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My second paper at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2014 is part of the ‘Postgraduate Snapshots: Engagements in Social and Cultural Geography‘ session, which explores the different ways in which postgraduates are (co) producing social and cultural geographies through their research, collaborations, methods and encounters. Each participant presents a ‘snapshot’ (an image, object, media clip etc) of their research in a creative and interactive way.
Prayers, Waves, Reverberations: An audio engagement with phenomenal pilgrimage
Using an audio clip of pilgrims praying in St Patrick’s Basilica on Lough Derg in northwest Ireland, I consider how the aural and acoustic induces, enhances and disorientates the phenomenal and spiritual experience of being a pilgrim. My research, informed by the mobilities field and nonrepresentational approaches, explores pilgrimage practices in contemporary Ireland. An audio recording taken during the Night Vigil on Lough Derg, where pilgrims stay awake for 24hrs fasting and praying barefoot on a lake island, captures a portion of the atmospheric and sensuous as they unfold. Drawing on my ethnographic fieldwork, I present the sounds and audio waves, which reverberate with meaning and experience, as being simultaneously created and received, embodied and asomatous, ethereal and material. Speculation on conceptual and practical approaches to and challenges for the use of audio are also offered.
My presentation centres on a continual playing of the audio clip, to generate suitable atmospherics, as I verbally offer context, comment and speculation. In foreground the use of audio, I shall build on the increasing role for audio, sound and the sonic in social and cultural geography.
My first paper at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2014 is within the session Sacred Space, Pilgrimage, and Tourism which looks at sacred space through the areas of the sacred, such as pilgrimage/theology/spirituality/belief systems, and the more secular, incuding tourism/leisure/promotion/visitor behaviour. My contribution is on Croagh Patrick.‘Ireland’s Holy Mountain’: symbiosis, co-existence and tensions on Croagh PatrickIn this paper, I examine Croagh Patrick, Ireland as a space that is simultaneously sacred and secular, political and recreational and of the past and present. This mountain in County Mayo, which has been the location of religious-spiritual activity for millennia, serves as one of the most prominent pilgrimages in Ireland, as well as being a venue for hill-walkers and tourists. Recent engagements with sacred spaces, being influenced by phenomenological and non-representational approaches, have conceived of them as being performed or in continual a state of becoming. Using my fieldwork experiences on Croagh Patrick, I explore how the different practices on the mountain create it as a space of devotion, leisure, protest and charity in ways which can be complementary, synchronous and frictional. By focusing on the embodied spatial practices, consideration is given to how these interactions form and forge meanings, places and participants.
Political Geography, Geomorphology and Economic Geography walk into a bar. Each of them is boasting about how great they are and how they do more work than the others.
Political Geography explains how it deals with upheavals, coups and oppression, all the most serious and grueling of matters. Geomorphology strenuously objects! It looks at uncomprehendingly powerful forces that shape the very surface of the earth across time, that is real hard work. Economic Geography is having none of it. It insists that the volatility of the markets, and the chains of production and consumption are truly the most challenging things to study.
The barkeep looks on bemusingly, when a new geography walks in. Suddenly the three geographies, each proudly boasting its merits, go very quiet and shy away to a far corner. The other geography orders a sandwich and drink, leaving soon after finishing it. The three geographies make their way back to the bar. “Hang on now,” says the barkeep, “each of you were going on about how great and tough you are, but you were all terrified of that geography! What’s up with that?” “Don’t you know?” replied Geomorphology, “That was Psychogeography!”.
St Brigid’s Crosses are small hand-crafted crosses made from reeds or rushes (or sometimes straw) which are put up in houses on 1st February to mark the beginning of Spring. They have a distinct design with a woven square centre and four radials. Similar to many Irish religious-cultural traditions, they are a mix of Christian and Pagan, with St Brigid’s feast day coinciding with the Celtic feast of Imbolc and the design seeming to blend the Christian cross with Celtic themes. The cross is put over the door or in a place of significance in a house or farm shed. It is supposed to bring protection and is particularly associated with preventing fires.
These crosses are very simple, yet beautiful objects. They are handmade every year – part of the tradition requires that the cross is replace annually, with the old ones being burned – in a continuing tradition, the result of centuries of belief and lore. They bring together the natural world, spiritual-religious beliefs, vernacular culture and the importance of the homestead.
My own posts on St Brigid’s Well, Liscannor, Co. Clare