All that Lies Between: From the Centre to the Margins (and back again)

“…all that lies between the lamp-post and the great castle of Cair Paravel…”

The shrine at Healy Pass, Co. Cork, Ireland (which overlooks quite a view...) Photo by Meredith Desmond

The shrine at Healy Pass, Co. Cork, Ireland (which overlooks quite a view…) Photo by Meredith Desmond

The Healy Pass, built to transport food across the  mountains between Cork and Kerry during the famine. Photo by Dulaman.

The Healy Pass, built to transport food (and coffins) across the mountains between Cork and Kerry during the famine. Photo by Dulaman.

There are the people who seek the centre.

And then there those who are happiest on the margins, out in the wild.

In my re-exploration of Christianity, I’m making an on-again off-again attempt to understand the Christian story from a new viewpoint, from the light of the wild places on the edge. There are many problems I’m having with this, as a polytheistic Pagan. In Christian theology, the Christian God is shown as owning all things and drawing all things to himself. There’s really no other way to see him, except at the Centre.

There are echoes of the margins in the Christian story/ies too. But I’m still thinking that a lot of these are found in the lived-out stories of those who sought the wild Christ, more than in the story of God himself.

Statue of St Brendan the Navigator, Bantry Bay, Co. Cork

Statue of St Brendan the Navigator, Bantry Bay, Co. Cork

St Brendan leaves Ireland in a little boat, and the myth echoes back after him: he reached America, pushed onwards by faith, courage and the other members of his small community who came with him. Is this a tale based on the older Irish myths of imramma, or was a real Brendan inspired by those stories to go out to sea? Does it matter? He is a patron of the margins. This is a man who, if he didn’t personally know my wild goddess, was driven forward from the edge of her land by her wild spirit. For the love of his own wild God.

Jonathan Woolley has been talking on Gods and Radicals about reclaiming the story of Narnia, from the edges and the margins, from the ordinary world, not the great hierarchy of Lewis’s obsession. Like him, I’m not looking for some great castle of Cair Paravel – the institutions and the ordered religion and the power of the state. I seek the magic on the margins, out in the wild woods. Trees my only companions, a dim lamp-post my only light. Out where my wild goddess brings snow and storms across the mountains. I can keep trying to house myself in a church, but I find myself called out to the shore again soon enough. I can keep trying to live in a castle, but I’m always drawn back into the woods. Is there a wild Christ here too? I’m not sure yet. But if I ever find him, it will be out here, where I live.

Mist that hangs like silk
Soaking in the rain
Trees that rise like ghosts
Bearing people’s names
And a sea that takes me
Where I do not know
But I gladly go

Shrouded in the sweetest grass
I’ve ever known
This my earthly bed
My beloved home
But the voice that calls me
To the far away
I can only trust every word you say

And here I am
Out on the edge of the world
With You, With You

– Iona, ‘Edge of the World’, song based on the story of St Brendan’s voyage


About Léithin Cluan

Léithin Cluan is a modern druid and Gaelic polytheist, disability rights activist, sociologist and curator of the stories of the unheard. She's an active member of the Druid Network. She is researching for a PhD in sociology of religion, currently writing her thesis on disability and religion. She lives in London, UK, where she does her urban druidry thing, with her spouse (thanks for 'almost equal' marriage, UK government...) and too many cats. Find her at . View all posts by Léithin Cluan

5 responses to “All that Lies Between: From the Centre to the Margins (and back again)

  • Roz Woodward

    This is why it’s the Christian hermits and recluses that call to me the most. Perhaps looking in that direction might reveal something that interests you. I, too, am one drawn to the liminal. I look forward to reading about your search for the wild Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Ariel

    You ask if there’s a wild Christ. One of the things that strikes me about the Gospels is that Jesus seems to me to be very much an outdoors type. He often seems to be out – by the lakes, on the mountains, in the desert, spending the entire night in the Garden of Gethsemane (who knows whether that was the first time), and so yes, wild and deserted places should be places where you may encounter him.

    Liked by 1 person

  • lornasmithers

    As above, I agree the notion of a wild Christ is fascinating. From what I know of him he does seem to be have been a hermit and rule-breaker and madman and liminal figure and really to have stood for everything the Church does not. So odd how Christianity grew out of his stories…

    Liked by 1 person

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