of Irish Archaeology. Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wordwell, 2005.)

    29 Callahan, Philip S. Ancient Mysteries, Modern Visions: the Magnetic Life of Agriculture. Kansas City, MO: Acres U.S.A., 1984. 36.

    30 O'Donovan, John, and Michael O'Flanagan, ed. Letters Containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the County of Kildare. Vol. 13. Bray, 1927. 89, 211.

    31 Croker, Thomas Crofton. Researches in the South of Ireland: Illustrative of the Scenery, Architectural Remains, and the Manners and Superstitions of the Peasantry. London: John Murray, 1824. 261. Cited in Williams, W. H. A. Tourism, Landscape, and the Irish Character: British Travel Writers in Pre-famine Ireland. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 2008. 36.

    32 Corlett, Chris. "Interpretation of Round Towers: Public Appeal or Professional Opinion?" Archaeology Ireland 12.2 (Summer, 1998): 27.

    33 Aviva, Elyn, and Gary C. White. Powerful Places in Ireland. Santa Fe, NM: Pilgrims Process, 2011. 127.

    34 Lawrence, Lisa. "Pagan Imagery in the Early Lives of Brigit: A Transformation from Goddess to Saint?" Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 16/17 (1996/1997): 39+.
    Carole M Cusack writes: "Tension exists between purely textual studies, which concentrate on demonstrating the Christian orthodoxy of the material in the vitae and the ways in which these texts contribute to knowledge of the early Irish Church, and the folkloric/comparative studies which indicate close ties with pre-Christian Irish religion and the transformation of Brigit from pagan goddess to Christian saint. This tension recently led Séamas Ó Catháin to suggest the term 'Holy Woman' for Brigit, which avoids favouring either pagan or Christian interpretations, side-stepping the otherwise inevitable 'bone of contention.'" (Cusack, Carole. "Brigit: Goddess, Saint, 'Holy Woman', and Bone of Contention." On a Panegyrical Note : Studies in Honour of Garry W Trompf. Sydney: Dept. of Studies in Religion, University of Sydney, 2007. 75.)
    In addition to the rush-woven St. Brigid’s Cross, a simple doll made of rushes, the Bhrideog, was part of a St. Brigid's Day folk practice in parts of Ireland and England up until the middle of the 20th century. The doll was carried by children or young people, who visited households in the neighborhood and provided singing and dancing entertainment, perhaps to solicit some coins or refreshment. (Wright, Brian. Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint. Stroud [England]: History, 2009. 112.)

    35 Wright, Brian. Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint. Stroud [England]: History, 2009. 61+.
    The author provides some evidence for his assertion that the rectangular "reconstruction" of St. Brigid's Fire Temple is not in fact located on the site of the original structure: "The layout of surrounding streets and a crop mark in a field to the north seems to indicate the line of the very much larger original inner enclosure, that may date back to pagan times. This contained the Fire House where the sacred flame was maintained, and the nunnery which was probably built on the site of the former Druidesses' dwellings adjacent to the site of the sacred flame, although the pagan fire temple probably stood in its own enclosure within this larger enclosure. In Holinshed's Irish Chronicle, published in I577, the Dublin chronicler Richard Stanihurst described how he had visited at Kildare 'a monument lyke a vaute, which to this day they call the firehouse.' On a map of I757 by John Rocque a 'fire castle' is shown to the north-west of the cathedral churchyard. This is almost certainly the same structure referred to in the sixteenth-century Dissolution documents for the nunnery as a 'small castle or fortlage', suggesting the Fire House was adjacent to this if it was not the actual building. In I837, when the surveyor John O'Donovan visited Kildare, he showed the site of the Fire House in the position indicated by Rocque to the west of the round tower and outside the churchyard wall, although it seems the remains of this building had been demolished by I798."

    36 "Brigid, Celtic Goddess of Fire." Brigid, Celtic Goddess of Inspiration and Healing. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <>.
    The description of Brigid continues: "In Druid mythology, the infant goddess was fed with milk from a sacred cow from the Otherworld. Brigid owned an apple orchard in the Otherworld and her bees would bring their magical nectar back to earth."

