An Charraig It is the name of a thatched house on the northern slope of Inis Mor. It is also the name of our project, a spiritual center in the celtic tradition. Part of our vision is developing right relationship with the nature and with the others. On the property there are two households: An Charraig and Abbalon. In the first live four EVS volunteers, few WWOOFers and the guests of ours. The second is the home of Tess, Dara and their family.
An Charraig is an Aistir. The word Aistir (pronounced 'ashter') is suggestive of 'journey'. Journey in Gaelic is 'aistear'. The word has its roots in 'aisling' meaning 'vision' or 'dream', and 'mainistir' meaning 'monastery'. It also has suggestions of 'ashram'. All of these connotations point to what an Aistir really is. It is a coined word, not to be found in the dictionary.
An Charraig is owned and directed by Tess Harper and Dara Molloy. Its structure has evolved over a period of twenty years or so, since the time in 1985 when Dara first and then Tess came to live on Inis Mor. Both of them were following a dream, to live a consciously spiritual life, close to nature and rooted in their own cultural and spiritual tradition. The Celtic monasteries of Aran became a deep source of inspiration for them, and they began to live a life modelled on many of the insights of that time.
The key elements of life in the Aistir An Charraig are the following:
- A structure that is non-institutional and of a limited size An Charraig has resisted the temptation of becoming a large institution. If other Aistirs were to be founded, we would encourage them to be independent of An Charraig, and of each other.
- Self-building most of the people of the world, until modern times, have built their own homes. All of the buildings at An Charraig have been built by the family and volunteers. The buildings respect the traditional methods and materials used in building on the island and we have developed these traditions.
- Self-sufficiency in food at An Charraig a number of gardens are dedicated to organic vegetable growing. An Charraig also has a plastic tunnel, chickens, ducks and geese, and bees. All bread is home-made. Fishing is done off the rocks, there is a small boat too. Small amounts of meat are also eaten, although the house is mostly vegetarian. A number of methods of food-preservation are used to maintain a supply of food throughout the winter.
- The conscious practice of hospitality An Charraig offers hospitality to a wide variety of people who, for one reason or another, seek to make a connection here. Tess and Dara are also responsible for Killeany Lodge Pilgrim Hostel, situated on another part of the island, which can hold up to 26 guests and is available for group programmes, workshops and retreats.
- Prayer, worship, ritual and ceremonies integral to the lifestyle regular worship is held every Sunday at 12 noon, open to the public. Other periods of coming together for ritual or ceremony are more spontaneous and centre around the Celtic Festivals, Solstices, Equinoxes and full moons. A prayer hut provides a space for those who need it for private time.
- A centre for creativity, learning and personal development many people come to An Charraig with a clear intention to learn particular subjects, or to experience a different way of life. Living at An Charraig is a transformative experience for many people. The volunteer programme, which takes volunteers through EVS (European Voluntary Service) and through WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms), is a structured way through which people can learn and develop. An Charraig also accommodates students following their own course of studies. The four children of Tess and Dara learn and develop in this environment and do not attend school.
- A force for positive transformation in the local community residents at An Charraig have contributed in many ways towards the quality of life in the local community. A significant number of former An Charraig residents have settled on the island, some of them rearing a family, all of them offering their gifts to the local community. An Charraig has been very active in promoting a preservation and celebration of Aran's spiritual and cultural heritage - Celtic spirituality, the Irish language, traditional crafts, Irish music, singing and dancing. Dara has been active in the Comharchumann, a community co-operative, and through it has promoted many projects such as organic growing, a waste recycling plant, and an old people's home.
- A force for positive transformation nationally and globally An Charraig has a number of structures through which it engages with the world in dialogue, and presents to the public its viewpoint and ideas. These structures include: its facilities for hospitality, its publication of The AISLING Magazine, its other publications, its website, and Dara's work with pilgrimages, tour groups, ceremonies and through the media, lectures and talks. Residents at An Charraig also engage politically in many campaigns. Dara has been chairperson of Kairos Europa, a European network of base communities, activists and intellectuals.