Croagh Patrick


Well, we did it. We climbed to the top of Croagh Patrick. It’s quite a feat, let me tell you. I’ve climbed many mountains, but this one is truly a pilgrimage. It is so steep for the last third of the climb, that at one point I was climbing with hands and feet.

And, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience to make this ascent surrounded by so many devotees of Saint Patrick.

As is the tradition, some young men were even climbing in bare feet. I’ve included pictures, below, so you can get a sense of just what it might be like to climb this mountain without shoes.

Not only was the scenery simple stunning, the climb itself was hard, as the trail has so much loose rock and the slope is so steep.

We started out with sunshine, but soon the top of the mountain was covered by clouds. From the base to the top, there’s a 2,500 ft. elevation change.

As I wrote in my last post, in pre-Christian times, this mountain was considered to be the mountain of the Great Mother. So as I hiked, I payed homage to both the Mother and to St. Patrick.

I’d love to know:

Have you ever climbed this mountain, or have gone on a pilgrimage to something you hold dear?

Tomorrow’s post: Queen Maeve’s tomb…


The Land of the Goddess


The Land of the Goddess

As you may have noticed, I’ve been absent from posting here. I’ve been on a journey, exploring the wild land and sacred sites of Ireland.

In my readings of Ireland, I discovered that many speak of Ireland as the Land of the Goddess. I’m discovering what that means. It seems to me that the earth itself is the land of the goddess, but we’ve been visiting the land to come to know it.

My intention was to post here when I arrived, and throughout my trip. For one reason, then another, each time I attempted to post from my new iPhone 4 and wireless keyboard, something has gotten in the way of my posts finally making it to publication. I’ve just let this be, as it seemed too much to fight what seemed to be asking me to simply let go of work and surrender to simply being in, and with, this beautiful country and countryside.

The night before last, we drove into Lisdoonvarna, a small town in the western part of County Clare, a place that is also a gateway to the Burren.

Connemara and Croagh Patrick

We then drove through Connemara, amazing countryside, the beauty of which brought tears to my eyes. We arrived in Westport last night, prepared to hike up the sacred mountain today, Croagh Patrick.

This mountain is dedicated to St. Patrick, and many climb to the top as a pilgrimage to this holy Saint.

I have read that, prior to Christianity coming to Ireland, this mountain was considered to be the mountain of the Great Mother. I’m looking forward to climbing it and experiencing what’s there.

St. Brigid

We’ve seen so many beautiful and ancient, sacred sites. One place in particular, really moved me… the town of Kildare, which is home to the Cathedral of St. Brigid and the flame that was kept alive for hundreds and hundreds of years by women dedicated to what St. Brigid held dear and dedicated her life to.

The woman who now keeps the flame burning is Sister Mary. We had the opportunity to call on her, in her home that is an open home, dedicated to spreading St. Brigid’s work. It was an honor to meet Sister Mary and to be in the presence of the flame of St. Brigid.

The presence there was beautifully palpable with a sense of healing and nourishment. I felt ‘full’ when I left, full in a way that is hard to describe. I felt no more wanting nor needing to find that which will fill me up.

After Kildare, we drove to Cobh, where one of my great, great grandfathers left for America. Unexpectedbly, I was moved to tears when I arrived there. I felt a connection to generations past, and felt a sense of what it must have been like to leave his homeland and come to a place so big and vast, so foreign.

We’ve been in the eastern, southern, and now the western parts of Ireland. I have many stories to share with you, which I’ll do in the coming weeks and months, for I know what I’m experiencing bere will only deepen within me.

If you’re interested in seeing pictures, join me on Facebook (Juliemdaley) or Twitter (juliedaley), to enjoy some of these postings.

With great love,



Lineage of Women



“How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mothers’ names.”~Alice Walker



A lineage of women.

I once participated in a dance workshop for women only. It was a beautiful experience. I normally dance each week with both women and men in the 5Rhythms. At this one workshop for women only, we were asked at the beginning of the weekend to introduce ourselves as the daughter of the mother that gave us life, and as the granddaughter of the mother that gave our mother life. We were also asked to introduce ourselves in relation to who we’d given life to.

I’m Julie,
daughter of Joan,
granddaughter of Pauline,
great-granddaughter of Clarissa,
mother of Jacqueline and Jennifer,
grandmother of Lucas, Aveline, Jamison, and Dante.

A Lineage of Women

This experience of introducing ourselves by way of our mother and her mother was incredibly female affirming. I sat and soaked the names in, along with the feelings that arose in each woman as she spoke the names of her matriline (a mother line – one’s purely female ancestry). While seemingly simple, something profound was honored, and awakened, as we acknowledged the line of women we came from, and the line of children we had borne.


A lineage of women:
daughter of Joan,
daughter of Pauline,
daughter of Clarissa,
daughter of Charlotte…


Recently, I traveled to the Chicago area with my two sisters for a family wedding. We decided to make a pilgrimage to our great-grandmother’s house in Park Ridge, a small town just near the airport.

With some help from my mother’s cousin, my sisters and I found the family home on South Crescent. This was the house my great-grandmother and great-grandfather had built in 1908. My grandmother grew up in this house. My grandmother was married to my grandfather in this house. My mother was born in this house. My mother’s cousins were born in this house, too.

