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Holy Hills of Ireland

34 35 vaNishiNg poiNts meeting places This sacred landscape included many magical trees. Some were immortal totems and five represented Irelands fifths, including one at Uisneach that fell when St Patrick arrived. Later, St Kevin had a miraculous yew and willow, and St Columcille an oak. Holy wells often have trees near them to which rags are tied, as at Fore in Westmeath, St Olcans at Cranfield, Antrim or St Flannans, Clare, and all thorn trees belong to the fairies, who bring misfortune to anyone cutting them. As earlier peoples, spirits and gods live underneath this landscape there are entrances through which they can come to us from the beyond or which allow us, sometimes, to visit them. Inevitably therefore there are taboos against damaging these portals, in particular against interfering with raths, trees, standing stones or tumuli. Subterranean places are particularly potent, projecting as they do into the mystical underworld, so Irish miners refused to be below ground at midnight, in case they were spirited away. Keshcorran cave on Carrowkeel hill, Sligo, is an important spirit entrance, and the home of the goddess Morrigan, while The Three Caves of Ireland, at Oweynagat at Crachain, in Roscommon, Howth, near Dublin, and Dunmore, Kilkenny, are equally significant. In Oweynagat cave people disappear into other realms and spirits come through into this one at Samhain, disguised as cats. Left Sacred trees had powerful roots penetrating to the underworld, as with this one at St. Patricks Well, Armagh, while birds had the magical property to fly into and from the beyond, or nest in caves on the rocky membrane between the here and now and the other side. Below Dunkerry Cave , Co. Antrim, an atmospheric meeting place of the elements any time of the year.
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