Irish Central featured an extract by Rita O’Reilly from the Moon Mná Diary-Journal 2022.
The Ash Tree: one of Ireland’s oldest native sacred trees
Guarding Ancient Ireland– an Ash Tree story by Rita O’Reilly, Hypnotist, Wildlife Rehabber, Writer, Moon Woman, and Irish Celtic Shaman. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
On freezing February nights in Ireland, I feel drawn to the hearth, where warm flames flicker orangey light in the dark. Given that this is the time after Imbolg, the ancient festival falling midway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, I suspect the magnetic pull towards the flames may be a visceral urge. This, after all, is the beginning of early Spring, a time when our ancestors lit flaming torches and gathered around bonfires while tales and music mixed with fire sparks beneath darkened skies.
This is the month in which we remember Brigid, the Celtic goddess, described in mythology as a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann (the tribe of the goddess Danu), the daughter of Dagda and the mother of Ruadán. Brigid’s crosses – particularly those woven from straw – often had a twiggy base. I like to imagine them being made from twigs of Ash, a native Irish tree whose energy draws me.
The Ash was once deemed so powerful that, we’re told, more than half of the handful of sacred trees tasked with guarding ancient Ireland belonged to this magnificent native species. I’m a protector by nature.
It was my instinct to stand with the underdog that first drew me into law, a profession I practiced briefly in my early years. It was the same instinct that later brought me into full-time work with rough sleepers. The same pull that drew me to wildlife rehabbing and animal rights advocacy. The same fierce, protective pull that today makes me a fervent champion of equality for all – irrespective of race, colour, gender or orientation – and a ditching of the labels that confine the potential of who we all might be.
Talking of potential, the Ash has surely reached hers, and not just because of the height to which her magnificent branches reach towards the skies, the sheer strength of her body, and the depth to which her roots reach deep into the earth. It’s at the trunk of the Ash that I often begin my shamanic journeys – through the light, half-light and dark that comprise the territories of consciousness.
For me, February is a time of magic and extremes, with budding daffodils as often illuminated by electric storms as they are covered by snowflakes. Yet, while this may provide a glimpse of the landscape, it’s not the full picture. For that, paint in the majesty of the month’s Moon against a starry sky, and the wind carrying the night call of vixens. Ireland’s early Springtime is a golden glory, rough ground brightened with flashes of colt’s foot and delicate chickweed underneath the mighty Ash and yellow banded bumblebees flitting busily nearby.
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