Before my mother’s death two years ago, she spoke often of her childhood in Park Ridge. She spoke often of her grandmother with fondness, and with a bit of awe. It was a curious feeling to enter the house. It had recently been sold to new owners who were remodeling it before their third child came into the world. This was in June, the baby was due in July, so I imagine she has arrived by now. The owner was there and graciously gave us a tour of the entire place, basement to attic. As I walked through the rooms, it was as if I had been transported back eighty to one hundred years. So much had happened there in the lives of my matriline.


Strong Women, Strong Lineage

“…to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mothers’ names.”

My great-grandmother was a healer, a well-known Christian Science healer in that area. She was strong, vibrant, independent. She had to be. Her husband contracted TB and became very ill. She had to put him in a sanitorium, where eventually he died. She had to take care of her family, an extended family that included her siblings.

My grandmother and mother were also strong women. They had to be. They found their strength deep inside, brought it out into their actions when it became necessary to do so, for the sake of their children, and the sake of their family. This strength is in all women. Strength and wisdom.

Wisdom in the Matriline

I feel there is wisdom in the matriline. I learned something about myself that day. I soaked up wisdom… a knowing of myself in a different way, a different light. While I had heard much about these women from my mother, and knew my grandmother fairly well, when I walked through the rooms of this house and felt into all that had happened there, I knew myself in a new way.

It’s been a few weeks since I returned from this trip, and all the while this wisdom has been working on me, and through me.

I now more clearly see these women, not just as my ancestors, but as people who lived lives that were sometimes good, many times hard and painful, but always indescribably beautiful. I feel the lineage of women within me. I can now see the room where my mother was born, the rooms my grandmother played in, the rooms my great-grandmother grieved, celebrated and grew old in.

What a gift it is to feel this lineage within me. In some way, yet unknown, I will pass the knowing and wisdom down to my daughters. I can feel it. It is already happening in ways unseen.

As I write this, I become keenly aware that this wisdom had always been here. Perhaps, it’s just been activated by visiting Nanny Ruh’s house. We all have access to women’s wisdom.

The wisdom of women isn’t clearly articulated, laid out analytically, in a straightforward manner. Rather, it circles, curves and winds its way around. It appears in the moment, if we’re paying attention. It shows up in symbols and in unexpected connections. Like the moon as it shines on water at night, womens’ wisdom illuminates that which is unseen.

I have come to see we can open to this wisdom of our matriline, whether we can go back to a physical place or not…the wisdom is here if we drop deep into our bodies and open to the moonlight.

In ways unseen

Jen Louden writes: “…every writer has to learn to live – and even thrive– in the gap. Creating actually happens in the gap.”

We enter into unknown territory as we write something new. This is where creation happens. In the unknown. Something completely unexpected, and absolutely delightful, appeared in the gap today as I wrote this post. I didn’t know where the writing would take me. I had considered writing about this pilgrimage since I returned home to Berkeley, but as I mentioned, I could feel the wisdom working on me, so I waited.

As I sat down to write, the painting above (and below) popped into my head. It’s a painting I have hanging in my bedroom, of the moon shining on the water. It’s really lovely…this picture of it here doesn’t do it justice.


I found this painting in my mother’s house after she died. She had collected many things throughout her years, things that were passed down through the family, as well as things she picked up in her travels to the second-hand stores and flea markets. As we went through her collection of paintings, we kept the ones that were obviously family heirlooms. We gave most of the others to the Goodwill. This one painting, of the moon on the water, I grabbed as an afterthought. I had so many of mom’s things already, but as I turned away from the items we were leaving, something told me to turn back and take this one home. I liked it enough, but I kept it because it called to me. I hung it in my bedroom, because it called to me.

I took the painting off the wall to get a snapshot of it as I wrote today’s post. The first one didn’t turn out, so I began to clean any dust off of it to try to capture a better one. As I did, I noticed the initials in the bottom corner:

C.R. ’99

My great-grandmother’s name was Clarissa Ruh, but we had always called her Nanny Ruh, which is what my mother called her. I just recently remembered her first name on our trip back to the wedding in June. Nanny Ruh was a painter. We have a few of her paintings spread throughout the family, but none of them have her signature. My great-cousin, Nanny’s other granddaughter, told me when we were with her at this family wedding that Nanny didn’t sign her pictures because she didn’t want to seem presumptuous – she simply wanted to paint. I don’t really know the whole story, but none of the paintings we have have her signature on them…except this one.

Just now, in writing this post, I discovered that this painting was also done by Nanny Ruh. I could hardly believe my eyes. Something unknown and unseen found its way into the light of the moon. This is an unimaginable gift. I don’t believe my mother knew that Nanny Ruh painted this picture, because she told us many times to take great care of the paintings she knew were painted by Nanny. This painting was stuck in a place with so many things that were simply flea market finds. Somehow, I came to know something that had been lost back in the matriline. Now, my daughters have another gift from their matriline, one among many.


And, you?

I’d love for you to share your mothers’ names with us, to introduce yourself by way of your mother, and your mother’s mother, by leaving a comment below. I think there is something powerful in speaking these names into the world.


What of your matriline?

What do you know?

What has yet to be discovered?

What wisdom is there, perhaps in the unseen, waiting for you to ask into it, to know yourself as your mothers’ names?


A Fire Rages


Burning Heart, by Roger Quayle
Burning Heart, by Roger Quayle


A fire rages within me,

the fire of longing to be the beauty

that is the center of my own heart.


image by Roger Quayle, CC2.0

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