I have just received my long-awaited copy of Marion Dowd’s wonderful book spanning from Palaeolithic to Medieval: ‘The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland’.
Since I was a small boy I have had a total sense of how caves were anciently used to contact the sacred, being brought up near a big cave in Yorkshire that was used for this purpose by the ancient Celtic Brigantes Tribe and then was a place of sacrifice and healing during the Roman Conquest. I myself have experienced these energies in this cave, even finding myself doing out of body journeying there though with no framework to understand what was happening then at the age of ten. And of course there’s Delphi too. I love the cave-holy well or sea-side cave complexes and Saint Leo’s Cave on Inishark Island, Co. Galway, off the coast from my beloved Glassillaun beach near Cashleen where my Irish family come from.
So Marion Dowd’s book is a doorway to the sacred earth and a Pandora’s Box too. The Chapter headings in Marion Dowd’s book are such calls for the reader to benefit from her study: ‘Excursions into places of fearful darkness’, Gathering the Dead’, ‘Journeying Deeper into Darkness’, ‘Out of the Darkness into the Light’. Metaphors in the Past. Journeying with the Dead. Silent Space speaking Volumes.
The book is so soundly researched. There’s a wonderful list of caves country by county at the end of the book, as well as very full Indexes and a sound bibliography.
And the pictures are so moving and fascinating: The Dark Zone of Glencurran Cave, Co. Clare’, the author squeezing into a cave entrance (is she sure it isn’t just a small rabbit burrow?). Cave as a passage: Knockmore Mountain, Co. Fermanagh. There’s touching photos of prehistoric needles, beads and rings. Hammerheads and Axes, grave goods to honour the Ancestors. There’s a reconstruction picture of a family burying their beloved dead.
There’s really good maps so you can find each cave. I hope to post pieces I found of especial interest as I read my way through the book.
I hope to go on a holiday to find some of these. So thank you Marion. My partner Maggie Pashley actually claims she doesn’t really like the more crumbling or confined cave entrances, so we are working on Marion’s line: ‘The cave you fear to enter…’
Available from Amazon UK, US and Eire.