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Welcome to Irish Culture and Customs, a labor of love we began several years ago. What started as a surprise milestone birthday trip to Ireland became the beginning of a journey through time. A 2,000-year voyage on a quest to learn as much as we can about everything Irish. So here's where we are so far - more than 700 pages that range from Irish poetry, superstitions , Kids Stories and recipes to specific Irish calendar celebrations such as St. Patrick's Day , Beltane, Samhain and the Feast of St. Brigid. Whether it's an Irish symbol such as the shillelagh, the Shamrock and the Book of Kells or an Irish craft like Aran Isle knitting, you'll discover a wide range of topics in our index. We hope you find the little bit of Ireland you may be looking for and we encourage you to share what you discover with your loved ones on your family website, blog, or social network.
Today's Irish headlines
We comb the newspapers and web sites to find news to start your day with a positive spin. In this section you will also find links to stories from the past two weeks as well as links to the major Irish newspapers, the current time in Ireland and a link to the weather forecast.
Just want entertaining facts about Ireland?
Please click here for Did you Know?
A Triple Treat for Halloween
by Bridget Haggerty
"One often hears of a horse that shivers with terror, or of a dog that howls at something a man's eyes cannot see, and men who live primitive lives where instinct does the work of reason are fully conscious of many things that we cannot perceive at all. As life becomes more orderly, more deliberate, the supernatural world sinks farther away."
William Butler Yeats.
Three Irish ghost stories that are so well documented, they'll make a believer out of you!
by Wm. B Yeats
Ghosts, or as they are called in Irish, Thevshi or Tash (taidhbhse, tais), live in a state intermediary between this life and the next. They are held there by some earthly longing or affection, or some duty unfulfilled, or anger against the living. "I will haunt you", is a common threat; and one hears such phrases as, "She will haunt him, if she has any good in her". If one is sorrowing greatly after a dead friend, a neighbour will say, "Be quiet now, you are keeping him from his rest; or, in the Western Isles, according to Lady Wilde, they will tell you, "You are waking the dog that watches to devour the souls of the dead". Those who die suddenly, more commonly than others, are believed to become haunting Ghosts. They go about moving the furniture, and in every way trying to attract attention.
How the Irish invented Hallowe'en
by Brendan Sharkie
The Celts celebrated Hallowe'en as Samhain, the Feast of the Dead, when the deceased revisited the mortal world. This Oiche na Sprideanna (Spirit Night) marked the end of summer.
During the 8th century, the Catholic Church designated the first day of November as All Saints Day - all Hallows. Thus All Hallows Eve became Hallowe'en. It was an occasion of family reunion after booleying. (Booley - a milking place). Booleying was a system of moving cattle and sheep to summer pastures on higher ground or distant moorland. Young folk and even whole families left the village after the crops were sown and migrated to the booley area. Small homes were built with turf or sods, or of wicker work, and roofed with branches or heather. A chair or two, the cast iron pot, a creel and a few household items would have been strapped to the donkey's back. The little churn was slung on one side of the animal, into which the youngest child was often thrust, its head being the only part visible.
An Irish Halloween - Part 1
by Bridget Haggerty
Ever since the time of the Druids, many customs and traditions have evolved in celebration of Samhain, which is New Years Day in the Celtic Calendar. When Christianity came to Ireland, the church took a dim view of Druidic festivals and created the vigil of All Souls Evening, (or All Hallows Eve) on October 31st, the Feast of All Saints on November 1st, and All Souls Day on November 2nd.
All three days were regarded as one of the most important times of the year and were celebrated throughout Ireland with feasting, merrymaking and divination games on Halloween, the completion of farming activities by Samhain, and rituals out of respect and remembrance for departed kinfolk on All Souls Day.
Creepy Irish Castles and Houses
by Bridget Haggerty
Only in Ireland will you hear terrifying tales of shots still being heard in the execution yard of St. John's Castle in Co. Limerick; of a Cistercian monastery and graveyard where a strange ball of fire is sometimes seen; of Cuffesborough House with its phantom horse; of Castleboro House where Lady Carew still tries to rescue her needlepoint from fire; and then, there's Aughanure, where the Hangman Hempenstall still walks, and let's not overlook Mullingar and Lord Belvedere's "jealous wall"....
