ISSN 2977-0602


Djuna O’Neill


While living a life of dis/connection through zoom tutorials, chatrooms, multiplayer games with simple objectives and rectangular chat-boxes or single player games in expansive fantasy worlds, I trudge through wet, misty bog; cheeks stinging and feet cold in rubber boots. In both spaces I wander, get lost, lose orientation and find my bearings through landmarks I grow familiar with. 

With my mind still reeling in pastel pink worlds of uniformly falling raindrops and alien flower petals suspended in a static breeze, I visualise the expanse of sprawling trenches and purple heather from a drone’s-eye view. I am a character, collecting items I dig from the mud as I wander in a first-player game and add the objects, removed from their temporal stasis, to my inventory: tuft of bog cotton, stick for throwing in the pools of dark water which collect in the pits of cut bog, a scrap of metal (age unknown), shard of bone (a recently deceased animal or a relic preserved and discarded by the bog?). Gnarled roots rise from the murky black pools around me, though no trees grow on this flat plane. Are they the roots of ancient forests, uncovered from their peaty sanctuary by the years of turf cutting which scrape away the strata of decades?

Bog Bodies

Bog bodies, some say, were sacrificed here in the belief that the watery depths veiled portals to otherworlds. (1) In “composing” our futures, as Latour proposes, a dismantling of ideologies must occur. Fredengren delves into the material realities of halted decomposition in bogs and crannógs (2) as a way to  peer around the conceived linearity of time and speculate at how these apparitions of temporal anomaly might have dissolved previous beholders ideas of the steadfast continuity of their surroundings. These may have manifested as sacred hierophanies (3), apparitions which bestowed the landscape with a reverent importance. Perhaps bygone discoverers of peat-preserved relics accredited these appearances from alien timescapes to a passage between worlds.

The damp presses against my papery eyelids. Dark water seeps between my fingers and I feel the wetness of the earth under my fingernails. An acrid dampness cloys in my nostrils.

As I step out across the unending flatness, the unctuous ground shifts and heaves beneath my feet. A hazy sky shimmers above. Below, the detritus of millenia swells in a sopping sediment. A palimpsest, therein lie the remains of centuries of culture, steeping in a state of permanent decay. Subterranean memory. Porous limits and entangled stories.

Old Croghan Man’s fingerprints are of a pattern still widespread in Ireland.(4)

Bogs have always existed on the farthest reaches of lived landscapes; their liminality the provider of refuge for many an escaped or outlawed person.(5) Tories (dispossessed Irish persons turned outlaws) and thieves found shelter and refuge in the bogs, their protean (6) nature providing an advantage to the resistant natives.(7) Protected by its uselessness, its viscosity resists the spread of neoliberal market-driven land value. Derek Gladwin frames the bog as a redemptive site of alterityin its economic marginalisation, against a context of the change in land values to its becoming hungrily sought after. (8)

Perhaps hauntings are not the presence of other times but of otherworlds. In a culture where otherworlds have always existed alongside our own, this is undoubtedly an easier feat of interpretation. Samhain, halloween night, is in Irish tradition the night when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. These spirits and ghouls come not from stuck pasts but from parallel presents. Infact, considering the theories that bog bodies have been sacrificed to the underworlds of earthly goddesses through the boggy depths; the murky, peaty pools acting as liminal portals, we could say that bog bodies are heralds of another world. 

The emotional fatigue of the unreachable intimacy of techno-interfaces drags against the enticing boundlessness of undiscovered - uncreated - worlds. Weary from glossy 72 ppi faces and lagging conversation we dig our hands into the soil in search of the boundaries of our own body. The screen shows us limitless new worlds, dozens of fictional environments, but in reaching they encounter only cold glass. How can we feel the static breeze on our skin? Glossy thresholds between worlds, watery and earthly or static and phosphorescent. A liquid interface; the bog body emerges from his oozing resting place and strides into a shimmering expanse of low poly vegetation, below a hazy sky and flat disk sun.

Digitising as a commonning practice


The beansí, beansídhe, banshee, wanders the paths between worlds. From where she walks, the sounds that escape her parted lips - guttural, ethereal, shrill and rumbling all at once - slip through the veils that hide one world from another. Temporal or spatial, the soundwaves of her lament bear resonances of loss and hope across borders. 


