a land of mythic and historic adventure.
Thousands of years ago the people who inhabited Ireland used sophisticated stone technology and ritual practices to carve their scientific and spiritual beliefs immortally on stone. These stones were the foundation for the retelling of heroic deeds that have been passed on through generations, imbuing the land of Ireland with prehistoric stories, myths, warriors and heroes.
What is Cuala?
In north county Wicklow, 20 km south of Dublin, there is a town named Bray, anciently known as Brí Chualann, roughly translated as the Rise or Hill of Cuala. Slí Chualann was a roadway that stretched from the residence of the High King at Tara to the lands of Cuala; today the area from South of Dublin to County Wicklow including the town of Bray. So Cuala, the magical name of our festival, reacalls one of the five ancient roads to the hill of Tara.
The Hill of Tara: The Soul of Ireland
The seat of the high kings of Celtic Ireland – people from the Stone Age, Bronze and Iron Age – was in Tara, including Saint Patrick, who according to legend asked permission of the High King to spread Christianity into Ireland. The Coronation Stone that is found on this hill is an archaeological treasure where all of the kings of Ireland were crowned, linking it directly to prehistoric, medieval and modern history. For five thousand years people have traditionally been travelling to Tara and still today people continue to do so.
From the top of the hill on a clear day, it is claimed that it is possible to see half the counties of Ireland. Half a mile to the south of Tara Hill there is another hill-fort called Rath Maeve named after the legendary Iron Age warrior and goddess Queen Maeve.
The epic Queen Maeve was depicted as two figures with the same character traits in both of her embodiments: Medb of Connacht and Medb of Leinster.
As Queen of Connacht she is presented as exceptionally sexual, she had several husbands; each of whom became king only after marrying her, she ruled to maintain her economic and thus social egalitarianism, she set terms of behaviour for her husbands in which she expected them to be “without stinginess, without jealousy, without fear”.
“[A man] will not be king over Ireland if the ale of
Cuala does not come to him.”
– Scéala Cano Meic Gartnáim (Book)
In the book of Leinster, Medb of Leinster is called ‘the daughter of Conan of Cuala’, so Queen Medb is the “ale of Cuala” and it is she who brings sovereignty over Ireland. She is such an important character of the mythology of pre-Christian Ireland that the Irish literature figure from the 20th century Williams Butler Yeats found inspiration in her and wrote a poem titled “The Old Age of Queen Maeve”.