In 2006, I went on a short trip to the Scotland, fulfilling one of my intentions for that year: to work hard and to take frequent short trips!
My visit was to the westerly part of Scotland known as The Inner Hebrides, and included the Island of Mull, the 3rd largest of the islands in the Hebrides, and the island of Iona, well known as the site of the Abbey founded by Saint Columba, who landed there from Ireland in 563 AD.
Iona is thought to be the first Christian site in Scotland. As such, this tiny island (1-mile-wide, 3.5 miles long), is very popular with pilgrims and the thousands of tourists who come to visit the Abbey during the summer months. Saint Columba, in Old Irish known as Saint Colm Cille, or Columcille (meaning “Dove of the Church”), led a group of pilgrims on their heartbreaking journey from Ireland.
“Columba’s goal was to convert as many people to Christianity as had died in an ill-fated battle in his homeland. Penance for his part in the killing was exile. Only when the group reached Iona, some 70 miles away, were they far enough that they could no longer see the land they loved.” Columba and a small group of Celtic monks settled on that island, which was part of the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada, ruled by his cousin Conaill.
Columba was a member of the Celtic Church, not of the Church of Rome, a branch of Christianity that survived in Ireland during the period known as the “Dark Ages” and was influenced by Gnostic monks from Egypt and the nature worship of their ancestors. The interlocking designs of Celtic art portray its link to nature.
According to the legend, Saint Columba first landed at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula, near Southend. However, being still in sight of his native land he moved further north up the west coast of Scotland. In 563 he was granted land on the island of Iona which became the centre of his evangelising mission to the Scotland. Aside from the services he provided guiding the only outpost of literacy in the region, his reputation as a holy man led to his role as a diplomat among the tribes; there are also many stories of miracles which he performed during his work to convert the Picts.
The contemporary legend of Iona, of course, as I was instructed by a Scottish friend of mine, is that once you land on Iona “you must cross over to the other side of the island, and dip your feet in the water”. As Iona is the most outer tip of that group of islands, you can look out over the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean; there is no land between you and Canada! The water was freezing cold, however, as I promised, I managed a dip, long enough to get a glimpse of what the first pilgrims experienced, see the photo as proof.
Being in that part of Scotland, amongst the woods, the mountains and the always present sea, and connecting with the energies of the place; was such a contrast to life in London. Living in a city, I am surrounded by what ‘man has imposed’ structurally over nature and the environment.
My visit to Scotland also gave me a glimpse of it is like to commune with Mother Nature, and how to attune to her forces – where the environment is natural and unspoilt. The Elementals certainly smiled upon us, the weather was at its best, and I came back with a hint of tan; the sea shone as blue as the Mediterranean, and there was not a drop of rain.
The Elementals were also present when I visited the remote stone circle at Lochbuie, on the rugged south coast of Mull, overshadowed Ben Buie.
After walking for nearly a mile across a boggy meadow, and nearly giving up my search, I found the stones in a cattle pasture, (UK Grid reference NM618252 – you need a map), where they had first been placed many thousands of years ago. In that magical spot time held no sway, it is a place of enchantment.