The Ancient Irish Secret of Observation
The other day, my friend and Irish language teacher informed me that we would be taking a three-week break from our lessons. He would be going back home to Ireland for an extended visit. This would be his first trip back to Ireland since the COVID-19 pandemic.
I quickly proceeded through the five stages of grief:
Denial - “I can’t believe I will not have an Irish lesson for almost a month! This can’t be, I must have heard incorrectly.”
Anger - “This isn’t fair! I want to go to Ireland too!”
Bargaining - “Ok, well if I work diligently on my Irish studies and my new venture, then maybe I will reward myself with a trip to Ireland next summer.”
Depression - “Boy, it is a bummer that I will have to wait until next summer before I can go to Ireland. And now I have to teach myself Irish for the next few weeks. Poor me…”
Acceptance - “Well, it won’t be so bad. I will do my best to stay on top of my Irish studies over the next few weeks, and I will be so busy anyway over the coming months that before I know it, next summer will be upon us. Beidh mé ceart go leor! (I will be fine).
So when I say that I went through these five stages quickly, I mean quickly! I spoke to my previously mentioned friend and Irish language teacher in the early afternoon and was mostly good by dinner time. However, I was still a little bummed thinking about Ireland and how much I want to go back. Now I wasn’t born in Ireland, and my Irish great, great-grandparents came to America back in the 1850s, but even for me being in Ireland feels like being home.
That same night, I pulled up the photos from my last trip to Ireland during the summer of 2019. As I was reliving the great memories, I stumbled across two fantastic photos! Now I am not talking about photos of some gorgeous Irish scenery or some ancient monument. The two photos to which I am referring were hysterical signs which I stumbled upon through my keen skills of observation (read sarcastically).
The first photo was taken in County Westmeath, near the border of County Longford. Our guide had stopped at a convenience store to ask for directions to a particular church. While the guide was inside the store, my wife and kids buried their noses in their phones. But I had to absorb every bit of Ireland that I could. Looking straight forward, out the front windshield, I saw a sign that made me crack up! Everyone asked me what was so funny, and I just pointed at the store. Still, nobody knew why I was laughing. I finally had to tell them. Even our guide who walked past the sign going in and out of the store did not notice it.
This is what the sign said in large letters:
Newsagent - Grocery - Fuel - Undertaker”
All the possible scenarios that this sign generated in my mind, it was just crazy! Imagine you walk into the convenience store, go up to the counter and say to the clerk, “I’ll have a coffee, a newspaper, and oh yeah, could you take this dead body from me please!”
Perhaps convenience stores performing undertaker services is normal in the countryside of Ireland, and just seems strange to this ignorant American… But, being observant gave me one hell of a laugh!
So are you wondering about that second photo? It is brought to us by the fine town of Ballybofey in County Donegal. As we were driving through the town, I observed the local performing arts centre and started cracking up hysterically. Once again, all in the car with me couldn’t figure out what I thought was so funny. I asked our guide to circle back around so I could get a photo. It was just too funny to pass up.
When we got back around, we pulled over in front of the performing arts centre, and everyone then immediately saw why I was laughing.
The sign on the centre said in huge letters:
“Butt Hall Centre”
Now whoever named this performing arts centre either had their head up their “Butt Hall” or was exhibiting some wicked Irish humor. I for one laugh all over again when I see my photo or even just when it happens to pop up in my mind.
I am so glad that I observed these signs. The fact that they gave and will continue to give me a laugh has certainly made my life some tiny amount better.
So, as you can see “Observation” is the order of the day!
Speaking of Ireland, it is a land steeped in observations of the past, current, and future. The ancient Celts and probably even other ancient Irish well before them learned and were able to undertake tremendous tasks by using their power of observation. Let’s for the sake of argument call these experts of observation the “Druids”. Now it is not currently known whether the Druids came to be during the time of the ancient Celts, or much earlier in Irish history. This is a question for another day. So what did these learned ancient Irish, possibly druids, learn through observation?
Here’s a biggie example, they learned about the passage of time through observation. Now, you may be thinking “big deal, any idiot can tell the passage of time - the sun goes up and down, the seasons change…” But these people became experts in the celestial bodies in the sky. Through super careful and extremely patient observation, they developed this higher understanding of what was going on in the sky and what it meant. They knew exactly when to plant and when to harvest, etc. This enabled them to prepare in advance. They were able to mark the quarters of the year, and Pagan holidays and festivals were created around them. Next month we have the Pagan holiday of Samhain. You may know it as Halloween. Samhain is actually November 1st, but celebrations are in full swing the night of October 31st. It marks the new year’s start and the harvest’s end. Basically, “Winter is Coming…”. Samhain is also considered the time when this world and the otherworld are closest together. Pagan people believe that spirits visit from the otherworld on this night. However, Samhain is a topic for another time.
The “Druids” observed knowledge of the sky also had a great impact on many structures built in ancient times. Newgrange in County Meath is a stunning example of celestial knowledge being used in the construction of a building. It is perfectly aligned with the sky such that on the winter solstice the sun shines in at the exact angle to illuminate the tomb. Many other structures are similarly situated to celestial bodies. More on this in the future.
It is also said that the ancient Irish people were in balance and at peace with nature through observation of it and respect for it. Perhaps this is something that is still alive in the people of modern Ireland. Even my previously mentioned friend, who was raised on the Connemara Gaeltacht, has spoken to me about the importance of spending time in nature, observing it, and being in balance with it. It is something that was passed down to him by his father.
One last example of observation, even today if you travel through Ireland with an observant eye, you may see spectacular things. That old decrepit stone house has stories to tell if you observe it well. All over Ireland are remnants of Ancient Ireland. That mound in a field might not just be a mound in a field. That water well might not be an ordinary water well. You just need an open mind and an observant eye. I think to do this, one must slow things down. Take in what life is showing you now, don’t worry about the next thing because you will miss the current moment. Yes, I know, this is easier said than done.
So, I am no expert in using the power of observation. It seems logical to me that observation could improve a person’s life to some extent, or at least prevent it from getting worse. However, I am still slightly skeptical, but open-minded.
This is what I am going to do. Over the coming weeks, I am going to make a point of going outside to observe. It may be taking a walk, sitting in the yard, going to a park, etc. As I do, I will chronicle my observations, thoughts, and feelings. I will report back with my results in a future newsletter.
As always, I will do the work so you don’t have to.
However, I do invite you to join me for this experiment of observation if you feel so inclined. Perhaps your observations will lead to some great insight or at least a good laugh! Feel free to post your observations in the comments.
My name is Mike, and I am a skeptic and recovering accountant just starting to make my way through the world of the Druids, Celts, and Pagans. Thank you so much for reading this, my first-ever newsletter.
Join me on my journey as I use an analytical eye to extract what I believe to be golden nuggets of truth from these fascinating topics. My goal is to find valuable ways, practices, and insights to make your lives better today.
If my content speaks to you, please subscribe to my newsletter! Also, feel free to leave a comment to let me know what you think. I am here to serve what I hope will be a great community of curious and like-minded individuals.
“May the Road Rise to Meet You!”
With a skeptical mind and an analytical eye,
P.S. - My observation field test has a built-in obstacle. I am allergic to every environmental allergen except for mold. So I will try not to let my scratchy eyes interfere with my observations. It will be fine, and I want to do this for you and me. I will do the work so you don’t have to!