Politics, a chieftain’s rule, and beliefs and customs changed over time, but the intangible feeling of what made a place sacred did not. And it was near these sacred places the Irish built their homes.
In medieval times, cathedrals and cemeteries were built on the ruins of Irish-Roman places of worship. Roman buildings were placed upon the sacred sites of the Celts and others long gone. Each group of newcomers felt the power of those who had lived thousands of years before them, and they wanted to feel that power every day of their lives. Although not related by blood, those ancient ones were the newcomer’s ancestors in spirit.
Gentle places such as wells, springs, ponds, trees, glens, hazel trees and stones were first used as sacred places to placate, worship, and feed the appetite of the gods. The power and symbols of these places were later woven into the myths of saints, particularly St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.
Crushed and whole bones are found in Neolithic Irish cairns—as they are around the world. These bones were treated with reverence as generations of other bones intertwined to fill a burial area. Birth, death, rebirth, resurrection…these bones became power objects and people built their homes near them, whether their homes were mud or grand Manor Houses with a family graveyard.
These areas aren’t scary, goblin-popping places. The Irish honored those who came before and their ancient knowledge of an older, more natural world. A world where gods regularly visited people, granting them boons. And so, reaching back thousands of years to a time when we only have the merest glimpse of Irish daily life, we know that they lived near sacred sites, perhaps longing for a bridge between this world and the next.