BRATTLEBORO -- For 11 continuous years, Michael Cerulli Billingsley of Brattleboro has traveled to Ireland’s southwest counties to unravel some of the mysteries of ancient Bronze Age Ireland. He will give an illustrated talk about the work of the Irish Spiritual Heritage Associate on Thursday, Jan. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at Brattleboro Savings & Loan, in the Community Room.

The prehistoric time of Irish "mythic history" is difficult to penetrate, but Billingsley and his annual team of volunteer helpers from northern New England have begun to find significant evidence of a ritual landscape which meshes somewhat with the ancient stories.

The earliest successful settlers of Ireland, sometime between 4200 and 3800 BC, left a record which is partially preserved in new archaeological finds (attributed amongst others, to Billingsley and his team) and partly within conflated but once-accurate oral records. As Christian monks of Medieval Ireland redacted, translated and expurgated old accounts to suit the sensibilities of their new religion and their Rome-influenced Catholic supervisors, many powerful traditions were badly represented. At the time of the Great Famine (or Starvation) in the 1840s, many "pagan" traditions which fell under the heading of the "Old Faith" were condemned and forbidden ... successfully suppressed, finally and almost conclusively.

Working with Irish folklorists, historians and folklorists, Billingsley has found a consistent thread to old histories, some of which yielded physical structures in the landscape previously unnoticed under the grass. An increasingly complex and unified cosmological view solidified around 1600 BC ... centered around the ancient spiritual center of Lough Gur in County Limerick. This new information adds considerably to what has already been learned from the similarly rich area throughout the Boyne Valley and early monuments like Newgrange and Knowth.

Ireland between 3200 and 1100 BC experienced a number of spiritual, climate and geologic upheavals (including major tsunamis) as well as a shift in population and several successful depredations by North African sea pirates. Much of the "Old Faith" was wiped out, in part by the arrival of the Gaels from Iberia and in part by natural disasters. Field research in County Limerick and County Kerry especially, with new work underway also in County Roscommon and County Mayo, leads now to a better understanding of some of the social and environmental forces at work in old Ireland.

The illustrated talk and discussion will last until 9 p.m. and will be preceded by a short social time with wholesome snacks and hot beverages. Volunteer members of the previous field research from 2003 through 2012 are invited to bring edited photo shows of up to 15 minutes to show after the mid-break. Irish Spiritual Heritage Association and Working Pilgrimages will conduct the 2014 field research in County Limerick and County Mayo beginning on April 25 and lasting until May 17.

For more information about the event, or to inquire about the next field research trip, contact Billingsley at michaelbix@gmail.com or write the Irish Spiritual Heritage Association at 440 Canal St., Brattleboro, VT 05301.

The Brattleboro Savings & Loan Community Room is accessed through the rear door, at 221 Main St. in Brattleboro. This public event is free. Donations toward the work of ISHA are welcome.