Druid Clan of Dana - The Faery Seat
Cover, Isian News Issue 108, 2003, "Dana - Refuge of the Fox" original drawing by Lady Olivia Robertson
The Fairy Seat of the Druid Clan of Dana
The open letter from Olivia Robertson presented below was originally featured in the Beltaine issue of Isian News, 2003.
Isian News, Beltaine 2003
I was sitting meditating on a ghastly menu offered to us on the radio, of possible happenings for which the British Government were preparing. We in Ireland are next door ... a smallpox bomb, an ordinary bomb, anthrax. It sounded like the book of revelations which my father and I used to study during the Second World War. I was talking to a friend who was planning a visit to his mother in England and I told him:
"People change during threats of war and disasters. That which is hidden in the murky recesses of our consciousness surfaces. We go slightly mad with conspiracy theories, suspicion of our neighbour and xenophobia."
So how was I to bring faith of the Goddess to bear on our present global situation? It is true that what we call the "real world" is a hologram of cosmic reality: dreams, projections of spirits trying out experiments in evolution. Our planet is a kindergarten, a remand centre, a school where we learn from experience that which only experience can give. Some have recourse to that still centre within and withdraw from this world - the illusory world which is not the living earth but a compost of dreams, evil or good. There are millions of monks and nuns.
However, the way of the world is to accept our worldly dramas, works of art which we ourselves help create! Our growing minds need stimulations, challenges, discovery. Our bodies want a full earthly experience. In fact, we presume to draw stars down from the mountains of earth - as does the incarnate Goddess Tara.
I wished to bring the very best help I could these days and I was unexpectedly helped by a French camera crew. Now the BBC crews are conscientious, serious, do every scene over and over again. The USA crews are sharp, rapid and technically efficient. The Irish are cheery and convivial. But the French have the culture that they bring to a modern media. And it was their delving into what we actually do in the Druid Clan of Dana, what we really believe in, what we genuinely felt, that meant something to all of us Irish who worked with them. For without deep understanding, true art does not really exist. And true art brings us by the route of the Muses to the still centre which our unique innate Deity. The effect when they departed was to face the problem of human suffering, evil, greed, violence and fear, by returning to my roots.
Curiously, the ancient site which had been shown to me by the mentor of my brother and myself, Daniel Fox, had been barred to me for forty years. Yet hidden from me was the Fairy Seat, the Bees Rock - the micro cross on a boulder, the altar, the well, the impenetrable barrier of briars, undergrowth and barred wire. Although the path by the River Slaney should have been right of way, the local farmer thought otherwise.
But the day after the French crew left, my friend Michael suggested we should try and get to the source of our Druid Clan. I said we must not return for boots, just go! So off we went, me in a long purple cloak. The going was hard, we climbed over a padlocked gate. There was a steep fall into the river. On and on we went. I felt I was on a vision quest.
Suddenly we were there, seventy-five years ago it was yesterday. The water rushed over the weir. In the river the Fairy Seat was rich with plants. Huge rocks overshadowed our precarious path. But what finally gave my sense of fulfilled adventure - a cave which I had never seen before. Someone had been up before clearing out the area, leaving behind a rake. The cave was naturally formed by a gigantic rock split down the middle in a chasm. Rain had formed a deep stream that emerged from a black tunnel. Michael went to explore and I leaned on a rock covered with brilliant green moss. I looked into the dark tunnel and knew there was a fairy portal to the underworld.
The answer to our worldly problems need not be to free ourselves from the world. The world is the spider's web that conceals the Earth Mother from us all. Eternity is now.
The Goddess of Nature calls US. Dana revealed Herself to John Doran and Olivia Robertson, giving Her Name as Dana, Queen of the Whole Earth.
We grow with the earth
And we share Her fruits
We fly with bright wings
And we reach the stars,
We are immortal with all that is.
Key Points of Interest Based on Lady Olivia's Written Account
The information provided below may be utlized as an aid in meditations and attunements to the energies that formed the 'source spring' for the Druid Clan of Dana.
