THIN PLACES TRAVEL PODCAST
#008 Fairy Worlds, Forts, Raths and the Fairy Knowe at Doon Hill
Host – Mindie Burgoyne
Guests – Carmel Costello – Spiritual Healer and kinesiologist
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The Fairy Realms
Today we’re talking about Fairies. There are many concepts about fairies. My only association with the word fairy was the Tinkerbelle sort in Peter Pan. Sort of a Fairy Godmother. The tooth fairy. A good little angel. Fairies that I heard about growing up were good… and there was never any worry about a fairy causing mischief or harm.
But in the pre-Christian Celtic countries, the concept of fairies was different. These beings were feared because they could curse you or bring you bad luck. You didn’t mess with the fairies. You didn’t disturb their domain or their rath. You stayed away from fairy hills or forts. You didn’t cut down the lone hawthorn bush because it might be a fairy tree – a fairy domain.
There’s a well-known poem about fairies, written by a man from County Donegal named William Allingham. It describes this apprehension about interacting with the fairies.
Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a -hunting
For fear of little men.
Fairies were known to steal babies and replace them with a fairy changeling who would bring bad luck to the house.
They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake
On a bed of flag-leaves
Watching till she wake.
The hawthorns are associated with the fairies. All across Ireland, you see lone hawthorn trees and bushes standing solitary in fields. Many of the farmers won’t cut them. Ireland built a dual lane highway around one hawthorn bush because none of the workers laying down the highway would cut the bush down. Eventually, they rerouted the highway around the bush so as not to disturb it.
By the craggy hill-side
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn-trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.
To many people – especially in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England – fairies are real. They are part of a communion of elemental beings that exist in a parallel realm or dimension. And there are people who interact with the fairies and connect with their energy. Our guest today is one of these people. She not only connects with the fairies – she uses their energy in holistic healing practices.
Interview with Carmel Costello
Carmel Costello is a Spiritual Healer and kinesiologist who grew up on a farm in Co. Kilkenny. And on that farm, Carmel developed a healthy sense of respect for nature and what it produced. After finishing school, she spent years in the catering industry and had her own restaurant. In the year 2000, Carmel found herself working with adults who had learning difficulties, and it was from that experience that she developed her skill with energy healing.
Carmel says that she always knew I was different. I felt different energies outside of me. I felt other people’s energy and the energy in nature – the plants and animals. In 2007 she studied kinesiology for two years and received a diploma in 2009 completing her training in many energy therapies such as Reiki, Quantum Touch, and Magnified Healing.
At present, she works as a healer supported by the energies of the divine, the fairies, the little people, the nature spirits. This support came about once she acknowledged their presence and recognized that they came to help.
Carmel has felt the fairy energy quite strong. They’ve guided her in many ways – specifically in making fairy houses as healing tools.
Carmel also has a unique sense of the landscape and the layers of energy and elemental beings in the sacred landscape, and we’re going to talk with her today about the sacred landscape in Kilkenny.
What does the concept of “thin places” mean to you?
Can you tell us a little about the landscape in and around where you live now?
What is your concept of the fairies or fairy energy, plant spirits, etc?
So tell us about Rathbeagh – the tomb of a king.
Is there a deeper meaning to the site?
When people go to thin places and feel that special energy, what is a practical measure they can take? What do they do with that energy?
Doon Hill – The Fairy Knowe
Doon Hill is located in Aberfoyle, Scotland – about 30 miles north of Glasgow near Loch Lomond – actually located in the Trossachs National Park.
The fairies stories associated with Doon Hill came from folklorist and minister, Robert Kirk. He was born – the son of a minister in 1644. He was the seventh son and said to have the gift of second sight. There was a belief that a kind of magic built up in a woman’s womb with the birth of each son, so that by the 7th son, the magic was ripe and was imparted to that child giving him special gifts – usually of the psychic nature.
Kirk who became known as the Fairy Minister – is mostly known today for his communing with the fairies on Doon Hill.
His manse was located near it – he could see it.
He would take walks on the hill and commune with the fairies. Eventually, he wrote down his experiences between 1691 and 1692 but died before it could be published. 123 years later, Sir Walter Scott published the book under the title The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies. It is still in print today.
Kirk describes the fairies as
….said to be of middle nature between man and angel
Intelligent fluidous spirits, light changeable bodies.
Somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud
Best seen at twilight
Robert Kirk Disappears
On one of his nightly walks, Kirk disappeared. Some say he was not seen for days and was eventually found dead at the top of Doon Hill in his nightshirt. Many people surmised that the fairies had taken him because he was revealing their secrets in his writings. Some say that the whole story about him being found dead is a lie. That he was never found.
There was an incident where someone said they saw Kirk shortly after he disappeared. He told the person that the fairies had kidnapped him and he was to tell one of Kirk’s relations – named Graham that the only way he (Kirk) would attend Graham’s yet to be born son’s baptism and at that moment of appearance, Graham was to throw a dirk (knife) directly over Kirk’s head. This ritual would release him from captivity.
Kirk did appear at the baptism, but Graham was too frightened by the vision and the fairies. He didn’t throw the dirk.
So Robert Kirk – the man with second site – faded away… forever to be known as the Minister of the Fairy Queen. People believe that his soul is trapped inside the tall Scots Pine tree at the top of Doon Hill – The tree is no known as “The Minister’s Pine.”
Such a mystery.
His old manse sits just up from the graveyard. They both face Doon Hill –known now as the Fairy Knowe.
Fairy knowe is a Scottish term. The Irish use the term “rath” as you hear from Carmel to refer to small hills where the fairies live.
A fairy knowe in Scotland is typically a small hillock, often wooded with mature deciduous trees. There is also some sort of archaeological feature – a slab, a well or as on Doon Hill – a tree. The fairy knowes are entrances into a mystical realm. A private domain of the fairies that is fiercely protected. These places were especially “active” during liminal times – dawn and twilight.
We visited the Fairy Knowe, which is Doon Hill. It’s not a huge hill or a mountain that is quickly noticed in the landscape. But it is a little unusual in that it has a little “cap” on the top. A small bump almost like a nipple. That bump is the Minister’s Pine.
The pathway to the top is clearly marked. It begins as a slow wind around the base of the hill. There is a little stopping place before the path gets too steep. In that place is a fairy cottage that someone carved out of an oak stump. The stump is taller than a man – maybe 6 and a half feet. It’s perfectly carved to make a very tall fairy house complete with doors and windows – front steps, roof shingles and a chimney. It sits in a small oak grove. Young oak saplings cover the ground. People have left tokens – crystals, stones, little objects – all around the house. Many have pushed coins into the stump – so you see rows and rows of coins half embedded in the wood – reminders of fairy pilgrims who stopped at this little fairy cottage. There’s another stump that has been carved into a large mushroom – also with half visible coins pushed into it.
At the top of the hill, The Minister’s Pine is evident. It’s right in the middle of the clearing and covered with ribbons, rags, notes, and other tokens left behind. There are similar tokens on the surrounding trees. There are also clusters of sticks and wood shaped into little mounds – kind of like building a cairn with wood. Children have left notes with wishes on them. One that I saw said “More Legos” another said, “I wish for a cupcake every Monday.”
It’s a powerful spot. People are naturally quiet there.
I shot a little video near the Fairy cottage and got a little dancing green light in the lower portion of the screen. It could have been caused by the rays of the sun … or not.
Doon Hill is a worthy visit for those who love thin places.
I’ve included links to the walking routes around the hill. The entire experience takes about two hours.
The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns & Fairies , by Robert Kirk