• Ali Isaac

I went into the Otherworld… and survived!

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

A couple of months ago, David Halpin of Circle Stories invited me to join him in a discussion of all things Irish and ancient with Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland, the man who discovered Drone Henge last summer. In front of a live audience. Who had bought tickets for the privilege. Gulp. And in a reckless moment of madness, I agreed! Well, what's a blogger and author crazy about Irish mythology supposed to do?

Poster for Into the Otherworld: A discussion of Mythology, Folklore and Writing

I consoled myself with the facts that: a) it was a small audience, and b) that really, they were coming to see Anthony, who has become an international celebrity following his discovery, and c) David, who I had already met, was a kind and genuine person who was skilful in managing these events. In my younger days, I lived by the mantra, ‘never let an opportunity go by’, but while my knowledge has increased since then, my confidence has diminished. Time to confront my fear, I told myself.

I spent the days prior to the event ‘revising’ and writing up key points in my little red notebook in case, on the night, the facts flew out of my head, just like they do when I sit down to an exam. On the night, I clutched that little red notebook like a fanatic clutches a holy book, but I didn’t open it once.

Circle Stories is the Facebook page belonging to David Halpin. David humbly describes it as a ‘Folklore resource relating to the ancient Irish sites of Wicklow, Carlow and eastern Ireland. Sacred sites, mythology and local history’. He is also a contributor to Ancient Origins, The Wild Hunt, New Dawn Magazine & various Fortean publications, and manages The Occult Book Review. If you are reading this post, I think you’d like his work, so make sure and check him out by clicking the links.

Anthony of Mythical Ireland needs no introduction, I think, after his spectacular discovery of Drone Henge last summer. Anthony is a journalist, author and researcher. His website ‘represents a journey into the ancient past, and attempts to cast new light on a sometimes obscure period of the early history of Ireland. This exploration takes place through many different disciplines, which include, but are not limited to, archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, mythology, spirituality and geodesy’. If you don’t already follow him, just click the link above. You can find out more about Drone Henge HERE.

So… what did we talk about? I’ll let David tell you that:

The questions and observations from the audience were both thought-provoking and clearly from a place of long study and passion. As the talk progressed we moved from questions regarding the purpose of our national monuments to how they have been understood over time. Anthony spoke about his own feelings regarding his recent discovery, along with Ken Williams, of the so called ‘Dronehenge.’ Ali spoke about Tara and her own research regarding an overlooked ceremonial function as well as the concept of sensory depravation while walking through the ancient ‘pathways’. The conversation turned to how women have been written out of ancient Irish history in many instances, especially with regard to ‘Royal’ sites and how we should always remember the motivation of later writers when it comes to Irish mythology. Anthony spoke about ancient art and why our understanding of non-representational forms may not be as abstract as we think. Our conversation discussed the practice of excarnation and how the dead were both interred and preserved at ancient sites. We also spoke about why our ancient monuments were as much about the living and, indeed, life, as much as they have been presented as places of the dead. We discussed the animistic principles behind some of our indigenous spiritual beliefs and how they might link to an almost holographic concept of consciousness and the universe itself. Ali spoke about the concept of metempsychosis/ reincarnation and how this belief may have influenced the ancient Irish people. The concept of ancestors and the dead naturally led us to the topic of ‘the good people’ and how elusive trying to define them can be. We spoke about the nature of the soul as understood by many ancient cultures and how this in itself might give us a clue regarding the appearance of fairies both at ancient Irish sites as well as how they manifest in our folklore and mythology. The conversation flowed easily from one topic to another all the while being explained and examined by two incredible speakers and writers. We spoke about time itself and how we understand it today and how it may have been measured and understood in ancient times. From the precession of the equinoxes to the identity of the ancient Irish and from the connection between Brigid and Danu to Anthony’s mesmerising discussion of Cygnus and Newgrange, it was an exhilarating evening. Of course, there was so much more and, as I mentioned, some personal and insightful contributions from a packed house and wonderful audience.

For me, the event was a huge learning curve, and an experience I greatly enjoyed, once I got over my initial dry mouth and nerves! Anthony and David are both natural speakers, with a wealth of knowledge between them. My mind only went blank twice, which was better than I expected! The audience were lovely, and so engaged, asking lots of questions and offering up information from their own research, and the atmosphere overall was informal and relaxed. I was happy to meet David again, and Anthony for the first time. I also got to meet and chat with some of the audience, and I’d particularly like to give a shout out to Tara, who drove all the way from Belfast, and Jessica, who drove three hours from Kerry, and back again, afterwards.

Would I do it again? Well I certainly left on a high, and it was definitely worth the angst and nerves beforehand. One of the best things was being in a room full of people all interested in the same things as me, so yes… probably… if a similar opportunity ever arises.

My thanks to David for inviting me to take part; to Anthony, who I finally got to meet after all these years, and to everyone in the audience who took the trouble to join us, I hope you enjoyed the evening. Also, thanks to Yvonne, of the wonderful and impressive Naas Holistic Centre, where the event took place. If there is a next time, I will have to have a treatment first to relax me and calm my nerves!

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