Clonegal and the Wicklow Way
The village of Clonegal is located at the southern end of the famous walk, the Wicklow Way, which in Gaelic is called "Slí Cualann". This was the one of the five ancient Irish trails that led to the Hill of Tara, home of the High Kings of Ireland. The path originally made its way through the area known as "Cuala" which encompassed the Wicklow Mountains and a large part of what is now the south of Dublin. Modern day hikers start near the outskirts of Dublin in the southern suburb of Rathfarnham in Marley‘s Park, following the trail in a south to southwest direction across the Dublin and Wicklow uplands, through County Wicklow to the village of Clonegal.
Visitors who come to the village of Clonegal often comment on the picturesque and lovely house fronts, shops and bridge. From Main Street, there is a view up the avenue of lime trees to Clonegal Castle which contains two of the tallest trees in Ireland. Early mornings in the spring, sunlight gleams on the towers of the castle, which can be seen from Main Street.Photo, left: The gates at the end of the avenue of lime trees which leads to the castle
John Doran (Daniel Fox, Mr. Hare)
Doran is an Irish surname which has been interpreted variously as "Pilgrim" or "Stranger" or "Exile". The famous line of chieftains, the O’Dorans of Leinster, had the right to administer the "Brehon Code" within Ireland in earlier periods. "Brehon" is derived from Irish "breitheamhan", the genitive of "breitheamh", meaning lawgiver or judge. That profession was of great importance and was usually the prerogative of certain families such as the well-known O'Dorans of Leinster.
(Illustration, left "Mr. Hare" by Olivia Robertson from her novel, "Field of the Stranger")
Leinster is one of the four provinces of Ireland, and includes the county of Carlow, where the village of Clonegal and Clonegal Castle, ancestral home of the Durdin-Robertson family are located. The "Mr. Hare" of Olivia’s novel "Field of the Stranger" ’is the same person who is named Daniel Fox in the Druid Clan of Dana booklet and other FOI writings and interviews given by Lady Olivia Robertson. He is a descendant of the O’Dorans, and is also referred to as John Doran by Lady Olivia. He came from a long line of famous healers and psychics. He worked with Olivia for many years, and they both experienced visions of the Goddess Dana in the late 1940's and the 1950's. Olivia wrote in the FOI liturgy booklet titled "The Rite of Dana": “The Goddess has also shown herself to our Wicklow neighbour, John Doran the famous Healer, 7th son of a 7th son. As John and I meditated, She gave me this message through him: "Go on. Do well. Preach My Name.”
Olivia writes: "Daniel Fox was a gifted psychic. When my brother and I were children, we used to walk over for a visit. We enjoyed going to his cottage. The Ancient Ones came to him, he saw them often. He explained that they worshipped the same God as you and I. He was the one who showed me the holy well, the altar stone, Bee's Rock and Fairy Seat. I was initiated by Mr. Fox at the ancient sacred well. He had been in the British Army. He served in Egypt in the British Egyptian Expedition with General Edmund Allenby in World War I. Nature was his refuge after the war. His hair was long, white and shining, a beautiful looking old gentleman with a cultured manner. His stories and accounts of his visions were extraordinary. He was a true visionary."
On the left is a pen and ink illustration from one of Lady Olivia's novels, "Field of the Stranger". Lady Olivia writes that this picture is based on a seventeenth century engraving owned by a member of her family. This drawing is accompanied by the following caption which was written on the engraving: "The true and lively Pourtraicture of Valentine Hare of Man Doran in ye Kingdome of Ireland famous for curing Several Defeafes and Distempers by the Stroak of his Hand only". Olivia produced a drawing featured on the Isian News, Beltane, 2003, featured above, which she titled “Dana - Refuge of the Fox”. The beauty, serenity and quiet provided by a life in an isolated cottage outside of the village of Clonegal was the refuge of Daniel Fox, as were his later visions of Dana, Goddess of nature and the earth.
