Tara, historic hill (155 m/507 ft above sea level) in county Meath, Ireland, southeast of An Uaimh.
"The hill of Tara is probably the most sacred hilltop in Ireland. It has been suggested that Tara ('Teanair' in Gaelic) was named after the proto-tutelary Goddess Tea, whom legend tells us came to Ireland from the East and married an Irish King. The site was occupied in prehistoric times, ...however, it was in the first century CE that Tara became the seat of the high kings of Ireland... the Stone of Destiny (Lia Fail) is said to have been a royal inauguration stone, originally brought to the site by Tea. On this hill the kings of Ireland were required to mate symbolically with the goddess of the land, during the ritual banquet at their coronation." -- from THE EARTH GODDESS: CELTIC AND PAGAN LEGACY OF THE LANDSCAPE, by Cheryl Straffon (Blandford Books, 1997).
• Music for Brigid (St. Bridget) of Ireland •

A flock of birds settles
in a land where a woman dwells;
a green field abounds with noise
in which is a brook, swift, green, bright.

• Introduction to Early Celtic Music •
Excerpts from liner notes by Altramar Ensemble,
"Crossroads of the Celts," DORIAN CD Recording 93177, 1999
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"The many musics of the Celtic tradition have occupied a complex and influential position in the musical history of the West, but the ancient roots of this tradition are obscure and scattered. Communities from Galway to Skye, Brittany to Cape Breton, and beyond, know and love the jigs, reels and songs of the modern Celtic folk tradition; yet the long history of colonization and conquest in Ireland and the British Isles, the violent encroachments of foreign overlords on the old Gaelic communities, the impact of proselytizing religion, and the shattering social changes of the Industrial Revolution struck at the heart of Gaelic folklore, folk religion, and vernacular musics. As a result most of what we moderns think of as 'Celtic music' is actually a phenomenon of instruments, tunes, and songs generally dated no earlier than the 16th century CE.

Celtic Harp "Yet the Celtic musical traditions of the islands known in the Middle Ages as 'Hibernia' and 'Britannia' reach back 3,000 years. Bronze horns and bells have been unearthed at archaeological sites dated as early as the 8th c. BCE. We know that the Pictish peoples who preceded the Britons, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and Normans to the islands enjoyed an astonishingly rich music culture: harps were a royal symbol, massive horns shaped like boar's heads led warriors into battle; stone and metal carvings depict plucked and bowed lyres, harps, single and triple pipes, horns; fragments of flutes and whistles, and a Norse-style bow have been uncovered in archaeological digs...

"In the realm of sacred music, by the 5th c. CE, a distinctively Celtic rite was developing in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Brittany -- all places in which the linguistic and folklorist influence of Celtic culture was especially strong. Only a few liturgical manuscripts survive from Medieval Ireland, and these are primarily useful as evidence of the extensive orality of the tradition, because until a later period they record only the texts, presuming that the user would have been familiar with the appropriate chants via oral transmission. It's a fascinating historical conundrum: : the absence of melodies confirms the richness of the tradition, tantalizing us with its existence while at the same time withholding information about its details. However it is possible to trace back carefully to a few Irish Sarum manuscripts, seeking clues to the lost Celtic sacred music."

• Music for Brigid of Ireland: Saint & Goddess •

Moch maduinn Bhride
Thig an nimhir as as toll
Cha bhoin mise ris an nimhir
Cha bhoin an nimhir rium.

Early on Bride's morn
The Serpent shall come from the hollow
I will not molest the serpent
Nor will the serpent molest me.

This old Scot's invocation is recounted in THE EARTH GODDESS: CELTIC AND PAGAN LEGACY OF THE LANDSCAPE, by Cheryl Straffon (Blandford Books, 1997). Bhride is the Christian saint and Celtic goddess Bridget/Bride (pronounced Breed) and means "Exalted One."

According to Cheryl Straffon:

"Who was this ancient Goddess of spring...? Disentangling the point where the Goddess ends and the saint begins is virtually impossible... In the 'Life of St. Brigid,' written by Cogitosus in 650 CE, she is of course a Christian saint, but one with many pagan attributes. Her feast day is 1 February, the Celtic festival of Imbolc, which probably means 'in the belly,' referring to the pregnancy of the ewes or of Mother Earth. The iconography associated with her includes cows, which are elsewhere linked with Mother Goddesses, serpents, sheep, vultures, baths, milk and the sun and the moon, all symbols linked with several other Celtic goddesses. Three of her most common symbols -- the vulture, serpent and cow -- were also symbols of the Roman-Egyptian Goddess Isis, and the rites practiced at her shrine at Kildare in Leinster, in Ireland, were said to resemble those of the Romano-British Goddess Minerva, being concerned with crafts and healing...

"The production of food, the fertility of the land and the fecundity of Mother Nature were all key functions of Bridget, and they underlie the tradtions associated with her day. The country people always regarded the advent of Feile Bride (Bride's Feast Day) as marking the end of nature's sleep during winter and her reawakening to the fresh activity of life. In Scotland on the island of Uist the flocks were dedicated to Bride on her sacred day:

On the Feast Day of beautiful Bride,
The flocks are counted on the moor,
The raven goes to prepare the nest,
And again goes the rook.

Photo: Abbey of the Arts, 
IMBOLC Poetry Celebration
CD Recording

The Altramar recording illustrated above includes three chants dedicated to St. Bridget, "the Laurel of Ireland:"
    Cristo canamus gloriam (15th c.)
    Brigid bé bithmaith (11th c.)
    Adest dies leticie (15th c.)
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    (text and melody, Trinity College, Dublin,
    MS 80, Ireland, early 15th c.):

    The day of rejoicing is come,
    In which the holy virgin Brigid
    From the shadows of misery
    passes to the realms of light.

    From a modest station
    She strove to serve God,
    Mighty in the gift of purity
    She was pleasing unto the Bridegroom on high.

    As a sign of her virtue
    The wood of the altar which had dried out
    By a touch of the hand of the virgin
    Was at once made green again.

    This is Ireland's laurel
    Whose green verdure never fades,
    Filled with loving kindness
    She fails none who entreat her aid.

    For ages without end
    To God alone be glory,
    Who by the prayers of such a virgin
    Leads us to the Kingdom of Heaven.
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Illustrations (Top): Tara hill from Encarta 97 CD-ROM,
Celtic Harp (enactment) from Wikipedia Commons

Medieval & Renaissance Women Composers (CD Recordings)
Early Women Masters East & West
www.earlywomenmasters.net, a nonprofit, educational website
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