Summer Solstice - Shamanic States/Sacred Sites

Martin Duffy, director of the Oaktree Charitable Trust, talks about the Summer Solstice celebrations planned for Dunderry Park in June, and the importance of building communities.

‘For me the solstice is about community celebration’ says Martin, ‘with many people I talk to, I find there is a sense that the space we traditionally held for community celebration is dissipating. There is a move away from organised religion, and while that can be very empowering for people, it can also mean moving away from some practical elements – one of which is gathering together in a community’.

Since Dunderry Park opened as a holistic centre over 15 years ago, the idea of reconnecting to a community has been a key feature. ‘It has been about community from the beginning’ says Martin, ‘my professional background in psychiatric nursing led me to become interested in other ways of thinking and talking about mental health and well-being. I saw that many indigenous cultures across the world had methods of understanding ourselves and our conscious and unconscious worlds that not only seemed to me to be more beneficial, but to make more sense than the way that we, as a society, were approaching things. Key to this approach is the idea that we actively engage in our community, and that we actively engage in the natural world. So from the outset, Dunderry Park was envisioned to be a place where we could facilitate this’.

The Summer Solstice, which is the longest day and shortest night of the year, has been celebrated across Europe for thousands of years, both as a pagan and Christianized festival. Celebrations took the form of community gatherings and bonfires. ‘These are important turning points in the year’ says Martin, ‘because they are opportunities for us to take stock of what is going on with us on both a personal and a collective level. For the past decade, we have celebrated the solstice at Dunderry Park by coming together over a weekend to connect with other people, connect with nature, and to connect with ourselves through ritual and meditation. It is an experiential weekend workshop, so we will have Shamanic Journeying, which is a guided drumming meditation. We will also have more ecstatic forms of meditation using breathwork and trance dancing’.

The Summer Solstice workshop also involves visiting several ancient sites in Meath. ‘Reconnecting with nature is a key part of this experience’ explains Martin, ‘and while we dedicate time to explore the 25 acres of woodland and lake that we have at Dunderry Park, we will also venture out to connect with local sites that had cultural significance for our ancestors like the Hill of Tara and Sliabh na Cailleach (The Hill of the Hag). We will end the weekend with a bonfire and firewalking ceremony at Dunderry Park.

People come from all around the world to the workshop, so the weekend will be a great opportunity for like-minded and like-hearted people to come together and get to know each other. The Solstice has always been celebrated as a point of transformation, and my hope is that people will leave feeling more empowered and connected to themselves, the community, and to the natural world’.

Martin is the director of the Oaktree Charitable Trust, a nonprofit organization that runs the Irish Centre for Shamanic Studies and The Transpersonal Institute at Dunderry Park. The Centre is dedicated to promoting and preserving shamanic traditions from around the world, particularly those of the pre-Celtic and Celtic era. Martin has worked as a mental health care professional since 1977. He is an accredited transpersonal /Jungian psychotherapist.

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