Olivia Melian Robertson
Olivia found that her name meant "Olave" also spelled "Ollave". The Ollave designates members of the highest ranks of the Irish Druidic "Fili" - an elite class of poets or bards. Her second name, Melian, is Welsh and means "Nymph of the Ash Tree". In Druidic lore, the Ash is the Tree of the World, forming a bridge from the Underworld to Middle Earth and to Heaven. The Nymph of the Ash is a priestess/shamaness who, through access of the Ash or World Tree, visits other worlds.
Olivia channeled a Druid initiation ritual, or as she says: “I was given a ritual, following what we had been taught by Mr. Fox. We had a well within our temple, and a ruined abbey which we used for Danaen work! We had our sacred megalith, and a healing stone.” The ritual referred to is "The Rite of Dana", the original Druid Initiation ritual for the Fellowship of Isis.
Lawrence Durdin-Robertson was known as “Derry” by his friends and family. The name Derry derives from the old Irish word "Daire" meaning "Oak". Traditionally Druids have been associated with groves and especially with oaks. The ancient forests that once covered much of Northern and Western Europe featured oaks in many areas. In those days, Ireland was nearly covered with them. The name for oak in Irish “Daire” and in Welsh “Dar” or “Derw” may have been combined with the Indo-European “Wid” (to know), forming the word that has come down to us as “Druid”. Classical authors such as Strabo and Pliny offer accounts in passages of their works identifying the Druids of Gaul with oaks.
The River Derry joins the Slaney River forming the "Macha" or "Crow’s Foot" which is a triangle of land near the ancestral castle of the Durdin-Robertson family. The River Derry is still known as a favorite locale for salmon. The Salmon of Knowledge or Salmon of Wisdom is the “Oldest Animal”, one of the most sacred in Druidry.
It was Lawrence who first came to the conclusion that God could also be Goddess, the Divine Feminine. He felt that lack of acknowledgment of the Great Mother of All had brought imbalance into the world. His determination provided the emphasis for the founding of the Fellowship of Isis.
Macha or Crow’s Foot
A triangular piece of land situated where the rivers Slaney (or Slainte, River of Healing) and Derry ("Daire", meaning Grove of the Oak) meet near the boundaries of the counties Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford. Locally this area was known as the "Foot of the Macha", one of the many aspects of the Irish Mother Goddess. Tradition holds this location to be an ancient matriarchal center for the mysteries. This is the site of "Cluain na nGall", or Clonegal Castle, the hereditary home of the founders of the Fellowship of Isis and Druid Clan of Dana.
Macha was a fierce Goddess, an aspect of the triple Morrigan. She was also a Mother Goddess of fertility and sovereignty of the land. Olivia wrote these words of Her: "... do not be afraid, but cross by the stepping stones of My ford to the other world, where I am Queen. As such I am both wife and mother, and desire that the earth should be replenished with My children."
A wooded area that lies just off the banks of the Slaney River near Clonegal Castle. The name is a local and traditional one, another reference to the Macha and the ancient matriarchal spiritual center that existed here in the pre-Christian era. Hooded crows in particular were associated with this Goddess, and they are regularly seen in the area. Besides the association of the crow with the Goddess in Her fierce, warlike aspect, the crow is watchful, and warns of danger, therefore protective. The crow can serve as a messenger from the Otherworld, bringing words of prophecy and wisdom. Another creature of wisdom is found here - there is a quiet pool favored by salmon off the shore of this wooded stretch.
From Bunclody to Tullow, which includes Clonegal, the banks of the Slaney River are generally clear, the river wide, with a strong, fast current. However, there are a number of weirs in this part of the Slaney, which create pools and more slowly flowing areas. The Fairy Seat is a rock situated in a weir of the Slaney River. Olivia describes it as "rich with plants" and in times past it was described as "covered with moss and wildflowers".
Water and Earth are joined through this Stone Seat of the Fairy People, it provides a foundation, a firm place in the stream of psychic activity and creative flow, a union of the astral and the physical worlds. The Slaney River, like the River Derry, is a preferred habitat of the salmon, the “Oldest Animal”, the Salmon of Knowledge, one of the most sacred in Druidry.
