I have only spoken this story aloud because it is a prayer. Because when I speak it aloud I watch the person/people listening and I can see the magic awakening in them the possibility of living a mystical life. And, I need to see and feel it reflected to continue integrating its realness. Because if I didn’t feel the transmission from someone telling this story, if I didn’t see the salmon swimming in their eye like is seen in mine, I would assume the story to be fiction.
There are things I must preface in this story. Truths of my life.
I do not travel anywhere I am not fully called towards by a very deep and mysterious voice inside of me. This voice is from the Ancestral realm and guides me often. It is a felt sense that I have learned not to ignore. I do not go on vacations. I move about the Earth to the few places I have been as though it is, and it is, a classroom.
Once I say yes I begin to see the synchronicities pop up in my life to ally me along. However, in the moment of them arriving, I am somewhat still, necessarily, unaware of the fullness of their guidance. I know that I can never fully look in myself as I am being stewed inside of the cauldron. And only in arriving to clear pivot points and thresholds do I see that I was following my innate breadcrumb trail- sprinkled manna from Heaven…
It was autumn of 2017 after the impactful totality eclipse in the Northwestern hemisphere. I was being flattened by God again as I watched my entire 10 year healing arts practice crumble in a matter of 24 hours. This was not the first flattening, and so I surrendered and let another force, the one I thought I could control, take over. Injured, exhausted and yet filled with a sense of relief, I knew it was time for change and it was time to listen deeper.
I found myself exiting the city, selling everything (not much) and moving into, first, a tiny room and then 250 sq foot ADU in a small town on the Olympic coast in Washington state. As I moved I began to hear their voices. The ones who guide. The ones who have always been there. That which has never died. The ones who can tell the stories of birthing forth all Life.
You see, I have always received this guidance but I would never allow it into my heart all of the way. But Spirit is clever and Life is immaculate in Her workings, so they both found their way with me.
I kept hearing “go to Ireland” amidst all of the moving about and reorganizing of my life. But, as I said, I resisted this voice and wouldn’t allow myself to just follow it without a good reason to go. Reasoning was always to satisfy the projected judgement from my family that I am “reckless and traveling about for no reason and the when will I finally get a real life, security”. So if it was for my “educational” pathway they would pull back their projections. Not really, the deeper wound lives inside of me; my inner judge, my inner projections, my inner gaslight bearer. Anyhow.
This is when I met Stephen Jenkinson’s work. And, something upwelled in me; a clear Yes to follow his work all the way to Iceland and join the “Come From Away” group in his Orphan Wisdom school. I heard laughing in the veil and I knew that if I was getting on a plane to Iceland, then I was getting on a plane to Ireland. My ancestors are brilliant.
Synchronicities, instructions and visions ensued. The land I had just moved on to belongs(ed) to the many Native American Salish tribes. When I would sit with the land, inquiring as I do, I would see canoes and baskets of medicine and wisdom councils gathering. The salmon began to speak to me from under the now dried up waters that used to reach all the way up to the little house I lived in. I could feel the grief from all that died hiding wisdom inside alongside that wisdom, connecting me to the salmon and the salmon cross culturally to my Celtic ancestry- to all ancestry.
The salmon is the symbol of reciprocal law, of the ultimate wisdom from the first Well that feeds all the waters of Life. The Native American coastal tribes hold the Salmon as the most reverent symbol for this exchange with Orca, with Bear, with Tree, with Human. The Celtic stories of the Well of Segais tell of the Salmon of wisdom and its gift to the Bards, who tended the creation story.
These visions led me to an Imbolc teaching by a neurodivergent genius, herbal medicine master, tender of the Blackheart Fairy traditions and now dear friend, Sean Padraig O’Donahue. He was doing a three day ceremony at my herbal medicine teacher’s, Leslie Lekos, house. I did not know him at the time and yet, I knew he was tribe. It was when we met that he revealed he was leading a deep immersion into Irish myth and medicine in June 2018- the exact dates I was planning on arriving in Ireland. I kept following…
During those three days at Leslie’s celebrating Imbolc we sat and microdosed many different plants to feel their energetic signature. When we took Osha I was swept away to a forest where a mother bear met me and guided me along a river. I remember feeling so inept in this presence, wanting to direct the journey, not allowing myself to really feel what was appearing for me. She kept saying “listen, trust, follow me, I won’t hurt you, and there is nothing for you to do.” We went to a rainbow waterfall where she got into the pool below and fished out a salmon. She brought it up to the bank and put it in front of me. I wanted so badly to feel unworthy and give it back to her, I kept asking “how do I prepare this for you?”. “This is not for me, child. This is for you. We have been trying to gift you this. Your gift to me is to receive this, take it into your body, allow”. I wept, said thank you and the vision cleared.
