Sunday, October 17, 2010

Setanta/Cú Chulainn Hero, Champion, Lover, poet and Hurler.

Dying Cú Chulainn GPO Dublin.
Cú Chulainn (ku kulan, the hound of Chulain) or Setanta was Irelands greatest warrior, often compared to Achilles from Greek Mythology
There are a few conflicting stories on the birth of Setanta, some say mythical others more scandalous. He was brought up by several men  who each trained him in poetry, politics, understanding and how to defend himself.
Like other kids he was interested in sports and hurling one of our national sports was the popular sport at the time (todays hurling star). As a young boy he went to join in a game with older boys, as he was not invited the others took him on all together and he beat them, easily. The King on his way to Chulainn's Castle saw him playing and invited him back to the castle, Setanta wanted to finish the game and asked if he could follow on. The KIng forgot about his invitation and Chulainn put out his guard dog, the most terrifying hound in Ireland and went to bed for the night. The game went on late and Setanta ran to the castle and when he got there the hound went for him, he did not hesitate and hit the ball straight down the dogs throat, killing him on the spot. He went up to the Chulainn and apologised for killing the hound and vowed to take his place, hence he got his name.
At seven as he was been trained as a warrior, on the day his teacher had an important prophecy to announce Cu Chulainn broke every weapon given to him, so the King gave him his own weapons as these were stronger. The prophecy was that the person that the King would give his weapons to would be famous but would die young. He also goes into battle and on his first day kills 3 grown men. Like Achilles in battle he becomes a maniac on the battlefield and when enraged he kills all around him, friends and foes alike.
As a youth he is so handsome that the other warriors fear that he will run on with their wives or daughters, so they scour Ireland to find someone beautiful enough to be his wife. They settle upon Emer, but her father is not happy with this situation and suggests that he train first with Scathach the fiercest warrior in Scotland and a woman.  His hope is that she will kill him, but of course he is so strong that he thrives under her training. At the end of his training she is about to face battle with her greatest enemy, her sister, fearing the Cu Chulainn in battle she drugs him to make him sleep. But he is so strong he sleeps barely an hour and goes into battle and gets Scathachs sister Aife to face him, he did not kill her but forces a truce between the two and makes Aife bear a son for him.
Not yet 18 years old he returns to Ireland and single handed storms Emers father Forgall's castle and kills more than 20 of  his best men, takes Emer as his bride and steals her Forgalls treasure. He then defends Ulster from the Army of Connaught, again single handed. He slaughters hundreds and builds walls of their bodies, but when Queen Medbh, the warrior  queen, is about to face him she gets her period and has to withdraw from battle. After defeating her army he does not kill her and even protects her retreat.
She later contrives to kill him with others of his enemies, one of them Lugaid had magical spears designed to kill Kings, one kills the King of the Charioteers, the second kills Cú Chulainns horse the king of horses and the last is the one that mortally wounds him. He refuses to die lying down so he lashed his body to a stone post, though dying his enemies are afraid to approach him. It is only when a raven lands on his shoulder they dare approach him, Lugaid approachs and as he cut the head of the dying Cú Chulainn , Cú Chulainn cuts off his right hand.
This is the readers digest version of an amazing epic tale.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Prostitution in historical Dublin and the lovely Molly Malone

One of the few parts of our history that gets glossed over when tour guides wax lyrical about Joyce, Yeats and Co. is the fact that the largest redlight area on the then British Isles second city was based in Dublin. The area known as Monto short for Montgomery street was popular with the British soldiers and college students  attending Trinity. At its height it had up to 1600 prostitutes and allegedly among its customers was the future King Edward VII who is supposed to have lost his virginity here. It was finally closed in the 1920's after Catholic Legion of Mary ran a campaign to clean up the area, but more likely because there were not as many lonely British soldiers around. The place is remembered in song and "Monto" is a popular party piece song with many Dubliners.
  Molly Malone whom song has made famous lived around this time and though her legend seems to have grown that she was hardworking pretty girl selling her wares on the street during the day, to support the family fishmongers, the truth is at that time these street sellers were part time prostitutes selling themselves on the streets at night. Ironic that her statue was placed so close to Trinity College which would have been a large part of her customer base. Her song hass been famous all over the world thanks to the popularity of calling Irish bars 'Molly Malone' and the amount of teams that use it as their anthem.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fisherman superstition

It is bad luck to ask a man on his way to a fishing trip where he is going, in some areas the man would turn around and go home in case an evil spell was put on him.
When I first heard this I wondered how many housewives fed up of their husbands going fishing would ask their husband where he was off too. Or how many neighbours would do it after an argument etc. : )

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Newly married superstition

In some parts of the country it was custom for a couple to walk through the front door of their house together after getting married, because it was thought that the last one through the door would be the first to die!
After getting married I carried my wife over the threshold, but just in case I went in backwards :P

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The most wanted man in Ireland Prawo Jazdy

In 2007 a Polish man with the name of Prawo Jazdy was one of the most wanted men in Ireland, he was wanted for a string of driving offences all over the country. Yet he always seemed to stay one step ahead of the Gardai and had given over 50 different address's and his appearance seemed to change too with each new offence. But not only did he avoid conviction, he did not exist. A Garda that was consulting a English/Polish dictionary saw that the Polish for driving licence was 'Prawo Jazdy' sent out an urgent memo. This got leaked to the press eventually and the Garda for their efforts were the "proud" recipients of an Ignobile award for which they failed to collect.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Freud and the Irish and some other modern Myths and stories

