Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Visit to St. Kevin's Cell...

   A few days before I left Glendalough, I visited the site of St. Kevin’s cell or hermitage. It was June 3rd, St. Kevin's feast day so I thought a visit to the site of his cell was in order.

   All that is left now of the hermitage are some of the foundation stones but it would have been a stone beehive structure with a door and a solitary window looking out to the Upper Lake.

   St. Kevin spent 7 years living here and returned to it over the remaining years of his life.  But it wasn’t as solitary a living situation as one would have imagined by its isolated location.

   A very important part of Celtic spirituality was the concept of the anam cara or soul friend.  The whole relationship was intended to help people make peace with themselves, with others and with all of creation. It was crucial for everyone to develop this sort of deep relationship with another during one’s lifetime.  St. Kevin was visited by countless pilgrims seeking his spiritual guidance.

   I had a bit of lunch, a modest "feast", sitting in the cell and thinking about how this concept of soul friend is sorely lacking in our world today but one that would be well worth nurturing.  Do you have someone you could call your anam cara?

   On my way back to the car, I passed this amazing conifer tree.  Its roots lay exposed and it had an enormous and solitary branch about 3 feet off the ground.  Children played on it and slid down it.  So many had in the past, its bark had been polished smooth. 

   I felt that in a way, this tree had forged a relationship with the visitors, welcoming them and offering them a moment of pleasure.  I didn’t climb on it but I did run my hand over it and it was almost soft and warm to the touch. Quite lovely.

   About fifty feet from this tree was the ancient Caher or ring fort overlooking the lake.  It may even pre-date the monastic city.  Some say it could be an Iron Age structure.   These forts were meant to protect people from attack.   They would shelter in it if intruders appeared.

   My book, Glendalough: A Celtic Pilgrimage, offered this poem that I thought a lovely reflection for this afternoons visit.  
 Hallowed stones, signs of a people
Present long ago,
Their dreams founded on things sacred,
Water surging, rushing, finding still
Life within these loughs (lakes)
A deep peace in this place of God.
I another pilgrim with another dream.
I touch the stones, I stand encircled by them.

  I went and stood inside the Caher as the ancient people did and I found a wonderful sense of encircling strength in this thinnest of thin places.  How different our lives, these ancient people and me,  but we shared the same need of security and protection in a trouble world…we are not all that different really.



Mystic Meandering said...

Lovely post! I am more and more feeling the need for a "hermitage",for silence and solitude, feeling so overstimulated and overwhelmed by the world as it is these days. I totally agree with your point that the "soul friend" relationship is lacking. Someone whom one can relate to *authentically* on a soul level, heart-to-heart, rather than through the fickle world of technology where most people are only interested in the 30-sec sound bite of themselves! - the "selfie" society :) - rather than developing spiritually substantive friendships based on the Heart that are *mutually* supportive. You have struck a nerve! :)

Patricia Turner said...

Oh I agree, Christine. I have someone I consider my anam cara and I feel so blessed. I wish that for everyone, I truly do...