Seeing magic in the forest

IN the countryside in ThreeCastles there lies an ancient Norman tower where a sense of beauty and peace prevails.

IN the countryside in ThreeCastles there lies an ancient Norman tower where a sense of beauty and peace prevails.

It is the perfect setting for a college of druidery and is the ideal ground on which to speak to Eimear Burke, a trained psychotherapist, priestess and druid who lives there with her husband retired psychiatrist Howard Campbell and their two children, Ruadhan (13) amd Caoilfhinn (9).

Eimear moved to the old rectory in ThreeCastles in 2000 and as we walk towards the temple, that she has created in the grounds of the castle she explains that she is an animist, who is someone who sees the spirit in nature. “The temple is in honour of a number of goddesses. The goddesses’ are nameless and are there to acknowledge that Mother Earth gives birth to all of us. I like them (referring to the statues of the goddesses that are in the temple). They are wild and big and fat and fertile. This is a great space for people to come and mediate,” Eimear tells me.

A doorway leads into the tower which is Norman, although it has been documented that the lower floor is Pre-Norman. Eimear trained initially as a nurse before returning to college to study psychology and then counselling at Trinity College. She was ordained as a Priestess of the Fellowship of Isis in June. There is an abundance of native trees surrounding the tower. “We grow all the native trees and they have magical and healing significance. The Yew tree is often know as the tree of death and the blackthorn represents fertility and strife and the hazel tree is associated with wisdom while the Rowan tree is associated with protection” she said.

The druid also explains to me about the Tuathan de Danaan or the fairypeople. “They were the people who occupied the land when the Celts came and when the Celts won they went underground,” he said. We move into the space where there once was a chapel and Eimear shows me a ‘triskele’ which is a triple spiral. “It could mean life, death and rebirth or earth, sky and sea. It symbolises the triad,” she said.

We then make our way into the tower and I am shown the ‘murder hole’ where hot oil was poured down over the enemy and we carefully climb up to the first floor where people have stood for over one thousand years. We then move to the gardens of the rectory where Eimear and Howard created a labyrinth for the Millenium. “People walk it to find an answer if they have a question or if they have a strong emotion like anger you find yourself calm at the end of it or you can just walk it and meditate,” she said.

Druid

Eimear explains that a druid is someone who looks to the landscape as a metaphor on how to live your life. “There is no hierarchy, it is not a chain but a web. We all have a spirit intelligence be it stones or flowers or the river,” she added.

Eimear, who was raised a Catholic said she ‘never bought into it even as a child’. “I knew it wasnt for me,” she said. She went to Africa in her early twenties to work as a nurse and ‘starting to explore other world views’ before returning to Trinity to study psychology. She travelled to Lesotho where she lectured and came across all sorts of healing and lectured there before returning to Ireland. “I cam back to do a masters in counselling psychology and I had an interest in healing and nature and I set up a private practice and worked as a psychotherapist from 1993 to 2000.

Home education

Eimear and Howard home educate their children which allows them to travel a lot in Africa and she also teaches human development in Kimmage Manor. She joined the Druid Order eight years ago and the College of Druidery was founded last year. “It’s about working with the elements and it is amazing what inspiration can come from nature. I can quite high from nature and the energy can be quite palpable. I suppose I am grounded in psychological therapy but I explore what psychology cannot answer. I am a shamanic therapist, a reiki healer and I am studying in my final year of herbalism,” she added.