Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween tradtions, their history rooted in Ireland

Did you know that a lot of the American traditions for Halloween like the carved pumpkin, dressing in costume and calling door to door, were taken from Irish traditions. It died out here, but isnow again returning again due to American influences on TV, the funny thing is that people don't realise that their history.
Halloween was a Celtic festival called Samhain or the feast of the dead, though there is traditions in other cultures celebrating the end of the harvest.
On this night in Celt's believed that the dead walked around amongst the living, to avoid detection Irish people dressed up in costumes of the spirits and faeries so that they would not be carried away to the otherworld. If they were detected they also had the backup of taking the dust from their shoes and throwing it at the spirits. There was a tradition of leaving out gifts of food for the fairies, during Samhain people dressed up called around to neighbours house and got those gifts.
The Jack'o'Lantern has its roots here too, Jack was by all accounts a wicked miserly evil man who was destined for hell. One night he had stolen from his neighbours and making his escape met the Devil on the road. The devil was there to collect his soul, but Jack being cunning managed to trap the devil with a cross so that the Devil lost his power. In order to gain freedom the devil said that Jack would never go to hell and when he died he was not sent to hell, yet he was too evil to go to heaven. The Devil laughed at him and threw an Ember of coal from the fires of hell at him to give him light. Jack placed this into a hollowed out turnip and now wanders the roads of Ireland.
Other stories that have a celtic origin are the headless horseman, the borrowers and swanlake, but stories for another day.
Happy Halloween/Samhain

Friday, October 30, 2009

Second wave of Mythological people to Ireland.

The second wave to Ireland according to the book of Invasions was the Partholanians, they were the first to arrive after the biblical flood according to the monks who wrote down the oral history. The Partholanians were named after their leader Partholon, he was the son of Sera according to all accounts. There are varous histories but it is thought that they had come from the west from the other world, which is thought to be the Land of 'Tir na nOg'(land of the forever young).These again are like the first wave were not mortal men, they were God llike and had magical powers. Partholon arrived with his followers after seven years sailing and landed on the coast of Kenmare in county Kerry.

These people were the shapers of the land of Ireland, when they arrived the landscape was a pretty bare grass-less landscape, but as they landed one plain, three lakes and nine rivers sprung up as if to bless their landing. They cleared off four more plains and more lakes sprang up, they brought farming and cattle to Ireland. They had the first recorded battle in Ireland against the third wave of invaders, they battled the Fomorians and drove them from country.
Also they had the first case of Jealousy and adultry in Ireland, Partholon was out touring his domain and while his wife was gone his wife Delgnat cheated with a servant Topa. After making love they quenched their thirst drinking his Ale from his golden tube, Partholon caught them out by getting the taste from the adulterers mouths on the tube. He flew into a rage and killed the servant and his wifes dog. But his wife laid the blame on him and his absence, saying that it was leaving temptation in front of her like leaving honey in front of a woman, milk in front of a cat, meat infront of a child and not expect them to take advantage.
The Partholanians came to a sad demise when an epidemic broke out and all but one of tribe died from the pestilence, they were living in what is now Tallaght part of Dublin City at the foot of the Wicklow hils. The one Survivor was Tuan who wandered the land untill he was an old man, he then shapeshifted and lived through all of the ages of the invasions so he too was able to tell his history to a monk.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Faerie tree's

There is a fairy tree opposite where I grew up and I have always been fascinated about it as a child growing up. That faerie tree is a Hawthorn tree and there is a tradition in Ireland that a single Hawthorn  growing in the middle of a field is a faerie tree, as the Hawthorn was seen in Celtic mythology as a gateway to the otherworld. I know from the picture that it looks like two trees but its all from the one root.
Irish faeries or 'Sidhe' in Irish, differ completely to the Hollywood vision of Leprechauns, they are not all small, dress in green and are cute with an Oirish accent. There are also many different types of  faerie or little people, some of them are good and some not so good, that and more  I will get into another time.
I was told when I was very small that if I wanted to see the faeries and get their gold I had to go to the tree at midnight. But I was to be very careful, as they are cunning magical beings and would trick me with their magic and I would be left without my pot of gold and could be dragged off to their world in the morning. I remember trying to stay awake until  midnight when I was five or six but I always fell asleep before my parents went to bed, once I did make it to the front door one night in my pyjamas after my parents had gone to bed, but was foiled by the height of the front door latch.  But you just cannot just arrive at the tree at midnight with one hand as long as the other*, you have to come armed with a hand-made three legged stool made from an Ash three. When I was young I had not the means to make myself such a stool and by the time I would have been able to fashion a stool I had gone past the stage of believing in faeries.
It is bad luck to cut down a faerie tree or damage it in any way, it is said that you will never know a good nights sleep again for the rest of your life.  The ill fated DeLorean car company that was the iconic symbol of the 1980's was built in a factory on a plot of ground where a faerie tree was said to stood. The tree was cut down to make way for the factory and folklorists contend that this is the reason for the companies failure, nothing at all to do with its finances or dodgy owner. More recently the Ennis bypass was delayed for a number of years due to a faerie tree on the chosen path of the moterway, the road eventually opened going around the faerie tree. This tree was said to be the meeting point of the faeries when they were on their travels, it was fenced off and the roadworks continued, but the poor faeries still have to cross a motorway.
* 'One hand as long as the other' is a way of saying , coming empty handed, as in if you had something in one hand it would not be as long as the other ;-).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First wave of Mythological people to Ireland.

According to all the ancient Myths there were four waves of people to come to Ireland, the first of these people arrived in Ireland around the time of the Biblical flood, the monks that took down these stories might have made a few edits.  All of these
Bith the son Noe (Noah) did not make it onto the boat with the rest of his family, so Cessair his daughter advised him that they whorship another idol who advised them that they could survive the deluge by sailing to the western edge of the world.

They sailed off in three ships, but only one made it to the west coast of Ireland, forty days before the flood. On board were tree men and fifty women, Bith took sixeen women along with his wife and headed north.
The second man Ladra took sixteen women and died of excess of women withen forty days of landing on Irish soil! He was the first person to be buried on Irish Soil.
Fintan son of Bochra ended up with Cessair and sixteen other wives and fled away  to the west coast to what is now the province of Connaught. Cessair died of a broken heart six days before the flooding of broken heart.
These people were not just ordinary human beings the were semi divine and had magical powers, Fintan went to the mountain of the wave and took the form of a Salmon. He hid during the deluge in a cave and lived for 5500 years, using his magic to shape shift  into other forms like Eagle.