Meanwhile, in Ireland: Conán and the Journey

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

In traditional Gaelic Irish culture, stories were, and continue to be, an important, intrinsic part of the functioning of society. Bards held significant power, placing them paralleled to the great kings who ruled Ireland. 

Bards were a part of governmental decision making, involved in the waging of war and decisions of peace, and most importantly, were tasked with keeping the memories, the lineage, of the clans alive. They were the record keepers, not just “storytellers”. 

I wanted to take a leaf from this Bardic Tradition, which saw its revival in the Gaelic Cultural Awakening of the 19th and early 20th centuries. For this Meanwhile, in Ireland edition, we shall enter the realm of mythology and folklore, the realm of the Otherworld, of faeries, of the great heroes, gods, and goddesses. This is the story of Conán and the Journey, and as you read, I implore you to think about its meaning and take it to heart.

In the old days, there was a young warrior called Conán (Pronounced Koh+ Nawn). Conán had been tasked with a mission from the King of Ireland to journey into the wild and unfamiliar land of Down. His mission was to collect a chest filled with wonderful jewels, gold, silver, rubies, and the like. As soon as this chest was full, he was to return with it immediately back to his king in Ireland. So Conán went about his duty, gathered and collected these treasures, and eventually, filled the chest. 

Now a full chest of treasures, one can imagine, is quite a heavy thing indeed. Conán needed to find aid in carrying this chest home. He knew he needed to find people who were not just brave and strong individuals but who were happy and content with themselves because this was going to be a long and particularly hard journey back home to the king in Ireland.

Photo courtesy of

So Conán went about his duty and found people who would take up the task he required of them. These people happily assumed their roles, and off they went, singing their songs. These people were a happy people, a group of folks from a local tribe in the land of Down. 

Everyday, they went and ate, then off they went carrying about their task. On the second day, they went and ate and went about their journey. On the third, the fourth, and the fifth morning, they did the same. By now, this group of people had left their own tribal land in Down and had entered into new lands that were geologically different, where the vegetation was different, where the landscape was different, and even the animals were different. Everything familiar had been left behind them.

Photo courtesy of

But these people were still singing their songs and their ancestors were coming with them because their ancestors were in their songs. 

After some two and a half moons, they had made great progress, but then, one morning, after having eaten, the people did not happily assume their roles as they normally had, but instead they seemed to slip into some deep trance state within themselves. 

Conán began to grow impatient, and finally, he became angry, and he drew his sword – but this had no effect whatsoever on these people, as they had fallen deep into a trance state. So eventually, Conán sat down beside an elder from the tribe, a man named Ógma (Pronounced Awg+Muh). 

Conán said, “Ógma, what is going on? We were making so much great progress, but now what is happening?”

There was a silence for a time. It took a long, long, long time for Ógma himself to come into a sense of his own hands, of his own feet, and his own identity, but finally, he did emerge into a sense of who he was. 

He turned to Conán and replied, “We have travelled so far and so quickly these last two and a half moons that we must now sit down and wait for our souls to catch up.”