Thursday, April 23, 2015

For Bealtaine: Highland Quarter Cakes

In honour of Bealtaine, just around the corner now, here is an excerpt from F. Marian McNeill's wonderful book on Scottish food and related lore. She mentions the now lost bannock made for Imbolc as well--how I wish we had the rituals related to that.

Blessings of the season! 

Oatcakes, prepared in a special way were used from time immemorial, in the rites of Beltane (May 1st, O.S.). Pennant (1769) writes: ‘Everyone takes a cake of oatmeal, upon which are raised nine square knobs, each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver of their flocks and herds, or to some particular animal, the real destroyer of them. Each person turns his face to the fire, breaks off a knob, and flinging it over his shoulder, says: “This I give to thee, preserve thou my horses; this to thee, preserve thou my sheep,” and so on. After that, they use the same ceremony to the noxious animals: “This I give to thee, O Fox, spare thou my lambs; this to thee, O Hooded Crow, this to thee O Eagle!”

 ...In Badenoch, until recently, oatcakes marked on one side with a cross and on the other with a circle were rolled down the hillside on Beltane morning. (See The Silver Bough, Vol. II.)...

The Beltane bannock appears to be the last survivor of the old Highland Quarter Cakes; the bonnach Bride, St. Bride’s bannock, baked for the first day of spring; the bonnach Bealltain, Beltane bannock, baked for the first day of summer; the bonnach Lunastain, Lammas bannock, baked for the first day of autumn; and the bonnach Samhthain, Hallowmas bannock, baked for the first day of winter.

– F. Marian McNeill, The Scot’s Kitchen: Its Traditions and Lore with Old-Time Recipes, Mayflower Granada (1979) pg 232-233.
(First published 1929)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Pilgrim Walks, Ireland, 4 April 2015--Get Ready to Commune!

Thanks to RTÉ The History Show for giving me the headsup on the upcoming Pilgrim Walks that will be taking place around Ireland this Easter weekend. They traditionally went from monastery to monastery but things have changed a tad from the middle ages. Featured below is the St Brigid Walk.

Brigid’s Way – Pilgrim Paths Day Event – Saturday April 4th 2015

Pollardstown Fen
St. Brigid in Kildare  – Brigid’s Way Celtic Pilgrimage’s final day route.

Overview: Brigid’s Way Celtic Pilgrimage has recently become the 13th National Pilgrim Path in Ireland, the first female Irish Saint to be so honoured. On Pilgrim Paths’ Day, we walk the route of the final day of this 9 day pilgrimage (which charts St Brigid’s journey from her birthplace & Shrine in Faughart, County Louth to her Abbey, Healing & Garden Wells in Kildare). We will start at Pollardstown Fen (pictured) in Kildare along the boardwalk of this picturesque hidden local treasure, then continue through country lanes to the magnificent Curragh & into the heart of Kildare Town to St. Brigid’s sacred sites including her Fire Temple in the grounds of the Cathedral, both her wells and finally new Solas Bhríde Centre (pictured below) for their welcome hospitality. Come to walk in the glorious Kildare countryside, meet new people and honour and receive the blessings of St. Brigid.
Suitability: This easy walk follows the wooden boardwalk of Pollardstown Fen, small country lanes (paved minor roads), the grassy Curragh terrain, footpaths around Kildare Town and St Brigid’s Fire Temple and Wells, which also have grassy sections. Please bring suitable walking shoes or boots, water, snacks/lunch, sun screen or weather gear (please check the local forecast).
  •     Pollardstown Fen
  •     The Curragh
  •     Kildare Town
  •     Solas Bhride Centre and Hermitages
There will be (optional) opportunities for guided or private prayer at:
  •     Rathbride, St Brigid’s Healing Stone at the edge of The Curragh
  •     St Brigid’s Fire Temple, in the grounds of her cathedral in Kildare Town
  •     St Brigid’s Healing Well, close to the National Stud
  •     St Brigid’s Healing Stream
Distance: 13 kms, 8 miles.  Approx 3 hours.
Time:    Meeting at 9:30am for bus to start point.Solas Bhride Kildare
Meeting Place: Park & meet at the Solas Bhríde Centre car park, Tully Road, Kildare at  9.30am sharp (for more information about the start/end point see We’ll take a hired bus to the start point together. Note: You must register in advance for a place on the bus by emailing
Cost: €5.   We also invite you to make a donation to the new Solas Bhríde Centre & Hermitages during your visit.
Organised By: The Brigid’s Way Celtic Pilgrimage team and Solas Bhríde team, Kildare.
For more information and to book a place on the bus, please email:


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