Ancient Sites | Ritual

Kilronan Abbey

May 31, 2012

In the second of my posts on recovering my ancestor energies we visited two sites for the price of one – Kilronan Abbey next to Lough Meelagh has a holy well dedicated to Saint Lassair right opposite it. As ever, we were driven by our findings rather than our curiosity, and my quest was directed by some higher intelligence, for I had only done a glancing amount of research to pick this site out before we arrived in Ireland. As usual, something else had decided that I would be in the right place at the right time. Here’s the tale of these two personally special places, starting first with Kilronan Abbey.

Kilronan Abbey

The most convincing information I have found about the origins of the abbey at Kilronan Abbey is this account by James McGarry:

“The first Church at Kilronan, Ballyfarnon, Co. Roscommon, was built in the 8th century by St. Ronan and his daughter St. Lasser (Lasair), hence the name Kilronan (kil or cill meaning church). It was replaced in 1339 by one built by Fergal O’Duigenan which was burned down in 1340 and replace three years later by the Church, one gable of which stands today. Sheltered by that gable is the vault of the McDermott Roes, in which Turlough O’Carolan was interred in 1738.

This gable is a memorial to the Gaelic Literary tradition from the 13th -18th century as represented by the O’Duigenans, hereditary erenachs of Kilronan (lay abbots who held church land from generation to generation), and chroniclers (as well as bards and ollavs-hereditary poets) to the Mac Dermotts, Princes of Moylurg, down to Turlough O’Carolan, sometimes styled “The Last of the Bards”. The O’Duigenans maintained a School of History on this site. The origin of the bards is lost in the mists of pre-historic Ireland.” (source: Freepages Geneology)

Erenach‘ – such a lovely word. It means ‘an ecclesiastic having duties akin to those of an archdeacon‘. More about Turlough O’Carolan later too.

There’s that name again – “O’Duigenan“. Followers of the blog may remember my encounter with the spirit of ‘Dignan’ at Vale Crucis Abbey in Llangollen. In that episode he gave me his name and then challenged me to follow him when he disappeared in a westerly direction. By meditation and dowsing I discovered that this spirit had re-located itself back at its source – Roscommon in Ireland. This was the reason I was here – to find this spirit again and fulfil whatever the next part of my challenge was.

Kilronan Abbey, Roscommon

At this point I had no clues about the nature and direction of my quest other than these two sites and the snippet of a vision I had obtained from Carrowkeel where I had seen a sword fight between myself and an ancient warrior. Where would I be led next, I wondered? What links would it make in the chain of the quest of recovering my ancestor energies? I was about to find out.

As Kal wandered off on his own peculiar mission I dowsed to find whether there was any helpful shade in the abbey’s grounds that might further my quest. Of course I was hoping to find the spirit of St.Duigenan, but instead I found something else, or rather, someone else. I was taken to a grave covered with grass fenced by a low iron rail. The name on the gravestone was indistinct so when the rods spiralled indicating the site of the spirit i asked for a name. I got back the name “Mary Ellen”. As the only name I could read on the grave was “Carty-Cullen” I connected the two and presumed this was the shade of Mary Ellen Cullen (or Carty).

After introducing myself I stated my wishes – to recover my ancestor energies – was there anything she could help me with, I asked? I let her guide me to a place where she felt I should be. She took me inside the abbey’s ruined walls to an old grave with no discernible writing on it. The grave was in the gable end of the church that was the original part of the structure. Here was where I was supposed to stand. I meditated in the lovely May sunshine and waited to see if anything would happen….

What happened was that I began to see a vision – a vision of a ritual that needed to be performed at the well over the road. I saw the movements I needed to make and the elements of the ritual that needed to be included. I was sitting down somewhere, then moving around a well, then using the water to wipe my face, then I was asking for the help of the spirits of the well to guide me quest. It all seemed very “nice” and quaint, so I decided I would do it if it was going to further my research.

Coming out of the trance I asked if there is anything else of significance to me at this site. The dowsing rods led me to the grave site of Carolanlast of the Irish Bards interred at this place. I didn’t realise the significance at the time. I just saw an unusually well-tended grave which mentioned something about this bloke “O’Carolan” and an unusual shape that looked vaguely like a heraldic crest. I took pictures of it all and thought little more about it at the time. Later when we examined the other parts of the abbey’s exterior I saw the carving on the entrance to the graveyard on my way back from the well:

Resting place of Turlough O’Carolan – last of the Irish Bards

Turlough O’Carolan was the last of the Irish Bards in the lineage of the O’Duigenans, the founders of a bardic college on the site of this abbey. I was standing at the grave of the last of a line of bards whom I could link through patronage with my ancestors. In fact, they were the keepers of the history of my ancestors in this area. Although I didn’t know why I felt it at that moment I had a profound feeling of connection, and for a moment I was rooted to the spot. Kal was all for leaving, but something “magnetically” attracted me to Carolan’s grave. Reluctantly, and seeing no further reason to stay, I prized myself off the spot and followed Kal down the path to the well.

Weeks later when I got home I wondered why I had taken a picture of a dull grey stone in the graveyard. I zoomed into the picture for a closer look – it looked like a family crest of some sort…. yes it was a family crest.Years ago I had bought some tacky souvenir ‘coasters’ with my own family crest on them. That’s how I recognised this shape when I saw it:

My family crest inscribed alongside the grave of Ireland’s last bard

It was my own family crest! I had felt connected with this place in a deep way, and when I realised who’s grave I had been standing on I finally understood why my decision to follow the path of the druid had felt like a return home. When I found that my own family were the patrons for the last Irish bard….well, I was truly home now.


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  1. Oh my Lord Gwas! That is simply amazing! What an extraordinary tale of synchronicity, oh that my searches ever came up with such conclusive proof! All I have so far, is a spurious tale of a Scottish ancestor who might have been what they termed a practitioner of ‘the old religion’ from the clan Innis on my mum’s side. But this is something else altogether! 🙂 Wow!!!

    1. Wow indeed. It was a long time in the anticipation, however. I lived with the feeling that the Ireland trip was going to be something special since Imbolc. By the time we got to May I was positively straining at the leash.

      Sure enough, what I initially thought was an unusual random encounter with a spirit who might be purely in my imagination turned out to be the start of a series of coincidences that, had I not lived them myself, I would have scarcely believed had I been told the tale. Nevertheless, this is a prime example of going with the intuition and the guidance of spirits in a cautious but compliant manner. The rewards are yet to be fully uncovered, but the experience was and still is astonishing in its chain of coincidences.

      Glad you enjoyed the first taster post. There’s much more to come.

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