Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Irelands Bullaun Stones

Found throughout Ireland and quite numerous there are many fascinating "Bullaun Stones."

 

Bullaun Stone
Roscam, Galway - Associated with Saint Patrick.
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stones are stones which have hollows or depressions carved into them, either a single hollow or multiple hollows or depressions. Many are shaped like a "bowl."

Bullaun Stone
Clonmore, Carlow - Large multiple Bullaun.
Bullaun Stone

They range very often in size from as little as 20 Centimetres across to as large as several metres measured along their upper surface. The difference in size, shape, and number of depressions make Bullaun Stones quite unique and difficult to categorize. They vary in shape and style considerable.

Bullaun Stone
Saint Molua's Stone - Kyle, Laois.
Bullaun Stone

The origins of Ireland's Bullaun Stones are lost in the mist of time however Bullaun Stones are also found in Britain as well as in continental Europe. The grinding stones of the indigenous peoples of North America also show a striking similarity to some Irish Bullaun Stones as do many early grinding stones worldwide.

Bullaun Stone
Possible Bullaun - Church of Ireland, Aghade, Carlow.
Bullaun Stone

Today the majority of Irish Bullaun Stones are found close to ancient sites of ecclesiastical importance such as early Christian monasteries and churches and alongside Holy wells and sites of pilgrimage.

Bullaun Stone
Bullauns - Saint Peacauns, Toureen, Tipperary.
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

It is however, unlikely that the present religious associations and settings are the original source of Ireland's Bullaun Stones.

Bullaun Stone
Bullaun and Holy well - Cumber/Forelacka, Offaly.
Bullaun Stone

At a guess it would seem likely that some Bullaun Stones must have originated as prehistoric grinding stones much like a Mortar and Pestle or a Saddle quern. 

Bullaun Stone
Bulluans - Killamery, Kilkenny. Is the lower stone a Bullaun or a Holed Stone ?
Bullaun Stone

To my knowledge the only way to date stone usage without written records is if it
(the stone) has been recently excavated and can be tested for how long it has been exposed to sunlight. It would seem that dating per-existing Bullauns is a non runner.

Bullaun Stone
Glendalough, Wicklow - One Bullaun has been repurposed into the Altar.
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

What can be said with certainty is that they are a multi period artifact in the Irish landscape and an intriguing and beguiling one at that.
It is entirely possible that some of them may have been Bronze age or even Neolithic grinding tools. 

Small Bullaun - Castletown Cemetery, Drumroe, Tipperary.
Bullaun Stone

I presume a lack of finds near neolithic sites may make this seem unlikely however given the portable nature of most Bullaun Stones perhaps they were moved and repurposed over the millennia, who knows?

Bullaun Stone
Saint Berriherts - Tipperary. Bullauns or Swearing Stones ?
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

The Bullaun Stones found in Ireland today seem to have very ritualistic purposes and most are associated with local myths, legends, and traditions.
Many are still an integral part of local worship and veneration at sites of pilgrimage throughout the country.

Base of Post - Fuerty, Roscommon. Bullaun.......more probably recently man made ?
Bullaun Stone

Along with the obvious depressions which are the defining feature of Bullaun Stones several have further interesting marks, grooves, or hollows which are often ascribed to the marks made from where venerated Saints knelt when praying, their hand prints when worshiping or the marks of Horses or Cows hooves etc. etc.

Lemanaghan Offaly - Associated with Saint Manchan. Bulluan at Well and on ancient Togher.
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

The Bullauns, some of which may have originated as a type of early milling stone are now often used for ritual purposes and are often believed to have magical or healing properties. They are sometimes associated as sources of cures for different ailments.

Bullaun on ground - Gallen Priory, Ferbane, Offaly
Bullaun Stone

Some were also repurposed as "Cursing Stones" or "Swearing Stones."
There are several traditions of using Bullauns to cast a spell or curse and also of using them to swear an oath or obligation.

Kilmurray Hill, Laois - Bullaun or not ? Hard to tell, there's one listed here on maps.
Bullaun Stone

It doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to visualise a distant relative decades ago after a "night on the lash" pleading or entreating at a Bullaun stone ..........
"I swear, I swear. I'll never touch a drop again if......."

