October 23rd 2015
In my research for book three of my Veil Of Time series, I have been looking into the island of Iona. Iona is much closer to where I grew up in Argyll than the Isle of St. Kilda I was talking about last week. In fact, I have been to Iona several times. Not only is it a beautiful little island built on some of oldest rock on the planet, but it has a very long history and, with its impressive monastery, might even be considered to be a sort of centre of Christianity. For it was from here that St. Columba, who had come over from Ireland, built the first monastery and started sending out monks to convert the heathen land of Scotland and beyond.
Apparently, he even converted the heathen Loch Ness monster. (No wonder the poor animal has been in hiding ever since!)
But if you scratch a little beneath the surface, a different island of Iona emerges. This is one that goes back to the original meaning of the name Iona, Ioua, which means Yew tree. Now the yew tree was a significant symbol of pre-Christian religion, namely Celtic paganism. Yew groves were highly sacred, because the yew tree can last for thousands of years and must have seemed to possess a certain eternal quality. Many grave yards in Scotland today are still surrounded by the ancient yew trees that marked these spots in the long centuries before the church staked a claim on them.
Iona was in fact a sacred site to the pagans long before it came under the aegis of the Roman church. In fact, another name it went by is Innis nam Druidneach, Island of the Druids. It was here that kings and queens and notable people of Scotland were buried facing the setting sun which for the Pagans symbolised death and resurrection. Another such island was the Holy Isle off Anglesey in Wales, to which the Romans chased the druids and druidesses of early Briton and slaughtered them to a man/woman.
There are no yew trees on Iona now. There are no Pagans either. Christianity, at least Roman Christianity has had an irrational fear of the pagan from the start, and has done enormous damage to the human psyche in the process.
Some New-Age pagans believe that Iona is a geomantic power site - a vortex. I don't know about that. All I know is that Iona is a powerful place in my imagination and a vortex around which, one way or another, my story called Dark Matter is going to revolve.