The text of the Táin Bó Cúailnge is one of Irish story’s greatest treasures. The central tale of the two great bulls may be familiar but the wealth of wider stories that circle the Táin, involve some of the most colourful of Irish characters and encompasses almost the whole of the country.
Since 2011, a group of academics and knowledgeable enthusiasts have been walking the entire route of the Táin story, encouraging the growth of Táin based events along the way. The Táin March Festival is run by a voluntary committee who are passionate about preserving the history and culture of the Táin with the hope of generating greater interest and participation of local communities. The walk begins at Rathcroghan in Roscommon
For the past three years, I have been giving workshops on early Irish mythology to primary schools in Roscommon and Longford to support this on-going project. These workshops, using props and costumes are designed to set these, into the late-iron age context in which they were originally placed. As a story-teller, it is also my role to make these, often obscure, stories accessible and fun. We also get to explore story making and poetry inspired by those wonderful story-teller poets. in those days. It was never wise to upset a poet for their magic was the skill of making the world with words. We also examine some of the craft skills that made the world of the stories so memorable.
Each year, in late May, the schools (in costume) gather on Rathcroghan mound, to meet with Queen Medb and her poets, bringing their own stories and poetry to share. It is quite an event. Other celebrations and events also take place in Longford over the weekend. This year, we even published a poetry book and a short, animated film, based on one of the stories.
This year sixteen schools sent more than 350 children and their teachers to Rathcroghan. This large number means that the project will need to grow and change. Next year, we hope to provide children’s aonach days where classes will have the opportunity to enjoy hands-on ‘living history’ workshops on early crafts, environmental issues and maybe even take part in a ‘poets law court as well as continuing to explore the wonderful stories and poetry.
As you can imagine, this project occupied me fully from March through to the end of May but a lot has come out of it, including the very real need for written and audio versions of the stories that will appeal to a family audience. I am now occupied in creating some of these.
The project has at its heart community and connections, crafts and creativity. As we come together to celebrate an old story safely told for another year, we are also celebrating the on-going story of our shared environments.
Links: Find out more about the Táin March Festival