Glendalough, Wicklow.
Bullaun Stone

A Large number of Bullaun Stones are located at devotional sites and places where votive offerings are left and prayers offered to Saints associated with the locality.

Glendalough in Wicklow contains an unusually large number of Bullaun stones with over 40 recorded in the area, attesting to their religious significance in the locality.

Bullaun Stone Map, Glendalough

Some of the many uses and purposes to which Bullaun Stones may originally have served have been mooted as ; grinding stones for grains or nuts, crushing herbs, metal ores and colour pigments, and making medicines.
Each of these suggested ancient uses seems quite plausible in its own right and we will probably never know for sure. In fact some may have origins or uses for which we could never even begin to hazard a guess.

Occasionally it is difficult to be certain a stone is in fact a Bullaun Stone as it may be a repackaged Font or Stoup or just a weathered conglomerate rock but most Bullauns are fairly easily identified.

Ireland's Bullaun Stones are a striking and evocative archaeological record of times past and present throughout the country. Myths, legends, local folklore, and ecclesiastical associations have served to keep most of them "in situ" and intact so that they remain in place for future generations to enjoy.

They also provide a valuable link to the past and serve as a visible reminder of our sometimes forgotten history and heritage.
As technology advances further the old "oral tradition" fades and the meaning and purpose of relics can be lost or forgotten, particularly concerning obscure local traditions and folklore.

Wherever you may live you will probably find that you are not too far from a Bullaun Stone. Perhaps you were unaware of its existence and passed it by without even knowing it was there. 
The stone probably has a tale to tell if you dig a little deeper......











Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Clontuskert Abbey

In east Galway there is a beautiful forgotten ruin, Clontuskert Abbey. 
Officially the Augustinian Priory of Saint Mary, the Abbey was probably first founded some time after 1140/50.

Clontuskert Abbey

There is a beautiful arched doorway replete with multiple carvings and interesting figures including a Mermaid and Griffins, its absolutely fantastic. 
There are several other carvings dotted about the Abbey here and there and a beautiful stoup(font).

Clontuskert Abbey

It is believed the Abbey (Priory) was founded on the site of an earlier monastery.

Clontuskert Abbey

The site was empty on a visit on 19/March/2020 and was perfect for getting out and about while practicing social distancing viz a viz Corvid 19 Corona Virus, which as of today, 25/March/2020 has yet to fully "explode" across Ireland.

Clontuskert Abbey

I would highly recommend a visit to this tranquil and beautiful Abbey near Clontuskert if you get the chance. It's beautiful and peaceful in a nice area of the country.

Clontuskert Abbey

The cloisters are somewhat intact and at the end of the cloisters is what I presume was part of a kitchen, it has several fireplace openings and what looks like an oven although I'm just making an uneducated guess here... 

Clontuskert Abbey

Anyway, I'm sure if you get to visit Clontuskert you won't be disappointed. 

Clontuskert Abbey

There is a small car park beside the Abbey but no signage into it when I visited.

Clontuskert Abbey
 
Coordinates :

53°16'56.9"N 8°12'55.5"W
53.282473, -8.215403

Clontuskert Abbey

Keep well and keep safe.

Clontuskert Abbey

Clontuskert Abbey


 

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Duiske Abbey, Graignamanagh, Kilkenny

I had time recently for a short visit to Duiske Abbey in beautiful Graignamanagh, Kilkenny. 
I wished I had more time to look around and enjoy the lovely little town on the River Barrow and its beautifully restored Abbey.

Duiske Abbey

It is a beautiful area full of outstanding natural beauty and beautiful old buildings. You can almost feel the ages and the history on the air.

Duiske Abbey

The wonderful Duiske Abbey should be on everyone's itinerary to visit at least once. Entrance is free and the restoration work is a credit to those who undertook it. 
The magnificently restored ceiling was constructed without the use of a single nail.

Duiske Abbey

The original Cistercian monastery was founded here c.1204 by monks from Wiltshire in England. The Abbey that grew from this original settlement was built over a period of 40 years and at one stage there were around 5000 monks at Graignamanagh.

Duiske Abbey

Graignamanagh is an Irish derivation and means "Village of the monks."

Duiske Abbey

Despite the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530's by Henry VIII some monks remained on at Duiske until some time around 1686.