When U2 were playing a gig Bono got the crowd to slowly clap after a moment he said "everytime I clap my hands a child in Africa dies from hunger", in the silence one guy shouts back "Stop f#cking clapping your hands then", this funny as it may seem is an urban legend. What is true and ironic is that Bono is a tax exile from Ireland, with all his work on global responsibility to poorer countries, he pays very little tax at home!
There is a belief that Irish people cannot be cured using analytic methods of psychiatry, "This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever"  is what Sigmund Freud actually said about the Irish. Freud claimed that the Irish had no rational thought processes that could be analytically studied, I do not know what size of a group he studied to come to this conclusion or if it was from observing people in an Irish Bar but luckily there is nothing in the water or the Guinness that makes us any different to all other races genetically. But we love the quote and what other way can we explain the madness of being Irish :-).
Last one is a Titanic myth, the Titanic was built in Belfast where there has always been tensions between the Prodestants and the Catholics. The story goes that the hull welded onto the Titanic by a Prodestant was 3909 04 or when viewed in a mirror is 'NO POPE' , for this reason the ship was sunk. This of course is false the actual  number was 401.
BTW we may be a bit mad as a race, but we do put the fun in dysfunctional!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nemedians the next wave of Mythological people to Ireland

The Nemedians were the next people to arrive in Ireland, they arrived a few years after the sad demise of the Partholanians. They were descended from Nemed a Greek King and landed in the north east after getting lost wandering the seas for a year and a half. The fleet sailed with fortyfour ships and a thousand people, but only one of the ships survived to make the journey landing with only about thirty people. 
They started to repopulate the countryside until they ran into the Fomorians, in the beginning the Nemedians won the major battles and kept their freedom. But they too were struck down with disease like the Partholians, with their numbers ravaged, the Fomorians easily seized control and were a cruel master. The Fomorians exacted huge taxes on their subjects, they required two thirds of their wheat, milk and children! This was to be paid each Samhain, this went on until the Nemedians population grew and they led a revolt on the Fomorian stronghold of Tory. 
They were victorious for a time, especially after an intense battle off the coast of Ireland, in what is known today as Bloody Foreland (Not because of the battle as some would have us believe, but because of the landscape at dawn and sunset. The Nemedians had even captured parts of the castle on the Island of Tory the Fomorian stronghold. This was until the Fomorians received reinforcements and the Nemedians were all but wiped out in a massacre. 
There were only a small number  that survived, less than one hundred these fled landing in Scotland, England and Europe, one group went as far as Greece where they were enslaved, these would later grow in number and return to Ireland as the Firbolg nearly 300 years later
Bloody Foreland daybreak

Piseogs the madness of being Irish, contd, babys fingernail superstition.

It is considered bad luck to cut the fingernails of a baby until the child is at least one year old. If you do the child will turn out to be a thief!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Claddagh Ring, Symbol of love and friendship and wearing of the ring.

"Let love and friendship reign forever"
The Claddagh Ring is associated with the Claddagh fishing village Galway City. Though at the time of its origins the Claddagh was a fishing village on the outskirts of the city in the 17th Century. The ring symbolises love (heart), Friendship (hands) and Loyalty (crown), they were precious heirlooms in the Claddagh and passed from generation to generation. They grew in popularity in America and worldwide when people immigrated in the late 1800's after the famine and the tradition of passing on the ring became popular amongst other Irish outside of Galwegians. There is a similar design in Dublin called the fenian ring designed much later but with no crown, to show that they were not loyal to the King of England, but these never were as popular.
It is considered unlucky for a girl to buy her own Claddagh ring, she will remain single if she does! There is also a certain way it has to be worn, with the obvious wearing it on the left hand if worn as a wedding band. But it the wearer is not married it must be worn on her right hand, if her heart is taken she must wear the ring with the point of the heart facing inwards towards her hand, if she her heart is not taken then it points out.
Picture was taken by findabair

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Piseogs the madness of being Irish, contd, weird toothache superstitions.

If you shave on a Sunday morning its bad luck as it encourages toothache
But this could be counteracted by carrying the jawbone of a Haddock in your pocket for the day! I wonder how they figured this one out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Piseogs the madness of being Irish, contd, some Lamb superstitions.

Its good luck to see a lamb with sunlight on its face early in the morning, especially if going on a journey. It is bad luck for a farmer if the first lamb born in the spring is black, it means that there will be a death in the family.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Piseogs the madness of being Irish, Calendar Superstition.

This one is for those that like collecting calendars and getting them as presents at Xmas, I know someone that this relates to, it is bad luck to open a new calendar before the old year is out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Piseogs the madness of being Irish, Bathing Superstition 1

It is considered unlucky to have a bath on New Years day, if you do, you will wash a friend away.

Nothing to do with the fact, you had a skinfull the night before and said or did something you shouldn't have.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Piseogs the madness of being Irish, Churning Superstition.

If you happen to be churning butter and a visitor calls to the house, they have to help out with the churning. Otherwise the butter will spoil and its bad luck to the household.
Clever stroke whoever came up with that one, a great excuse to get out of churning.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Piseogs the madness of being Irish, Superstitions

A Piseog is a superstition, I am going to print a few every week there are hundreds, if you were to follow these nothing would ever be achieved.
Here is a gem

 "It was unlucky to knit at night until you were certain the sheep were asleep"

I wonder who's job it was to go out and check that the sheep were asleep, what if the sheep were only pretending to be asleep or if they woke up : D