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Irish Celebrations & Feast Days - Martinmas
by Bridget Haggerty

Ready to scatter the blood of a fresh-killed animal on your threshold and in the four corners of the house? It’s what they did in old Ireland on November 10th, which is Martinmas - the eve of the feast of St. Martin.

Autumn in Ireland often brings a cold snap followed by some mild, lovely weather. Similar to Indian Summer in the United States, this brief interlude before winter sets in is called Martinmas Summer.

In the old days, as in many countries that were predominantly rural, this time of year was spent in preparation for the hard months ahead. The harvest was in, and depending on how successful the growing season had been, farm families were able to estimate how much they would have to feed themselves and their livestock. Inevitably, there were always animals that couldn’t earn their keep; these would be the fowl that didn’t lay eggs, the cattle that didn’t give milk; animals that couldn’t produce offspring, and the ones that, because of youth, age or disability, couldn’t pull their weight.

And then there were the pigs. They’d been feasting all summer and by St. Martin’s Eve, would be plump and full of flavor. In any event, the livestock that could not be wintered over would be sold, given away, or slaughtered to provide the family a supply of meat for winter. Whatever wasn’t used immediately was salted, cured and stored in oak barrels where it would last for many months.

In pre-christian Ireland, it was the custom to sacrifice an animal on St. Martin’s Eve and then sprinkle drops of its blood on the threshold, as well as in the four corners of the house. This was done to drive off any evil spirits and also to ensure prosperity for the coming year. History tells us that the animal most often selected for this ritual was a pig. Most likely, this was because it was the commonest and smallest of the domestic animals. Whatever was sacrificed, the sacrificial animal was later cooked and provided a hearty meal for the family. If it was a large animal, portions were traditionally shared with those who were less fortunate.

To this day, while the ritual of sprinkling blood may have long died out, it is still customary in Ireland to make a meal of fresh pork on St. Martin’s Eve.

Read our article: The Feast of St. Martin
Image: Family Farm by Lowell Herrero from All Posters and Prints.


Sun, Oct 1, 2017

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.
Photo Credit & More Details: H. J. Moncrieff

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