“A Game of Light and Shadows
Doorways, Rooftops, Streetlamps, Chimneys, Darkness, Glow
The river mist rises, and stalks the streets, a ghostly cat
Bells toll muffled metal ringing in the dusk
Distant voices linger
Strange echoes shiver
A strange place starts
To feel familiar
I am unfamiliar
But something here knows me
Though I’m a stranger
And maybe always has
(I have begun to tend the graves)”Mark Fitzpatrick
Malachas Ivernus or Mark Fitzpatrick is the Editor-in-Chief of The Hollow Behind the Hearthstone. He has been many things, had many incarnations: a spoiled priest, a disgraced academic, a poète maudit… He studied Theology and Philology, Philosophy and Metaphysics. His thesis was blacklisted by the Vatican, and published by a radical small press of decadents and apostates. He has taught in hedge-schools and parish halls, and published anonymous tracts and broadsides, as well as scholarly articles and several books on the Hermetic Arts and the History of Religion. He is a member of the Rosicrucian Order and the Collège Invisible, and was Arch-Druid of Comhaltas na bhFia Bairr for a number of years. Currently, he is a professor emeritus at the Université de Paris-Nouvelle Athènes, and he leads a research group in Esoteric Historiography.
What is your background?
I was born in Australia, to emigrant Irish parents, but grew up mainly in Ireland, with long spells also in England, France, and the United States. My father is a mathematician, and my mother a psychotherapist, and they used to take us on sabbaticals to pursue their work in other places. I have family all over Europe, Australia, and North America.
What were your favorite stories growing up that shaped your love for Celtic mythology and folklore?
I was a huge fan of Jim Fitzpatrick’s illustrated version of The Book of Conquests, which really fired my imagination as a child. I was also passionately devoted to ghost and fairy stories of all kinds, and was lucky enough, in school, to study some Irish tales in Irish, such as Toraiocht Diarmuida agus Grainne, and to learn about the history and the mythology in our own language, from a native speaker.
What is your favorite mythological tale or character and why?
I have had many. But I think that in the last few years, as my Druidic practice and poetic practice have really taken root, I have developed an undying regard for Amergin, and his “Song”, the Invocation of the World that he speaks as he sets foot on Ireland, his Claim of identity and possession. I’ve been lucky enough to discuss that foundational poem with one of the modern translators of it, Paddy Bushe, who has also been running the Amergin Festival the last few years, and lives in the very landscape where that first landfall was to have taken place.
Which concepts or lessons do you find most inspiring that are found in myths?
Who we are, what we believe, what we hold dear, and how best to live.
Where have you found the most inspiration on the living landscape?
West Kerry, the landing-place of Amergin and Milesians! My parents have a holiday home there.
But where I live now, in Aquitaine, is perhaps where I have worked most closely with the land.
It’s an ancient place, where the human and the natural landscape have been closely intertwined for thousands of years. I feel a deep sense of Right Relation here, among the vineyards, in the River Valley of the Dordogne.
What is your favorite ancient Neolithic site(s) and why?
There are several, but I have a great fondness for the “Witch’s Kitchen” in the grounds of Blarney Castle. It’s not really discussed as a Neolithic site, and indeed is probably a mix of Neolithic standing stones with later additions, including the “Wishing Stairs” that you have to walk down backwards, which are probably medieval, but lead to a genuine Dolmen. It was one of the enchanted landscapes of my childhood.
However, these days, my favourite is one that feels almost to be my own : the Menhir in the forest glade right near where I’m currently living. A simple standing stone, moss-covered, riddled with sacred holes on one side, it has no doubt been there since time immemorial. There is a path nearby, which someone regularly clears, and though I’ve never met anyone there, I’ve sometimes seen evidence that I’m not the only one who visits it in a ritual manner : sometimes, as the time of Harvest comes around, one might see two bunches of grapes, one pale, one dark, carefully placed on the trunk of the fallen tree before it. These offerings, of thanks for the fruits of the vineyards all around, may well have been made for thousands of years. A small thing. But one which opens onto a dizzying perspective of Time, when contemplated.
Is there a personal experience with the sidhe or Gods or Goddesses you’d like to share?
Perhaps the one that comes first to mind is that initiatory experience I had, about fifteen years ago: I had begun to feel the pull towards devotional relationship with some of the Gaelic Gods, and in particular towards Manannan Mac Lir. And what began as a day trip to Sceilig Mhichil, the famous island fastness which once was home to a tiny community of Early Christian monks, off the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula, ended up being a trial, almost an ordeal. On the boat on the way out, I stayed at the back, sitting on the wooden bench, arms stretched out and holding onto the rail behind me, exposed to the swell and the spray of a rough sea. As others gradually took refuge in the sheltered front part of the boat, I stayed there, and began singing sea songs in Irish to myself, and dedicating that passage to Manannan. I ended up soaked and salt-stained, exhilarated, breathless, feeling like I’d undergone a baptism. The island sanctuary was magnificent, as ever, and I meditated there on Manannan, Seafarer, Mistwalker, Foster-Father. On the way back, the sun shone golden on the spray of the sea foam waves that bore us home, his chariot’s team, Caiple Manannain.
Was there a person, moment or experience that really exceptionally shaped you for the better?
Difficult question! Many things have shaped me. But have they made me exceptionally *better*? I don’t know. I know that my parents’ influence on my life has been an extremely good one. They’re good people, and have taught me to try to be as well. I think perhaps my years as a teacher have had the greatest good influence on me, teaching me care, compassion, patience, understanding, and also, very importantly, that the most important things we do in life are those that touch the lives of others ; that is true success, beyond any kind of material wealth or fame.
What overall message do you hope to share the most through your writing?
Re-enchant, re-wild, resist, remember …
What is one thing you think people would find surprising about you?
Most things! I’m full of surprises.
What makes you angry or sad that’s happening in the world?
What makes you happy and hopeful that’s happening in the world?