Clonfinlough

Clonfinlough

Abigail

The Nada Chronicles, part 36

By Hans Brockhuis


Slowly Abigail came to. She was lying on the ground and looking straight up into the laughing face of Rhiannon, the Mother Goddess. It was full moon! Yet, it was all so confusing. One moment she was in the big kitchen of Athlone Castle, the next moment she was lying here in the open air. Clearly something had been erased from her memory.

She was cold, for it was the end of October and rather chilly. She had a throbbing headache, her muscles ached, and her legs were full of scratches. In short, she felt miserable.

She was lying in the shrubbery of teithne, a holly bush with her head on a big flat stone that contained a variety of symbols she couldn’t understand. She touched her head; hmm, there was a swollen lump that wasn’t there before. Her dress was torn and she was covered with dirty smears.

What was she doing here for God’s sake? How did she get here? Hundreds of questions haunted her mind. She looked at the moon, but she didn’t know. A bat that fluttered by didn’t know either. Then she heard a loving voice in her head. A familiar voice that stood by her in difficult times. She’d heard it from the moment she lost her parents in a great fire about 5 years ago.

“Don’t you worry, my dear child. It will be alright. As you have noticed you’re lying in a holly shrubbery. Listen to the timbre of what the wind whispering through the branches is trying to tell you. As Caitlin previously taught you about the prickles of the ‘Tinne’, it will tell you that your arrival here must have something to do with a reincarnation of the love consciousness in your heart. Until now you haven’t met real love in your young life, but that is about to change.”

The voice silenced. Abby stood up, smoothing her dress as straight as possible and looked around. The castle was nowhere to be seen. The landscape was flat and marshy. The forests and the surrounding lands didn’t resemble what she had seen before. She had no idea where she was. Her head throbbed and she was cold, not to mention other inconveniences.

Ahead was a path and she began to follow it. She passed a slow stream by means of a few stepping stones. A salmon looked up from the water to see who came by. When she stepped up the bank in the dark, her face brushed into a spider’s web. Although she was a good catholic, she knew that the Celtic Goddess, Arianrhod, was attached to the spinning wheel and the wheel of life. The words of the voice had seemed to acknowledge that. Her wheel of life was weaving overtime this special night; her intuition told her there was more to come. The more she would stay connected to the Now, the more her future would be revealed.

After a while her headache was almost gone and she began to enjoy herself and her fate. On a hunch, she turned to her left at a crossing. "Perhaps there is a farm or even a village where I can tidy up and spend the night", she thought.

She picked up her pace in the deserted moonlit landscape. When she had climbed a low hill she saw a lake glistening at the bottom. It was dead silent. The trees at the bank had fallen quiet, and not a ripple was seen on the lake. Every breath was full of expectation. Coming to the lake, Abigail knelt down and drank. Then she heard powerful wing beats. A small group of swans flew in a big circle above the tranquil lake, and sometimes the tips of their wings touched the water. Then they formed a most beautiful oneness, the infinity of a perfect circle. Abigail was full of admiration as she eagerly followed the gracious movements of these impressive birds.

The voice spoke again. “Abigail, be aware of the true beauty of these creatures. Experience the power for the self, and let it help you to carry out your inner beauty. Live through the message of unanimity that is told here. Make it happen and spread the word. Although you do not realize it yet, you will be very good at that.”

Abby thought about it a long time. When the swans had been gone for quite a while, she noticed the day dawning in the east. A new day was emerging and she experienced it as a beginning of a new life that lay ahead of her. She already had decided she would not return to the castle, where she had laboured in the kitchen to please others, such as Frederick, the Dutch Earl of Athlone. As from today she intended to walk another path. She had no idea how that would work out but it would happen; that much was for sure.

It got lighter by the minute as she passed through an arcade of birch trees and reached the road again. She remembered Caitlin’s words telling her that the birch (Beth in the old Gaelic language) was a symbol for renewal, purity and purification. "If that isn’t an acknowledgement of what I’ve just decided", she thought, "I should be changed into a birch this very instant!" And as that did not happen, while sniggering, she continued on the path.