This unusual natural feature of the landscape received it's name in a most straightforward way - bees live in it every spring - their presence produces a distinct humming sound within the rock. It has a small naturally occurring cross on one face (some believe the cross was incised in ancient times and is not natural). In Druidry, the solar cross was symbolic of the four annual solar festivals which occurred at the solstices and equinoxes. Winter Solstice: Alban Arthur (Light of Arthur), Spring Equinox: Alban Eilir (Light of the Earth), Summer Solstice: Alban Hefin (Light of the Shore) and Autumn Equinox: Alban Elfed (Light of the Water).
The Brehon Code of ancient Ireland protected bees and their hives. Various patterns observed in a bee’s flight have demonstrated a keen sensitivity to the position of the sun, and communication through movement to demonstrate the location of a newly found source of food for the hive. Honey and honeycomb were treasured and utilized in Irelands Druid communities, the bee was attributed by them both a solar and spiritual significance, seen as a magical creature linking the sky to the earth. The Beehive Tombs of Dowth and Newgrange may have served as initiation chambers. An old English saying goes “Ask the wild bee what the Druids knew.”
The Healing Stone
Near Clonegal Castle in a field is the ancient Bullawn Stone, used thousands of years ago for grinding corn, the depression in it holds rainwater still used for purposes of healing by the local people. At the turn of the century a meteorite landed near the castle avenue and glowed for two years, providing a warm perch for crows, the birds of Morrigan. A meteorite is a legendary marker for a holy place.
The Altar or Sacred Megalith
Left: Olivia Robertson by the Dolmen Altar in the Old Abbey or Dana TempleThe Old Abbey or Dana Temple
Olivia and Lawrence founded their own Grove of Eithne at Clonegal Castle. Druidic rituals are still practiced at the ruins of the Old Abbey, parts of which date to the 14th century, and which is situated on the property of their ancestral home. The Old Abbey is now called The Temple of Dana, and within it is an altar formed by ancient dolmen stones. The Old Abbey had been built on a site that was sacred in pre-Christian times, when the grounds of Clonegal Castle had been part of an ancient Matriarchal center.
Philip Ross Nichols, who was the founder and Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids visited Clonegal several times in the 1960’s and joined Olivia and Lawrence in Druid rituals. During this period, he gave both Olivia and Lawrence Druidic initiations. Philip Carr-Gomm, the successor of Philip Ross Nichols, also visited and worked with Olivia and Lawrence at Clonegal Castle during the late 1960’s through the 1970’s. This is the lineage upon which Olivia and Lawrence founded the Druid Clan of Dana within the Fellowship of Isis in 1992.
Below, a photo of the Isis plaque that is situated at the entrance to the Old Abbey:
LabbanasigheLabbanasighe is an ancient burial site located on the northern slopes of Moylisha Hill near the Wicklow/Carlow border. The wedge shaped burial area is divided into a small, short entrance chamber which leads to a larger, longer chamber used for burial. These chambers are covered over with a mound of stones which measures four feet in height and forty-two feet long. There may have been an open semi-circular forecourt in front of the burial at the northwestern end, suggested by an existing incomplete setting of standing stones . Excavations in 1937 recovered coarse potsherds, two sandstone moulds used to make a spearhead, stone discs and a hammer stone suggesting a dating of 1100 BC.
The name of the townland of "Moylisha" means "leveled earthen fort" or "leveled earthen mound". The site has a long association with the Fairy people. In Gaelic, the name is represented two different ways, Labbanasighe, or "Leaba na Si" translates as "Bed of the Fairies" and Labbanasighe, or "Leaba na Sadh" translates as "Bed of the Bitch" (hound). This place is said to be the resting place of the two legendary hounds of Fionn Mac Cumhaill who often hunted in the Blackstairs Mountains nearby. The oldest known name for Clonegal is "Mágh dhá Chon" which translates as "The Plain of the Two Hounds".
There's a faint track marked at the north end of Moylisha Hill, which is reached by entering through a white gate at the edge of farm buildings. If one continues along the track it will lead to a fifth gate situated on the left. After that, visitors must walk through two fields uphill in a southeast direction. The site is situated in a corner of the second field by a stand of pine trees.