An Irish Hallowe'en - Part 2
by Bridget Haggerty
As in many other parts of the world, commercialism has crept into an Irish Halloween, so that nowadays, youre just as likely to hear kids yelling Trick or Treat as you will Help The Halloween Party, and most of them now receive candy instead of the traditional apples and nuts. Its also fairly certain that many of them will be disguised as their favorite TV or video heroes and heroines and that theyll pester their moms and dads to outdo the neighbors when it comes to decorations. Still, many of the old customs are still observed, especially in the more rural areas.
Creepy Irish Creatures
by Bridget Haggerty
The lore of supernatural beings in Ireland is unlike that of the rest of Europe in one very important respect: spirit powers in the Emerald Isle have been endowed with names and personalities.
Of all the unearthly phenomena associated with Erin, two of the most famous are the Leprechaun and the Banshee. Always solitary, it is erroneous to ever consider a company of Leprechauns, or a group of Banshees. However, according to folklore, the Leprechaun was once part of a community called "Luchor-pan or the wee bodies. Over time, the name became corrupted and this corruption gave rise to the notion that "brog " or shoe was part of the name. Thus, Leprechauns became shoemakers to the Good People, as well as the protector of their treasures. And, for whatever reason, Leprechauns were identified with some very anti-social personality traits, including irascibility, cunning, doubletalk and a liking for their own company.
The Dullahan - Irelands Headless Horseman
by Bridget Haggerty
It is said that after sunset, on certain festivals and feast days, one of the most terrifying creatures in the spirit world, the Dullahan, can be seen riding a magnificent black stallion across the country side.
Wherever he stops, a mortal dies.
Clad in flowing black robes, the Dullahan has no head on his shoulders. He carries it with him in his hand, and because he is endowed with supernatural sight, he will hold the head up high. This allows him to see great distances, even on the darkest night.
Protect your property and yourself - make a Parshell!
by Bridget Haggerty
The Parshell is a Hallowe'en cross which is customarily woven on October 31st. It is placed over the front door, on the inside of the house, and is believed to help protect against ill-luck, sickness and evil spirits until the following All Hallow's Eve...
A new one was made the next year and the old one moved to another part of the house. Often, the old Parshell was placed in the barn to help protect the livestock. Custom decrees that on taking down the old cross, one must say "Fonstarensheehy." What this means, we have no idea, but we'll try to find out!
In the meantime, here are very simple directions for making a Parshell:
The irish Kitchen: Barm Brack.
This recipe comes from Aideen, the generous soul who provides the translations and pronunciations for our Irish language pages. Traditionally baked for Hallowe'en, some of the 'lucky' ingredients used and their 'significance' vary from house to house and region to region, so I've given the ones we always used. Two never change - the ring and the coin! Some houses use a pea and a bean for wealth and poverty, a thimble for spinsterhood etc. I have read of a religious medal, to forecast a life in Holy Orders, but I can honestly say I can never remember it being used!
Basic Irish: Halloween and Samhain
It's Trick or Treat in the USA and Help The Hallowe'en Party in Ireland, but wherever you are, this week's lesson focuses on words and phrases associated with the day before the Celtic New Year - Samhain (sow-en).
Kids' Ireland: The Changeling
Once upon a time in Ireland, there lived a woman called Shiela. Shiela had a small baby whom she loved above all else.
One Saturday morning, she noticed that her baby did not look right. Her baby boy was fat, healthy, and happy. This "thing" in her baby's crib was thin and looked like a skeleton. It was ugly and had shifty eyes, not at all like Shiela's baby. This baby "thing" never stopped crying. Shiela was at wit's end. Where was her son? What was in her son's crib? And would it never stop wailing?
Shiela's neighbors came and tried to comfort her. They told her that what was in her baby's crib was certainly a changeling. She must ask the wise woman what to do.
Loreena McKennitt - Masked, Mirrored and Magical
An overview of her music by William Ramoutar
From the gates of Istanbul to the Skellig Islands, there is one thing about her - she does her homework. I have heard from the begrudgers about how she uses other people’s ideas, but to tell you the truth, there is no one else like her I can remember. Whether it is her interpretation of Alfred Noyes’ epic poem or lyrics by St. John of the Cross, there is no one that leaves their stamp on a song like this lady.