    38 "Kildare and Brighid - Sacred Site Tours of Ireland." Sacred Site Tours of Ireland. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <>.
    As Brian Wright put it, "The difficulty of creating fire is reflected in the importance of the perpetual fire In many religions all over the world. In many cases great importance was attached to keeping the ritual fire pure and uncontaminated, and since those chosen to tend such sacred fires had such an important role in religious practices, they too were expected to be pure and of high moral virtue." (Wright, Brian. Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint. Stroud [England]: History, 2009. 77.)

    39 Thompson, Christopher Scott. "Loop of Brighid: What Is Brigidine Paganism?" Agora: The Central Hub of the Pagan Channel. Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith, 3 Jan. 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <>.
    The author's complete list of the different streams of Brighid devotion are explained in the link above, including Celtic Christian, Celtic Spirituality, Goddess Movement, Wiccan, Reconstructionist, Traditionalist, Neodruidic, and Brigidine Pagan.

    40 "Is Saint Brigid Really a Celtic Goddess?" Trias Thaumaturga: The Three Wonderworking Patrons of Ireland. 18 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <>.
    Lisa Lawrence's translation of the text about Brigid from Cormac's Glossary: "Brigit, i.e. the poetess, daughter of the Dagda This is Brigit the female seer or woman of insight, i.e. the goddess whom poets used to worship, for her cult was very great and very splendid. It is for this reason that they call her (the goddess) of poets by this title, and her sisters were Brigit, the woman of smithcraft, i.e. the goddesses, i.e. three daughters of the Dagda are they." (Lawrence, Lisa. "Pagan Imagery in the Early Lives of Brigit: A Transformation from Goddess to Saint?" Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 16/17 (1996/1997): 41.)

    41 Lawrence 39.
    According to Lawrence, "Pope Gregory [the Great] counseled Bishop Augustine [missionary to the English] not to destroy pagan shrines but to baptize them for Christian use. It is likely that the Irish missionaries adapted the same approach. As Pope Gregory points out, candidates for Christian conversion would naturally feel more at home in churches occupying the same sacred ground that the pagan sanctuaries had held." (p. 48.)

    42 Brenneman, Walter L., and Mary G. Brenneman. Crossing the Circle at the Holy Wells of Ireland. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1995. 98-9.
    The traditional St. Brigid's holy well, thought to have pagan origins, is now at the edge of the parking lot of the Japanese Gardens. The more accessible location is the other St. Brigid's Well, at Brallistown Commons. It also has a long association with Brigid..
    More information, and photographs, of the two holy wells dedicated to St. Brigid in Kildare may be viewed here.

    43 Minehan, Rita. Rekindling the Flame: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare. Kildare: Solas Bhride Community, 1999. 22.

    44 Cambrensis 99-100.
    Of this (apparently lost) "Book of Kildare," Giraldus wrote: "Among all the miracles in Kildare, none appears to me more wonderful than that marvelous book which they say was written in the time of the Virgin [St. Brigit] at the dictation of an angel. It contains the Four Gospels according to St. John, and almost every page is illustrated by drawings illuminated with a variety of brilliant colours. you will find them so delicate and exquisite, so finely drawn, and the work of interlacing so elaborate, while the colours with which they are illuminated are so blended, and still so fresh, that you will be ready to assert that all this is the work of angelic, and not human, skill. The more often and closely I scrutinize them, the more I am surprised, and always find them new, discovering fresh causes for increased admiration."
    This description of the "Book of Kildare" has invited comparisons with, and indeed suggests that Giraldus was actually viewing, the Book of Kells.
    Giraldus' text may be read in its entirety here.
    The description of Brigid's shrine was composed by Cogitosus in the seventh century. (Minehan, Rita. Rekindling the Flame: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare. Kildare: Solas Bhride Community, 1999. 13.)

