Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, or Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins, is a church in Rome whose most famous feature is the crypt that houses the bones of over 4,000 friars in elaborate displays.
Visiting the museum and crypt of the Capuchins wasn't initially on our list of things to do but it ended up being a very transformative and healing experience for me. It was an unexpected and significant integration of my pagan and religious lifetimes, as was my entire experience in Rome.
I didn't expect much walking through the museum, as I was only really eager to see the crypt and bones. However, it was during my walk through the museum that I experienced a shift. This message came through in regards to paganism and religion and past life wounds:
It's time to make peace with your past. Who you thought hurt you in fact shared your beliefs. Forgive them and the seeming difference. The people who hurt you didn't follow the truth, nor practice the love. They were those who got lost and thought to create their own divine order. The holy ones are no less holy. Just because we call it something else, doesn't mean it is something else. It's the definition that creates separation.
Some visitors find the crypt to be creepy, but the only thing Elliott and I found creepy about the whole experience was a couple of 17th-century dolls made to depict baby Jesus. Let's just say doll making has come a long way since then! Some visitors describe the crypt as horrifying, but again, Elliott and I found that the feel of the crypt wasn’t morbid at all, but rather celebratory of life and a testament to the devotion and love the friars had for their fellow human beings. And that is precisely what the Capuchin order is about – love of Jesus and his sacrifice, and love for their fellow man. Elliott and I found the elaborate displays of the friars’ bones not a horrifying warning of death but rather a stark reminder that life is temporary and that there is eternal life beyond the bone. The Capuchin crypt is a potent reminder of our own mortality.
What stood out most to us from all of the detailed displays in the crypt was an hourglass with wings on either side, with the accompanying message being:
Time doesn't pass us by, it flies.
There were also many eight-pointed stars symbolizing eternity and infinity, the clear Christian belief in the resurrection. There were also many sacred hearts and flowers made from the bones, as well as the trinity symbol repeated throughout. All the friars wore their robes, hoods, and ropes with three knots.
Another powerful image for us was a skeleton holding a scythe and hanging from the ceiling, with the accompanying message being:
Life cuts everyone down like wheat in a wheat field.
In the other hand, the skeleton held the scales, showing that every soul would have their earthly deeds weighed.
I couldn't help but marvel and wonder at the time, effort and dedication it would have taken to create such displays. There are many theories as to why such displays were created. The most prominent theory is that a friar seeking asylum at the church during the French Revolution created the displays from the bones of friars exhumed from burial sites. But no one really knows why he did it. Was it a show a veneration? A display of artistic talent? Or a play on our mortality?
Whatever the reason, the crypt is interesting, intense, eye-catching, and, best of all, motivating as you come face to face with mortality and the vivid reminder that life is temporary. Overall, I would describe it as a positively chilling experience.
When Elliott and I stepped back outside we looked up and saw the words ‘time, time, time’ written in different tenses across the side of the building next to the church, and it reminded us of the hourglass with the wings. Here was another message that reminded us to be mindful of our mortality and to enjoy the life we lead, because, as it said in the crypt:
What you are now, we used to be. What we are now, you will be.
Glendalough is known as 'the valley of the two lakes' in Wicklow Mountains National Park. It is also where you'll find the ancient monastic settlement of St. Kevin.
Glendalough was beautiful and was one of the places that every Irish person assured us we had to visit and would most enjoy. Walking through, it reminded me a lot of the trails and foliage here in Victoria, BC. I found the lakes and rivers in Ireland to be especially sacred. They had an energy and peace about them that was undeniable. The rivers are named after Goddesses, each with their own mythical story, and you can certainly feel their beauty and power. Elliott and I threw a few coins in a couple of the rivers, as an offering with blessings and gratitude for the Goddess, Elementals, and Pagan Ancestors. I came up with our own little ritual of each kissing our coins before clinking them together and then throwing them in, and sealing it with a kiss between Elliott and I. Then we would pause and take a moment to just be present. It just so happened that we always ended up feeling guided to do this while standing on a small bridge over a river. Elementals love intersections and in between points such as bridges, mounds, and where water meets land or elements crisscross, so I suppose it's not that surprising.
