Whether it’s a passion for knitting or shamanism that reels them in, how public figures spend their free-time is revelatory of their inner psyches, writes Rita de Brún.
Mariah Carey broke the internet recently. She did so by knocking the cap off a bottle using nothing more than her voice.
While that viral feat will go down in Bottle Cap Challenge history, it also shows a fun side of a talent who’s usually known as a diva in music circles.
While Carey’s secret skill stands to her credit, the same may not be said of Boris Johnson’s supposed penchant for making model busses from wooden wine boxes.
His recent sharing of the details of that hitherto unknown pastime on TalkRADIO was the talk of dinner tables and barcounters everywhere. Perhaps for the wrong reasons.
He meandered so much in the telling, that viewers were divided as to whether they were listening to truth or fantasy.
His sharing of his secret hobby came courtesy of an extraordinarily awkward collection of broken sentences interspersed with pained silences, accompanied by mystifying body language.
Usually whispers of what occupies the rich and famous causes fewer ripples.
Will Smith, David Beckham and Tom Cruise are fencers. Whether they’re Three Amigos the public will never know. Only they can say.
As for Angelina Jolie: she likes daggers. She also likes blood. Vialled and strung around her neck. The world will never forget her wearing Billy Bob Thornton’s that way, back in their halcyon days.
Some pastimes have a shelf-life. Pierce Brosnan knows this. He used to eat fire, but doesn’t do so publicly anymore.
The last time he did, he burnt his mouth.
We’re told this was because the torches provided were lit with the wrong fuel. On hearing that, only the meanest amongst us remember that only bad carpenters blame their tools.
Nobody would blame journalist Matt Blake had he bolted for the door shortly after entering the London home of mentalist Derren Brown. He has reported seeing a moose, a goose and a giraffe on visiting there. All stuffed.
As was a much-beloved dog. But not the stillborn chimp. He was pickled in a jar.
Blake’s relief must have been palpable when Brown assured him that all died of natural causes.
We don’t know if the same can be said of the creatures whose blood appears to feature in odious images reportedly posted by Azealia Banks on Instagram back in 2016. At the time, People magazine ran a piece saying the rapper admitted to practising witchcraft, before cleaning a room supposedly used for animal sacrifices.
Most people’s hobbies are inoffensive. Justin Bieber’s a great man for the Rubik’s Cube. Eva Longoria plays clarinet. Kate Moss is into synchronised swimming. David Arquette knits.
As for Paris Hilton, frogs are her passion, just as gaming is for Mila Kunis. These are wholesome hobbies.
But the jury’s out on Johnny Depp’s alleged fondness for Barbie dolls and Simon Cowell’s for tree-climbing.
As for our own Paula Meehan, she’s well known as a poet and playwright but not for her painting passion. Of that she says: “I’ve been painting on and off for years. For me, it’s a valued part of life. It helps me make poems: sometimes it’s a kind of elaborate note-taking that feeds into the writing project of the moment; other times it’s painting for its own sake.
“The space is dreamy and organic and keeps me very much in the moment of making.” Sharing that she ‘intensified’ her painting after a family suicide, she continues: “I literally needed to bring colour back into a word that had gone very very grey.”
Describing how her partner Theo Dorgan bought her a new box of paints she says: “Opening the lid brought back the childhood thrill of a new box of colours. It was salvific really.”
Sharing that she always approaches the paper, or the board or canvas with a sense of excitement, she adds: “I approach the art work of others with this same sense of excitement.”
Meehan has collaborated with many visual artists over the years and ‘loves the conversations.’ She recently completed a book, Museum, with photographer Dragana Jurišic.
This she describes as small, exquisite, and a response to the tenement museum in Dublin’s Henrietta Street.
“I always bring some new vision back to the poetry making after these collaborations,” she says, before adding: “Poetry, I’ve often felt, might be better off taught in the art colleges.” She loves ‘the physicality of making work whether it be poem or painting: “The processes are very similar on an energetic level,” she says.
It’s not surprising that Meehan’s a painter. She’s an artist, after all, and poetry, playwriting and painting are all art forms. But it is surprising to learn that Ger Moane, a retired associate professor at UCD’s psychology department is deeply involved in shamanism.
Describing her shamanic journey she says: “I left the Catholic Church while I was in college in the ‘70s and got involved in alternative spirituality, particularly feminist spirituality.” A teacher of meditation who was a psychic, recommended shamanism to Moane. She ‘loved’ her first workshop in 2001 and has been involved ever since, taking ‘many’ training workshops with shamanic practitioners down the years.
For Moane, shamanism is a ‘wonder-full’ worldview as well as a spiritual and healing practice:
“In Ireland we’ve evolved a mixture of our own indigenous traditions and worldwide shamanisms. It’s strongly linked to the land and our ancestors.
Soul Seers, the first Irish anthology on shamanism - brings out the Irish dimension - imaginative, dreamy, fluid, intuitive, poetic.” She’s a contributor to that anthology as is Mary Coughlan.
Karen Ward, co-founder of Sli an Chroí School of Celtic Shamanism, says Coughlan has walked the path of celtic shamanism for years. She adds that the singer and actor is happy for her to talk about her shamanic journey.
“While the term ‘celtic shamanism’ might sound high-falutin, its innate in all of us who connect with the land and who are inspired by nature,” says Ward. “For us, it’s a solace, balm and destresser. It’s holistic living in tandem with nature’s seasons.
“Mary [Coughlan] is innately Irish and proud of it. Her natural instinct is to connect with nature. It inspires her work.
“She feels a great sense of community when amongst the shamanic community. I’ve seen first-hand how well she fits in.”
With Ward, Coughlan is also part of Moon Mná, a virtual moon circle where women celebrate life and love, in tune with the ‘Seanmháthair Gaelach’ or ‘Grandmother Moon’s cycles.’
So ensconced in shamanism are Moane, Coughlan and Ward, it seems that through that, the trio have found their tribe.