    45 When John de Courcy was consolidating his hold on Downpatrick after his 1177 victory there, he brought in a group of Benedictines in 1183 to assume religious dominance in the town. He is said to have ordered the bones of the other patron saints of the country, St. Brigid (d. 525 CE) and St. Columcille (d. 594 CE) to be exhumed and re-interred along with the supposed bones of St. Patrick on the cathedral hill of Downpatrick According to some sources, this may have been part of his effort to bolster his popular allegiance. "On the 9th of June 1196, on the feast day of St Columcille, in the presence of fifteen bishops, from all over Ireland and a large number of clergy, the relics of Sts. Patrick, Brigid, and Columcille were buried in one tomb with great solemnity." As the traditional Irish rhyme puts it:
    "In Down three Saints one grave do fill –
    Patrick, Brigid, and Columcille."

    46 Augusta, Lady Gregory. A Book of Saints and Wonders Put Down by Lady Gregory According to the Old Writings and the Memory of the People of Ireland. London: John Murray, 1907. 16.
    This text may be read in its entirety here.
    Irish poet and songwriter Thomas Moore also wrote of St. Brigid:

    "Like the bright lamp that shone in Kildare's holy fane [shrine]
    And burn'd through long ages of darkness and storm,
    Is the heart that afflictions have come o'er in vain,
    Whose spirit outlives them, unfading and warm!"
    (Moore, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Moore. Vol. IV. Paris: Galignani, 1823. 71.)

    47 "Daughters of the Flame." Obsidian Magazine. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. <>.
    According to this website: "On Imbolc, 1993, the Daughters of the Flame lit a fire in honour of the Goddess Brigit and the saint Bridget, modeled after the perpetual fire which once burned in Kildare. We share the task of tending the flame, on a twenty day rotation each woman tends the fire in her own way, so that it is a solitary devotion linked to the devotions of a larger group. On the twentieth day the Goddess Herself keeps the flame alive. Instead of burning in one grove, temple, or monastery, it burns on personal altars, desks, and picnic tables in countries east and west, south and north."
    Another web-base association of flamekeepers for Brigid is "Ord Brígideach International."

    48 CharlotteElaine. "Personal Stories: A Journey with the Flame." Ord Brighideach International. 23 Aug. 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. <>.

    49 Minehan 26.
    Different sources credit (or blame) the medieval extinguishing of St. Brigid's Flame to Ralph de Londres, Ralph of Bristol (Bishop of Kildare, d. 1232), or George Browne of Dublin.

    50 "Our Mission." Solas Brídhe Centre and Hermitages. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. <>.
    The group looks favorably upon Celtic spirituality: "Celtic Spirituality has a profound sense of the presence of God in everyone and in everything. It is a spirituality nourished by ritual, tradition, contemplation, experience and story."

    51 Minehan 55.
    The second part of the quotation is attributed to Monaghan, B. "St Brigid's Day." Spirituality (Dominican Publications) 5.January-February (1999): 3-4.

    A more intact version of the "skull and crossbones" carving freatured in the gallery may be seen here. The image was modified from the one on this page.

    The prayer card of St. Brigid with the triple-goddess figure on one side was found here.

    Elyn Aviva and Gary White - History

    2 St. Joseph, J.K.S., and E.R. Norman. The Early Development of Irish Society, the Evidence of Aerial Photography. London: Cambridge UP, 1969. 37.
    Archaeologist Sam Moore noted in 2008: "Scant evidence of artifacts shows activity throughout the Bronze Age with Iron Age activity being centred around the Caves of Keshcorran. It is entirely possible, but difficult to prove, that the passage tombs and access to the monuments and the landscape around them became taboo or restricted." (Moore, Sam. "Myths and Folklore as Aids in Interpreting the Prehistoric Landscape at the Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Complex, Co. Sligo, Ireland." Folk Beliefs and Practice in Medieval Lives. Ed. Ann-Britt Falk and Donata M. Kyritz. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2008.)

    3 Moore, Sam. "Myths and Folklore as Aids in Interpreting the Prehistoric Landscape at the Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Complex, Co. Sligo, Ireland." Folk Beliefs and Practice in Medieval Lives. Ed. Ann-Britt Falk and Donata M. Kyritz. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2008.
    Moore noted about the Ordnance Survey: "By having a name a particular space is given some importance, but this importance is ignored in many cases by the surveyors. Perhaps they were not seen as important - they are on hill-tops in out of the way places they were a place apart from settlement away from roads and productive land - places without much economic value. This absence of attention concerning the passage tombs and cairns continued beyond the production of the 1837 Ordnance Survey maps and, due in part to those who used the maps in later periods, failed to get any attention from antiquarians until seventy four years later. The complex's liminal place in the landscape was perhaps one of the reasons that attracted the passage tomb builders in the first place and an aspect this liminality meant it became a place apart, an almost forgotten cultural landscape that no one went to."