Latour describes the method needed for considering the future of our actions as an act of composition.(1) To plunge into controversy, to leave behind separations between what is progress and what is archaic, to take interest in the key issues of living conditions and to make those a priority in terms of production. These are the methods he claims must be used in leaving behind the slogan of modernity and environmentalising the future.


Silvia Federici, amongst others, in searching for the roots of modern capitalism, emphasises the significance of the process of Enclosure in rural medieval england. Through the loss of the commons, space for peasant solidarity and sociality was destroyed - spaces of social communion, and a source of food production for unwaged citizens. Notably, Federici describes the emergence of an archetypal character - widows robbed of the means of subsistence resorted to begging and theft to survive. This occurs alongside the rising demonisation of the witch throughout Europe.

Thinking about the role of stories and mythmaking in the collectivising of social movements, (2) is it not probable that stories, whose ability to transgress time is proven in the richness of folklore (3) heard to this day, retain the tunes of the collectivising rallies of radical subaltern land theft protestors? In considering the loss of commons as spaces for communal belonging, let us consider folklore - to include practices containing storytelling, craft, medicinal and land related knowledge - as a form of commons, which persisted when relations to land were severed.

Dublin based vocalist group Landless sing of the threads of resistance that are carried through song and folklore. Through the ghostly sounds of their tracks Caoin i and Caoin ii, theyevoke histories of quotidian life suffused with spectral apparitions, supernatural occurrences, and the haunting potentials of liminal other spaces. The track title, Caoin, translates to a cry or a lament, which when heard alongside the band’s name brings to mind not only references to folk figures such as the banshee, with her ethereal and ghostly cry foretelling death, but also references to complex histories of land dispossession in Ireland.


Monuments of ghostly bygone ages, scanned and uploaded to networks of intangible materials, unreal objects and hollow worlds. Does a stone still speak the same words in its virtual tongue?

Open source creative programs and the networks of material and knowledge sharing which grow around them incite the sense of experiencing a community rooted through cybernetic threads. I visualise the paths of shared files and experience as faintly luminescent spider webs, emitting from a morphing network of communal information. Can digital spaces hold the solidarity of a commons? Through virtual technologies of storytelling we continue to share what we know.


Simultaneously creator and destroyer, generous and inimical, the hag belongs to, forms, and embodies the landscape itself. Mountains grow from the rocks that tumble from her gathered apron as she strides over the land.

Vast scapes of faded technicolour, boulders of pixelated limestone house digital remains of future realities. The Cailleach creates her reality, sculpts and texturizes. Canopies of rock house digital relics. Wander deep into the cavernous womb of Cairn T, the narrow dark passage lit by the dim blue glow of the ambient light and discover within the archaic drawings. They depict pasts, a multitude of presents and possible futures. In the synthetic light they appear to move, slowly. Spirals twist into themselves and floral shapes appear to grow tendrils, reaching, sensing, ready to wrap tightly over their find.

Below the shimmering apparitions of illustrious carvings lies a wide and shallow basin. Water rises in the basin, beginning as a cloying layer of condensation, droplets roll down and gather in its pit, forming a small puddle. The petroleum-tinted surface of the water rises, slowly, encompassing the items that lie there: a chipped and yellowed bone fragment, a comb, its teeth broken or missing, a ring. The water laps, slowly, moved by an unfelt wind.

I stride out into the realm of my creation - pink grass folds under my feet. The apron I wear is gathered into a sack, and full of clay: material, unformed and ready to become the stuff of the lived world. It crumbles and falls to the ground beneath, becoming mountains, boulders. In the seconds it takes to fall, dolmens and cairns form. Piles of stones sit precariously atop one another. It is my eternal journey. As I stride, generations lapse between my toes. Civilisations rise and fall as the weight of my footsteps creates lakes, moulds the earth into ridges and valleys. The weight of the clay I carry causes me to exert myself and the sweat runs down and becomes rivers. I rest and trees sprout from my feet. In the time that it takes me to catch my breath, the trees have grown and died. They decompose and mosses grow, a flat expanse of thousands of years of vegetation, decayed into a world of black earth.

