Ireland and the Thin Places

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Our family is taking a trip to Ireland this year, the first trip overseas for all four of us. We’re all wildly excited, of course. My 4 year old asks every day, “Is it July 1st yet?” 🙂 Ireland and Irish myth and story has been a source of fascination for me for a long time, and I’m looking forward to exploring the land that some of my ancestors came from.

To prepare for the trip, I’ve been reading Yeats’ Irish Myth, Legend and Folklore, as well as Spring Journal’s Volume 79, Irish Culture and Depth Psychology. 

The first essay in that volume, Jerry R. Wright’s “Thin Places and Thin Times”, discusses the Irish notion that our everyday world and the “other world”, that is, the invisible, fairy, or unconscious, are right next to each other, and in many places the barrier between the two is quite thin, and it is at these thin places and times that we can experience the other world.

“The Irish landscape and soul are very thin, which may account in large measure for the enduring fascination and love affair for all things Irish.”-p. 4, Wright.

This has certainly been true for me throughout my life. Irish poetry, myth and song move me like the arts of no other culture do, on a deep, almost primeval level. When I listen to Irish music, especially, I am nearly always guaranteed a numinous experience. I had always attributed this to being part Irish, but this explanation rings more true for me. The rhythm of the bodhran brings me into an experience of the other world, transports me across the boundary of the thin places. As Wright says, “in this borderland time the supernatural had the greatest power to influence the lives of mortals.”

Now that I finally have the opportunity to visit Ireland herself, I look forward to the experience of being in the thin places themselves. Through this pilgrimage I hope to explore the thin places, and see what poetry might be there for me. I’ll let you know how it goes. 😉

  One thought on “Ireland and the Thin Places

  1. May 1, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I agree the lure of Ireland runs deeply in many people’s imaginations. Congratulations on the opportunity to go visit there! It’s hard to know for certain from the short quote you include here from Jerry Wright, but, it sounds like his perspective is quite romantic. Islands in general create a lot of diversity simply by being islands. Life adapts, changes, brings forth new colorations perhaps, or unusual experiences. This may be why islands appeal to our imaginations so strongly and seem almost magical which is then reflected in our stories, legends, folktales, etc.

  2. May 1, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Don’t know if you’ve been to Newgrange ever — that’s the place in the picture — but do go. It’s extraordinary. And not far from Tara — are your kids of an age to have read the Artemis Fowl books?

  3. May 1, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    We will definitely be visiting Newgrange-it was my only “must not be missed” site. My boys are a little too young to have read Artemis Fowl on their own, but I bet they’d love them! I’ll suggest them to my husband for bedtime reading. 🙂

    • May 1, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      Do! My kids loved having those books read to them when they were young — and Tara features prominently, especially in the first book!

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