    4 Macalister, R.A.S., E.C.R. Armstrong, and R.L.I. Praeger. "Report on the Exploration of Bronze-Age Carns on Carrowkeel Mountain, Co. Sligo." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 29 (1911/1912): 322-23.
    This cairn, which has a fence running across the top of it, was described thus by Macalister: "The name seems to indicate that it stood open, and fairly complete, so suggesting the idea of a "house," till it was wrecked by the fence-builders."
    The only other local name reported in the complex was noted by John Wilmot in a blog post, but is not found elsewhere. He indicated that the destroyed Cairn D is called the "Fairy Circle". (Willmott, John. "Carrowkeel Cairns." Tales From The Labyrinth. 14 Oct. 2006. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <>.)
    The Caves of Kesh are invoked in legends of King Cormac, Fionn Mac Cumhail , and the Dagda's son. The Heapstown Cairn figures in the legendary Battle of Moytura.

    5 Aviva, Elyn, and Gary C. White. Powerful Places in Ireland. Santa Fe, NM: Pilgrims Process, 2011. 272.
    The authors write that "the powerful nature of Carrowkeel transcends any religion."
    In 1998 I was leading a group of students from Bradley University on a "photo safari" to Ireland. We assembled for a panoramic group portrait inside Cairn K.

    7 Killanin, Michael Morris, and Michael V. Duignan. The Shell Guide to Ireland. London: Ebury P. in Association with George Rainbird, 1967. 70.

    8 Hensey, Robert, Pádraig Meehan, Marion Dowd, and Sam Moore. "A Century of archaeology—historical excavation and modern research at the Carrowkeel passage tombs, County Sligo." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 114 (2014): 1-31.
    Macalister's hasty excavations at Carrowkeel, and the ruinous state in which he left some of the cairns has engendered the lore that he used dynamite in the process. While the use of dynamite was not unheard of in some excavations of the era, there is no evidence that Macalister did so. Archaeologist Sam Moore has suggested that Macalister's reputation has suffered due to the fact that he was the least likable of the three investigators in 1911: "The [dynamite] myth may have originated from locals' dislike for him and his methods perhaps. An elderly lady told me her father had met them during the dig in 1911 and said that he liked all of them apart from Macalister." (Moore, Sam. "Carrowkeel Folklore." Message to the author. 22 Oct. 2013. E-mail.)
    Macalister himself described his seeming haste and (by modern standards) destructive methods in his excavation of Cairn F: "Some very large blocks had to be removed, and it was decided to drop them into the antechamber, now thoroughly explored, as the labour of removing them entirely from the excavation would have been extremely heavy. Eventually, all the remaining material from the inner chamber was piled into the antechamber, filling it to a height of 10 feet. " (Macalister, R.A.S., E.C.R. Armstrong, and R.L.I. Praeger. "Report on the Exploration of Bronze-Age Carns on Carrowkeel Mountain, Co. Sligo." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 29 (1911/1912): 317-18.)
    Similarly destructive excavations have serious impacted the Co. Meath passage tombs of Dowth, and at Loughcrew Cairn D.

    9 Praeger, R. Lloyd. The Way That I Went an Irishman in Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, 1937. 136-41.

    10 Macalister's title for his report ("Report on the Exploration of Bronze-Age Carns. ) demonstrates the confidence of his Bronze Age dating of the cairns. He also sought correlate the dating of the monuments with ancient literature, such as the eleventh century Lebor Gabála Erenn (the "Book of Invasions").

