People encouraged to 'forest bathe' during Lúnasa festival
PEOPLE are being encouraged to get involved in the immersive experience of 'forest bathing' and connect with the ancient landscape in south Armagh.
Forest bathing is a holistic therapy, hailing from Japan, where people are encouraged to use all of their senses to soak up the atmosphere of the forest and reconnect to the natural world.
Visitors to the Ring of Gullion's Lúnasa festival - which traditionally celebrates the beginning of the harvest season - will be given the opportunity to take part in the experience.
Ring of Gullion ambassador, Ann Ward will take participants on a 'mindful' walk along the slopes of Feede Mountain, in Jonesborough, on August 11. They will learn more about the Japanese practise, be encouraged to hug and sit against trees and listen to tales of legendary warriors like Cú Chulainn and Fionn Mac Cumhaill.
Ms Ward who is a meditation teacher and tour guide, said that forest bathing had numerous benefits.
"It has been proven that it increases people's immunity, lowers heart rates and increases the number of killer cells in the body. I take people right into the middle of the forest and it really helps with stress management," she said.
The festival opened on August 3 and will run until to August 26. It is being coordinated by the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
There will be several other events taking place throughout August, bringing people closer to nature, in honour of the ancient Celtic festival.
At the weekend, there was a visit to the sacred sites of Killeavy Old Churches and St Moninna’s Well and there will also be a céilí and tea-dance on August 12 in the World War II Nissan Hut in Meigh.
Ms Ward said that she believed it was important to ensure the Lúnasa festival continued to exist.
"The Lúnasa festival is one of those traditions where people are so connected to themselves and each other, and they have such a sense of place. It's important that these amazing traditions of our ancestors are not forgotten," she said.