As Iceland and Ireland approached I kept getting guidance and a sense of what kind of magic I might be in for on my travels. Yet, I kept an open channel so that I wouldn’t get looped into expectations of any sort.
Spring/Summer 2018 arrived and it was time. Iceland was beyond extraordinary with its midnight sun, the deep Norse ceremony I was invited into and Stephen’s wisdom, but that is not this story.
My arrival into Ireland afterward was not welcoming. The guards at the gate held me in questioning for a long time, not willing to let yet another American just galavant about seeking. Very skeptical of me learning of the old ways, as I told them I was in an herbal medicine school for a week. I learned quickly that my perception of the Irish people being steeped in magic was false. That although they live upon some of the most mythically rich landscape I have ever encountered, known historically, they have been severely severed from their own roots and hold anyone seeking the mythical path as a threat. It’s in the epigenetics. It’s to stay safe.
When I finally made it to Gort, and met with the group Sean was leading, I fell ill and was mostly out of sorts for that part of my journey. I kept sweeping away the voice that expected some magical fairy to just take me deep into the Oak forest and gift the answers to the unanswerable. And yet I was absorbing something. I could feel them everywhere. The ancestors. The eyes in the hills and the grief tears that poured from them.
My plan after was to immerse myself in the west of Ireland for weeks until my last day, the Summer solstice; to be with the cliffs, with John O’Donahue’s grave, both of which I visited. But I was quickly directed south as the rains coming into the west were overwhelming. South was not my plan. Where to go? Port McGee was supposed to be the spot I heard . So I flawlessly drove my rental car, left handed, left side of the road, down the coast. It was the most impeccably sunny day as I open mouth gawked at the Kerry Ring en route to my destination; it is one of the most beautiful drives in the world.
All the while, the background voice wondering about the Bard I was supposed to meet, the music I was supposed to be greeted with, the magical initiation I was supposed to receive was gnawing. Not that I wasn’t fully absorbed in the gratitude of all that I was experiencing.
At the end of a long 6 hours I landed in Port McGee. I found my guest house and set out on foot to explore and take pictures. Just then, as I was crossing the bridge, a man in a car leans his head out the window and asks me if I need a place to stay. Now, as a single and “easy on the eyes” woman I put up a quick guard. But he stopped and got out of his car. Because I kept turning my head around and looking all about like I was lost- he thought I was lost.
I allowed him to come closer. He was mid 60s, super friendly face and super friendly Irish accent to boot. It is customary for random strangers to invite you to their home, for food, for a bed, for a good long Irish conversation, song and story. He offered a free place to stay in his home and after some quick asking around of some of the local women, I said yes.
I don’t ever meet anyone by accident. I forgot to preface that. Not anyone that has a direct impact like this man was planned to have. As one of my dear friends says “Spirit never lets me miss the connections I am here to make”.
Mike Griffin. Mike Griffin wanted nothing more than to show his hospitality. For me to hear his stories about the children that don’t speak to him. For me to just relax and let myself be. He had some very interesting healing gifts which was surprising for a man who was a funeral director in the winters and a tour guide in the summers. What happened to me in that house I still cannot explain. His love, his friendship and sweet witness, his reminding me of my lonely father (with whom I have no relationship), sent me into a spiral of deep hopeless dark contractions of anxiety and depression. The rains came and here I was, sitting in this house, staring out at one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen, on deeply potent land, being cared for and dying- I was sure of it. So dying I was willing to spend $1500 of money I did not have to fly home within days and escape this crucible.
“Where is my bard, my light, my direction, my magical experience, why did you bring me here?” As embarrassed as I was for myself, I had a mini tantrum with God. Where was my gratitude, my faith, my heart?
Mike pulled me into a chair, helped me breathe. I broke open and remembered that I know these ways. To trust the medicine guiding me. That the voice I said yes to in the beginning, whichever beginning you believe I am referring to, is the one I follow and has never let me drown in the vastness when I step off the cliff.