    11 Hensey, Robert, Pádraig Meehan, Marion Dowd, and Sam Moore. "A Century of archaeology—historical excavation and modern research at the Carrowkeel passage tombs, County Sligo." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 114 (2014): 1-31.
    Archaeologists now understand Carrowkeel to be for the most part a Middle Neolithic monument, not one of Bronze Age origin. While this presumption was until recently based on comparisons to other sites, recent discoveries have confirmed the Neolithic origin of the monuments using radiocarbon dating of bone fragments from the tombs.

    12 Moore "Myths and Folklore"
    According to the author, evidence of secondary cist burials were found in cairn B. Macalister found in Cairn O "heaped up discs of sandstone, burnt and unburnt bone and ashes with a secondary vase food vessel placed above these."

    14 Cooney, Gabriel. "The Passage Tomb Phenomenon in Ireland." Archaeology Ireland 11.3 (Supplement: Brú Na Bóinne) (1997): 7.
    The author explains the elaboration of passage tombs as the phenomena spread from the west coast of Ireland to its east "as indicating a greater separation of what went on inside the tomb from the outside world. It would seem that over time the placement of bones and contact with the ancestors become more rarefied activities, the domain of elders and/or shamans who were recognised as being skilled in dealing with the spirit world."
    Another possible explanation is offered by Alison Sheridan, who asserted that" the development of Irish passage tombs can best be understood in terms of the attempts of competing groups to outdo each other in the hallowing of the dead. In this particular case, then, the ideology of death appears to have been harnessed closely to the power politics of the living, and used as a medium for the assertion of status." (Sheridan, Alison. "Megaliths and Megalomania: An Account, and Interpretation, of the Development of Passage Tombs in Ireland." The Journal of Irish Archaeology 3 (1985/1986): 30.)

    15 Moore, Sam. "Carrowkeel Complex." Message to the author. 30 Oct. 2013. E-mail.
    For his research, Moore divided the Bricklieve mountains into two study areas, Carrowkeel and Keshcorran. There are 15 cairns in the Carrowkeel area (16 including cairn Y), and 8 in the Keshcorran area, for a total 24 "related passage tomb tradition monuments." There are three outliers not in the Bricklieve Mountains: Ardloy, Heapstown and Suigh Lughaidh.

    16 Sheridan, Alison. "Megaliths and Megalomania: An Account, and Interpretation, of the Development of Passage Tombs in Ireland." The Journal of Irish Archaeology 3 (1985/1986): 17-30.
    In 2009 traces of megalithic art were discovered in Carrowkeel Cairn B, with a bit more found the next year. As Robert Hensey describes his discovery: "In the course of carefully examining the orthostats within the chamber using oblique lighting, two circular and concentric carved designs became apparent on the top part of orthostat 5." (Hensey, Robert, and Guillaume Robin. "Once Upon a Time in the West." Archaeology Ireland 26.3 (2012): 26-29.) A composite photograph from this article may be seen here.

    17 Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. 16-17.
    Regarding the use of quartz on the outside of the cairns, the author writes, "Spiritually, the white crystalline stone is sometimes connected with the rising sun more commonly, however, it is linked with the moon and the female cycle."
    Macalister discovered small, smooth white stone balls together with some of the internments in the cairns when he excavated them. Some, being pierced by marine mollusks, were evidently brought from the seashore. Macalister wrote: "The custom of placing white stones in interments seems to have been common in prehistoric times, and has been frequently noted. It is possible that the stones were believed to have some magical significance." (Macalister, R.A.S., E.C.R. Armstrong, and R.L.I. Praeger. "Report on the Exploration of Bronze-Age Carns on Carrowkeel Mountain, Co. Sligo." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 29 (1911/1912): 340.)
    According to archaeologist Sam Moore, "a mountain top called Croghan, which has a small passage tomb on its summit and may (incredibly tentatively as there has been no geochemistry done) be the source of the quartz for Carrowkeel, of which there is little left due to souvenir hunters." (Moore, Sam. Cairn G Roof-Box" Message to the author. 22 Oct. 2013. E-mail.)