By the end of my journey I have tired. I rest, and the plants stop growing. In my negligence, the sun forgets to warm the earth and it grows cold and frozen over. A barren world emerges. Where once I marvelled at the wonder of the world I had created, I now grow sad to see it. I grow cold, and with me the world frosts over. A bright expanse of rippling ice. Its surface shines like the opaque glass of an idle screen.


In The Lament of the Old Woman of Beara, the cailleach is old and reflects on the ebbs of the life she’s lived. In a state of solitary wintery reflection, her morose tone reflects the harshness of the wintery conditions she is accredited with delivering.  Some stories say that in the spring she transforms into her younger self and her cyclical journey begins again. A stone sitting atop the Beara Peninsula and overlooking the bay is said to be her petrified form.

Places across Ireland and Scotland bear her name, and the roles she personifies in stories are manifold. Sometimes a wicked trickster hag; others a young goddess of the land. Her reknown has existed too long to extricate the threads of her person from the stages of cultural and religious influence. 

In what Bruno Latour has called the “second scientific revolution”, the agency of living beings is recognised as a major considerable factor in the movement of powerful forces which dictate our conditions of life.

In Irish mythology, the prevalence of otherworlds is analogous to a perceived volatility of the surrounding environment. Stories such as the Seachran Sí describe mountains that shift and grow before an unsuspecting traveller, rivers flowing on dry land and paths entwined into never ending loops.

“When explaining the strange and sudden forms of supernatural disorientation experienced by individuals travelling through the rural landscape, reference is consistently made to spirits beyond the bounds of the mundane realms of the human community. Herein are displayed sentiments by which the wider landscape is ordered and arranged, in that it is not understood as being inert and unchanging but dynamic and subject to potentially drastic and sudden shifts. These narratives then, and the body of lore and folk belief that they comprise, replete with dramatic abstractions and ornate aesthetic qualities, offer insight into the mechanism by which the rural landscape has been humanised, mapped out and maintained, not only according to physical demarcations and boundaries, but to metaphysical ones.” (bluirini bealoidis)

Latour’s analysis of the second scientific revolution as a recognition of the conditions of life in which we find ourselves being the product of other life - living beings whose lives overlap with ours, can be likened to the recognition of an unpredictable changeability in the landscape inhabited in Irish folklore. On global and micro levels, living beings exert forces on our lived atmosphere - a virus can, as we have discovered, reduce supposedly infallible societal systems of movement and production to a halt in a matter of weeks.

The Cailleach, embodying traits of both mother/fertile and hostile/harbinger of death, personifies the equally productive and destructive powers of nature. 

Otherworlding as commoning practice through technologies of storytelling:

Using Niemanis’ description of a posthuman phenomenological interface of perception which includes “both a tongue and a water quality autosampler, both a sensitive fingertip and a DNA sequencer”,  cultures of storytelling and oral tradition can be included in an expanded sensory apparatus. To allow the supernatural or the other, be that in science fiction/speculative fabulation, traditions of storytelling or contemporary artist film, might engage an attentiveness to the potentialities of perspectives beyond those on which our regularly frequented worlds are built, engaging a curiosity and care in the way we relate with the human and beyond.

A “torquing of our imaginaries so that matter can matter differently”, “fostering new ontological dispositions towards the world and worlds at large”. (Niemanis, 2017), (Palmer and Hunter, 2018)

Noticing Attunes Us to Worlds Otherwise (Gan, Tsing, Swanson and Bubandt 2017)


Bog Bodies

1.“Staying within the context of Irish folklore and literature, there is good evidence to suggest that concepts of preservation and decay are intimately associated with ‘being in’ and ‘leaving’ the otherworld… More recently, Giles (2009) proposes that the deposition of bog bodies in wetlands might have intentionally used bog pools as portals to the otherworld. Interestingly, other elements of Irish literature describe waters as places where hierophanies occur, and where the holy would emerge to become manifest in the world of the living.”

2.A crannóg is an archeological site, consisting of a partially or entirely artificial island, usually found in lakes of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. (Fredengren 2016)

3. Hierophanies - sacred apparitions. (Fredengren, 2016)

4. Portfolio: Out of the Bog Author(s): Frank Miller

5. Swamps and wetlands provided shelter and refuge for escaped slaves. Dimitris Papadopoulos in Experimental Practice(2018) outlines the role of wetlands as a refuge for insurgents.

