After a forest clearing outside Drumshanbo in 2007 a number of puzzling old stone buildings were revealed on a slope leading to Acres Lough. Archeologists were invited at the time to investigate and were surprised to identify the main building at the top of the site as the remains of a Zoroastrian fire temple. They thought that the other rooms attached to it were used as living quarters and for food preparation. There are other ruins on the large site too but only one other building is left standing, closer to the lake shore which may have been used for meditation and prayer. There are also two very thick lines of stones running down the slope to the shore line as well (one of which goes through a gable wall of the other building). These are thought to be from an earlier megalithic age and may have been built by the same people who built the cairns at Sheemore and Sheebeg which can both be clearly viewed from the site. They appeared to be too low and thick for walls and their purpose could not be determined by the archeologists. From this it appears that a small community of followers of the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Persia settled here in the 1600’s or earlier and chose an already possibly sacred site to do so. No documented record of them living here is known to exist.
In the Zoroastrian religion fire and water are agents of ritual purity and considered life-sustaining, and both water and fire were represented within the precinct of their fire temple. Zoroastrians usually prayed in the presence of some form of fire (which could be considered evident in any source of light), and the culminating rite of their principle act of worship constituted a “strengthening of the waters”. Fire was considered a medium through which spiritual insight and wisdom was gained, and water was considered the source of that wisdom. The site they picked here is perfect for this and I can imagine them being very content here. Ahura Mazda was their God and was seen as the beginning and end, the creator of everything that can and cannot be seen, the Eternal, the Pure and the only Truth. In this way Zoroastrianism, which dates from 1000 BC, has been seen as a precursor to Christianity and perhaps they were accepted here because of this.
There is an intriguing account of WB Yeats visiting the region for a few days with other members of the Dublin Hermetic order in 1886 and enquiring about the whereabouts of an ancient sacred site outside Drumshanbo. I wonder if they located it?
Trees have again been planted on the slope and around the buildings but no further archeological investigations are due to be carried out on the site. Within a few more years the site will again be hidden from view and it shall again begin to fade from memory. When it again emerges I wonder how much of it will be left and what type of people will rediscover it? (Stephen Rennicks)