    20 Herity, Michael. Irish Passage Graves. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. 185-86.
    The author continues, "Fertility, too, is a strong and constant theme, probably represented in the inviting attitudes of the goddess of Loughcrew Cairn U and Sess Kilgreen, certainly in the phalli of Knowth and New Grange probably also in the stones which stood erect in the chambers of Bryn Celli Ddu, New Grange and Carrowkeel Cairn F. Phallic pins and paired ball ornaments in everyday wear are constant subliminal reminders of the principle."

    21 The Kescorran cairn, part of the larger Carrowkeel-Keshcorran Complex, is also visible from the south. (Moore, Sam. "Visiting Carrowkeel" Message to the author. 3 July 2013. E-mail.)
    Macalister began his discussion of Cairn F thusly: "This structure was in some respects the most important of the entire series. It is of large size, and beautifully regular. It is indicated only by an indefinite symbol, not as an ancient monument, on the Ordnance map, though it is perhaps the most conspicuous of the whole series." (Macalister, R.A.S., E.C.R. Armstrong, and R.L.I. Praeger. "Report on the Exploration of Bronze-Age Carns on Carrowkeel Mountain, Co. Sligo." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 29 (1911/1912): 324.)

    23 Macalister 324-27.
    Macalister found ox bones, which he presumed were there from a sacrificial ceremony, during the excavation of Cairn F. He also discovered eight "carefully selected water-worn stones." Of the broken standing stone, he concluded, "This menhir is the central point of interest in the whole series of structures. That it is constructional is absolutely out of the question. Its central position in the sanctum sanctorum of the most imposing of all the carns indicates that it had a peculiar importance. That it is a religious symbol is scarcely questionable and here we have, therefore, some light on the general question of the age and use of the standing-stones that are so conspicuous among the prehistoric monuments of Ireland."

    25 Brück, J., 2001. "Monuments, Power and Personhood in the British Neolithic." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 7(4): 649–67, as cited in Hensey, Robert. "The Observance of Light: A Ritualistic Perspective on 'Imperfectly' Aligned Passage Tombs." Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture 1.3 (2008): 320.
    Hensey would disagree with those who suggest that megalithic monuments were solely or even primarily a way for elites to project their power. His article seeks to address the less easily quantified issues regarding the Cairn G roof-box: "What is perhaps evinced by these annual visitors to this site is that because archaeology has been principally concerned with addressing alignments from a technical perspective it may have neglected to pay due consideration to the 'experience' of the phenomenon."

    26 Moore, Sam. "Cairn G Roof-Box" Message to the author. 22 Oct. 2013. E-mail.
    Sam Moore writes, "If you look at the internal arrangement of the chambers within cairns G and K, which you have done on VR you will see that, unlike any other passage tombs that I have seen, the building construction of the lintel stones above the entrances to the chambers forms a void above each of the chamber entrances. So this particular architectural feature is also present in the entrance to cairn G, which Martin Byrne and others have suggested acts as a roof box similar to that in Newgrange. However, being cautious, it might merely be an architectural feature that allows the ceiling corbels to spring from along the passage, and it may originally have been covered in cairn material with no opening whatsoever. " Moore references a photograph of myself (Howard Goldbaum) emerging from Cairn G, taken in 1979, that I provided to him: "The photograph of you at cairn G. shows denuded corbels very clearly before the cairn was 'tidied up' by the OPW. Alternatively it could be a 'portal' for ancestral spirits to come and go and may have been blocked and opened at certain times, but this is impossible to prove."
    As part of the basis for his skepticism regarding the roof-box, Moore also points to the alignment at Cairn G: "The astronomical alignment at G is imperfect and the sun comes into G obliquely for a considerable period over the solstice. Cairn H is more accurately aligned. Given the orientation spread of the 14 cairns with identifiable passages NW to NE there is a high statistical probability that the sun will come in to some of them around the solstice." (Moore, Sam. "Cairn G Details" Message to the author. 4 July. 2013. E-mail.)

    27 Hensey, Robert. "The Observance of Light: A Ritualistic Perspective on 'Imperfectly' Aligned Passage Tombs." Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture 1.3 (2008): 324.

    29 In 1998 I led a group of students from Bradley University (Illinois) on a photo safari to Ireland. We explored Carrowkeel and made a panoramic group portrait inside Cairn K.

