'The Fallen Castle' was inspired by a visit many years ago to Rattin Castle, Co. Westmeath.
At the time I felt it would make an interesting painting, a symbol of a powerful elite that once held the land, now in decay.
Rattin takes its’ name from Rath Aitinne meaning ‘Rath of the furze’.
A rath or earthwork lies to the west of the castle.
The area around the Rattin Castle is believed to have been inhabited possibly from as early as
4000-2500 BCE and the building stands about 30 metres high, on raised ground like an island surrounded by marshland.
The castle itself dates to the 15th century and was constructed to defend part of the extensive
Anglo-Norman territories of the midlands. Built on land owned by Hugh de Lacy, it later passed into the hands of Sir John D’Arcy and his family and was taken by Cromwell’s army in the 1640’s.
This was all I knew of Rattin but as I began to paint I was convinced that ravens and crows had to feature, though I had no idea why.
Finally the painting was finished, complete with corvids.
It wasn’t until much later that I was alerted by a friend to the local folklore concerning Rattin Castle.
Reading this I felt that familiar ‘tingle’ of something awakening.
Over the years there have been many of these ‘meaningful coincidences’ which, when I paid attention, led me to make changes, deepen my knowledge or discover more connections which I could use in my artwork or my own spiritual practices.
This concept, termed Synchronicity by Carl Jung, is explained as:
“ The experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner,
but which are causally unrelated.
In order to be synchronous, the events must be related to one another conceptually,
and the chance that they would occur together by random chance must be very small. ”
Perhaps the raven of the painting and the folklore of Rattin was a small example of synchronicity?
Two weeks later whilst driving I decided to turn off the familiar main road to explore a new landscape.
The small road ran up Spa Hill and parking at the top I sat watching
crows wheeling high above the land.
Back behind the wheel, driving down the twisty way into a valley, my mind wandered.
I pondered the nature of synchronicity, where did it come from and why did it happen?
Did other people pay attention to it too?
where I was confronted by another raven.
The Raven sculpture by Saturio Alonso with airborne crow.
I had come unknowingly to the small village of Lisdowney, Lios Dúin Fhiaich, The Fort of the Raven or
of Fiach, a local chieftain.
The monument celebrates the history of the village with information about neighbouring settlements, so I stopped to read the notice board.
At that moment I felt the sense of excitement that unexpected happenings bring and my attention was caught by a picture of the ruined Balleen Castle, nearby.
The tale of the castle, handed down through generations, is that the builders were nearing completion when a raven flew over their heads and told them that the Lord of Balleen had become a ruined man. Seeing they would not be paid, the men left immediately and the story goes that Balleen Castle was never finished.
So another raven, another castle and on the map a place named Clontubrid, ‘meadow of Brigid’s well’.
The map showed a holy well close to the church so I felt this deserved a detour.
On arrival of course I expected to find Brigid’s Well there.
I discovered that it was St. Fiachra’s Well.
St. Fiachra? The figure, wearing a long tunic, has a "smoothly rounded head
with large almond-shaped eyes and a pointed chin."
Fiachra, a personal name which originated in pre-Christian Ireland, is thought to be derived from
the word fiach meaning "raven".
The small house over the well is very old and may have originally been part
of the cell of St. Fiachra, a hermit, whose festival was celebrated there on 8th February,
the old date for Imbolg.
It seemed that the ravens were sending a message which by now I was hearing loud and clear, so as the evening light was fading I turned towards home.
I am still reflecting on that day and view these events as a synchronicity of ravens telling me to pay attention,
bringing me a message.
bringing me a message.
But where do they come from?
Are they messages from our unconscious mind or from the inter-connected universe?
Are they chance encounters with another realm or merely inexplicable coincidences?