Wednesday, 21 March 2012

One for the 'Bucket List'. Super Ireland: From Supernatural to Superstitions

The way our stories tell it, Ireland’s just a land of leprechauns frolicking among four-leafed clovers and fairy mounds, of starry nights filled with púcas and banshees. Well, not quite, but this stuff is not just the preserve of childrens books either.

Ireland’s myths, legends and superstitions are the legacy of a rich oral tradition. Recounting them and the places they happened is fascinating, and fun. Brit McGinnis picked the best to keep in mind on your own supernatural, superstitious, and just plain super trip to Ireland.

Make a wish in Glendalough.

Wishing Well
If you’re one of those people who always makes a wish when blowing out your birthday candles, we have good news. Our ancestors, perhaps even before there were such birthday candles, developed wishing sites. Just perform a certain ritual and Poof! Whoosh! Wish granted. Your first stop should be the Mottee Stone: if you can walk around it three times without thinking of a goat, you’ll earn yourself one wish. At Glendalough, the deal is: hug a cross – make your wish.

Queen Maeve was the famous mythical Queen of Connacht, enemy (and former wife) of the King of Ulster, and is the star of the famous story Táin Bó Cúailnge, a.k.a.”The Cattle Raid of Cooley.” Her tomb at the summit of Knocknarea is bound with superstitions. They say if you bring a stone and leave it at the top of the mound, good luck will come from the Queen herself. Dare to take a stone from the mound, and bad luck will follow you all the way home…

Super Powers
You know that fabulous landscape of ours, the one that forces you to pull over on the side of the road and grab your camera to catch the shafts of sunlight breaking through the clouds onto the lake? Well, according to a few myths, it has plenty more tricks up its sleeve.

Fish mean knowledge here

Legendary Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan (whom the O’Caralan Harp Festival is named after) fell asleep on a faerie mound and awoke with the gift of faerie music. Beats a sore neck, which is my sum experience of camping. Then there’s the famous tale (and tail!) of the Salmon of Knowledge, by the River Boyne.
Don’t look too hard for it, though. Hero of Irish legend Finn mac Cool ate it hundreds of years ago and earned great knowledge in one fell swoop. While stumbling about in the wilderness, he came upon an old fisherman who had been fishing for the Salmon of Knowledge. When Finn offered to wash his dishes, the Salmon appeared on the fisherman’s hook. Finn cooked the Salmon for his new friend, but when hot fish oil splashed on his finger he instinctively stuck it in his mouth to cool the burn and instantly gained all the knowledge from the Salmon. Oops! The poet forgave him, just about, and Finn mac Cool grew up to be a famous warrior being responsible, among other things, for building the Giant’s Causeway!

Blarney Castle – worth kissing

Kissing the Blarney Stone is probably our most well-known method of extracting superpowers from the land, in this case; ‘the gift of gab.’ The origin of the magic stone is unclear; it might have been given as a gift from a Celtic goddess to the builder of Blarney Castle, or it could be the deathbed pillow of St Columba. Millions of people have puckered up to kiss the stone over the years, including Mick Jagger, Billy Connolly and Winston Churchill. It was featured in a 1904 short film called ‘The European Rest Cure,’ and was one of the stars of the 1949 musical ‘Top O’ the Morning.’ The stone continues to be one of Ireland’s most iconic attractions, and if you dare doubt the power of the ‘gift of gab’, consider this ‘proof’ offered by the Blarney blog:
Laurel and Hardy visited Blarney early in the Twentieth Century. It’s no surprise to us that they were amongst the few that successfully made the transition from silent movies to talkies. They did kiss the Stone.
Fairy dust…

A rare fairy caught on camera

Stealing from humans, conferring blessings, hiding in trees; we blame the ‘wee folk’ for a lot. That must explain the reverence for fairy mounds, which even today are never disturbed for fear of a fairy-shaped wrath. The same goes for hawthorn trees, seen as the gateways fairies use to get to the otherworld. Once an entire highway was diverted just to avoid striking down a hawthorn tree. The Glens of Antrim are particularly notable for their continued dedication to fairy fancies – with elderly gents still leaving the last inch of their pints for the fairies.

Púcas are the most mischievous creatures of our folklore, not least because they are changelings. Púcas take different forms for different parts of Ireland. Ask someone in County Down if they’ve seen a mischievous old man hanging around. Maybe someone in Waterford has seen an unusually large eagle? But the púca’s favourite form is a dark horse with golden eyes. Don’t worry about this one, though – púcas are usually pretty friendly to humans!

Púca disguised as statues in Powerscourt?

The Banshee
There are few sounds more feared than that of a Banshee. Hearing the wails of this woman at night meant someone in your family is going to die. The last banshee sighting was reported outside of St Columba’s Church in County Londonderry in the 1940s. That’s about 70 years ago, so we’re safe now, right? Right…?
So there you have it; enchanted sites, magical creatures, and even places that’ll help your deepest wishes come true. In Ireland, there’s enough magic in the air – it might just find you!
Up for more mystical adventures? Visit Ireland’s most haunted spots for a spooky good time, or take a tour highlighting Ireland’s most legend-worthy locations. Or come by Ireland at Halloween —we’ll not only share some barm brack , but a wicked good time as well!
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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Worm Moon - Thursday 8th March 2012

The full Moon in March is known as the Worm Moon, Sap Moon, Crow Moon, CrustMoon, or Sugar Moon. According to the Farmer's Almanac, in this month, the ground softens and the earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of the robins. The more northern tribes called this the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signals the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. TheFull Sap Moon, marking the time to tap maple trees, is another variation.

Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac’s list of the full Moon names.

Full Wolf MoonJanuary
Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.

Full Snow Moon February
The heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east most often called February’s full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.

Full Worm MoonMarch
As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.

Full Pink Moon   – April
This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

Full Flower Moon May
In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this Moon. Other names include the Full Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.

Full Strawberry Moon June
This name was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. Also because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June . . . so the full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!

The Full Buck MoonJuly
July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month’s Moon was the Full Hay Moon.

Full Sturgeon Moon August
The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

Full Corn Moon or Full Harvest MoonSeptember
This full moon’s name is attributed to Native Americans because it marked when corn was supposed to be harvested. Most often, the September full moon is actually the Harvest Moon, which is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice the chief Indian staples are now ready for gathering.

Full Hunter’s Moon or Full Harvest Moon October
This full Moon is often referred to as the Full Hunter’s Moon, Blood Moon, or Sanguine Moon. Many moons ago, Native Americans named this bright moon for obvious reasons. The leaves are falling from trees, the deer are fattened, and it’s time to begin storing up meat for the long winter ahead. Because the fields were traditionally reaped in late September or early October, hunters could easily see fox and other animals that come out to glean from the fallen grains. Probably because of the threat of winter looming close, the Hunter’s Moon is generally accorded with special honor, historically serving as an important feast day in both Western Europe and among many Native American tribes.

Full Beaver MoonNovember
This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.

The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon December
During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun.

This post is for all you LUNATICS out there.....enjoy !!!