‘Here is another island called ‘Pabay’! I thought there was an island called ‘Pabay’ in the Summer Isles. Wait, it’s written differently…one more B, or a variation in Gaelic… Is that a lack of creativity or something?’

Translated from Gaelic, Pabay means priest island. When you look closely at the map you will see drawn on the island a structure marked as ‘Chapel (rems of)’. 

So a guy or a few guys were living on the tiny island about 1500 years ago or more and built a small stone chapel. The chosen islands for the priest activities are not very far from the mainland but too far to swim or the strong currents will prevent that. And just far enough to wave at the people on the other side.

Why do priests always stay on small islands where nothing grows and which are very exposed to the sea and weather? Why would anyone do that?

Well, they believed that austere living would bring them closer to God.

No distraction like women and taverns but starvation, hard work, coldness, no sleep and loneliness will do the trick I guess. It must have been a successful concept when looking at the map, it is littered with islands called ‘Pabay‘. There are around 10 priest-islands and priest-related islands!

And when I think about it, it probably worked. Hunger, sleep deprivation, coldness, exhaustion can bring on hallucinations, for sure. And in this cocktail of human suffering, all kinds of devils, demons, and angles will appear in the mind’s eye. So why not GOD?

Beehives on the Garvalachs

The guys even got a bit creative with the concept and made an all exclusive holiday retreat where people could stay a month or a year or so. They thought of all kinds of ways to make the self-isolation, starvation, and sleep deprivation worse by building igloo-shaped constructions called beehive’s or a priest pit where you were lowered in and could not get out by yourself. Anything goes to get a better connection with God. HE would tell you in your moment of near insanity or death what your purpose of life is. And as an extra bonus, a glimpse of the afterlife. But you had to pray and pray on bare knees on the hard cold stones to put yourself in a trance-like state. And still, be alive at the end of the ordeal…..

How does that sound for your next holiday destination? Do you think there is still a market for this kind of all exclusive holiday? Or would you prefer the soft option, a nice retreat in Buddhist style with herbal tea, a bit of yoga and meditation? It might help to find some kind of GOD within yourself and the promise of an afterlife?

Or you can go on a five-week kayaking holiday in Scotland with only a tent for shelter. I can’t say I ever met God in any way but it gives me a very relaxed feeling like I’ve been on a Buddhist retreat. I definitely find a bit of peace and quiet within myself.

My happy-place

Charlotte Gannet

Leave a Reply