‘The Battle of Moytura Or The Battle for the Soul of Ireland’:- why ecoliteracy for the arts is essential now

A new work from Irish writer Fearghal Duffy who has a deep interest in Irish myth and who was ‘a student’ in Cathy Fitzgerald’s first ONLINE 6-week ‘Haumea Ecoliteracy for Creatives and Art Educators’ course. online course

This is a special post for me. I’m reflecting on the first of what I expect to be many more contributions from ecoliterate creatives I am getting to know in my online ecoliteracy course. I now have the good fortune to meet such talented creatives from all art disciplines and from across the world, in my efforts to bring ecoliteracy to the arts. Their work has nourished me in these challenging times.

I’d like to share this new work below from Irish writer Fearghal Duffy who has a deep interest in Irish myth and who was a ‘participant’ in my first 6-week ‘Haumea Ecoliteracy for Creatives and Art Educators’ pilot online course (I hesitate to call my cohort ‘students’ as they are remarkably talented).

This new work from Fearghal came about as I invited my first cohort of participants to present a small work for our last online Zoom group meeting, to reflect on the ecoliteracy course material, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Haumea Day (Haumea is the name for the Earth Goddess of the Pacific that I use for my work, and our last meeting was on this special day). I gave little direction to what people could present but I was witness to an astonishing array of thoughtful, profound and moving work for these uncertain times.

Fearghal gifted this work to us (and to share to others here). He drew on the people in our fantastically creative group–dancers, makers, a sculptor, painters, a philosopher, writers, a graphic artist, a broadcaster, artists and art teachers–many of who were Irish or who have connections to Ireland. Fearghal mixed a spell to recast us as mythic cultural warriors and presented Haumea in one of her Irish mythic guises as the Morrigán. This essay powerfully captures the spirit of what might happen if the arts were supported to rise up for Earth, for Haumea. Oh, my!

Thank you so much Fearghal for this essay, this timely provocation to the arts and those that support them. This new myth of Moytura is everything I could envision for the arts in Ireland and across the Earth, to embody and inspire ‘the wisdom, love and beauty’ we will need for a renewed and regenerating culture for the Earth’s and our wellbeing.

Because, in this frightening pandemic pause, we will need inspiring and wise creativity to pivot toward a more just, more beautiful and life-sustaining way of living as never before, for The Symbiocene era as I have written of previously. Also, and I’m delighted to share that my artist friend and tech-business mentor Mary Carty, who has long supported my Haumea work, supplied the wonderful illustrations. The references to ‘Wisdom, Love and Beauty’ are from my collaborator eco-philosopher friend, Dr Nikos Patedakis who has co-hosted my course meetings and so much more.


The Battle of Moytura

Or

The Battle for the Soul of Ireland

by Fearghal Duffy

presented to the first online Haumea Ecoliteracy group, Earth Day 22 April 2020

‘Beauty, Love and Wisdom’ (aka Haumea) by Mary Carty 2020 (courtesy of the artist)

Once upon a time, a great battle, the battle of Moytura was fought between the ancients of Ireland, the Túatha Dé (The Tribe of the Gods) and The Fomorians.

These two groups could not have been more different.

The Túatha Dé spent their time seeking wisdom, developing poetic insight, learning lore and practicing mysticism. Their artistic endeavours harmonized them to the natural world, so much so that they often became transparent to the places they inhabited, rendering them virtually invisible when encountered in a forest, on a mountain, or in a wetland.

The Fomorians were their complete antithesis. They had assumed a grotesque and horrific appearance, an ugliness that had shaped them over time, roughhewn by their avarice and insensitivity to nature. They treated nature with contempt. They treated the arts with contempt. They had no heed in wisdom, love and beauty. They were utterly hostile to them all.