Walking through Glendalough I felt I was deep in fairy land. The presence of the Elementals was strong and there were numerous rock and tree spirits eager to say hello. There was a substantial elemental energy that hung in the air just like the mist. I channelled this message while we were in the forest:
A leaf will wave at you in the wind, will you say hello? If not, it may be time for you to slow. Follow us through the forest, we promise to light the way. Give into our magic as you surrender the day. Leave all your troubles behind you for the forest knows no pain. It holds all the wisdom that from experience you're bound to gain. If ye' don't believe in us, might we say it's your loss. For a little bit of magic, you'll be surely cost.
As we walked back to the entrance I noticed a labyrinth and, having a love for walking labyrinths, I decided to walk it and channel another small message:
What is fear but an ugly word? If it needn't be spoken, it needn't be heard. Faith is what matters, with it, you'll fly high! When did you stop believing you could touch the sky? Be not afraid of abundance and what ye' can create. You need only pass through the veil, the eternal granting gate.
Visiting the monastic settlement of St. Kevin was an enjoyable experience and I didn't ask to receive a message there but one came through to me as I was leaving:
Life is for the living, dance through the sad and you needn't search for happy.
It was an interesting message given that we'd just walked through all the gravestones. I love this message as I believe that the more you try to attain happiness the further you'll get from it. As the monks shared in their message, happiness is being present to and appreciating the rightness of all aspects of life. To dance through the sad is to find the light in the dark, and then happiness is no longer a feeling merely being chased after but a natural joy inherent in the opportunity presented to feel, experience, learn and grow.
I live for folklore, fables, myths and legend. I am a believer that every fable comes from a seed of truth. And, as in my series, I love moralistic lessons wrapped up and delivered in colorful, entertaining and fun ways! That is why kissing the Blarney Stone was one of the many pagan rituals on my bucket list.
The official Blarney Castle website explains that a witch saved from drowning revealed the stone’s magical powers to the MacCarthys. After kissing the stone, Lord MacCarthy received the gift of gab and was able to keep his land, and his head, by impressing Queen Elizabeth I of England with his eloquent speech.
Upon hearing you’ve kissed the Blarney Stone, everyone seems to have the same question – Do they wash it? Well, as I was first standing in line on the ground I saw water fall, and I saw the man who holds you as you kiss the stone, had splashed it with some water from a small water bottle and gave it a quick rub with a cloth, but that was only once, and hundreds of people kiss it every day! I consider myself a bit of a germaphobe when travelling, I’ll use antibacterial wipes on my plane seats, I’m all about the hand sanitizer, daily Emergen-C, anything to avoid getting ill while on holiday, but I never once gave thought to germs on the Blarney Stone. Besides, if inheriting the gift of gab is a real thing then surely it would be worth a temporary little bug. So no, they don’t wash the stone repeatedly.
What I didn’t expect was how nerve wracking the process of kissing the stone would be. You make your way up the very narrow stairwell and small steps of the castle’s tower with a rope to hold onto once in awhile. In order to kiss the Blarney Stone you have to lie on your back, grip the cold metal bars. wiggle backward toward the wall of the castle, and lean down with your head dipped over the grate, dangling 37 feet above the ground in order to reach it. There is a man there to hold you but it still made my heart leap a little. It pays to be a bit taller as the shorter you are the farther back you have to lean. I remember thinking, how am I not reaching it yet?! And then pushing through the nerves to lean even further back. But the feel of my lips finally meeting the cold dark sacred limestone was so worth it!
It was certainly a more commercial experience, with nearly a two-hour wait in line, but kissing the Blarney Stone was still one of my favorite experiences during my visit to Ireland. Although I did wake up from a night terror about a witch later that night. Go figure!
Here's the message I chanelled from the elementals:
We like to rhyme, it never gets old, kiss the stone and the gift of gab you’ll hold. The power of persuasion through the beauty of words, smooch it just once and you’ll be well heard. Language is an art not to be taken for granted, eloquent speech is for the enchanted.