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A Note from Lora - Update for 2023

behind the scenes county waterford personal Apr 02, 2023
Lora's Notes

A chairde,

I'm penning a somewhat personal update today, as I am ostensibly resting after submitting the first draft of my MA thesis last week and waiting for feedback so I can edit, finalise, and be done with this piece of work. 

On the practical side of things, I am completing two years of college, studying for a Master of the Arts post graduate degree in Irish Regional History (SETU, 2023), which all signs would indicate I am on track to achieving. Easy to type, but definitely not easy to do. 

I started this programme for purely personal reasons. I've been an independent scholar for many years, working in the Irish heritage field professionally with both tour guiding and heritage site management. I have authored seven books (both traditionally and indie published), and edited or featured in many more. I very much believe that path is valid, and in no way negated or lessened by my current pursuit of a more formal academic qualification. 

But I wanted a challenge.

The image above is an excerpt from my college journal, written during one of the (many) times I had to sit down and have a talk with myself about whether or not I really wanted, or needed, to keep going when this path got really, really difficult to keep walking. Because, a chara, that happened a lot.

This has been one of the most singularly challenging things I've had to do, perhaps ever. Mostly because it was just for me. Nobody's survival was dependent on my getting an MA, nobody was counting on me to complete this. My quality of life, or my family's, was not reliant on this being achieved. 

Quite the opposite, in fact.

I've had to be selfish. I've had to step away from community commitments, from family responsibilities, from relationship investments, to get this done. I've had to prioritise myself, and what I want. So, questions such as DO I want this, and WHY do I want this, have been important. 

Here is the full page from that journal, including my affirmations...

Why am I sharing all of this? I'm not sure, to be honest. I guess...

Because I woke up with a busy brain of a Sunday morning and decided to write something that wasn't research based, or in formal academic language. Look at me using personal pronouns!

Because I made a commitment to weekly content at the Ogham Academy and I haven't written anything here in at least a month, or emailed anything to the folk who signed up to get updates. 

And because - the same as every time I share personal stuff with community - it might be of use, or of comfort, to somebody else out there. 


The Work I've Been Doing

My thesis is titled - From Stones to Poems: the role of Ogham in Irish identity in the Leinster region during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

It has included a comprehensive review of the mentions of Ogham in the national press of that region, during the periods of Gaelic revival, revolution, formation of the Irish Free State, and an examination of how the Ogham has been remembered through the Folklore of the Schools' Collection subsequent to those tumultuous times. 

I started with a notion that the Ogham has been somewhat integral through all of this, a subtle foundation on which some of the aspects of Irish identity have been built, but as no research was available to prove (or disprove) this, it was difficult to state for certain. Now though, I am satisfied with the results. 

When I receive supervisor feedback next week (hopefully), I'll be able to do the rest of the work to get this 25,000 word (+/- 10%) document finally finished and submitted digitally, then hard bound and immortalised in Carlow College for posterity. 

By the end of April (actually, the day before my birthday is the final deadline), I will be free to take my life back. After a bit of a rest. Probably.

At the Irish Pagan School, we do have a big annual programme (the Morrigan Intensive) launching through May, so there is much work to be done for that which I am personally and spiritually responsible for. 

(If you're interested, please join the IPS community mailing list here to get details as they happen!)


What's Next for the Ogham Academy?

Naively, I believed that I would be able to use my research as I was doing it, as content for this blog. Besides the risk of plagiarising myself prior to grading, this was untenable due to energy and motivation levels hitting rock bottom. Oh, so many times. 

In a couple of months though, I will be free to do just that. It's pretty fascinating (if you're into this sort of thing) so do stick around for all that.

Based on community feedback from last year, I've also designed a course schedule for the Ogham Academy. In June, I'll begin working on this in earnest. The rough course plan so far looks like this:

  • Getting Started with the Ogham
  • History of Ogham
  • Understanding Ogham
  • Practical Use of Ogham
  • Building Relationship with Ogham

They're being built on an ordered plan that way to give students an easy path to follow through the material, a self contained curriculum to form the basis for everything we do here. But I'm sure there will be other bits and pieces too, as we go. 

So, that's where we've been, that's where we're at, and that's where we're going.

I hope you stay with me for the journey ahead!


Le meas mór

Lora O'Brien.

OGHAM - Quick & Easy Reference Guide

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In this Guide you will find a brief history of the Ogham, and the Ogham letters laid out across two A4 sheets, for easy printing and quick reference or reminders as you learn.
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