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St. Gobnait and the Place of Resurrection ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

Dearest monks and artists,

Our featured self-study this month has been our virtual Celtic pilgrimage honoring Saints Brigid, Ciaran, and Gobnait. The pandemic inspired many new creative offerings and the virtual pilgrimages have been a favorite. (We have a brand new Celtic pilgrimage coming in late April for Beltaine where you can join us live for 9 days). 

I only learned about St. Gobnait after moving to Ireland, but she is perhaps one of my favorite of the Irish saints. She is a fifth- and sixth-century monk who fled her home in County Clare and headed first for the island of Insheer. It is not clear why she fled, only that she was seeking refuge on the Aran Islands. There is a beautiful church ruin there on the island still dedicated to her. 

There is a deep and rich tradition among the Irish monks to seek out the place of one’s resurrection by setting sail without oar or rudder to let the currents of love carry them.

The story tells us that an angel appeared to Gobnait to instruct her to go on a journey to the place where nine white deer were grazing. Only there would she find her true place of resurrection. She wandered through Waterford, Cork, and Kerry in search. 

Finally, when she arrived to Ballyvourney, where there was a small rise overlooking the River Sullane, Gobnait saw nine white deer grazing all together just as the angel had promised, so she settled there and founded her monastic community. 

St. Gobnait is the patron saint of bees, and there are several stories that recall her forcing invaders out of Ballyvourney by setting swarms of bees upon them. She is also the patron of the sick, and it is likely that she used honey as a healing medicine, which is considered to be one of the three great Celtic healers (the other two being water and labor). 

I love this as a story of a woman who was willing to follow the invitation and recognize that what she thought was the place she was called to was in fact just a resting place along the way. In most of these stories of the saints, we have to enter in with our imagination and flesh out the human drama. Imagine being called forth to one place, settling there, and then being told in a dream to wander until the sign had been fulfilled. 

I imagine her wandering the Irish landscape, searching for the white deer, and upon seeing three, and then six, her heart swelling, but continuing on until the right moment, offering blessings along the way. She paid attention to life as it unfolded. She said yes to the invitations being offered to her. She bowed down in gratitude and blessing as her call was slowly revealed.

What are the signs and symbols calling you closer to your own heart’s true calling? 

I wrote a poem inspired by Gobnait’s journey and Simon de Voil created a beautiful song from it. You can watch the song video here and imagine yourself coming home again. 

If you want to journey with Brigid, Ciaran, and Gobnait in a virtual pilgrimage with beautiful footage from Ireland, we have a discount on the self-study version if you use the code IMBOLC20.

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Dancing Monk Icon © Abbey of the Arts and Marcy Hall

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