My Writing: Secrets, Sighs and Sex

My walk at Galway

It’s always fascinating to learn how other people have interpreted something you’ve created, particularly when it’s something as complex as a novel. I’m still a bit surprised at times when a reviewer comments on my books and adds an interpretation that I really didn’t have in mind when I was writing the story.

This week, a review (here) on Beara: Dark Legends  came out from Tintean Magazine (an excellent Irish magazine from Australia). Again, as I was reading through it, the reviewer’s experience of the book was quite different (at times) to the one I’d imagined a reader would have. Still. That’s no real biggie. The reality is that different people experience different things from the same art form. Thousands, if not millions of people can study a painting and see something completely different based on their own life experiences. The same is certainly true with respect to a book.

Years ago I wrote a short story entitled Sex with Sarah which was basically about the moral corruption endemic in some large public departments. Yes, there was some sexual content in there of course – but essentially as a mechanism of reflecting that corruption (God, yes, I can be up myself sometimes!)  –  and for years afterwards people would come up asking me who Sarah (of the title) was.

I thought it was a bit funny that so few people seemed to get the key message I was trying to get across. Most seemed more interested in getting her contact details.

 

Folklore: Sexuality in an Irish Graveyard

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St Olann’s Cap is the name given to another station in the St Olann’s pattern (held on September 5th), located in the graveyard at Aghabullogue. Although the site where the graveyard is currently located was originally an important pre-Christian site (in other words, it existed pre-5th century) and records show two successive Church of Ireland churches located there from the late 1600s, it’s not so clear how long St Olann’s cap itself has been around.

From the  carved marks on the ‘corners’, the stone is obviously an Ogham stone (Ogham is the earliest form of writing in Ireland. It dates to around 4th century A.D. and was in use for around 500 years or so).  What’s interesting with this stone, however, is the “cap” placed on top of the larger stone to create a form of phallic symbol. Because of it’s shape, the stone was associated with fertility rituals but also with a number of other female illnesses (barrenness, headaches etc.). From the smoothness of the upper  quartzite “cap”, it’s obvious that the “cap” was repeatedly rubbed by human hands as part of the ritual, similar to the way fertility symbols are treated in many other early cultures around the world.

Although St Olann’s Cap is fascinating in itself, the reason I love this place is because of the story associated with it in the late nineteenth century. At that time, the Church in Ireland was flexing its ecclesiastical muscle by sanitising many of the early Irish pagan elements it had earlier incorporated into rituals designed to convert the population. Disapproval by the Irish clergy of the ‘sexual’ nature of the stone (and its popularity) led to the local priest arrogantly desecrating the site ” (with a fanatical disregard not really that different from the actions of the Taliban in blowing up the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001).

Although originally, consisting of two superimposed stones, the priest removed the upper one. Within days of him doing so, the stolen stone was replaced by the current Caipín Olainn (Olann’s Cap) which has remained there ever since.

Strike one for Community Action!