‘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.

“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. Research confirms ecoliterate art professionals, with their skills in inclusivity and creativity, will have a critical leadership role to inspire diverse communities across the world, to envision the more beautiful, just and better world we know is possible.

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

And supporting ecoliteracy in the arts is an urgent task, given that the pandemic is seen as another symptom of the wider and accelerating ecological emergency.

“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. Research confirms ecoliterate art professionals, with their skills in inclusivity and creativity, will have a critical leadership role to inspire diverse communities across the world, to envision the more beautiful, just and better world we know is possible. And supporting ecoliteracy in the arts is an urgent task, given that the pandemic is seen as another symptom of the wider and accelerating ecological emergency.

Ecoliteracy for architects? It is essential

This place- and culture-sensitive process of redesigning the human presence and impact on Earth bioregion by bioregion will be much more than simply ‘ecosystems restoration’. It will be a pathway towards regenerating our communities, our societies, our regional economies — a path walked through glocal [global-local] awareness and action, coming together in global collaboration to heal the Earth and her people one place at a time.

Daniel Christian Wahl 2019 ‘Making the most of the ‘UN Decade on Ecosystems Restoration’:
bioregional regenerative development as a deep adaptation pathway’

Understanding ideas and practices for sustainable futures, translating them so they are relevant to our places and communities is a key and urgent concern for architect students, since they are increasingly designing for both people, places and planet.

Ecoliteracy is therefore vital for architecture students to gain an overview of what has caused the intersecting and accelerating environmental and social crises the world is now facing. Ecoliteracy empowers us to consider the historic philosophical, ethical, aesthetic, and political shortcomings of modern culture that has consistently ignored environmental wellbeing. Understanding how our culture, our way of life, has become so inherently unsustainable and unjust, is vital – so we can employ our creativity collectively toward ushering in a more life-sustaining, just and beautiful world.

Twice in recent months, I’ve been asked to share ecoliteracy understanding with university architect students and their lecturers.

I’ve shared ideas with 43 students from the Dublin University of Technology (DUT) who came with their lecturers, Emma Geoghegan and others, to visit my ongoing eco-social art practice, The Hollywood Forest Story– the transformation of a conifer monoculture plantation into a forest at my home in rural South County Carlow (see image above).

Focussing on imagining a zero carbon future for Carlow County, these DUT students are researching infrastructure, landscape, agriculture, settlement and forestry practices as part of their initial analysis. I shared my knowledge of collaborative art and ecology practices and my deep knowledge of new-to-Ireland continuous cover forestry.

Giving a talk in Hollywood forest can bring to life the challenges and potentials of this type of ecological forestry – but, there are no quick-fix solutions! Transforming forests, like restoring any landscape will take an enormous shift in educational priorities and national policy, and it takes years for ecosystems to recover. (Hollywood forest will require many decades to transform to a more biodiverse forest and there ominous threats to forests from climate change already – milder, wetter weather is fostering tree disease and pests that have already decimated some trees in Hollywood and other forests across Ireland).

I was also asked by Carlow-based architect lecturer, Helena Fitzgerald (no relation) to give a workshop to the History and Theory of Architecture: Landscape module for third year students (@UCC_ArchSoc) in Cork city. Helena asked me to give an account of the Anthropocene – the unsustainable, ecocidal culture we have inherited and I showed a new slide-show film video about my ongoing Hollywood forest project to illustrate how my work was seeking an alternative to industrial, unsustainable forestry. Helena especially requested I give some attention to new terms, like the Symbiocene – the new term coined by eco-philosopher Glenn Albrecht. This term describes the ecological era that prioritises thriving ecosystems as the basis for all life – this is where we must focus all our creative efforts. I was able to bring the idea of the Symbiocene alive, with the recent new short poetic-art-performance film Solastalgia (2019), an artistic interpretation, I have previously mentioned on this site.

In summary, it’s a difficult future for students everywhere, when scientists and media headlines are increasingly revealing catastrophic scenarios amidst widespread political delay and inaction. On both occasions, I reminded students that they shouldn’t work alone on such a difficult, sometimes overwhelming topic. I was heartened to be reminded by Helena, that architect students are taught to work collaboratively – this skill will be so vital in the coming decades when will all have to come together to rethink, reimagine and redesign regenerative living, for all our futures.

#FridayArt4Emergency: ‘Solastalgia’ – the film

I have been thinking for some time, in my development of an online course for essential ecoliteracy, that I should begin sharing creative works.

Many people have asked me how to develop creative work for the ecological emergency that is not too preachy. This sometimes seems a hard thing to achieve with a complex topic in which many creative workers and their audiences are little informed of the environmental collapse that modern civilization promotes. In these urgent times, we need all types of creative approaches to envision and inspire a new ecological way of living, that safeguards lives now and for the future.

I also wanted to chime with Greta Thunberg’s extraordinary efforts, and many other young people across the world who are raising awareness that we must all understand the environmental science that confirms our way of living is causing accelerating ecological collapse and mounting social injustice in many countries. With Greta and the children schoolstriking every Friday, I will likewise post an art practice every Friday that I feel touches audiences and inspires creative workers too.

Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 10.51.32.png

For my 1st post of #FridayArt4Emergency, I’m starting with a new short film work that incorporates dance, spoken poetry, and audio-visual recordings of the other-than human world. The film work is titled Solastalgia (2019, Pascal Tremblay and Sean Stiller, British Columbia). The film embodies responses to a new term for the grief many of us now feel for our environment ‘solastalgia’, particularly highlighted these last few weeks with the devasting increasing deforestation and fires set off across the Amazon region.

Although the film doesn’t mention it, the film also ably depicts, through dance, image and words, a powerful, underlying ‘soliphilia’, our graditude and love for the Earth.

Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 10.54.31.png

These new terms, solastalgia, soliphilia, and more, are from Australian farmer-philosopher Glenn Albrecht. In his recent book Earth Emotions: New Words For a New World (2019) (which I previously have written about here), he details how such terms, and shared in creative works have much power to inspire a new, sustainable way of being with the Earth. He believes that creative workers will be at the forefront to share ideas of a new age, the Symbiocene, where we live life so all beings thrive.

Solastalgia the film below conveys the context of the crisis many creative people are now approaching in a emotive, engaging way. Works like this can move us in ways science can’t – we need both understanding and engaging ways to change societal behaviour to the better world we know is possible.

Congratulations to the communication agency, Good Kind Films – their ethos speaks to a new ecological age, the skilled filmmaker, dancer and world renowned eco-poet and educator Craig Santos Perez from Guam.

Lets share this film, this meme for the Symbiocene, far and wide.

The background story to this film is here

PS I have found other filmworks on Solastalgia made in recent months since writing the above. It’s so fantastic to see more creative expressions, more ecoliteracy fluency and confidence developing in the arts, for these urgent times.

Do feel welcome to share works that inspire you too!