Who was Adomnán?

Adomnán, Abbot of the Monastery in Iona (Scotland), is best known probably for his book "Vita Columbae" (Life of Columba), about a monk who left Ireland to found a monastery on the island of Iona, in Scotland, about AD 563. But he also wrote another book "De locis sanctis"  (On the Holy Places). This dealt with Palestine and the Near East. It was based upon information he received from a pilgrim returning from that region. He was, according to a new publication from Four Courts Press, "(an) administrator and diplomat, a man whose visionary approach to societal problems was matched with an ability to convert vision into action."

He organised a Synod of Bishops and Chieftains  in 697 AD at Birr, Co. Offaly, Ireland. The results of the Synod were passed into Laws which then held sway not only in Ireland but also in England, Scotland and Wales. They were referred to collectively as the "Law of Innocents" and were guaranteed by the named representatives present who are listed in the old manuscript which is still extant.

“Law of the Innocents” was concerned primarily with crimes against women, It detailed the variety of offences implicated as well as the procedures for bringing the guilty to justice, But more importantly still, it extended its protection to non-combatants in situations of war. Despite the assumed sophistication of modern society, we see situations today in the Middle East, in the Ukraine, in Africa, in the Amazon regions, and other places where non-combatants, women, children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, are innocent victims of a violence, that is sacrilegiously referred to as "friendly fire", or else hidden under the camouflage of development and progress!

It is important to remember that Adomnán's Synod occurred on a small island on the extreme Western edge of the great landmass of what we now call Europe and Asia. It was then, as it is now, one of the last areas where Celtic tribes had settled and maintained their way of life and culture. This all happened centuries before the Rights of Man were promulgated in Europe. I am working to ensure that it is not overlooked.

What is the relevance of Adomnán to today's world?

I was deeply moved by what I have read in Thomas O'Loughlin's beautiful book "Adomnán at Birr", recently published by Four Courts Press, in which there are edited essays in commemoration of the Law of the Innocents.  It brought some solace to my spirit which has been deeply troubled by the recent events, the ongoing violence, the daily tragedies, in Israel and Gaza, and by the apparent inability of well-established National Governments and the United Nations to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table. 

I have worked in the Middle East, mainly in Egypt, Israel and Jordan. I met and worked with Israeli and Palestinian Arabs in the course of that work and also in other social settings. I know from that experience that it is not correct to apply global stereotypes to either the Israelis or the Palestinians when looking at the current situation. It has deeply distressed me because I am still in contact with those friends thanks to the Internet and social media, and I think of them every day when I see them on Facebook, on Twitter and in other settings on the Web. My feelings of powerlessness led me to go deeper into myself to find an answer to the question that every one of us faces in such situations: "Is there anything that i can do? Or do I have to stand idly by while events take their course"?

I am lucky to have been born and reared in Ireland of parents whose combined ancestry has roots not only in Ireland but also in Central Europe, mainly the old Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, France and England. This has given me a DNA that resonates with events outside of Ireland and filled me, as a young man, with a passion for travel and adventure. I am now in my 75th year in this particular space suit, but I remember my family, the society around me, and especially my teachers, who all had a respect for the old traditions of ireland. Even my family home, with an address in "Cuchulainn Place", led to my devouring the tales of the Red Branch Knights and the warriors of the Fianna with relish. This background has led eventually, in my retirement from "active service" to a more tranquil time of recollection, and study. and thence to a deep involvement with the story and the practice of the ancient Druids and with the kind of society in which they lived. Sadly we have only the ancient manuscripts to guide  us. But why should I say "sadly" when it is a journey of delight to study and examine how life was then, even through the prism of mythology and ancient narratives.

The Druids were active in Ireland as a spiritual and religious (so-called "pagan") force up to the arrival of Christian missionaries in the 5th century AD. We have no precise information on their origins but archaeological finds suggests that they were active for many centuries BC in the areas we now recognise as Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, and France. There is evidence that, despite the popular myths that St. Patrick drove the druids out of Ireland, druidic influences continued to be present in Irish society and even within Christian society and institutions right up to the late Middle Ages circa 1700. Vestiges of these influences are still to be found in Irish life now.

This led me to ask the question: "What did the Druids do when faced with warring tribes and conflict? Their role in society is difficult to pin down and define clearly. They seem to have been at the heart of many events yet strangely removed at the same time. They had a lot of power, but apparently little formal authority. It was said that "No man spoke before Concubar (a king in ancient Ireland) spoke, but Concubar would not speak before the Druid spoke". Druids are reported to have occupied important roles at different times from which they derived particular authority, as, for example, teachers, judges, counsellors but they were also seers, diviners, magicians and shamans. it was said they they intervened between warring tribes and stopped conflicts.  I then asked myself the question, what could I do? I am  an initiate Druid, a shamanic practitioner, but throughout my life I have also explored and experimented with some of the esoteric skills of the Druids.  I am far away from the particular war zone in the Middle East, and I am limited in my skills. What can i do?

What I have read about Adomnán and about the Druids has led me to this conclusion. I am not really interested in the re-enactment of druidic and shamanic ritual for the entertainment or even for the education of today's spectators. I am, however committing myself to exploring what relevance the powers of shamanism and druidry have as an integrated part of society. In particular, I intend to apply what I have learned to address the question I raised earlier. I intend to formulate interventions that are aligned as far as I can determine with druidic and shamanic practice and put them to the test. The Irish revolutionary, james Fintan Lawlor, once wrote: "Dogs tied, and stones loose, is no peace. Either pick up the stones, or unleash the Dogs of War". Druids and shamans have an affinity with stones and rocks, so I plan to start picking up those that I can identify before  the Dogs of War have their say.

Project Adomnán #1 maps out the plan in initial outline. You may like to have a look at it.