    30 Bergh, Stefan. "The Mullaghfarna Enclosures - An Upland "Settlement" in a Passage Tomb Context." School of Geography and Archaeology, NUI Galway, 7 May 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <>.
    Bergh conducted a high-resolution survey of the plateau using digital photogrammetry based upon aerial photography, which identified 153 enclosures/hut sites. Then followed interpretative plans of each individual site. "This work is extremely time consuming, as it involves extensive GIS analysis, followed up by detailed work in the field." Small-scale trial excavations in 2003 produced finds of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age dates from a collection of cremated bones, teeth of animals, hazelnut shells, charcoal, small pieces of pottery and small tools, including an Antrim flint knife and some concave scrapers.
    An earlier author described the hut-sites: "They have two rings of upright stone slabs with small stones between them, to give a wall some three feet in thickness. They range between 20 and 42 feet in diameter. Since only the foundations remain it is impossible to speculate about the original appearance of these structures. None appear to have doorways, and most are clearly too large to have had corbelled roofs. Thatch is unthinkable at this altitude and in so exposed a position, though wood, from the abundant forests which once crept up to the foot of the mountain, could have provided roofing materials. The structures were probably not actual dwellings, however, but wind-shields and protective enclosures against wild animals within which wooden huts were built." (St. Joseph, J.K.S., and E.R. Norman. The Early Development of Irish Society, the Evidence of Aerial Photography. London: Cambridge UP, 1969.)

    31 Walk—don't think of driving—the rough road from the top car park at Carrowkeel down onto the valley floor. Then head south from the deserted farm, known locally as Joker Healy's, across the fields onto the Doonaveeragh plateau. Cross the field wall to enter the area of the hut site enclosures. The highest point of this outcrop is in Doonaveeragh where there are two cairns, O and P. There is a deserted stone cottage at the end of the Doonaveeragh plateau. Alternatively the hut sites can be approached from the other side of the mountain, from the end of a meandering road. From the N4 take the second right turn heading south from Castlebaldwin. Then continue to the base of the plateau, and begin your climb. More info here, and here.

    32 Macalister 342-43.
    Dr. Alexander Macalister was the father of archaeologist R.A.S. Macalister and assisted the excavators in the analysis of the human remains they discovered. He was a Professor of Anatomy at Cambridge University, where the bones were sent for analysis, and then forgotten.

    33 Hensey 16.
    The human remains from Carrowkeel sent to Professor Macalister's laboratory at Cambridge University have recently been located and may soon be subject to radiocarbon dating. According to the authors: "Ideally the material in Cambridge should be returned to the National Museum of Ireland and the complete human bone assemblage should receive osteological analysis to modern standards. Notwithstanding A. Macalister’s considerable reputation, it is important to bear in mind that his analysis is of its time and re-analysis to modern scientific standards would result in more accurate and informative results." (p. 22).

    34 Macalister 340.
    The rounded, marble-like stone balls are often found in passage tombs in close proximity to the human remains. Quoting C.F. Gordon Cummin, (In the Hebrides, p. 45) Wood-Martin wrote, "These pebbles were also found in most of the old tombs recently excavated in the neighbourhood of Dundee: in fact, so frequent was their presence that it was common for the workmen employed in excavating to exclaim: 'Here are the two stones! -- now we will get the bones."' (Wood-Martin, W.G., The Rude Stone Monuments of Ireland: Co. Sligo and Achill Island. Dublin: Hodges, Figges and Co., 1888. 87.)

    36 Macalister 340.
    According to Hensey et al, Macalister's drew a pottery vessel using fragments of what appear to be Carrowkeel ware in a reconstruction with a flat base in the style of a Bronze Age food vessel, the Neolithic sherd apparently being forced into a predetermined Bronze Age style in his sketch. (Hensey, Robert, Pádraig Meehan, Marion Dowd, and Sam Moore. "A Century of archaeology—historical excavation and modern research at the Carrowkeel passage tombs, County Sligo." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 114 (2014): 15.)

