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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Remembering Uaimh na gCat


The entrance is in a field, beneath a hawthorn.
It is an unassuming opening into the earth, but there is something intimidating about it. The darkness beyond the stone and grass is deep and full. It invites you in at the same time that it warns you away. But this is why you have come to this place, seeking this cave, seeking this darkness, and you won't be deterred now.
You move into the liminal space of the entrance, pausing and turning to look back at the light you are leaving behind. Above you there is a stone lintel, carved with ogham. Reaching up you trace the lines, the stone cool beneath your fingers. Then, resolved, you turn away from the world above and begin descending into a different world.
The stone path is not easy but clearly bears the marks of human hands. At first. Your feet feel for steps carved into the passageway, your hands sliding along the walls.
In this place you can't rely on sight so your other senses lead you. You touch the walls and feel with your feet. You smell the fullness of the air. You hear taste moisture and earth on your tongue as you breath. You hear your own movements but also the dripping of water, and the stillness which is its own sound.
Everything is damp and slick and there is a sense of subtle peril. As you move downwards the man-made steps give way to rough rock and you feel the pattern of the path changing beneath your feet, even through thick soled boots. The darkness is different here, thicker, heavier, alive.
The downward journey levels out and you are walking flat now, the space expanding out around you as you enter the cave itself. It is cool here, and damp; the walls are wet and the air you breath in feels like some greater being's exhalation. The floor is inches of clay mud that grab at you and try to hold you in place, making every step forward a battle. Nonetheless you move forward, crossing the main section of the cave until you reach the far side where it begins to climb again before leveling off and disappearing into stone. The mud is like a living thing, moving with you, around you, on you.
You are still now, hands and legs muddy, leaning into the stone wall, feeling the darkness as it encompasses you. It has its own pulse, its own rhythm, and standing there you become part of it, enveloped by it. There is a voice in that darkness that speaks to you, and you listen.
You listen.
When you finally re-emerge into the world above you are not the same.

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