We receive many lovely letters from visitors to our web site and subscribers to our newsletter. As we’re fond of saying, your feedback helps to make all of the time and effort worth while. While we have a Readers Write Page where we post comments from time to time, we’ve decided to also select a Letter - one that, for whatever reason, tickled our fancy.
This past spring I went to Ireland with my son and his wife & her family. What a wonderful experience - way too short a time. I would have loved to sit and plan my days in a much more leisurely fashion but what we saw was all too wonderful This was my first time there - did a bit of checking on my grandmother's birth place: Roscommon. I would so love to return.
Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of your wonderful home page. Thank you, too, for "Irish Culture & Customs" - it gives us the chance to know more about Ireland and its people.
Photo Caption: This is Bonnie and her son Michael Hirschler at the Cliffs of Moher.
ED. NOTE: When we asked Bonnie to send us a photo, she very kindly sent us two. We choose the one of her and her son at the Cliffs of Moher because it is such an iconic image of Ireland and one that is immediately recognizable. Standing more than 500 feet at the highest point and ranging for nearly five miles over the Atlantic Ocean, on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, as well as The Twelve Pins, the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara and Loop Head to the South. The cliffs take their name from a ruined promontory fort “Mothar” which was demolished during the Napoleonic wars to make room for a signal tower
Live Music from Mayo
A link to the internet service from Midwest Radio out of Mayo. Broadcasting from their state of the art studios; Midwest Irish Radio plays nothing but the best Irish music. No matter where you are in the world, you are never too far from Ireland when you listen in.
Click here for: Irish Midwest radio.
Shop for the best of Irish products from the comfort of your home
We combed the internet to find reliable resources for the most popular Irish products: Aran Isle sweaters, Guinness glasses, Waterford Crystal, genuine blackthorn walking sticks, the flag of the Republic and more. Some of these shops have become friends; others we trust from their reputations and some offer products that are completely unique. We hope you enjoy browsing through what's on offer and we are confident you will find gifts for any occasion or person, all with an Irish flair.
Did you get your Newsletter?
We try to send one out once or twice a month. If you aren't receiving it, something is wrong. Let us know and we'll try to solve the problem. Note: subscribers are automatically deleted from the data base if the newsletter bounces back multiple times. Full or disabled mailboxes will also cause a subscription to be cancelled. If you have any questions, please contact Bridget.
Fri, Oct 24, 2014
Ireland's Most Haunted Castle
South-east of Birr between Kinnity and Roscrea, in Co. Offaly are the remains of Leap Castle. Originally an O'Carroll fortress, it guarded the pass from the Slieve Bloom into Munster. Said to have more than 50 ghosts, its dark and mysterious past includes the murder of a priest by his brother in the "Bloody Chapel" and the slaughter by their Irish employers of more than 50 Scots mercenaries in order to avoid payment. It has always had a reputation of being haunted and locals have described seeing the windows at the top of the castle "light up for a few seconds as if many candles were brought into the room" late at night. For more details read our article Creepy Irish Castles & Houses.
Click for More Culture Corner.
From tinker and pooka and black-hearted stranger
From harm of the water and hurt of the fire
From the horns of the cows going home to the byre
From teasing the ass when he's tied to the manger
From stones that would bruise and from thorns of the briar
From evil red berries that waken desire
From hunting the gander and vexing the goat
From depths o' seawater by Danny's old boat
From cut and from tumble, from sickness and weeping
May God have your loved ones this day in His keeping.
Edited and adapted from the poem "A Prayer for a Child" by Winifred M. Letts
Quote of the Week
The rick is thatched
The fields are bare,
Long nights are here again.
The year was fine
But now 'tis time
To hear the ballad-men.
Boul in, boul in and take a chair
Admission here is free,
You're welcome to the Rambling House
To meet the Seanachi.
Eamon Kelly’s prologue to his storytelling programme on Radio Eireann. To read our article, please click In My Father’s Time.
Photo credit: Smarter Travel.
What is it about Ireland’s past that so haunts the imagination? More than one answer can be found in Michael Scotts’s powerful new collection of 29 tales. In a newly Christianized Ireland, monks do battle with a devilish monster that has killed a river. In fact, all the water in these stories - from rivers to lakes, conceal dangers that men and women would best avoid. Adapted from an intro by the publisher.
Click here for Irish Ghosts.
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Image Credit: Bizarro Comics