(Irish Folklore) The Souls of Butterflies

Some elements of Irish folklore refer to butterflies as ‘souls of the dead’, making their way from the physical world into the Otherworld. You can actually see why this might occur. The transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly provides a perfect model to explain the concept of changing states (i.e. from life to death) and… Read more »

Giggling Stones near Beara

MVI_0060 There really are few activities more fun than skimming stones with your kids. In Irish, to skim stones is ‘sciotar uisce a dheanamh’ which is where the anglicised word ‘skittering’ comes from (i.e. sciotar). What I really love about the Gaelic though, is that ‘sciotar‘ is also the word for ‘giggle’ or ‘titter’. In my head whenever I… Read more »

(Irish Folklore) The Mystery of Bog Butter

Bog butter has always fascinated me, probably because I love those topics where there’s an element of mystery or no definitive answer. That’s probably not a particularly appropriate thing to say for someone with scientific training but, then again, there are some limitations with the scientific approach. Besides, science has never been about the confirmation of absolutes… Read more »

The Secret Life of Irish Fairies

The nice thing about fairies is that anyone can be one. No, seriously! If you actually look at the modern day interpretation of the ‘fairy’ you’ll find it incorporates not only elements of ‘Ye Olde English folklore’ but Germanic elves, Scandinavian leshyi, classical Romano-Greek nymphs and satyrs, a mish-mash of Tolkien and of course Disney’s… Read more »

Irish Folklore: Magic Fairy Rocks

After a recent post on Adrigole I was reminded about a local feature that we used to pass on the road as kids (and still do as adults). This is just one of those many features that adds that ‘resonance of connectedness’ or ‘familiarity’ to the land that I mentioned last time. This particular feature… Read more »

Irish Folklore: Let Sleeping Giants Lie

One of the most interesting aspects of Irish folklore is how legendary Irish characters are often said to watch over the land from great heights – usually from dominant local topographical features. This particular photo is taken at the hill called Seefin on the Sheep’s Head peninsula (Seefin being a particularly bad anglicization of Suí Finn or Suidhe Finn –… Read more »

Irish Folklore: Water Values

Two words that most Irish people know – no matter how limited their Gaelic vocabulary – are ‘uisce beatha’: the Irish for ‘whiskey’. Uisce beatha – as everyone loves to explain ad nauseum – literally means ‘water of life’. Most Irish people are pretty proud about that description. It’s a cool intellectual construct after all,… Read more »

Folklore: Messing with the Past

I’ve always been a bit fascinated by the prehistoric structures around Aghabullogue (there’s an ancient bivallate ring fort to the south-west, sacred saint stone and of course the Ogham stones etc.). Although the prehistoric remnants there are quite cool, what I find particularly fascinating is the way that later communities of that region have actually interacted with them. In present day Ireland there’s, generally, a pretty decent respect… Read more »

Irish Folklore: Beware the Black Pig

The mythical ‘Black Pig’ features in many folklore stories through Ireland, a reflection of both the respect and fear in which this animal was held by our ancestors. In its most positive sense, the pig was prized for the taste of its meat and this is reflected in the many legends where mythological Gods and… Read more »