Capturing An Ghealach

One of the most powerful gifts that An Ghealach gives to Ireland is that it allows us to see the land that we love so much in a literal new light. As the Emerald Isle we are so defined by our lush green landscapes – which I am of course always enamoured by – but sometimes it’s refreshing to be reminded that there’s a different side to Ireland, one that is just waiting for the moonlight to bring it to life.

An Ireland basking in the light of an ghealach is the Ireland of folklore, myths and legends; where faeries could be twirling through the dewy grasses, spirits could be ascending through our skies and magic is dancing just beyond our fingertips.

It’s just so wonderful to see the different sights of Ireland under the moon’s perspective. As well as appreciating the view directly in front of you it makes you think of the planets and galaxies beyond our own – an experience that is simultaneously humbling and empowering.

Below are some examples of Ireland as it appears by the light of the moon, each with its own individual charm, as they piece together part of the awe-inspiring puzzle that is an ghealach.

Gliding Swans

Don’t you just love catching a daytime view of the moon out of the blue (literally)? The reason for this photogenic phenomenon is that our silvery satellite is in just the right place in to reflect enough light from the sun and appear brighter than the sky around it.

Despite the science, the result always fills me with a sense of whimsy – as though something magical is about to happen. The swans in the forefront of this beautiful image taken by @OnYourDoorSteph in Fermanagh enhance the moons mystic qualities – calling to mind the beautiful story of the Children of Lir, and nodding to An Ghealach’s place in the imagery of Irish Folklore.

 

 

Fota Castle

On the trail of fairy tales and folklore, @KillianJacksonPhotograpy’s image of the moonbeams shining down over the walls of Fota Tower could have been plucked straight from an Irish story book.

The limestone folly has fallen into disrepair over the years, and in the stark light of day its crumbling bricks and ivy-covered façade are clear to the naked eye. However, the light of an ghealach seems to breathe a new life into this little castle – giving it a new sparklingly romantic identity, that could hold secrets of mischievous faeries, brave kings, and cunning witches.

The edifice is built on private property, so you can’t discover the wonders of Fota tower in person – but photos like this can really give your imagination a head start!

 

Through the Ancient Arch

Sometimes, at that point where the night meets the day, the sun and the moon work together to produce such vivid beauty that it easy to imagine the celestial powers that our ancestors attributed to these spheres in the sky.

This photograph taken by @jamesatruett at County Clare’s Clondegad Graveyard depicts a wonderful medley of light and dark, as the moon begins its descent in the west – paving the way for the sun to warm the land beneath it in preparation for a new day. It’s like nature’s changing of guard, and its just a magicial moment to behold – both in person and by photograph.

 

 

Cliffs of Moher

One of my favourite things about the moon, is how a sight that you know so well can look entirely different by its light. Whether that be a crumbling tower that regains its sense of grandeur, or even an innocuous woodland path that takes on an eerie atmosphere.

The Cliffs of Moher are perhaps one of Ireland’s most photographed spots, and the contrast of the rolling green hills, steep dark walls, blue skies above, and crashing waves below makes for a dramatic photo opportunity. However, this photo from Damien Stenson shows an altogether softer side to this Celtic landmark – as the famous cliffs stretch out to meet the setting moon on the horizon.

It is actually the moon’s retiral that paves the way for the wonderful lights and colours of the milky way to dance across our skies, as normally the background of our night’s sky is dimmed by an ghealach’s bright beams.

 

 

The not-so-Dark Hedges

Speaking of different perspectives… many of you will know the Dark Hedges of Co. Antrim as an atmospheric feature of the journey through King’s Road on HBO’s Game of Thrones.

In the series it always looks shadowy and foreboding, but this snap from @guess_90 lends an almost celestial appearance to the avenue of arched beech trees, as the moonlight peers through the twisted branches to light the path below. Although you can’t see the moon itself, you can experience the power it has to change the world around us – bringing light to the darkest of corners, like a beacon of hope in the night sky.

 

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The Supermoon

On those occasions that we do gaze at an ghealach straight on, she takes many different forms – each as captivating as the one before. Whether this is a silvery sliver of a crescent moon hanging in an inky black expanse, or a full gleaming orb – silhouetting the trees and spires that stand before her.

However, on average of four times a year, we are treated to an extra special lunar manifestation known as the supermoon. This occurs when the moon reaches the point in its orbit that it is closest to earth (the perigee), while in its fullest form – and the results are just breath-taking.

An Ghealach appears 15 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than normal – creating a stunning backdrop for night-time photography, such as this eerily beautiful shot of Dublin’s Balbriggan Harbour taken by @tomhonanphotography.

 

 

The Blood Supermoon

You will immediately notice the reddish tint that has befallen the moon in this next picture. It looks a bit like the additional marvel known as the blood supermoon, which is an even rarer occurrence. This happens when the timing of a supermoon coincides with a lunar eclipse, when the moon sits directly in the earth’s shadow, and the sun’s light that hits it is filtered through the earth’s atmosphere – creating an incredible “sunset” effect.

The last blood supermoon to be visible in Ireland however was January of 2019, and the next is likely not to occur until 2032. It is likely that the warm glow captured by @DavidBehan rising over Ireland’s Eye is a combination of viewing factors – such as vantage point, dust and light pollution.

 

 

Ireland’s Peak

This super moon phenomenon makes us feel so close to An Ghealach, that it sometimes seems as though it is suspended in the night sky just beyond our reach – and if we were only to hold the right vantage point, we could reach out our fingertips and…

Of course, the moon is hundreds of thousands of miles away from the earth, and not even @Ihaveadarksoul who climbed Ireland’s highest mountain (Carrauntoohil) could get much closer to it. However, what he has captured with his stunning photograph, is a sense of dreamy isolation; as the moon is shining just for him and, although they are unfathomably far apart, there is a spiritual closeness here that just takes your breath away.

 

 

Do you have a favourite aspect of an ghealach from the photos above? Or perhaps you have a photo or a memory of your own unforgettable lunar encounter? Let me know in the comments below, or head to our Facebook community to join the Irish at Heart conversation.

 

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