I have been following the blog entries from the residency in Raasay, made up of artists, scholars, illuminators and medievalists who all took part in the different knots of the Spiral to ruminate over questions surrounding Colm Cille; the extreme past, retelling myths, exile and labour.

 

One of the things that occurred to me is our connection or rather disconnection to sea and landscape in comparison to Colm Cille’s time, when it was inherent to human nature. This connection is one that is being attempted to re-invoke throughout the spiral and residency on Raasay. The sea and land were vital tools to export the knowledge of Colm Cille, from his initial pilgrimage to Iona and the unique settings he founded monasteries and settlements for contemplation. This reminds me of the Vicissitudes performance, a participant, Liam Campbell who had a big interest in Colm Cille and had just completed a Phd about the River Foyle, its symbolism and how it connects people. This reconnection to our surroundings to me is an element of Colm Cille’s Spiral that is vital to explore.

 

Some other themes that stood out to me was re-interpretation of power structures and traditions. Local traditions of places such as Raasay are at danger of being lost. Tory Island is just off the coast of Donegal, where Irish is the native language. It draws similarities to Raasay, with a similar population count, traditions, native language, all of which are dwindling. There is a King of Tory who is selected by the islanders as a spokesperson for Tory, a tradition that has died out in other places. The local people use the sea and soundscape as a tool to throw their voices to manage everyday island life. It is also home to a community of artists. These islanders remind me of  Raasay’s Calum MacLeod, a trailblazer who single handedly built a road to the isolated community of Airnish, as an attempt to preserve community and traditions. If the Celtic spirit embraces mystery, as was suggested in the book Anam Cara and embrace the innate need to create it makes sense that artists travel to places like Raasay and Tory for retreats, to reconnect with their Celtic souls.

 

The role of women throughout the ages and how their voice has been lost is sad but interesting how through the spiral it’s being acknowledged and debated about how to recognize this. It seems strange to me that despite women’s lack of power and authority in society they were often tasked to commission cultural works. In a contemporary setting, this reminds me of an event, Trailblaze, which is a platform for people to tell their stories, to question and be non-compliant in society in areas such as art, culture, religion, education and politics. This event is run by a group of women and has arisen from the post recession environment in Ireland where many people feel like they have no choices or voice. It shows alternative voices, people who pioneer their own way of living, being, creating, an opportunity to take back their power.

 

I’m looking forward to travelling to Glasgow in October to see the further two steps of Meditatio and Revalatio unfold and how the practice of the participants have changed in this process.