Irish Mythology/Folklore

HALLOWEEN

In Ireland, Halloween is called Oiche Samhna. The origins are based on an old Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain also means November in Irish. In old Celtic Ireland the year was divided in two – between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). During the eve of Samhna it was believed that the division between this world and the other-world was at its thinnest, thereby allowing spirits to pass through from the other-world to this world. During the festival people would welcome their own ancestors into their homes but would try and ward off unwanted spirits by disguising themselves with masks and costumes.

Wishing you all a Happy Samhain

 

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Weekly photo challenge – afloat

Downpatrick Head, on the North West coast of Ireland, has some amazing sea cliffs including this sea stack. The day we visited earlier this week was misty, but it didn’t stop me taking photos. On this one, the stack looks like it is floating on the sea.

Dún Briste

Dún Briste

The sea stack is know as Dún Briste, meaning the Broken Fort. The stack is 63 x 23 metres across and 45 metres high. It broke off the mainland in 1393.

According to legend, a pagan chieftain, named Crom Dubh lived on the land. Saint Patrick (Ireland’s Patron Saint) tried to persuade Crom Dubh to convert to Christianity, but he refused. The refusal angered St Patrick and he hit the ground with his crozier. And the stack became separated from the mainland and Crom Dubh was left to die.

Researchers helicoptered onto the stack in the 1980’s did find the remains of stone buildings on the stack!

Downpatrick head

Downpatrick Head

This post was inspired by the weekly photo challenge https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/afloat/

 

Weather in Irish Folklore

The last few days of March have been wet and windy. My mother was telling me about the ‘Riabh-Bó’ days. Her story was that the the farmer had got his old cow through the cold days of the winter and she had survived. But then the cold, wet days of the end of March came and it was those cold days that killed her.

Cattle

I did a bit of research (what would we do without the internet?) and found the following information. There appears to be quite a few regional variations of the story. But basically it goes that there was a ‘An tSean-Bhó Riabhach‘ translated from Irish as an old brindled cow (brindled refers to the coat markings). The cow started boasting that she had got through the cold, wets days of March. So March, decided to ‘borrow’ three days from April and it these last three days, which were particularly wet and cold, that ended up killing the boastful cow.

There are a number of terms for the days. In Irish, they are referred to as Laethanta na Bó Riabhaí, directly translated as the Days of the Brindled Cow, but they are also called the Borrowed or Borrowing Days .

 

Happy St Brigid’s Day

In Ireland, the first of February is Saint Brigid’s Day and seen by many as the first day of spring. Brigid is one of Ireland’s patron saints and was also known as a fertility goddess in Celtic mythology. Her day falls on the day of a pagan festival known as Imbolc, which celebrates the longer days and first signs of spring. Imbolc is one of four ‘fire’ festivals celebrated in Irish Mythology – the others being  Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. St. Brigid is also know as “Mary of the Gael” and she was the founder of the first Irish monastery in Kildare.

Over centuries, people have made St Brigid’s crosses from rushes. These were traditionally made on the eve of St Brigid (31st January) and were hung in people’s house. The crosses were thought to protect the houses from evil, fire and hunger. Sometimes crosses were placed in the cow byre to protect the animals and to keep the milk flowing. For some, the cross was a symbol of peace and good will, and was offered as peace offering after a local quarrel.

There are a couple of different designs – the one I have photographed below is one I have made since childhood from rushes that grow wild in the fields. It is probably the most common design. There is also a three-armed one (one suggestion was that this was the one hung in the cow byres). If you are interested there is more information on http://www.crosscrucifix.com/brigid2.htm

Copies of the various crosses can also be seen at the Country Life Muesum in Turlough (http://www.museum.ie/en/collection/religion-and-calendar-customs.aspx)

Brigid's Cross

Brigid’s Cross

I would not describe myself as a religious person. But I love the culture, folklore, traditions and stories that surround many of our saints. That is why tomorrow I will be spending some time with some local children helping keep the tradition of making the Brigid’s cross.