» Ireland: Mount Brandon – Its Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics
Ireland: Mount Brandon – Its Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics
The west coast of Ireland is well known for its rough beauty. The area facing the severity of the Atlantic Ocean, shaped by waves and winds, used to be regarded as the end of the Christendom and the whole world as well. The Cape Slea Head on the Dingle peninsula is actually the westernmost part of Europe.
Where the world ended
In 1477, Christopher Colombus sailed there while heading to Iceland. It was when he tried to find the western route to India. On his way he stopped in the port of Galway; today, there is a statue of this famous explorer.
However, for a long time before he arrived legendary Celtic explorers sailed from western Ireland to the wide and open ocean. The most important of them was St Brendan (Brandon, or Bréanainn in Irish Gaelic), the patron of sailors also called “sailor”. According to legends, in the course of the 6th century he discovered Tír na nOg, „The Land of Youth “ in the Atlantic, a land of Celtic mythsor the „Island of the Blissful “; it used to appear on maps until the 17th century as the „St Brendan’s Island “. Many people of Kerry located in southwestern Ireland, a place where St Brendan came from, were convicted that this legendary sailor discovered America ten centuries earlier than Colombus did
Holy Mount Brandon
One of the highest mountains in Ireland got its name after St Brendan, Mount Brandon (952 meters). The mountain is located at the Dingle peninsula in Kerry county. Prior the aferomentioned saint took it to his patronage, the mount was devoted to Lug, a Celtic god. Annual pilgrimage tradition to this mountain originates probably in pre Christian timhis holiday took place before harvest. Despite the locals are Catholics, these traditions remained until the present in the westernmost part of Ireland.
Many will regard the height of Mt Brandon not impressive. However, we have to realize that the mountain rise almost from the shore It is hard to get on the top of it also due to typical rainy weather that is especially rainy in this part of Ireland due to western winds coming from the ocean and also the Gulf Stram. Visitors attempting to climb it, have to expect not to do it. Even more experienced tourists could be discouraged for in summer there is neverending raining and thick fog. You have to expect this while being on vacation in Ireland .
Remoteness, erudition, asceticism and… schizophrenia
Thanks to its remoteness , Ireland was occupied by Romans. Later, when the Roman Empire fell apart, only ruins remained. Irish monks preserved large part of antic erudition. Also strict asceticism of monks like St Brendan left its mark on Irish Catholicism and also on mentality of the countryside, mostly in remote communities. In the second half of the previous century, you might see such communities below Mount Brandon.
Predominantly puritanism and remoteness of the Irish countryside caused many psychic diseases that were regarded just as schizophrenia. This conclusion was made by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, an anthropologist, in her book Saints, scholars and schizophrenics . The publication was based on her two year research in An Clochán parish located below Mt Brandon.
Reality of west Ireland countryside depicted on the example of An Clochán, a parish described in Scheper-Hughes’ book, is very depressive. Strict catholic upbringing, emigration of mostly young women to the cities, fell of traditional farm life caused that many young men were left in the parish withous spouses. Usually they tried to drink their way out. Due to this, many psychological diseases plundered these men and many ended in psychiatric asylums and were labeled schizophrenics.
Scheper-Hughes labeled An Clochán parish under pseudonym „Ballybran“, however someone found out its true identity. When locals read the book, they were outraged because it showed the parish as a dying out celibate community . Some locals even wanted the author to be shot dead. It was a threat that should have been taken seriously in the region where IRA enjoyed large popularity.
A tourist walking through An Clochán parish probably will not have a clue of a sad reality of this place 40 years ago. Particularly if he/she is totally wet after an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Mt Brandon, he would not be in a mood to learn about sad history of this place. The crisis of the 1970s is long gone but locals are troubled by an another crisis of 2008. Ireland was hit especially hard. Despite the houses below Mt Brandon seem to be ok, God knows what hides behind their walls…
Text: Václav Kozina, editor at Mundo Travels
Photo: CK Mundo
The Ireland is to be said that it would be rough country, becoming fine by means of its type of whiskey. And such fact is double so valid at west coast. Although this area is whipped by winds and rains, it conceals some from most beautiful countrysides of Europe. So, Galway Bay, including the town of Galway, situated in its north - east point, belongs to such jewels, of course.