I also knew that something needed movement, so I decided to leave Port McGee and Mike Griffin’s beautiful heart. I had NO idea where to go as none of this was planned. So I phoned a friend living in Dublin that I met in a spiritual healing “training” in Belize. She gave me directions to her ex partner’s house in Cork county on the coast. She said he ran a beautiful shamanic healing and drum making community. I exhaled a bit feeling like “finally my people”. Come to find out from a quick phone call to my grandmother that my ancestors were from Cork. Funny how she never mentioned that before.
And all of sudden I felt movement in the grid, beyond the veil. When I got to the coast I was gifted a beautiful, rustic bungalow on an estate and invited to a drum journey and sauna/ocean plunge afterwards. The drum journey, again, is a story for another time as it gave me another clue to the Soul name, Shira Stardrift, that has taken me many lifetimes to remember.
After the journey, we went to the shore and met a woman who turned a trailer into one of the most beautiful wood saunas I have even seen. She travels Ireland giving people this experience and lives mostly nomadic. Forgive me for forgetting names.
It was the third night of my being on the coast and the Solstice was approaching. I asked them all “where do I go as I was told to be somewhere for the Solstice for something but I have no idea where that is?” Now mind you, that you can just wander into any old field and find a sacred site to sit and pray in Ireland.
The sauna woman looked at me clearly and said one word “Uisneach”. “Ok, where and what is that?” Uisneach is the sister hill to Tara and dead center of the island, the ‘belly button’ as it’s called. She said there was a gathering and she was heading there and I could meet her in a few days. So I planned a route that took me through Glendaloch (Ireland’s first monastic city) and was belly button bound. I then booked a place to stay at Uisneach that, when I booked, I got the clear sense that the owner had accidentally left their listing up. It was definitely my place.
Whoosh this is long. But must be told for all the context and to keep with the slow and complete Irish pace of storytelling..
Ok, I am feeling the tears well up inside as I retell this part of the story.
My expectations grew as I visualized pulling up to this amazing festival with Irish music and prayerfulness all around. But as I pulled up to Uisneach all I saw was a gate, a small house to the right and no people anywhere. I went to the house, assuming it was where I was supposed to stay, as it was the only one around for miles, and knocked. I heard a little voice inside and entered into what, at first, looked like “hoarders of children’s toys gone wild”. I contracted, wanted to run, this was not the vibe for my ceremony. Where was my gathering? My expectations trapping me again.
When the owner came out she said she had randomly checked her email earlier and saw the reservation for the listing she though she took down. Wink wink. And that she was so happy to have me. I asked her about the big gathering and she looked puzzled. “The hill is private, only small tours and special appointments are allowed”. So she called the man, Justin Moffatt, who tends the hill and I met him at the gate. He explained that yes they were having a Solstice gathering on that day but not a festival gathering like the sauna woman described.
But, he could see in my eye that I was on a mission and he took me up onto the hill and began to tell me every single story of its history and took me to see sites that he doesn’t even show on the small daily tours. The next day Justin Let me join the tour and right in the middle, as we were all on the top of the hill he received a call. He turns to everyone and says “ok then, Jamie (my birth name) will finish the tour with ya and take ya down to the gift shop after for tea and cookies”. My jaw dropped wide open. He handed me the keys to the kingdom. He said, he could tell I was connected to something and as he walked away I could feel all the stories rise through my bones. I was alive with them and every person on that tour could feel it also and just kept asking me questions that I somehow knew how to answer. Deep bow ancestors. But wait there’s more..
Inside the hoarders house lived two of the most loving women, Lisa and her Au Pair, Grazia, and one of the most potent, loving, imaginative, neurodivergent (autism spectrum) 5 year old boys I will ever meet. They melted my heart and I could have stayed forever in the mountains of toys and clothes and laughter. I learned so much about appearances and my conditioned responses. I always am.
For two days I wandered the hill alone, listening and praying and still wondering what happened to the gathering I was told about from sauna woman. Just then a car goes by as I come down off the hill. They said they were on their way to a small Bardic gathering next to the hill just a quarter mile down. Next to the hill. I asked Justin and he said “oh yeah, that gathering!” Geesh.
I found my way past the bounds of Uisneach and to the gathering. If I could send you a telepathic snapshot you would maybe fall out of your chair. I have been to festivals, and this one, although very small, was full on Celtic mysticism. The people’s faces were carved from Tree while their eyes shone like Wishing Well. I had to blink. Just then I saw sauna woman and was introduced to a whole tribe of people who I discovered have met there every year for the last 20 years to celebrate. I also met a woman named April who is from the otherworld altogether it seems and we have stayed in touch since.