Sacred Wells in the vicinity of Clonegal Castle
Over the years local tradition has survived concerning three wells in the direct vicinity of Clonegal Castle, the foundation centre of the Druid Clan of Dana. These wells had a connection with the ruined Barragh Church, and a now vanished monastery, both on the outskirts of the general region of the village of Clonegal, and the ruins of the old Abbey located on the grounds of Clonegal Castle. Accounts of the three wells sometimes vary, but all agree that the sites of these wells are very, very old.
Well of BrigidThis famous well is located in the "Chapel of the Well" of the Temple of Isis at Clonegal Castle. It dates from Neolithic times, and is believed to have had Druidic associations. Some local accounts say that St. Brigid visited this well and that she drank from it’s water. This led to the founding of the former and now ruined Old Abbey that is located on the grounds of the castle. The Old Abbey ruins, called the "Dana Temple" by Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, were the site of the Druid initiations that led to the founding of the Druid Clan of Dana. The water of the Well of Brigid is known to have curative properties and to maintain good health for those who drink it. It has often been used to anoint during Fellowship of Isis rituals to promote reception of psychic vision.
Moll Burke’s Well
Situated on Main Street in the village of Clonegal, the original name of this well is lost in the mists of time. It is currently known as Moll Burke's Well.
Moll Burke was originally from a farm in Ballyredmond. The Burkes were informed that the rent of their farm was going to be increased threefold. Knowing that they would not be able to pay the amount of rent required to stay, the family had to leave the farm. The Murphy family of Clonegal was asked to look after Moll when her brother decided to emigrate. So Moll came to live in the village of Clonegal, where she noticed that a good number of people stopped at the well for a drink. Moll began cleaning it and placed a tin mug on a slab beside it.
Today a statue of Our Lady of the Wayside set into a grotto adorns the well site. A wall adjoins it on either side, built in 1849 by the Famine Relief Scheme. The field behind Molly’s Well was drained, which caused the well to go dry except during the rainy season - otherwise, structurally, it is in excellent condition.
Impending development of the field behind the well has led to the plan to dismantle the Famine Relief Wall. The developer of the property has agreed to include the well and the grotto niche holding the statue of Our Lady of the Wayside in the entrance wall to the housing development with a commerative plaque.
Tober Cranavane (Cranavane Well) - "Well of the Birch Trees" Located about five miles outside Kildavin, on the right hand side of the Myshall Road, is Cranavane Well, near the outskirts of the village of Clonegal, about fifty yards from the ruins of Barragh church. Cranavane has been regularly visited throughout it’s history, which dates long before the advent of Christianity, but the well had fallen into poor condition. In 1997 local people banded together into a committee/work team and restored it. Tober Cranavane is beautifully maintained today.
The name of this well translates as the "Well of the Birch Trees", a tree whose Druidic associations are those of birth, purification and driving away of evil, illness or darkness. In many Indo-European languages, the name for "birch" means "shining" or "bright". According to local tradition, Cranavane Well was believed to have been used by Druids during special rituals because it bears a geographic relation to the rising of the sun.
A feeling of ancient mystery imbues the general site. This well is shaped like a beehive, the water flows into a coffin-shaped pool. In times past, coffins were immersed in it before burial. The well was famous for it’s healing properties. Relief of afflictions of the eyes, body pains, debility of the limbs and many other types of disease have been attributed to the waters of this well.
When Christianity came to Ireland, old customs and holy days were adopted by the churches that were often built near or on previously existing sacred places. St. Finnian (born near Myshall in 454 AD) founded a monastery near the site of Tober Cranavane. Like many of the holy wells of Ireland the Cranavane Well was once a place of religious gatherings at certain times of the year. The month of May is associated with the Virgin Mary and the holy day of Cranavane Well was the Sunday nearest May 3rd. According to tradition, sickly and feeble minded children were immersed in the water in the month of May. Recently Mass was celebrated at the well, the first in over a 100 years. In May of 1870, following disruptive incidents resulting from alcoholic drink being sold on the road near the well, the Parish Priest of Clonegal at that time, Fr. Dunne, banned the continuing of celebration of the Patron Mass, which now, like the well, has been restored.