A bit further along stood a lonely alder, a Fearnóg in Gaelic. On a branch that reached out over the road sat a raven. While Abigail came walking by she saw the raven following her with his eyes. Then the bird squealed at her: “Shall I infuse you with some wisdom?” “You may”, Abigail answered and with childish overconfidence she said, “I can use quite a lot of wisdom for I just decided I’m going to carry Love out into the world. There is so much misery in Ireland that it is very necessary to act upon it.”

“Aha”, the raven said. “That’s a noble thing to strive for, but it can’t be wise to impose Love upon everyone, for then there is no more Love. It is like the bread and the games the Earl of Athlone shares with his population. That’s not love; that is investing in one’s own well being.”

Abigail had to think about that. She had never occupied herself with these kinds of concepts in her young life. She helped Caitlin with cooking the meals. Sometimes she got a proper scolding, and sometimes she got compliments from the matron, but that was all. This was something completely different. But she understood something had to change in her way of thinking. “Raven, will you teach me what Love is?” “No I won’t” was the blunt answer. “Ask the fox, who’s approaching”.

As the raven flew away, Abigail looked around. A red fox trotted down the road. The animal hesitated, and then turned towards her.

“Hello Abigail”, the fox said. “I hear from the raven you want to know what love is. But I’m not well suited to tell you that in this form.” The fox gathered a few leaves that had fallen from the alderl, and with his mouth threw them into the air, then he quickly moved under the falling leaves. While Abigail watched, as the leaves fell upon him, the beautiful fox changed into a young monk in a blue-grey frock.

He carried the symbol of the High Cross. She knew the symbol, for it was carried by the monks of Clonmacnois, the big cloister compound at the borders of the Shannon river, about 10 miles south of Athlone.

“Dia duit”, the monk greeted. “Is mise Thomas; Cén-t-ainm atá ort, cé as thú?” He spoke Gaelic.
Dia's Muire duit; mise Abigail, is as Baile Átha Luain; Do you speak English?”

“Of course, but I thought …”. He didn’t finish his sentence and furtively looked at the holes in her clothes. “You do not look your best”, he ascertained.

“Thanks you for the compliment,” she challenged him. “You may be a monk but in that grey frock you do not steal the show either. How is it you are able to change into a fox?”

“My dear child, that’s the secret of the merchant. Ireland is full of magic and illusion; you’ll have to take that for granted for the time being. Imagine the fox can help you to develop independence in your thoughts and trust in your decisions. And that's what it’s all about now, isn’t it? As a fox you think me beautiful, but as a monk you don’t, but after all what does it matter, it is all about love, isn’t it?”

They both laughed. Abigail told the young monk her story. He took her to the cloister where she was lovingly taken up in the women’s reception house that belonged to the compound. And to make a long story short, Abigail of Athlone grew up, learned everything there was to know about love, and together with Thomas, who left the cloister with her, they journeyed through Ireland as bards to spread faith, hope, love and a whiff of magic under the necessitous Irish population.

Epilogue

About 360 years later, in the autumn of 2005, Ada de Koning and her friend Tom Dubbeldeman visit Ireland. They set foot on Irish ground in Larne and soon notice the hospitality of the Irish people in the B&B’s where they spend their nights.

After their tour through Ulster, as well as through the Irish Republic, they stay overnight in Ballinasloe and visit Athlone Castle the next morning. During a guided tour, Ada is struck by the narrowness and cramped quarters of the kitchen. She is astonished that there had been no less than 10 Earls of Athlone present during the period of 1630 – 1844. All were from the Dutch family Rheede-Ginckel, alternating listing the names of Godard, Frederick, Renaud, George and William.

Next they visit the so-called Clonfinlough stone. According to the description, this is a big boulder that’s lying flat on the ground in the middle of a field, on which a few motifs are placed upon, like crosses and something that appeared to be a Greek letter resembling human figures.

When Ada sees this, she receives a vision of lying on this stone surrounded by branches of a holly shrub. She immediately gets a throbbing headache that disappears the moment they get in the car. Twenty minutes later, after driving along a little lake that appears unusually calm despite the wind, they arrive at the ruins of the Clonmacnois cloister, where they get an extended guided tour. There, Ada and Tom receive heavy déja vu feelings. Later that afternoon they return to their car, a bit dizzy from all these experiences, and leave for Dun Loghaire. Early the next morning they take their leave for Holland again with the first ferry.