The Fomorians, through subterfuge and deceit, had seized control of Ireland from the Túatha Dé. During their reign they abolished the arts. They undermined culture. “No value, useless”, they mocked. They debased artists, poets, and philosophers, subjecting them to menial tasks. They deracinated ancient forests. They dammed rivers. They contaminated lakes. They emptied the sea of its fish. They mined out mountains and plundered the deep earth. They despoiled and denuded entire landscapes, turning them into industrialized wastelands. Black smoke and filthy ash enshrouded the earth. Soon enough, birdsong was no longer heard, bees were no longer buzzing, flowers were no longer pollinated, stags were no longer bellowing from their wild places, the howling of wolves were no longer heard, forests no longer poured forth their fruits. The earth had ceased to sing its song during their reign. Despite the commercial wealth, it was an impoverished world. It was a dejected world, a world weighed down with solastalgia. And for reasons no one could fathom, the people who had been inveigled and enslaved by the Fomorians had themselves become like Fomorians. They developed Fomorian dispositions. They no longer loved nature, no longer loved wisdom, love and beauty. Their only concern was consuming; consuming, consuming, consuming.

But the Túatha Dé regrouped and decided something had to be done. They assembled the aés dana, the people of arts, their artists, poets, and philosophers. They endeavoured to work together, to collaborate by drawing upon their respective ancient tradition, their learning and wisdom, and to reinvent it, to reimagine it, to find new ways of speaking to and for nature, to first, revitalise themselves, then to revitalise nature, and then the hearts and minds of those enslaved, to break the Fomorian spell that had been cast over them.

And so, through their arts, by connecting with the imbas forosna, the great wisdom that illuminates, the Túatha Dé invoked nature. By so doing, they invoked their own true nature, their own deep nature. They entered into mystical states of being; gaining renewed otherworldly vision and perception. And so began the process of revivifying the spirit of nature. They recited earth healing poetry and myths. They sang earth healing songs. They danced earth healing dances. And soon enough, the earth itself joined in with all their creative energies and the rivers burst free of their dams, lakes detoxed, wild flowers sprang forth in cacophonies of colour, native broad leaf trees erupted earnestly from the earth, sonorous birds sang symphonically from their branches.

And as nature healed, the Túatha Dé grew stronger in courage and conviction. They were ready for battle with the Fomorians. Nature rowed in behind the Túatha Dé. The sun scorched the Fomorians. Rivers and lakes withdrew their healing waters from the Fomorians. Healing herbs disguised themselves from the Fomorians. The mountains hurled boulders down on their armies. The winds and rains assailed them. Before long, the Fomorian army has been all but defeated.

But the inevitable climax of the battle came down to being between the two champions of each tribe. For the Túatha Dé it was Lug Samildanach (i.e. Lug, he is who is skilled in many arts). For the Fomorians, it was Balor Súil Míldagach, Balor of the Evil Eye, Balor of the Poisonous Eye, Balor of the Economic Eye, Balor of the Ecocidal Eye. Balor’s eyelid was so large that it took four strong warriors to raise it open. Whatever Balor’s eye gazed upon became diminished and destroyed. A large forest could be razed in seconds by a more glimpse of Balor’s Ecocidal Eye.

But Lug, being skilled in many arts, meditated deeply, set his intentions; so that when it came time to do battle he was in such a deep transcendent state, that he bedazzled his foe with his radiating light. And when his evil eye was raised, Lug seized his sling and stone, and drove the ecocidal eye out through the back of Balor’s head. Its withering gaze fell upon the last of the Fomorian army, and destroyed them.

Nature healed. Culture healed. These two realms that had been separated overcame the distinctions between them so that, once again, to be living in Ireland was to be living in nature’s dream of itself.

But, lest it be forgotten that an eye and a mind can turn destructive, can turn poisonous, can turn ecocidal, can reduce everything in its sight and thought to a commodity, the Morrigán, the Great Queen, an Earth Mother, uttered a prophetic warning. She augured to the royal heights of Ireland, to its rivers and lakes, and its inhabitants, both human and more-than-human, that a time would return when the Fomorian disposition prevailed:

The Morrigán’s Prophecy

‘Wisdom’ – the Morrigán, the Great Queen, an Earth Mother, Haumea by Mary Carty 2020

I shall not see a world that will be dear to me,
summer pastures will be without wild flowers and herbs,
cows will be without native grasses,
men without vision,
women without influence,
there will be conquests without kings,
global cartels,
chemical weapons
knowing no borders,
transverse lands.

