We’ve all been there. You’re in a situation that pushes all your buttons. But you don’t want to wimp out. You don’t want to be the panicked nut job of the group. This happened to me recently at Ireland’s Blarney Castle. What’s so hard about kissing a rock, I thought? I was to find out.
No vacation in Ireland is complete without a trip to this famous site in Cork. Legend has it a 14th century witch was rescued by a stuttering Prince. In payment, she advised him to kiss a certain limestone. He did. His stutter disappeared. The rest is history.
Apparently, all those who kiss this stone receive the “gift of eloquence.” Tourists, statesmen and celebrities have been lining up for centuries.
No pilgrimage is complete without some discomfort and fear. Kissing the Blarney Stone is no exception.
First, you must climb a long stairway to the top of the castle where the Stone lies. This is not just any stairway — but a twisting, narrow, medieval, spiral stone passageway, 125 steps in all.
Just thinking about it made me hyperventilate. Of all my phobias (and I have many), claustrophobia is number one. Tight, enclosed spaces make me crazy.
My two sons and I got in line, which started far outside the castle door. We were told it would take an hour to get to the Stone. My mother (who was with us on the trip) wisely decided to sit this one out.
As the line inched closer, I kept telling my sons, “I can’t go up there.” They shrugged, advising me to do what felt comfortable. I stayed in line, however. Maybe curiosity trumped fear.
Around us, some people looked nervous while others had this “bring it on” bravado.
Finally we approached the Castle and entered its door. On either side were rooms, many full of rubble.
We were almost to the entrance of the stairway when the line stopped. A pale-faced woman worked her way back through the crowd, giving an embarrassed headshake. She couldn’t do it. Several people reached out, telling her it was okay.
My heart started racing. What am I doing — auditioning for the Navy seals? I just want to kiss a damn slab. What if I get halfway up and can’t hack it? What if I panic and feel like I can’t breathe?
The stairway is approached through a small, narrow door. Everyone who walked through hesitated before going on. I knew if this were a long, narrow passageway with no windows, I’d be a goner.
My son Patrick turned to me after peeking around the corner. “Its narrow at first, but opens a little.”
I took a deep breath. The only railing was a taut rope. With one son in front and one behind, I made my way up that twisty, narrow passage.
Thank God there were narrow slits for windows every ten feet. A few times, I had to take a deep breath and concentrate on the lush, green vistas beyond. Without this connection to the outside, I could never have made it.
The walls were worn and gray, splotched and moldy in parts. I thought of the generations that had climbed before.
After ten minutes, we reached the top. The line continued snaking around the perimeter of the roof until there it was… the Blarney Stone.
Now came the second test…
Pilgrims must lie on their backs, grab iron handrails and slide until lips touch stone. A white-haired attendant took me around the waist and helped guide me. All the while he whispered sweet nothings in his brogue, something about me looking like a girl who likes to kiss. (Those Irish).
Once done, another attendant helped me stand up. And that was it. Patrick, Paul and I made our way down the exit, a different, easier staircase.
As we walked along, I couldn’t help think how these people know what they’re doing. If we had to kiss some rock sitting in a castle lobby, it wouldn’t be half as exciting.
You must work to kiss the Blarney Stone. And after, you feel good. You achieved something, even if it’s small.
I thought of the woman who had backed out, past all those strangers. That also took courage, being true to oneself.
In the end, rather than being a rock, maybe the Blarney Stone is a mirror. We learn about ourselves. We learn about our fears. Some people press on. Some decline. Still, others breeze through the whole thing.
You never know how you’ll react. But if you visit this site, you’ll find out.
And maybe that’s the true magic of Blarney Castle.
Have you faced a phobia? Comments are always welcome and if you like, please share. Thank you!