Duiske Abbey

Sometime after that the buildings were abandoned and going into ruin and c. 1744 its great central Bell Tower collapsed.

Duiske Abbey

In both 1754 and 1812 partial restorations took place but it wasn't until c.1974 that proper restoration work began.

Duiske Abbey

At Duiske Abbey are a 13th Cty Knight effigy, a Romanesque Processional Doorway, a stunning Rose window, a floor tile dedicated to Martin Doyle P.P. of the Tithe Wars and an ancient Granite Font from nearby Ullard among a host of other historical items.

Duiske Abbey

In the gounds outside are two High Crosses and a number of other antiquities. This is a place where hopefully I can find the time to return and spend longer enjoying the History and Heritage. The town itself is set in a wonderfully panoramic area.

Graignamanagh, Kilkenny



Graignamanagh -  Get there and enjoy Ireland at it's best.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Four Knocks

Excavated in the early 1950's Four Knocks near Ardcath in County Meath is a neolithic passage tomb approximately 5000 years old. 
It is roughly 17 kilometres south of Newgrange and is a wonderful place to visit.

Four Knocks

Inside the tumulus are several examples of outstanding neolithic rock art with one piece of art in particular believed to represent the carving of a human face. 
This is the only known representation of a human face from that period in Ireland.

Four Knocks

Entrance to Four Knocks is free.
The tomb has a locked and sealed door but arrangements can be made to collect the key to the passage tomb in advance. Phone the White's residence which is located nearby and they will facilitate you and my thanks are due to them for that as well.

(Leave a €20 deposit until you bring the key back.)
 (+353 01-8354722 or +353 086-63555609 as of 2020.)

Four Knocks

I would recommend bringing a torch along as well so that you can have a good look at the rock art inside.

Four Knocks

The tomb consists of a short passage and a large central chamber which is divided into three burial recess's in a cruciform shape.

Four Knocks

The large central chamber is unusual for a passage tomb in Ireland merely by virtue of its sheer size and volume.
It is believed that perhaps the roof of the chamber was sealed with wood and hides rather than the usual cairns and mounds of rocks placed above corbelling and often used in passage tomb roofs. 
It has also been suggested that perhaps it never had a roof at all.

Four Knocks

Located nearby are several burial sites, barrows, and cists which demonstrates the area's continuous use into the bronze age and beyond. 
There is no access to these sites though it is enough to know they are nearby.
 
Four Knocks

Today the passage tomb roof is a concrete sarcophagus type structure which helps protect it from damage by the elements and weathering. 

Because the chamber is so large it is difficult to believe that it would have had a corbelled stone roof of the type which are normally seen in passage tombs and this along with markings suggesting a central wooden post in the chamber seem to be indicative of some other form of roof covering having been used at the time of its initial construction, if indeed it were roofed at all.

Four Knocks

Some of the pleasure in visiting a place like Four Knocks lies in the simple fact of the peace and tranquility to be found there.

It isn't on a big tour route and so I don't imagine there will be much of a crowd when you visit, if indeed anyone else at all. 
Four Knocks is the anglicized form of Na Fuarchnoic - The cold hills.
 
Four Knocks


Discovered at Four Knocks were both cremated and non cremated (inhumations) human remains and various votive funerary items including beads and pendants. The different methods of burial may suggest Four Knocks was in continuous use as a place of burial for an extended period.

There are several suggestions as to the relevance of the various rock art carvings and their possible relationship to various stars and astronomical bodies. 
 Suggestion is all they can be as it is nigh on impossible to definitively state their meanings or interpretations at the time of their carving 5000 years ago or more. 

Mind you it's nice to try to imagine just what a neolithic artist was thinking although he or she was carving whatever the boss told them to carve I should imagine. Artistic license hadn't been invented yet I shouldn't think..

What is in no doubt is that neolithic farmers were incredibly complex in their belief systems and no doubt used these systems and beliefs to bind and build Ireland's first comprehensive large scale settlements and farming communities. 

Little did they realise they were laying the groundwork for the Common Agricultural Policy of 1962 !  



Four Knocks


Four Knocks ........ 5000 years of history for free.

Co-ordinates : 
53°35'44.8"N 6°19'34.8"W
53.595780, -6.326345