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Story Behind Our Mystical Logo Celebrating 10 Years

As International Day of Celtic Art approaches on June 9, we thought it an appropriate time to tell you more about our new logo honouring our Irish heritage.

Donegal, the home of ‘Ireland Writing Retreat,’ is a land of myth and legend so we felt the urge to design a special mystical Celtic logo to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

And the good news is that everyone who takes part in our retreats this year receives special merchandise with our logo, including the tote bag pictured below in this story, to help them keep the flame of creative writing alight. 

After seeing the intricate illustrations by local artist Sean Fitzgerald in his book The Last Battle of Moytura – The Wars of Celtic Gods and Druids we knew we’d found the perfect person for the job.

Sean’s imaginative work captures the mythical map of Ireland, demons and druids, Droim na Tine (the Hill of Fire), Balor of the Evil Eye and superhuman beings such as the Formorians, the People of the Nemed, the Fir Bolg (Men of Bags) and the Milesians. He is now working on an illustrated exploration of traditional Irish magic based on old manuscripts. 

The challenge facing him in designing our logo was choosing specific images and symbols that combine the idea of inspiration required for creative writing with the ancient folklore of Donegal on Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way.’

After much thought, we agreed our logo should feature the first-ever language of Ireland, a mysterious script known as ogham, named after a Celtic God, Ogma, a member of Tuatha Dé Danann meaning ‘the folk of the goddess Danu,’ a supernatural race in Irish mythology. 

Developed between the first and fourth centuries AD, stories abound about how ogham originated. Legend says it was started by a man skilled in speech and poetry who invented it as proof of his ingenuity. Some scholars believe this arcane script was first created as a cryptic alphabet, designed by Irish druids as a secret communication code to hide their messages from the authorities of Roman Britain who used the Latin alphabet and were threatening to invade Ireland.

Ogham is also known as the Celtic ‘Tree Alphabet’ due to the fact that names of various trees were ascribed to individual letters. 

The script, a complex series of carved lines, is often found in megalithic sites, on ancient standing stones or menhirs. In some cases, it is believed they were engraved for magical purposes, especially for ceremonies involving worship of the Moon Goddess.

Our next challenge was to choose a message in ogham to print on our logo that would reflect the essence of our writing retreat. What we finally chose was an obvious one, though it took us quite a while to think of it. Simple and direct, that word is ‘focal’ (Irish for ‘word’), a simple expression of what ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ is all about.  

Finding suitable illustrations was our next challenge. Ones reflecting the concepts of inspiration and creativity that we try to evoke here at Ireland Writing Retreat. We decided on trees and flames. 


Trees symbolise strength, individuality and expression, as well as the interconnectedness of everything. Sentiments we try to encourage at our retreats.

Fire represents enlightenment and empowerment, a symbol of wisdom, of commitment to learning and expansion of knowledge. In literature and mythology, fire is both a destructive force and a catalyst for purification, rebirth and renewal.

But we also had our own more personal reasons for choosing trees and flames as part of our logo. Trees represent growth and we’ve grown from a single retreat in Donegal to four a year in different countries.

As for flames, ten years ago, the idea of starting an international writing in a little rural corner of Ireland known simply as ‘the Forgotten Land’ was but a flickering flame in the embers of our minds. 

Now, especially after being voted the best artistic retreat in the world by Independent newspapers - "12 creative escapes – from painting holidays in France to cooking in Galwa" and " of the 10 best creative retreats in the UK and Europe," by The Guardian, a leading national daily newspaper in England, that flickering flame has become a blazing fire, one we hope will continue to burn brightly for a long time to come.

Creative creatures come in all shapes and sizes.

We hope to see you around our wee fire of creativity and inspiration in the months to come, either here in Ireland or in other places such as Paris or the beautiful Pyrenees Orientales region of southern France where we host our retreats.


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