Churches and Monasteries on Old Druid Sites
Barragh Church (Between Kildavin and Clonegal)
Now overgrown with trees, some remains of the original church still stand, wreathed in ivy. Before the building of the church, according to tradition, this was the site of a monastery founded by St. Finnian. An old cemetary also exists here, separated from the church grounds by a rivulet of water that flows into the Slaney. The ruins are located near Tober Cranavane, or Cranavane Well. The remains of Barragh Church are situated near the river Slaney on the roads from Myshall to Clonegal, between Kildaven and Clonegal, and from Enniscorthy traveling north through County Carlow. The name Barragh derives from "Ui Barraiche" a tribe that formerly inhabited the region. Other ancient variations of the name Barragh are "Cell Bairnig" and "Beirrechy."
St. Fiacc’s Church (Moyacomb, Clonegal)
The site of this church has a long history, the building and grounds stand on the mound of an ancient dun or ring fort, surrounded by a deep fosse enclosed by a rath. The rath forms the boundary of the churchyard around the sloping sides of the ancient dun. Contained within is one of the oldest burial sites in Europe. Local tradition connects the site of this church with Druids. Christian churches were often built on such sites and a number of these churches are built roughly in on an east/west axis - echoing the practices of the Druids who observed the rising of the sun. The Druids also took note of the passage of the sun during the year and celebrated solar related festivals for the equinoxes and solstices. Dates of these pre-Christian pagan solar festivals were also kept by the monks and converted to holy days.
St. Fiaac's Church overlooks the village of Clonegal and Clonegal Castle and the surrounding valley. The church buildings are Gothic in style and were erected in 1819 on the site of a former church that was dismantled because of massive disrepair. The present church contains a stained glass window with a scene of the Good Shepherd, Holy Table, Communion Rails and Font, all dedicated in memory of various ancestors of the Durdin-Robertson family.
A Sample Listing of Native Fauna and Flora
These lists are by no means inclusive of all the varieties of wildlife and vegetation present in this beautiful region, which is called the "Switzerland of Ireland".
The Slaney River (Abhainn na Slaine) is called the "Singing River" in an old ballad. This river rises from a source on the western slopes of Lugnaquilla Mountain and flows in a southeasterly direction through Baltinglass, Tullow, Clonegal and Bunclody, before entering the estuary at Enniscorthy, eventually flowing into St. George’s Channel in the Irish Sea at Wexford. Sea birds and seals have been known to follow the path of the river inland.
In the rivers: mainly salmon, brown trout, small sea trout, others include eels, frogs, and oysters, which are found near the channel into the sea.
Birds and animals: redshank and blackheaded gulls in the bare mudflats; kingfishers, dippers, grey herons, swans, mallard and tufted ducks, egrets, mute swans, curlews, cormorants, oystercatchers, shelducks, herring gulls along the shore; otters and occasionally grey seals have been sighted along the river banks in the quiet stretches of water; ravens, rooks, hooded crows, cuckoos, swallows, owls, various small song birds called ‘tits’and wild deer, rabbits, badger, stoat, pine martin, fox, hedgehog, bats and mink in the protected woodlands.
Trees, shrubs, flowers:Toothwort, a parasitic plant rarely found outside ancient woods; wild cherry trees estimated to be over 150 years old in some locations; wild flowers, including bluebells and white wood anemones which herald spring; Rhododendrons planted in a garden long ago, that have since spread and gone wild; another rare plant, Short-leafed water-starwort; blackthorn; ivy; birch and oaks.
Gorse also called furze, is found here. This plant is a traditional symbol of wealth and fertility of the land as expressed in an old saying: “Gold under furze, silver under rushes and famine under heather”. Gorse was used in traditional herbal medicine, and on May Day put to use to keep the Good People (Fairies) from stealing butter!
Ireland's tallest wild grass, the common reed, forms extensive skirting beds along the river banks. Its stems are very tough, traditionally used for thatching of roofs.
You may view a map of the area of the Slaney River Olivia has written of, here:
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