I see,
sombre woods without mast,
forests without flora,
terrains without fauna,
seas without fish.
Armies fight storms,
many habitations abandoned,
their dwellings empty,
lakes, rivers, estuaries forsaken,
high hills will be refuge,
oceans will flood over many realms,
welcome to catastrophe!
laments for the arts and culture,


I see,
All faces,
Withering in guilt,
Shrivelling with grief,
Solastalgia,
Many crimes against earth
Wars against nature,
Betrayal by legislators
A shroud of sorrows,
Lying maxims of authorities,
Every man a deceiver
Every youth corrupted
The son will follow his father’s lead
The father will lead his son astray,
No longer following nature’s way.
Evil is the time
When children dishonour their mother Earth.

The Morrigán then exhorted the multitudes to honour the earth,

that by doing so, they would honour themselves.
By exalting the earth, they would exalt themselves.
By caring for the earth, they would care for themselves.

By being true to the Earth, they would be true to their true selves.


See more of Fearghal’s writing here.


PS – If you work in the arts, if you love and value the arts even more so now for these urgent times, please feel free to share! And if you are interested in my course, workshops, mentoring or cultural policy writing, please email me at cathyart@gmail.com or follow this site or on Instagram.


Hello! Kia Ora! My name is Cathy Fitzgerald, and I’m an Irish-based New Zealander living in rural Ireland these past 20 years.

Since the late 1990s, I have been inspired by the emergent art and ecology field in visual culture, and later, more specifically in contemporary ecological art practice and research.

Cathy Fitzgerald
Cathy Fitzgerald, PhD by Practice: eco-social artist | educator | researcher |

“I’m passionate about bringing ecoliteracy to the art sector. Creatives, if informed with basic ecoliteracy (ecological knowledge), can ‘translate’ the science relevant to their diverse urban and rural communities and audiences. Informed by ecoliteracy, creatives are well skilled to develop inclusive work to help us all reflect and envision the more beautiful, just and better world we know is possible. And this is an urgent task, given that the pandemic is seen as another symptom of the ecological emergency.

Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald – now an Art & Ecology Research Fellow at the Burren College of Art

‘The Burren College of Art is a small, independent art school situated on the Wild Atlantic Way on the northwest coast of County Clare in Ireland. It is located in the Burren, a region famous for its natural beauty and unique ecosystem. We are an internationally recognized Irish non-profit college specializing in undergraduate, postgraduate and alternative approaches to fine art education.’

An Ash tree at the Burren College that was lit-up in my car headlights on a cold winters evening in early 2019. I noticed it all of a sudden after leaving the college one afternoon. The startling beauty of the area is such an inspiration and reminder of the Burren College’s teachings and its fantastic residential – studio opportunities for developing and established artists. See the website for more information: https://www.burrencollege.ie/

This time last year, I was invited by the Dean of the Burren College of Art, Conor McGrady, to teach the ‘Art and Ecology 16-week module’ for under-graduates.

New to sharing my knowledge after recently completing my PhD by Practice on ecological art: ‘The Ecological Turn, it was such a valuable opportunity to translate my knowledge into accessible, practical learning for others who are at the exciting stage of developing their professional creative careers.

It goes without saying that this opportunity afforded me so many real-world teaching insights for developing my modules for my ecoliteracy courses and workshops. I wish to thank Dean Conor McGrady and Dr. Eileen Hutton and especially my students for making me feel so welcome and teaching me as much as I shared my ideas with them.

I have since been invited to be an honorary Research Fellow at this wonderfully vibrant college that works so sensitively within and for its local environment.