In March 2013, I decided to visit my friend in Ireland. After one night spent at a place of one amazing couchsurfer (free accommodation) I hopped on a train to Tralee. It is sort of an entrance gate to Kerry shire. There my friend Katarina lives.
After almost three weeks in Ireland we were about to spend couple of days in Dublin, where our journey begun. As we had seen all major sights, and had had a great tour in Guinness brewery, we thought through what more we could see in Dublin and around.
Connemara National Park is situated in Galway county in western Ireland. It is one of the most poular places thanks to its lakes, little islands, marshes, mountains, or planes. Even though the park is very well known to tourists today, it was opened only in 1980. People who love historic sights are also going to enjoy it. For instance, there is beautiful Kylemore abbey, or Ross Errilly Friary, a medieval cloister. Movie fans can visit Cong village where the famous The Quiet Man movie was shot starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hare.
The Cliffs of Moher are among the main tourist places, a must for almost anybody who visits Ireland. The cliffs are situated in the western part of the country. Buses can get you there quick and easy from almost any place in Ireland.
The second largest and one of the oldest Irish cities - Cork. It spreads on the both banks of the Lee River. It is in the south of the country. It is easy reachable when going from downtown Dublin by bus or by airplane. We decided to spend there two nights and make use of one day to walk in Kinsale - a small colorful town, a popular tourist destination.
On my third and last day on the peninsula, Katya had to go take care of something in Tralee. She promised me he'd take me to the Conor Pass - the highest mountain range in Ireland. On the way out of the station this way because it was hard to pass because the road was covered in snow. So we had to go another route through Annascaul. The town of Dingle, the path begins to rise sharply in the mountains and the landscape is changing rapidly.
On the following day we got back to Dingle. Kata had to get done some of her things and I set off for a walk. In this season you hardly see a tourist. So I enjoyed the atmosphere of this fishing center. Small houses have beautiful colorful facades, especially a view of them from the harbor is spectacular.
When more a year ago I bought tickets to Ireland, I did not realize that I would be there during the craziest event in this small island country. At first it was just strange that the tickets for three days are more expensive than for other days.
All clever persons say that the city where a river is missing is similar like a Beauty-Queen without a crown. So, the river always plays very important role for whichever town. Moreover, the river gives the seat a beauty shade of colour, myth or romantic.
It could seem to be rather ridiculous to say a person, not being informed about a situation, that you wish to visit mountains in the Ireland. Anyway, your general idea aboud emerald island could fuse with neat plain, coloured into thousands of green islands. Nevertheless,
the contrary is right: the Ireland has its mountains, not one mountain range only. And all are wonderful.
Each city has some characteristic sign. So, Paris can be proud on its Eiffel Tower, Prague on Hradčany Castle, London on Big Ben, etc. Till recently, Dublin had no characteristic monument. Yes, during 1999-2000,a gigantic point, showing to the sky, a Spire, appeared on place of former Nelson Column.
One famous public slogan says that the Ireland is rough country offering fine whiskey. Anyway, you can say it in another way. Ireland is realy rough country but with fine heart. And this fact could convince you at the coasts, when the ocean waves knock against rocks,break and create thousands of tears. The Irish Gods heal their frowns and wrongs, which the nation was forced to overcome.
When you say Ireland, everyone thinks a little differently. Most people associate Ireland with a green landscape, untamed nature with grazing sheep, Irish whiskey, but certainly also with the Cliffs of Moher. These are a symbol of Ireland, as are Guinness beer or live Irish music.
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