Thursday, October 9, 2008

Irish Folklore and Beliefs

Irish people have a colorful cultural history, with a whole bunch of faeries stories and tales about the brave Saint Patrick, who is said to have killed the snakes and set Emerald Isle free. Ireland’s rich cultural heritage consists of religious tradition and folklore, but not only. Ireland has a fascinating ancient pagan past.

The shamrock, a plant with three leaves, is the symbol associated with Ireland. People believe that it was used by Saint Patrick to espouse on the thesis about the Christian trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It is also said that the shamrock has supernatural power of protection and healing. This is maybe the reason why you can see it engraved on most graves.
Further more, related to Island is the color green, hence it’s famous nickname: Emerald Isle. Green is the symbol of spring and life, so it is used by the Irish people to show clearly their national pride.

But Ireland’s most famous legend is probably the legend of the leprechaun. These are tiny enchanted people, often associated with pots of gold or rainbows. It is said that at the end of the rainbow are valuable treasures, and this little creatures guard them from so lucky people that find them. Leprechauns are usually troublemakers, but they mean no harm. They only perform pranks, delighting not only children, but also adults.

Another famous legend is the one about the Blarney stone from the Blarney Castle. The legend says that Queen Elisabeth I requested an oath of loyalty. Lord of Blarney had no clue about what to say to her. He was told by a wise woman to kiss the Blarney stone; so he did. Therefore, he managed to make his pleading before the Queen.

On the 31st of October, on All Hallow’s Eve, ancient Irish celebrated Samhain. On this day they used to throw a great feast, along with ceremonial lighting and extinguishing bonfires. Every Celt would disguise to fool evil spirits. Finn McCool is the mythical friendly giant who protected the Emerald Isle against Scot’s attack, an evil Scotland giant. Finn extracted a huge clod of earth, throwing it at Scot. The largest lake in Ireland, Lough Neagh, is believed to be the hole made by Finn that day, filled with water soon after that.

Finally, let’s talk about the most popular Irish legend: the one attached to Saint Patrick’s name. In he fifth century, working for the Roman Catholic Church and converting pagans to Christianity, often imprisoned by Droids, he got rid of the snakes in Ireland cursing them and drowning them in the sea.