From S.W Ireland to S.W. Victoria

– the story of a journey

A few years ago I had the opportunity to go through some old family papers.   There I came across a letter written by my great, great grandmother, Priscilla to her daughter Eliza, my great grandmother.   In the letter Priscilla wrote that the family had lived in a particular part of the British Isles ‘for time out of mind’ before they came to Australia.

It is unclear why Priscilla and her common law husband John felt the need to take a three month sea voyage to the other side of the world with all of their nine children.  Further on in the letter she hints at some family trouble – some problem that forced them to flee  their ancestral home.  The details are very sketchy.

The letter is the only written story of my ancestors I have ever found.   The rest of my forebears are silent.  All that remains of them are a few tattered material goods and fragments of stories – stories that speak of loss and disruption – some sudden change in fortune that sent them across the globe to start again.

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As their descendant I feel I carry these imprints of disruption, exile and wandering in my DNA.   No doubt many of us carry similar imprints for so many of us can trace our ancestry back to another country, another culture.

When I went to south west Ireland I felt I was venturing back through my own familial history into time out of mind – that time where my ancestral roots are lost in the mists of myth and legend.

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These experiences enriched me and gave me a sense of belonging to a people, an ethnic group, even to an ancient pre-Christian belief system I can only guess at but feel spiritually connected to.

Wedge tomb Tomb of the crone goddess, Co. Cork, Ireland

Here in south west Victoria the feeling that I am journeying back in time still comes to me when I am alone in untamed natural environments.  Here though I feel as if I am travelling back into pre-history.  I walk past archaeological evidence of the Aboriginal people that have lived here for 40,000 years to ancient fossilized landscapes that date back millions of years.

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As I clamber over the cooled lava flows that shaped this area or pick my way along the crumbling sandstone cliffs of the coast a sense of time beyond human time envelops me. I step beyond my ancestral roots into something far older – a sense of connection with the Earth that goes back through the very first humans that walked this land to the creation myths and the cellular connection between all carbon based life forms.

Standing alone in the primal landscapes of south west Victoria I feel myself to be a part of the Earth and of the universe itself.  The life force that animates all living things pulsates within my being.

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FOOTNOTE:   On a personal note this blog post was one of those ideas that woke in the middle of night.   I couldn’t get back to sleep last night until I had turned on the light and jotted  it down.   When I came online to write this blog post I saw a complete stranger had visited some old blog of mine I’d completely forgotten about and found a post I wrote about Priscilla 7 years ago.   It seems she too is a descendant of this indomitable woman and would like to email me.   Life is stranger than fiction.

 

 

 

Life after Hell

After she’d done the deal with Hades and ensured her daughter Persephone could return to the land of the living every spring, Demeter was at a loose end. What was she to do next?

The quest to rescue her daughter had been archetypal.  She knew it would be told and retold down through the ages. Many would see Persephone as the heroine and look to her yearly return as a kind of salvation.

All that was as it should be. Of course the beautiful young woman clothed in the glory of her own fertility was the star of the story. Demeter’s role as the mother was to be applauded and her journey to the underworld was laudable yet Demeter knew there was more to the story than that.  After all she’d lived and breathed the quest. It had occupied her entire consciousness for so long she couldn’t just shrug it off and say that’s it, job done, end of story. There had to a sequel.

For ages she wandered about the countryside mulling over what she’d been through.  The overwhelming grief and deep depression she felt when she realised her daughter was lost – that terrible rage when she cursed life itself and caused the crops to wither in the ground then the long and perilous journey into the darkness of hell, that place of shadows and haunted, plaintive wailings had changed her forever.  She couldn’t just go home and sit by the fireside.

Restless, she wandered on and on.   After a time she came to a gracious city.DSCF8112

The people there were curious about her.  ‘We can see you have travelled far and suffered much,’ they said.  ‘Please tell us of your journey.’

Flattered by their interest, Demeter told her story.  In the retelling she came to understanding the deeper meaning of what she had experienced and was able to devise a method whereby others could journey into their own darkness. Within the protected of the city walls she initiated people into processes that enabled them to explore the unconscious aspects of the self.  As they confronted the shadows within their own psyche the potential trapped there was released.  After such journeys initiates returned to the bright light of day restored and renewed.

As more and more people experienced her teachings, Demeter’s path became known as The Mystery Religion for embedded within personal journeys towards individual regeneration lay a deeper mystery. Somehow personal resurrection contained within it the seeds for the regeneration of the Earth itself.

Even as she taught the people Demeter knew there would come a time when the Mystery Religion would be forgotten. People would grow afraid of their own shadows and seek to live only in the light. They would exploit the Earth in their pursuit of pleasure and the gratification of their every desire. Crops would wither in the ground and vast tracts of the planet would become a wasteland.

For many, life would then become a kind of hell on Earth. Demeter knew that the desecration of the Earth would sear the hearts and minds of humanity. Many would feel such pain over the destruction of the planet they would cry out for salvation. It would be then that the old archetypal stories would once again reveal their deepest truth – the way to the light lies in embracing the darkness.

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