Initiation in Ireland with the Sídhe

Initiation in Ireland with the Sídhe

On my second trip to Ireland, I had three “initiation” experiences with the Sídhe. Two of them were in Donegal County. The third and last one was with The Morrígan at Uaimh na gCat cave. Each experience brought me closer to understanding who I am, and what my relationship with the Sídhe is about. Each one connected me with the Tuatha de Dannan, who I now know to be family. Since then, I’ve gone through deeper transformations and awakenings, which will be the subject of other posts. This is a strange and wonderful journey and may seem like fiction, but such is the nature of the Otherworld.

Initiation with the Sídhe #1: Mt. Errigal

Mt. Errigal is a stunning sight. When we first drove by it, we knew we had to go up that mountain! It called to us. As the tallest mountain peak in County Donegal, it’s also a popular hike. So, we got up early to beat the crowds. When we got to the parking lot, we were the only people there. It was chilly and foggy and had rained. The trail was a muddy disaster. No problem! We were not deterred.

Blythe stuck in the muddy bog.
Stuck in the bog in the fog. AKA, me at my most graceful!

We were not deterred even when the trail disappeared in a boggy dead-end and we were surrounded by fog so thick we couldn’t see the mountain in front of us. About an hour later, when we still hadn’t found the base of the mountain or a trail, and it was clear to us that we were wandering around lost in a foggy bog. I lost my shoe for the fourth time in the mud. Yet, we still were not about to give up, although, it was considerably less fun. I was slipping every other step and resorted to sliding on my stomach like a seal. I couldn’t get any muddier. 

Then, ahead of us appeared a trail cairn. There was no trail, just a cairn in the middle of the bog. Propped next to the cairn was a pair of grey Wellie boots, just waiting there. They were my perfect size! I put them on and had a much easier time making my way through the mud. Clearly, someone had taken pity on me and my seal-flopping-slopping and decided to help me out! The fog cleared in a single direction, showing us the way to the bottom of the mountain and the trail ahead. We had not seen a single human the whole time. We heard nothing other than our own squelching in the mud and the curse words when I’d get stuck.

A pair of grey Wellies next to a destroyed pair of Vans.
The Magical Wellies. RIP, Vans. You did your best, but were no match for an Irish bog.

The trail up the mountain was still slippery, but much easier with the Wellies. Exhausted, sopping wet, and cold, we marched on. We had to go up. I felt like someone was cheering us on. This was now a mission. 

The Sídhe

The fog never let up. Mt. Errigal is supposed to have these amazing views of the surrounding country, but we were in a separate world of clouds. There was just us and the bit of trail that we could see, with an occasional hint of a scary drop-off on either side. Finally, we made it to the top, where there was another cairn. My husband had gone into a trance and started speaking of his spiritual path. I could feel others around us, listening to him intently. In my mind, I got the impression of tall beings standing around us in the fog. 

They encircled us. I wasn’t afraid; I felt welcomed. They seemed excited like they wanted us there. I knew I wasn’t in the “normal” world where we’d parked the car but was in theirs.  

Dense fog on top of Mt. Errigal.
The dense fog on Mt. Errigal that transported us to another world.

Are you the Sídhe? I thought. There was a rush of love in answer. I want to connect with you. I know I’m linked to you somehow. How are we connected? Again, that rush of love and a sense that they were looking out for us.

The fog lifted when we were about halfway down the mountain. There was a point where the energy entirely shifted. We left the world of mist and crossed back into the human world. There were people on the trail going up—humans— passing us. It felt strange to see them. The “real” world felt strange now, and we looked at each other, realizing that we’d just come back from some other place. We had been on a different mountain from the other tourists we passed.

This part of the Sídhe initiation felt like a trial, and I had passed.

Initiation with the Sídhe #2: Grianán of Aileach

The second initiation experience with the Sídhe happened at the ringfort called Grianán of Aileach in Inishowen, Donegal. The Dagda (of the Tuatha de Dannan) built this fort in memorial for his slain son. I didn’t know any of this when I went there. We just saw “ring fort” marked on our map, and we wanted to visit all the ring forts and Sídhe mounds and stone circles we could get to. When we got there, it was the end of the day and we were alone. This was surprising, because it was a beautiful day, and the views were as spectacular as promised.

The inside of Grianán of Aileach from the tiered walls.
The inside of Grianán of Aileach from the tiered walls.

The atmosphere was somber and powerful. This was an important place, so we were quiet and respectful and just listened. We took our time, walking around the outside, and the inside and feeling the energy. The sun went down and it was twilight. 

This time, I was the one who went into a trance. I walked to the center of the fort and took off one shoe and one sock. I can’t tell you why, but I knew that’s what had to be done. My husband sensed that I was doing something witchy and intentional and left me to it without question. Then, I felt Them all around me.

The Tree

They were standing all along the tiered walls of the fort— tall, faintly shining beings wearing cloaks. They watched me, expectantly, as if waiting to see what I would do. The whole place was holding its breath. I saw myself in the space, now wearing a red cloak and not my black hoodie, and grounded my energy. With one bare foot in that world and one shoe in the human world, I raised my arms and “pulled” up an energetic golden light tree from the ground, while I pulled energy down into the branches from above. There was a kind of snap! and a jolt through my body as the energies connected and completed this tree that passed through the spiritual, human, and Otherworlds with me as the trunk.

