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In Search of Ancient Ireland
Cartographer's Journey
Fortress Ireland
Culture and Commerce
About the Film
Lesson Plans

Companion Book & VHS

The companion book to IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT IRELAND, co-authored by Carmel McCaffrey and Leo Eaton, will be available in September 2002 from publisher Ivan R. Dee.

The VHS of the 3-part series is now available through ShopPBS.
About The Film: Production Diaries
Memories of production

In this section:
About the Episodes
Production Diaries
Filmmaker Q & A
Broadcast Schedule
Web and TV Credits
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Any lengthy filming period has periods of excitement, frustration, and moments of pure magic, when everything goes right and the scenes playing out in front of the camera make all the bad things worthwhile. One such time was in Armagh, in Northern Ireland. It was nearly midnight on Easter Saturday and we were filming a Candle Vigil at the Catholic Cathedral. It was very dark, the lights of church and town extinguished as the archbishop lit a single candle from a fire burning in front of the cathedral door. The congregation pressed closer, holding unlit candles to the single flame until gradually a river of fire spread out to fill the great building with light. And in the stillness, the archbishop chanted the ancient Latin words "Lumen Christi" (the light of Christ). In that moment, I pictured a much earlier time when Ireland was pagan and early missionaries like Patrick co-opted ancient pagan fire rituals to spread a new Christian faith.

Man playing horn Ceremony and ritual is so much a part of ancient Ireland. In a recreated Bronze Age lake dwelling in County Limerick, we spent the night with a group of musicians who are famous across Ireland for playing exact reproductions of 3,000-year-old horns that have been discovered buried in Ireland's peat bogs. Fire blazed up outside the huts, casting dancing shadows, and the music of Bronze Age horns boomed backwards and forwards between the wattle walls of the huts and the palisade fence. It was an alien, melancholy sound; a low drone, more like a didgeridoo than any modern instrument. Outside the circle of firelight, the darkness was absolute. It made me realize how differently our ancient ancestors viewed the world around them. Gods and monsters lived out beyond the palisade fence. The forest was dark and dangerous, full of wolves and bears and other less earthly beings. Magic was real and curses could work -- and kill. The music we heard that night would have been part of a priestly ritual to keep the two worlds -- of humanity and the gods -- in balance. The Otherworld was very close, and it required constant work to ensure that the forces of nature didn't harm the human world. Today, we can scoff at such superstition, but perhaps we've become too separated from these ancient fears. Sometimes, on a film location, one's privileged to catch just a glimpse of how things used to be.

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