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THE SACRED SITE OF ARDBOE
The townland of Ardboe in County Tyrone is famous for its High Cross and nearby Abbey. The site is well worth a visit to learn about the history, the legends and rituals that surround this place. For me though, it’s the energy of the place that draws me, you can feel it coming up from the ground itself. It has a lovely feeling of peace and healing about it, and overlooking Lough Neagh, you can find quiet time to pause and reflect. The Lough also has its own very strong energy, you come away feeling recharged.
The name Ardboe (Ard Bo), translated in Irish means “height of the cow”. According to local legend, when the building of the abbey was underway the Lough dried up and no water was available for mixing the mortar. The people of the parish gathered together to pray for rain. A cow then appeared from the dry Lough bed and provided them with milk to mix the mortar, thus enabling them to finish building the abbey. As the cow returned to the Lough bed, it lowed “Ard Bo”, and so the place was named.
Ardboe High Cross dates to the ninth/tenth century AD, one of the finest of stone crosses remaining in Ireland today. Standing almost twenty feet high, it is decorated with scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Although slightly weathered and damaged (emigrants in the earlier part of this century often took with them a small chip of stone from the cross) Ardboe High Cross is a superb example of figure carving. When Lughnasa (Lammas) was celebrated people gathered around this cross to pray and afterwards washed their hands, feet, and face in the Lough. Ardboe is still the scene of an annual Lammas Fair.
The approach to the Abbey is through the adjoining graveyard. In the north-west corner of the graveyard stands the Pin Tree, a ‘holy’ place where people would hammer a pin, (later a coin), into its trunk in the hope that their bad luck or illness would be transferred into the pin. A number of coins were embedded into the tree trunk, each coin indicated a wish, or prayer for a cure. It is said that to remove a coin from the tree would transfer the illness to whoever removed the coin. The original tree was damaged in a storm in 1998, and a replacement tree has since been erected. The practise of leaving a coin at the tree in return for a wish or prayer or a cure is still undertaken. The origins of this tradition are pre-Christian, and perhaps indicate this was a powerful site for many thousands of years.
All the headstones here face east, an ancient tradition, with the head to the west and feet to the east, originally a pagan tradition, but also attributed to Christians, who believe that the final summons to judgement will come from the east. The graveyard has been in use since at least the 1700s.
In 590AD, St Colman founded an abbey or monastery at Ardboe, on this elevated headland overlooking the Lough. This Colman was a direct descendant of the Cairthen Beg whom Patrick had converted from paganism. Known as Colman MacAidh, he was a great-great grandson of Cairthen. Little else is known about St Colman, save that that his relics were long preserved in the Abbey, and that his feast day is 21 February.
The original building was a wooden structure, later replaced by the current stone structure stone in 1607. A small grey monk is said to wander through the church ruins, and I have seen the monk at the Abbey, guarding and protecting this sacred place.
This is the second largest body of water in Europe. There are many stories of the origins of the Lough. Legend is a holy well once existed in the locality, with wonderful miraculous powers of healing; provided that every patient on leaving, after cure, carefully closed the wicket-gate that shut the well. However, a woman having forgotten this information, left the gate open, when instantly the waters sprang from their bed and overflowed, forming the Lough. It is still regarded as having healing powers; people flocked to nearby Washingbay, to the Holy River to bathe in the waters and ‘take the cure’.
Lough Neagh is regarded as a dwelling-place of the fairies. Fairies are the gods of the earth, few people will want to anger the ‘little people’. Down under the waters of the Lough, those who have the gift of fairy vision, can see their dwelling places. In Ardboe townland, there exists a fairy tree, protected by the local people.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief pen picture and video, but there is so much more! What I can’t do, is bring you the feelings you will experience when you are there. It has the most amazing energy about it, bringing healing and calm, but also very uplifting. To me, this has been an energy site for thousands of years, well before the Christian settlements here, on this ancient land. To be here, is to experience your own deeper connection to your soul, and the positive energies of all the souls who have worked, lived and worshipped here.
Come here, and I’ll guide you and help you experience your own energies / soul self and that of thousands of years of the positive and healing energies that are here.