    37 Cairn Q, atop Keshcorran in Bergh's scheme, is also known locally as "The Pinnacle."

    38 Moore, Sam. "The Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Complex, Co. Sligo People and a Pre-monumental Landscape." Proc. of Association of Young Irish Archaeologists 2003, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <>.
    The phrase "'ideological communication' is from Bergh, Stefan. Landscape of the Monuments: a study of the passage tombs in the Cuil Irra region, Co. Sligo. Stockholm: Riksantikvarieämbet Arkeologska Undersöknigar, 1995. 162.

    39 Moore, Sam. "Counting the Carrowkeel Cairns" Message to the author. 20 Oct. 2013. E-mail.
    Charles Mount wrote of the Carrowkeel region: "This area has evidence of settlement of every archaeological period except, to date, the Mesolithic. All four main types of megalithic tomb have been noted here as well as cairns and barrows dating from the Bronze Age. Early Christian settlement is particularly well represented with numerous ringforts, cashels and crannogs occurring throughout the area. Furthermore a number of medieval church sites are distributed through the area as well as a late sixteenth century castle and fortified house, and evidence of seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century vernacular settlement is also particularly well preserved. A decline in settlement in the area has been marked for a century of more and this has resulted in an almost unparalleled preservation of upstanding remains so that these uplands are a sort of open air laboratory where theories about the past can be tested." (Mount, Charles. "The Environmental Siting of Neolithic and Bronze Age Monuments in the Bricklieve and Moytirra Uplands, County Sligo." The Journal of Irish Archaeology 7 (1996): 1.)

    41 Thomson.
    The author concludes, "I have stood inside pyramids and explored a thief's entrance into an underground Mastaba, but these hilltop cairns have a unique ambience."
    In 1979, when it began to rain during my first visit to Carrowkeel, my companion and I took refuge inside Cairn G. There we took out our small backpack stove and heated our cans of stew for a supper inside the tomb. We left behind no trash.
    Another blog author writes, "For me Carrowkeel is quite simply the finest of the major Irish megalithic cemeteries." ("Carrowkeel-Keshcorran Complex." The Modern Antiquarian. Julian Cope, 16 Mar. 2010. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <>.)

    42 Moore "The Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Complex"
    A guidebook author says of the cairns, "They seem to nestle into the side of the ridges, like artificial caves, their dark entryways alluring and disturbing, beckoning from beneath rounded piles of stone rubble." (Aviva, Elyn, and Gary C. White. Powerful Places in Ireland. Santa Fe, NM: Pilgrims Process, 2011. 272.)

    43 Poynder, Michael. Pi in the sky: a revelation of the ancient Celtic wisdom tradition. Cork: Collins, 1997.
    Poynder described an "energy star" centered within the Carrowkeel Complex. Apparently deriving his initial inspiration for his book from a visit to Carrowkeel, he uses a dowsing stick or pendulum to determine the hidden flow's of earth energy. Poynder wrote of his Carrowkeel energy star: "[One] must tune into the map and think of it as a picture of a vibrant living organism, having rebalanced any disruptions using the spiral of tranquility. Gradually as the pendulum swings back and forth across the map the white, red and black input line of the Star is located at cairn 'P' on the rear summit of Doonaveeragh." A map of this energy star from his book may be viewed here. One online reviewer's comments may be read here.
    The Carrowkeel Complex has engendered other modern folklore, such as the oft-repeated but undocumented story of Macalister using dynamite during his 1911 excavations. Another story, although spurious, is found both online and in print. It concerns the modern usage of the cairns as a cillín, an unconsecrated burial site used for unbaptized infants, outside of the Catholic cemetery. This legend may have been prompted by the discovery of an actual cillín in a place called Carrowkeel in Co. Galway.

    44 Moore, Sam. "Carrowkeel Folklore." Message to the author. 22 Oct. 2013. E-mail.
    Moore's photograph of the modern artifacts he found in the Treanmacmurtagh cairn may be seen here. Moore also photographed what may have been a modified St. Brigid's Cross, with human hair braided around lollipop sticks, while exploring one of the Caves of Kesh.

    45 Galvin, Brendan. "Carrowkeel." Poetry 154.6 (1989): 329-30. Used with permission.

    Watch the video: The Journey by Elyn Aviva (September 2022).


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