I am thrilled to welcome author Felicity Hayes-McCoy back to the podcast. It wasn’t that long ago when Felicity first joined me on the podcast to talk about her book The Library at the Edge of the World, her first book to publish in the US.
A while back I received a question from a reader about the old Irish traditions, beliefs, and superstitions that survive in modern Ireland. As Felicity and I delve into this topic you’ll soon understand why I chose her for this fascinating discussion!
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Old Irish Traditions that Survive in Modern Ireland
(2:19) A bit about Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Felicity lives at the very end of the Dingle Peninsula, a Gealtacht, or Irish speaking, area where many old traditions are still a way of daily life.
Felicity’s books House on an Irish Hillside and Enough is Plenty have deep ties into traditions and customs of Ireland.
(4:11) St. Patrick’s Day and Feast Days
While St. Patrick is known as the Patron Saint of Ireland, St. Brigid (Bridget) is on par with, and actually an ‘older’ saint.
St. Brigid is celebrated on the eve of February 1. The St. Bridget’s Cross is still a popular tradition to be made- and a very popular Irish souvenir.
You’ll find ‘Pattern Days’ across Ireland for different Saints of each region.
(8:39) Holy Wells
Not all Holy Wells look like charming stone wells with wee buckets. Find a very complete list of Holy Wells in Ireland on this site.
(15:21) Rag Trees
A lone tree or bush has traditionally been associated with the fairies, spirits, gods, or ‘otherworldly’ people.
You will see this in other cultures, too. Tibetan prayer flags or American Indian prayer trees, for example. Or like lighting a candle when you pray.
(19:53) Thin Places
Certain parts of the landscape where it is possible to reach through to a supernatural dimension more easily than in other places.
Sacred places; places that bring you closer to something outside yourself, places that are both revered and feared.
(24:51) Irish Fairies
Irish fairies are not like English fairies. Irish fairies are spirits that are often times dangerous.
Farmers would intentionally work around fairy mounds, which is why Ireland has such amazing archaeological sites today.
In fact, you’ll still find that today when roadways are built!
(26:34) Fire Festivals
Imbolc- the spring season, immediately follows St. Brigid’s Day
Beltane- May eve, May Day
Lughnasa- the arrival of autumn
Samhain- now known as Halloween. A thin time when the world is entering darkness.
Rituals at turning points of the season with dancing and bonfires.
(35:51) Little Christmas
Also known as Woman’s Christmas is celebrated on January 6th, the traditional ’12th day of Christmas’. It’s a day when women leave their houses (ideally the men take over) and have their own celebration.
(40:25) Stone Circles and Solstices
Most people have heard of Newgrange, the large portal tomb that is aligned with the winter solstice.
Stone circles are fascinating because we can only guess by where and how they are placed what they might have been used for.
We know these were special places, partly because they would have taken so much effort to build.
Lough Gur and the Grange Stone Circle in County Limerick
Loughcrew portal tomb in County Meath
Ogham stones, carved with early writing. Learn more at the Ogham in 3D project.
Sheela-na-gig are ancient carvings of a woman, often a grotesque, believed to portray a woman’s ‘triple aspect’ of maiden, mother and crone. Learn more at Ireland’s Sheela-na-gig site.
(52:40) Tips to Experience Irish Culture and Traditions
Renting a car in Ireland? IrishCarRentals.com promotion code IFV
Ask your hosts. B&Bs whose owners have lived in the area their entire lives are going to have personal experiences and information to share.
Look at place names on a map, oftentimes those will hold clues.
Visit the Irish Museum of Country Life in Castlebar, County Mayo
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