As a Research Fellow, I will continue to share my research knowledge with the college and come occasionally to teach (I will be at the college again on Feb 19, 2020, giving a talk about my practice and research and tutoring current students). I will be so looking forward to reconnect with staff at this beautiful college and travelling again to this unique area of outstanding geologic and natural heritage.

Welcome news: Green Arts Initiative for Ireland launched

Huge congratulations to Caitriona Fallon and Theatre Forum Ireland, who under the guidance of Creative Carbon Scotland’s team and their Scottish Green Arts Initiative, have set up an Irish Green Arts Initiative to ‘provide Irish arts organisations with the resources and support to help build a green Irish arts community.’ #culturedeclaresemergency #ireland

Huge congratulations to Caitriona Fallon and Theatre Forum Ireland, who under the guidance of Creative Carbon Scotland‘s team and their Scottish Green Arts Initiative, have set up a Green Arts Initiative in Ireland to ‘provide Irish arts organisations with the resources and support to help build a green Irish arts community.’

I have written at length about the absence of supports and information for the Irish Arts Community in regards to engaging with eco-social concerns, and had indicated that replicating Creative Carbon Scotland’s strategies would suit particularly suit the Irish context. I literally knocked on Creative Carbon Scotland’s door in 2016, asking for their support to for my research on overseas art & sustainability programmes. CEO Ben Twist and his colleague Gemma Lawrence couldn’t have been more supportive.

Caitriona was in touch with me last year and again more recently and she is passionate about this area too. As the former CEO of Siamsa Tíre, the Irish Folklore Theatre and Gallery in Tralee, she was instrumental in getting the first Green Accreditation for a cultural space in Ireland ‘Greening Siamsa Tíre‘ and creating internal policies for waste and water management, energy, biodiversity, transport and travel, green teams and green procurement, through Julie’s Bicycle, the English art and sustainiblity organisation. Therefore, the launch of the Green Arts Initiative in Ireland by someone who is experienced in Greening a public cultural space and organisation is very welcome news for everyone in the Irish arts community, not matter what art discipline you pursue.

And if  you are unfamiliar why its so important to bring arts and sustainability ideas together, there are strong and urgent moral reasons why all workers in cultural institutions should engage with these developments. (I share environmental philosopher and writer Kathleen Dean Moore’s clear explaination as to why moral reasoning compels us all to act now in Chapter 2.2 of my review of overseas art and sustainability programmes). Having a Irish Green Arts Initiative will undoubtedly help Ireland’s arts community appreciate that the arts have a key role, alongside science, to engage our diverse communities in rural and urban Ireland for a better and more beautiful world.

Greening Ireland’s ‘Organisations’ is one key strategy that Creative Carbon Scotland and Julie’s Bicycle recommend. Hopefully before too long, other developments to support ‘Artists’ and ongoing ‘Strategy’ (as seen below), central to both the Scottish and UK’s programmes, will also be adopted in Ireland to enable our arts community to effectively engage with this topic for all their audiences.

The three main areas for Creative Carbon Scotland’s and similary for Julie’s Bicycle art and sustainability programmes in the UK. Image: Creative Carbon Scotland, 2019.

These are the first aims that Catriona and Theatre Forum will be looking at below.

If you are involved in managing or work at an Irish cultural space or organisation please contact Caitriona below:

Run by Theatre Forum and Catriona Fallon, under the guidance of Creative Carbon Scotland, the Green Arts Initiative in Ireland aims to:

  • Support members with practical advice on reducing their carbon footprint and overall environmental impacts.
  • Provide members with opportunities to enhance their sustainability competencies through training and networking.
  • Collect information about what organisations are currently doing to improve their sustainability.
    It would be really helpful if you could complete our survey.

Useful Resources 

Here are some resources that we’ve created – more to come!

Email info@theatreforum.ie for more information.

This information was originally posted in the Creative Carbon Scotland newsletter 28 June 2019.