28 Feb An Introduction to Irish Lore
If you’re interested in mysticism and fascinating folklore, few places can hold a candle to Ireland. With its array of hauntings, neo pagan practices and mythical creatures, it is probably the most varied and interesting place in the British Isles.
Here is a brief overview of mystical beliefs in Ireland, past and present. Let your eyes be opened!
A beloved figure who appears in many tales is Finn McCool, the legendary hunter warrior for whom the Giant’s Causeway was named. Unlike traditional giants, who were brutal and slow, Finn was renowned for his cleverness- a trait his wife Oona shared. Their most famous exploit is outwitting the giant Cuhullin; they dress Finn in baby clothes and pass him off as their child, telling the visitor that his father is far mightier. Understandably Cuhullin flees!
Fairies make regular appearances too, though they’re not as benevolent as contemporary portrayals. Possibly the best known is the banshee, whose name translates as “woman of the sidhe”, or fairy mounds; in folklore she is said to wail whenever somebody of aristocratic birth dies. Although the figure is ancient- the earliest accounts date back to 1380- one was reported as recently as 1948.
The Irish Queen of the Fairies, a capricious character who never forgives a grudge, bears strong similarities to the Arthurian villainess Morgan Le Fay (whose name points towards her fairy origins). To learn more about Irish fairy folklore, visit Lady Anna, one of the most complete fairy directories on the web.
Haunted places in Ireland
Considering the richness of the Celtic imagination, it’s not surprising it should boast so many haunted castles, hotels and even prisons! From Charleville Castle, which has featured upon shows such as Most Haunted and Scariest Places on Earth, to Grace Neill’s Bar, where the late landlady has continued her job into the afterlife, it’s a trove for amateur and serious ghost hunters alike.
Actors at the Grand Opera House in Belfast have often reported a ghostly figure sweeping across the stage afterhours. Possibly the most tragic is the ghost of County Meath’s Ross Castle, who roams the grounds searching for her drowned lover. For further information, visit the Irish section of the Paranormal Database.
There is a strong neo pagan undercurrent in the Republic of Ireland, with Celtic Reconstructionism being particularly popular. The movement’s goal is to revive pre Christian Celtic religions, making modern adaptations where necessary.
They accomplish this by studying and working to preserve Celtic language, dance and martial arts forms, as well as important archaeological and sacred sites. Regularly undergoing rituals of purification and prayer, they also recreate celebrations as mentioned in Celtic texts; these involve bonfires, songs and divination. They observe the major pagan festivals Beltane (originally beginning life as the Gaelic May Day festival) and Samhain.
Taking their model from the ancient Irish, they swear by the Land, Sea and Sky. Other practices include maintaining shrines to preferred deities and ogham (a form of divination using the Old Irish alphabet). To get a better grounding in Celtic Reconstructionist belief, visit the CR FAQ.
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