The first settlers in Ireland were an organized group of people who knew how to work well together. From their first settlements, after the land bridge between Ireland and Britain was submerged after the Ice Age around 8000 BC, we find little trace of the hunter-gatherers other than their pale tracks. (The most successful hunter-gatherers leave little mark on the land. They understand its fragile nature and the importance of balance.)
The next crew of people came to Ireland in 4500 BC with great purpose. They arrived in boats, carrying livestock, seeds, and the tools it takes to establish a successful farming community. These people honored the earth and spirits, and watched the movement of the stars as evidenced by their outstanding Megaliths in the Boyne Valley. Imagine this: These megaliths and monuments are considered by many to be superior to the Pyramids. But, by the time the great Pyramids were built, these inhabitants had already disbanded.
After their departure, the Celts arrived in waves, and the last wave was the Gaels. We still have their records of Irish poetry, archaeology, and myths. Ireland, blessed this particular time by her isolation, was immune to Roman invasion. But invaders, the Vikings, came in 800 AD. From that time on, much of Ireland’s history is that of invasion, rebellion, the mingling of faiths, intermarrying, scholars with the highest standards of Greek and Latin literature, and astonishing monasteries and their spiritual leaders. Many castles and monasteries were built on top of ancient sacred sites—the fairy rings and magic wells embraced those new places, too.
Though often in the middle and used as a pawn by mighty nations (and sometimes seen as the prize), Ireland never let go of her identity. This is the true miracle of Ireland and its people. Ireland declared itself a Republic in the 20th century, went through periods of mass emigration, but then raised its head to be the Ireland of today: The Celtic Dragon. The only country with a musical instrument as her identity—the harp—Ireland’s stories, beliefs, families, courage and humor have held her together, and through the ages poetry and music has been the tie that binds.