Today we had our first formal class about the history of Ireland. Fascinating! We learned about Pagan traditions, how Christianity gently moved in, and how the British forceably moved in. It was very cool to hear that when St. Patrick and his missionaries came, they knew that in order to covert the Irish that they needed to respect and integrate their Pagan traditions. The Pagan gods were natural. They could be found in the water, the trees, the air, etc. We saw an interesting example of how the two religions were fused as one when we went to St. Patrick's Well in Ballyshannon. Right next to the holy spot was a tree where people would tie small bits of cloth or string to a tree while thinking about a loved one. This was a Pagan tradition that was still practiced by the same people that come to visit the holy well. It was very cool to see.
We also learned about how the Irish reluctantly surrendered to British control when we visited Dongal Castle. One half of the castle was the old Irish style, and the other half was a Jacobian style manor. When it was in Irish hands it belonged to the O'Donnell's, and then changed hands to the English Brooke Family. The Office of Public Works did a fantastic job restoring it and now caring for it (they also restored Knowth). At night we spent some time in the pub, but not doing what you would think. We had a talk story session with a lovely woman named Marion Rose. She is an artist, writer, expert on Celtic religion and mythology. We had a chance to draw, paint, and even facepaint traditional symbols. It was good fun. Busy day, but we learned so much! We only have a short time to blog, so sorry if it gets less witty with each post. ;)