Druid Trance 1, 2021 (film still)
Rónán Ó Raghallaigh is an artist from Kildare, Ireland. His work makes use of the surreal, the symbolic and ritual. It is an act of decolonisation and is its own form of Celtic revivalism in the 21st century informed by postcolonial theory. He graduated from the National College of Art and Desgign with an MFA in Art in the Contemporary World in 2021. On Bealtaine 2021, Rónán held a family ceremony where he was re-baptised as a druid, taking on the Irish version of his name rather than the English one he was given at birth.
Rónán Ó Raghallaigh paints and draws visions from altered states of consciousness. His work acknowledges the idea of the artist as someone who channels ideas or images from the unconscious or the spirit world. This refers to the ancient Gaelic tradition of artists or poets regarding art-making as something which requires divine inspiration, as well as the Western Modern tradition of artists seeking alternative methods for working in movements such as surrealism, abstract expressionism and many others.
Taking on the persona of the druid gives him an alternative methodology to work; that is, to enter a trance, receive visions from the Celtic Otherworld and to apply them in the contemporary world. This has led to his practice incorporating ritual-like performances. Generally, the themes which arise revolve around applying Celtic myth and its spiritual or philosophical implications to recent social or political issues such as Irish colonialism or ideas around self identity such as gender and sexuality.
As druids were seen as liminal members of Celtic society residing in both the physical and the spiritual worlds, Ó Raghallaigh takes on the role of the shapeshifter. As the druid, he occupies a position where concepts and identities may be both stable and unstable simultaneously.
The following is an extract from a statement the artist wrote after the Bealtaine Baptism:
Bein a druid means revivin Celtic spirituality and philosophy in de wake of imperialism and Christianity. It means writin about Celts and art as a Celt meself. It means makin art with one foot in de aul Celtic Otherworld, drawin visions from bodhrán trances, sippin out o sacred wells and communin with de Celtic deities. It means bein a peaceful contemplative and a barbaric warrior.
It’s a re-awakenin. It’s awkward. It’s an act of rebellion and decolonisation.
It’s me own Celtic Revival.
De spiral turns and de snake sheds its skin.