6. Protean - Tending to or able to change frequently and easily.

7. In Ireland, dispossessed persons were relocated to the boggy landscapes of Connaught. The boglands surrounding the Pale provided shelter to outlaws and bandits who raided the English settlers, giving them an association of barbaric wasteland. Tories was the name given to Irish cattle raiders. A review of Derek Gladwin’s Contentious Terrains (2016)vby Eóin Flannery.


1. In a series of interviews with Arté, 2021.

2. In Letters of Blood and Fire: Primitive Accumulation, Peasant Resistance, and the Making of Agency in Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland, Dunne analyses a collection of threatening letters left by land protesters to landlords, as part of a broader state of agrarian social conflict. The peasants resisting primitive accumulation sustained their sense of collective efficacy through mythmaking to create a pan-regional collective identity.

3. The commonly used words folklore and superstition seem ill fitted to the subjects I want to discuss; superstition denotes an unfounded mistrust or paranoia, while the word folklore seems to belittle the wealth of knowledge tied into the word. Patricia Dominguez, in a text published by Gasworks, dismisses the word as reductive and charged in politics of power; “Folklore is the name of a colonial strategy. Folklore is a way for colonial elites to erase indigenous worlds and neutralise ancestral histories. It’s a way to keep them contained, to relegate them to the margins, to exoticise them. Folklore is a way to freeze time, transforming open and unsolved historical processes into a souvenir for tourists. And yet, ancestral history is still happening. It is simply going down other roads, in unexpected ways.” (2019) Rather, I think the Irish word Béaloideas seems more apt to the subjects I discuss, translating roughly to mouth/oral(béal) teaching/instruction (oidis), I think the phrase allows for more space to encompass the traditions of orally relayed storytelling but also of craft, medicine, ritual, and the more ephemeral and intangible concepts of seeing, or ideological beliefs of the conditions of the world.


1. Colaiste Íde Ogham Stones, image from

2. Bog, Galway, IE.

3. Digital scanning of Ogham stone, Lugnagappul, Co. Kerry, from Irish and Scottish researchers to investigate ancient Ogham script, Maynooth University.

4, 5 & 6. Still render of 3D scene, depicting Cairn T passage tomb, Loughcrew, Slieve Na Calliagh. 3D model created by Megalith Archive,


Background. Animated 3D scene.

1. Animated scene including 3D model of Neolithic Ground and Polished Axe created by The Hunt Museum, Limerick. Stone axe head found in Rockbarton Bog, Lough Gur, Limerick.

2. Animated 3D scene including quote from Fredengren (2016).

3. Animated sentence, reading “Does a stone still speak the same words in its virtual tongue?”

4. Animated 3D scene depicting a scan of a rock on the shore of Lough Corrib.

5. Animated 3D scene depicting Cairn T passage tomb, Loughcrew, Slieve Na Calliagh. 3D model created by Megalith Archive,

6. Animcated 3D scene depicting a model of mountains in Connemara, downloaded from Google Maps and Nasa Elevatino data using Blender GIS addon.


Dominguez, P. (2019), Technologies of Enchantment; when a ceramic vase and a drone cry together. London: Gasworks Publishing.

Dunne, T. (2018) ‘Letters of Blood and Fire: Primitive Accumulation, Peasant Resistance, and the Making of Agency in Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland’ in Critical Historical Studies, vol. 5. University of Chicago Press.

Fredengren, C. (2016) ‘Unexpected Encounters with Deep Time Enchantment. Bog Bodies, Crannogs and ‘Otherworldly’ sites. The materializing powers of disjunctures in time’, World Archeology, 48(4), 482-499, DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2016.1220327 available at:

Gan, E. Tsing, A. Swanson, H. and Bubandt, N. (2017) ‘Introduction: Haunted Landscapes of the Anthropocene’ in Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press

Latour, B. (2021) Entretiens avec Bruno Latour, Series of interviews with Arte.

Niemanis, A. (2017) Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology. London: Bloomsbury Academic, Environmental Cultures Series

Palmer, H. and Hunter, V. (2018) ‘Worlding’ at available at:  (accessed 03.05.2022).

The Journal of Art & Ecology published by MA Art & Ecology, Goldsmiths, University of London

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