We sang, we danced and they invited me to stay. I explained my current home and that they would be expecting me as well as my ability to access the hill anytime. They were a bit shocked as no one without permission, or some organized group, by the land stewards can access willingly. But they said that on the Solstice the other world opens up access and they have always wandered to the top of the hill where the Beltaine fire ceremony is held to watch the sun go down.
I went back to the house to prepare for the next day’s Solstice ceremony with Justin as he asked for help, all the while still wondering where the initiation was- or maybe this was it. This was really good but there was an incompleteness in the air and I had one day left.
The day was bright. There was not a cloud in the sky. I roamed the hill and began to feel a magic stirring. The organized Uisneach gathering was to begin soon at 4pm, and the Bardic folk were planning on wandering up about 6. I wanted to be everywhere and felt this odd allegiance and commitment to helping Justin. Now, because I had keys to the kingdom my inner “little general”, as one ex would call me when I was given any authority, kicked in. Instead of flow, I want to control who can and can’t (Fill in the blank).
So, when I saw the white van on the top of the hill, out of nowhere, I wanted to know who let this van in, did they have permission, yada yada. Eye roll at myself.
I was mesmerized, consumed by its presence and completely frozen in front of it. Just then the side door opens and an absolutely beautiful, bearded, freshly wild man stepped out (telepathic picture incoming). He looked nowhere except directly at me. My guts and my heart became one.
He walks up to me, pulls on his beard and asks me “would you like to cook a salmon?” The dialogue in the backround: “you already ate, Justin needs you, where on Earth will we do that without getting in trouble, who are you anyway?!”.
I said, without hesitation, “yes I would”.
Out of the back of his van he pulled a beautiful, cold, fresh caught salmon direct from the River Shannon. He looked over at a Hawthorne tree and I said “no, not there”. I knew people would walk by that path, and I had offered a braided bit of my hair, cut by my mother, to the fairies inside the trunk. (there is so much more to say but for another day).
He then looked at the Hawthorne ring surrounding an area that was once a palace. He put the salmon in my hands, grabbed a harp from his front seat, a worn leather bag and we headed to cook a salmon. As I gathered bits of old Hawthorn for the fire he gathered stone and began to sing an old song that mirrored the journey of my life. I was dizzy and completely spellbound.
My nervousness that we would get in trouble began to rise, but I was now in the veil and the Otherworld had me. There was no going anywhere to help anything, but this fire, for this salmon.
We cooked the salmon as he sang and played the harp. The people began to gather and mount the hill from both sides; my Bardic family and the organized Justin crew. The sky was still a clear blue and the sun was quite high being mid summer in Ireland.
When the salmon was finished he took me onto his lap, pulled out a wheel of Oak to eat from and with his wild man hands pulled a piece of the salmon from its bones and fed me from his fingers. Yes he did just that.
I looked up as people walked by -“it’s you!. We have heard about you Liam. The traveling Bard who no one can ever find. Oh, and you have cooked the sacred salmon”.
“Yes, my brethren. Gather ‘round and eat from the flesh of your brethren”.
They gather and he begins to sing, poetry in old world tongue falling from his mouth onto my heart, changing my life. He then looks at me and plants a wild kiss right on my lips. I closed my eyes knowing I would not be the same once I opened them again.
As I regained myself I looked up into the light early evening sky and out of nowhere, with no other sign of stars yet emerging, drifted a huge shooting star. I heard a voice “how many more signs do you need Granddaughter, receive?!”.
The bagpipes soared over the hill, the people emerged from all spaces, the fire was lit, the songs were being sung and I hung on a thread of mystery that can never ever be unraveled from me again.
I did not sleep all night as any good initiation will leave you properly high. And, yes, the wild Liam asked me to be his bride for that one moment in time but I kept my energy to myself. I still wonder what that would have been like, making love to a Bard on a sacred Irish hillside…
One of my teachers many years ago would always say “allow yourself to be changed”. As I boarded my plane the next day I allowed myself to be transformed. Or more like transfigured, as I have always known things about myself and I am now allowing them to emerge through my storytelling. This is my life. What can I say except it is why I pray each and every single day.
Blessed, blessed be.