Customs, Culture, and Folklore

St. Patrick the Man the Myth the Legend!

St. Patrick the Man the Myth the Legend!

By : Kim Hathaway,  March 11, 2014 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have transformed into a spectacle that would likely cause the poor auld saint turn over in his grave if he could see the shenanigans that ensue in his name. Lá Fhéile Pádraig or the Festival of Patrick is far from the holy day of obligation honoring Ireland’s Patron Saint. Catholics and Protestants alike held this day as a religious holiday. The secular folklore and legends that grew from the history of the saint have led to so much imbibing and revelry that some find it hard to believe there was ever such a man. Comparable to many myths and legends, there is truth to the legend of St Patrick. But the truth has become inaccurate and embroidered leaving doubt as to any veracity in the story. Popular legend is that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland and he used a shamrock to teach the concept of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to the pagan Celts of Ireland. Other accounts say that he overthrew pagan idols and won contests against the druids and kings. Regretfully there is no sign of snakes in Ireland nor is there any evidence that discusses the shamrock to teach Christianity. It’s a great yarn that has been told for generations, but it lacks proof. However, there is a foundation to answer all these questions held by the Royal Irish Academy (RIA). We do know for a fact where St. Patrick was born, when and how he arrived in Ireland. We also know he returned to Ireland and became a Christian priest. We know that he had a vision of being called back to Ireland by her people. This vision was to bring him to his mission in Ireland and to convert the Irish to Christianity. What is the evidence? Patrick’s Own Writings Miraculously letters by his hand exist that tell us all of this and more.  Not only do these documents exist, but they are freely accessible to anyone with access to the internet!  There are two Latin works written in Patrick’s own hand. One document is a brief but scorching letter called the Epistola. It is directed against a Britannia Chieftain who ordered the execution and enslavement some of Patrick’s new converts and followers. My name is Patrick… I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.  My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae.  His home was near there, and that is where I was taken prisoner. I was about sixteen at the time. The second document is the...

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If these walls could talk: Top 5 Websites for Historical Irish Homes

If these walls could talk: Top 5 Websites for Historical Irish Homes

In wandering the hills and vales of Ireland have you ever run across an abandoned house, cottage, castle and thought “if these walls could talk”?  Anyone who has experienced this soon feels pangs of sadness at the decay and wasting of many of these lovely old houses! Some of them in such poor shape that they will soon be nothing but a mound of rocks covered with grass and no signs of the from home and its grandeur. Fortunately for us some of these places have been restored to their former state and we can rent them as self catering vacation homes as in, For others there may be no hope of restoration.  But again we are fortunate that there are others who are equally passionate about these old structures and the history and have photographed and published these on the internet. One such historian is Tarquin Blake of Abanoned Ireland Blake, formerly of England and now living in Cork.  He started this project as a weekend hobby and it has grown now to a website, several books and lectures. Another person who has done a great deal of work detailing the history of old Irish country homes and mansions on the internet is Chris Deakin whose work may be seen on the website  Nobody Home .  Chris’s work features mostly castles that are falling to ruins.  A sister to this website is Former Glory.  Here you may buy one, sell one or stay in one of these old homes.If you are more interested in scholarly study of historical homes of Ireland then you will find just that at  the Center for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates based in  Department of History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. The center offers lectures, conferences, and formal educational programs related to this topic. And The Irish Aesthete which is a study of Ireland’s architectural history and features many grand old buildings but also some everyday rural buildings and architecture.You will also want to check out the Irish Landmark Trust where you can actually stay in a restored historic property. The properties include cottages, gatehouses, lighthouse or other restored historic properties.  The Irish Landmark Trust is a non-profit organization that finds interesting buildings in need of conservation and through donations restores them.  Wonderful idea for your fairytale self catering vacation! Theses sites provide a great picture into the past for those of us who aren’t able to visit them in person!   Like this:Like...

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The Gentleman Who Pays the Rent

The Gentleman Who Pays the Rent

When I travel to Ireland one of the highlights of the trip is the Irish Breakfast featuring “rashers or Irish bacon”. I quickly discovered that pigs were very important in Irish history and still today. In the days before the Irish Potato Famine, many farmers were allowed a small plot of land on a large landowners property as tenants on that land. The Irish laborer or small tenant farmer was allowed to plant potatoes which sustained the family all year, but only after he had tended to the landowners crops. While the potatoes were usually enough for the typical farmer to feed his family they often raised a pig. The pig was so well cared for and coveted by the small farmers that they were allowed to sleep in the house! The pig was the means for the farmer to pay half the rent and was sold at market or at a local fair on or around May Day (May 1). The remainder of the rent was due on November 1. The days the rent was due were called “gale day”. I planned to write a full article about pigs in Irish culture. However, when I started my research I found someone had already beaten me to the punch! So here is the article I wanted to write done very nicely by Mairead’s blog Irish American Mom, Thanks for a job well done Mairead! Irish American Mom Like this:Like...

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Waking the Dead

Waking the Dead

As it turns out, the myth that the wake in Ireland came about as a result of lead poisoning suffered by drinkers of stout from pewter tankards is just that! A myth! The story goes that a symptom of this malaise is a catatonic state resembling death, from which the sufferer may recover after a period of a few hours to a few days, to the great relief of those watching for signs of such an awakening. But the truth is that the wake used to be the custom in most Celtic countries in Europe. Mourners would keep watch or vigil over their dead until they were buried. Ireland appears to be the only country where the custom has survived. But even in Ireland the wake is losing favour and the funeral parlour is replacing the home for the traditional wake. Only in the Gaeltach and some rural communities are the old traditions still practiced. In a 1996 article written for the Seattle times by Hugh A. Mulligan titled The Death Knell’s Ringing For The Irish Wake, Mr Mulligan shares some of the reasons for its waning and some of the beliefs behind the rituals involved in the traditional Irish wake. If you want to learn more about Irish wakes try this classic book Irish Wake Amusements by Sean O. Suilleabhain. Originally published in 1961 it provides a first hand account of wakes from the author’s youth and is supported by interviews and research conducted in Ireland.   Like this:Like...

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