Discovering Ancient Irish Spirituality by Frank Mac Eowen

In ancient Ireland there was a race of people whose culture was dedicated to manifesting an enlightened society. This tribe of people, predecessors of the modern Irish Celts, are known today as the Tuatha Dé Danann, the People of the Goddess Dana.

The Dananns are but one of a succession of migrations of people that journeyed to and inhabited Ireland. Known sometimes as the People of Peace, the Gentle Folk, and the Good People, the Dananns were a harmonizing influence on the island, ambassadors of a sacred reality that still exists today, though often unseen, ignored or dismissed in this era of urban techno distraction.

For the Dananns everything was alive: the land, the trees, the stones, and the flowing streams in which they took their ritual ablutions. Most of the people among the Dananns were “common folk” artisans, craftspeople, laborers, but all of them lived their lives according to a current of energy flowing in the earth, their homes, and their own bodies. Danann culture was profoundly attuned, oriented, and aligned with this current, and they sought to live in dynamic congruence with this ancient energy.

In time, another group of people arrived on Ireland’s shores. This group sometimes referred to as the Milesians, or the Gael and are the ancient ancestors of the modern Irish Celts. With their arrival Danann culture was thrown into turmoil. The great harmony that had been established on the island was shredded. It is said that the Dananns were “given everything below the land,” while the Gael became keepers “of everything above the land.”

In truth, many of the common folk among the Dananns were killed in battle, while others would assimilate and intermarry into the incoming Milesian culture. Meanwhile, other Danann peoples would follow some of their shaman priests into the many “spirit-temples” and threshold places of ceremony throughout the island. These individuals would transition out of corporal form into a parallel world of light and energy.

Those that crossed over became what are now known collectively in the Irish and Celtic traditions as the Faery People, sometimes called the Shining Ones, the Síth (pronounced “shee,” meaning the People of Peace) or the Sídhe (People of the Mounds). The spirit-beings that are the Faery People have never gone away. There have always been those people in Gaelic culture commoner, poet, musician and druid alike who were aware of the Faery People, who received instruction from them, and who have aligned with the same creative and tending power of Dana that the Danann culture was seeking to manifest. Now, today, as ever before, the Síth still guide those who are sensitive to their instruction and healing, and even to this day it is common parlance in Celtic lands to avoid insulting the Faery People or doing damage to their faery places within the landscape. The Faery People seek to guide us in how to live in alignment with this tending force known as Dana how to live a life and how to manifest a culture that is profoundly connected to this sacred current. Throughout the ancient days of Celtic culture, the Faery People always sought to teach people, including certain healers, musicians, bagpipers, fiddlers, and poets. They sought to invoke the powerful soul gifts within the life of the seeker, transforming that person into one of the Aois Dana, a term meaning “the gifted ones,” denoting the ancient lineage of healers, wisdomkeepers and creative people. The same is true today and just like the Aois Dana of Irish and Scots Gaelic culture we, too, can know an essential insight: each and every one of us is on a sacred journey of the soul. The journey and initiation of the soul is an ancient process consisting of a spiral circuit that was begun before we were graced with the presence of physical form and which will continue long after we have dropped the cloak that is our body.

Regardless of externalities such as race, nationality, culture, or religion we all share and partake in this spiral journey, with a downward spiral of symbolic death, a threshold spiral of gaining vision, and an upward spiral of bringing that vision forward. In the primal Irish tradition we uphold this ancient way of being by aligning our consciousness with the power of Dana, the enlivening spirit that is the life force – that is “the mother of all,” who gives birth to our life but who, in time, shapeshifts into the old crone goddess that initiates us to life’s most profound and sacred calling within each of us. This ancient mother is extending an invitation to us all in this day and age: to remember the holy path of tending life, to remember the soul journey that we are on, to remember the much-needed soul gifts we are destined to manifest and bring into the world.

This article is based on the new book “The Spiral of Memory and Belonging” by Frank MacEowen, (2004; $14.95,; New World Library, www.newworldlibrary.com). To find out more about Frank MacEowen, visit his website at www.solasdana.org