I felt the Sídhe all around me. “This is for you. I don’t know why this tree needs to be here, but it does. It links us.” I had no idea what I was doing but I knew exactly what to do. It’s hard to describe what it felt like just then. There was relief, joy, expectation, awe, pride, longing, magic— all at once. The air buzzed with it.

I sat down and absorbed the energy of the space, the emotions of the Sídhe around me, the humming of the light tree, and slowly came out of my trance. I put my other shoe back on. I think this part of my initiation with the Sídhe was about connection.

They were ready. I was ready. It was time. And this moment marked that shift.

Initiation with the Sídhe #3: Uaimh na gCat— The Morrígan’s Cave

Uaimh nagCat, or Oweynagat, is part of the Rathcroghan complex near Tulsk in Connacht. This is the third of my initiations with the Sídhe. This cave belongs to The Morrígan and is an intensely powerful place. People get chased out of the cave and are terrified to go near it.

The entrance to Uaimh na gCat, guarded by a hawthorn bush.
The entrance to Uaimh na gCat, guarded by a hawthorn bush.

It’s surprising that when I planned this trip, I specifically looked for sites linked to the Tuatha de Dannan and the mythology, and I could not get beyond the wall of tourist attractions and guided bus tours. That’s just not how I travel, and I didn’t want fluff and I didn’t want someone to hold my hand. I wanted to go deep. These places hid from me when I was planning and only appeared when we literally walked into them. Each place we visited called to us and led us there. We weren’t going to find them any other way. Uaimh na gCat was definitely such a place.

We came across the Rathcroghan visitor center the day before, near the end of our trip. After exploring the area, we went inside and I talked to one of the guides about the cave. I’d wanted to visit it the first time I’d heard of it, and now I was right here! Tours were over, but he said I could go on my own. 

Now, this is not actually allowed. This is a protected site and it’s on private property. So, the fact that I was invited to go unattended was already very strange and seemed to be evidence of “something else” going on. The Sídhe had plans.

We decided to go back the following evening. I knew we had to bring something to offer. Apples, popped into my head. Ok, She will get her apples as requested.

The directions were as clear as Irish directions get. So, we were lost. 

But, we knew we were close! We just couldn’t find the place to turn. The sun was going down, and if we didn’t find it soon, it would be too dark to see. If we didn’t find it soon, that would be it. We were leaving Ireland the next morning.

Badb and the Cave

Then, a young woman with long, dark, curly hair appeared on the side of the road. Where did she come from? One minute, there was no one, and the next she was right there. She wore a reflective safety vest and had a small white terrier with red ears. I took one look at her and her white, red-eared Otherworld dog and knew exactly who she was. I can’t tell you how, but I recognized Badb even through her convincing human disguise. Out loud, I asked her for help finding the cave.

Telepathically, I said her name, and we spoke not in words but straight through the heart. Hello, sister.

She gave us perfectly clear directions, and as we turned the car around, I looked in the rearview mirror. She called to the dog and started running into the field on the other side of the road. After a few steps, she dissolved into thin air! At this point, most people would say I was crazy or making things up, and I wouldn’t blame them. Maybe you’re one of them. But, that is what happened.

Even my husband, who didn’t see her disappear, said, “She wasn’t human, was she? Was she faerie? Someone wants to make sure you get to this cave.”

We found the cave, its entrance well guarded by a hawthorn bush. We left the apples on a stone next to the entrance, stated our intention to visit The Morrígan, turned on our headlamps, and slid inside.

Blythe wearing rain gear and a head lamp, about to slide into the entrance of Uaimh na gCat Cave. Oweynagat Cave. The Morrigan's Cave.
Going in!

Rebirth

Going into the cave is like entering a womb. There’s no other way to describe the shape or feeling— it looks like a vagina. Inside, the water drops on the cave walls sparkle like a billion tiny stars in the light of our headlamps. Outside was the human world, inside is a whole other universe. A cosmos within Mother Earth. 

Inside walls of Uaimh na gCat cave covered in tiny water droplets.
The inside of Uaimh na gCat Cave is covered in tiny water drops that make it look like it glows with a billion stars. The camera cannot do it justice.

I felt safe, secure, loved, and supported. Nothing could harm me here. I was Home. 

I asked to release anything that would hold me back, and let any fears, anger, and hurt from my life rush out of me and into the earth in a flood of tears that left me feeling light. Usually, after a big cry, all I want to do is sleep. But, I felt like I could dance instead. Whatever was next, I was ready.

Images flashed through my mind. There were things that felt like memories but didn’t fit with my life. Voices came through my heart, whispering. I expanded beyond the cave walls and into the universe within. The Morrígan stood right next to me, and others. 

I went into the cave one person and emerged someone else. Someone more me than I’d ever been before. The sun had set while I was inside, and the crows had taken bites out of the apples. My initiation with the Sídhe was complete.

The Farewell

The next day, we headed for the airport. We left the castle (yes, a castle!) early to drive to Shannon. The sun was just rising, and as we drove down the country road, crows flew up from both sides to land on the side of the road. They appeared in a wave, landing just as the car reached them, in a procession, and they were silent. They were seeing us off. It was surreal. “They’re here for you!” my husband said. I was in such a state of awe I couldn’t say anything. I don’t want to leave you! was all I could think.

We’re with you, was what I felt in reply.

***

This is the fourth post in my series on awakening. Find the first one here, where I begin to sense a connection to Ireland. The second one here, where The Morrígan helps me on my path, and the third one here, where The Morrígan calls to me again. To find out what the Sídhe had in store for me after these initiations, read about how I found out I’m one of them.

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