The Blarney Witch: Her Kitchen and Stone in the Rock Close

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The Witches’ Kitchen

Witches Kitchen
* The Rock Close * Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * http://www.blarneycastle.ie *

In the enchanted grounds of Rock Close in the fabled lands of Blarney Castle is the infamous Kitchen of the Blarney Witch. Archaeologically it is believed to have been a prehistoric dwelling potentially as old as the Neolithic (3,000-5,000 years old) if there is any connection of it to the The Rock Close Dolmen (Blarney Castle) or the Druid’s Cave and Circle. Atop her wishing steps is her kitchen. It has a chimney and fireplace within.

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The Witches’ Kitchen

Offset from the kitchen is her stone. Apparently by legend she is bound and entrapped in the rock in servitude to bestow wishes upon those who walk up and down backwards the wishing steps while thinking only of their wishes and not letting any other thoughts drift in. In exchange, the Blarney guardians provide her firewood for this very kitchen so she can continue her spell craft and crazy brews while staying warm at night for when darkness falls she is magically released from the stone she is trapped within. Some say if you arrive early enough you can still see the dying embers of the fire as she lights a fire every night. Many believe that it was the Blarney Witch who really told McCarthy about the power of the Blarney Stone while others claim it was her who enchanted the stone as a “thank you” to McCarthy for saving her from drowning in the river. No one seems to know how she was entrapped into her rock. The Echoe Ghost Hunters investigated this area in 2010-2011 and claimed very strong EMP’s were recorded in the area of the Witches’ Kitchen. Most of the lore in this area is centered around the Witch of Blarney.

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The Witches Stone

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Rock Close: Fairy Glade (Blarney Castle)

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The Fairy Glade in the Rock Close of Blarney Castle
* The Rock Close * Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * http://www.blarneycastle.ie *

Not much is known of this glade except that fairies are rumored to flitter around the foliage. Of course this is more-less the Victorian image of small insect-like fairies that resemble tiny human-shaped beings with wings (better known as “pixies”) rather than a habitat for the human-form shaped Fae or Faeries like Elves, dryads, naiads, nymphs, faun, trolls, orcs, and various other hundreds of beings known as Faeries. Its a beautiful little garden section with a ring walk around. A new addition I noticed in 2013 was a wood carved stump chair with the Druid’s rays on it. Little altars and offerings abound throughout the glade. Since Faeries or fairies cannot be proven to exist, neither does any sound history or archaeology on this place being that it most likely was dreamt up by the Castle grounds owners in the early 1800’s when they landscaped and created the “Rock Close” around the prehistoric dwellings that were believed to be utilized by Druids and early Celtic peoples.

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The Rock Close of Blarney

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Rock Close

Rock Close
* Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * www.blarneycastle.ie *

A mystical portal in the heart of the castle grounds of Blarney Castle is Rock Close, a place where faeries dance, Witches’ bless and answer wishes, Druids weave magic, stone monuments made, and magic is alive. The Rock Close garden is not only a site of myths and legends, but of romance and art. A dolmen greets you as you walk along the river after walking through a weaved willow tunnel, with misty meadows, moss covered rocks, and waterfalls. As you walk up the Witches Wishing steps to the Witches Kitchen and where the Witch is trapped in the stone, overlooked by the Druid Cave and by the Druid Ceremonial circle where you can walk around where the faeries play. This is one of the most fun and condensed folklore heavy sites I’ve encountered in Ireland – of course its history is a mystery in of itself. It is also a great romantic getaway from the tourist heavy section of Blarney Castle. Prehistoric dwellings adapted by 10th, 13th, and 19th century adaptations lead a lot to the imagination in this garden. In 1824, Croften Croker wrote in his “Researches in the South of Ireland” about the mysteries of this spot.

    “In this romantic spot nature and art (a combination rather uncommon in pleasure grounds) have gone hand in hand. Advantage has been taken of accidental circumstances to form tasteful and characteristic combinations; and it is really a matter of difficulty at first to determine what is primitive, and what the produce of design. The delusion is even heightened by the present total neglect. You come most unexpectedly into this little shaded nook, and stand upon a natural terrace above the river, which glides as calmly as possible beneath. Here, if you feel inclined for contemplation, a rustic couch of rock, all festooned with moss and ivy, is at your service; but if adventurous feelings urge you to explore farther, a discovery is made of an almost concealed, irregularly excavated passage through the solid rock, which is descended by a rude flight of stone steps, called the “Wishing Steps,” and you emerge sul margine d’un rio, over which depend some light and graceful trees. It is indeed a fairy scene, and I know of no place where I could sooner imagine these little elves holding their moon-light revelry. ~ Croften Croker, 1824

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It was a highly popular in the early 19th century with antiquarians. The mysteries of the Blarney Witch, the Fairies, the Druids, and the Dolmen are sure to enchant you. Blarney Castle does document that this was a place for Druidic worship. The sacrificial altar of course is hearsay, the Druid’s circle is probably, the hermit’s cave or Druid’s cave is a mystery as is the Witches’ kitchen and wishing steps. It has been documented that in the late 1700’s C.E. (Common Era) that the Rock Close was made into the garden area upon which foundations are walked upon today. Apparently the castle owners landscaped around already existing prehistoric dwellings, stone monuments, and Druid circles to make the magical faerie glen it is today.

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Legend of the Blarney Stone

Legend of the Blarney Stone
Blarney Castle, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland * Phone: 00 353 21 4385252 * http://www.blarneycastle.ie/
One of Ireland’s most valuable and mesmerizing mythical collections is the infamous Blarney Stone. Called “Cloch na Blarnan” in Irish, it is the legendary stone for the gift of gab. “Blarney” means “Clever, Flattering, or coaxing talk”. The Blarney Stone is a block of bluestone that is built within the battlements of Blarney Castle, located approximately 8 kilometers from Cork, Ireland. It is believed that whoever kisses the stone is endowed with the gift of gab, great eloquence, or the skill at flattery. It allows the gifted to impart the ability to deceive without offending. Its not an easy task to kiss the stone, as one needs to be held upside down atop a drop of a tall tower to reach the kissing spot. The stone became part of the tower in 1446 and has become one of Ireland’s most notable tourist sites.

Where does the stone come from? There are many myths and legends surrounding the stone and its origins, the earliest of which involves the Goddess Clíodhna. It is believed that the Castle’s builder, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, was in a lawsuit and sought out Clíodhna for her assistance. She told him to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court, and as he did, he gained eloquence and won the court case. Flabbergasted by this magical event he took the stone and added to the castle’s stones. The history of the land and place stretches back over two centuries before the current castle’s construction. There are remains of prehistoric sites and Druid ceremonial remains. No one knows for sure when the Blarney Stone came to the grounds, but it was believed to have arrived sometime around 1602 C.E. Many believe that it was a piece of the Stone of Scone. Others believe it to be the rock that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. Others believe it to be the stone that Jacob used as a pillow and was later brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. It is said that it then became the Lia Fail, or ‘Fatal Stone’ and was used as an oracular throne of the Irish kings. Some say its the Stone of Ezel which David hid behind on Jonathan’s advice while fleeing King Saul and brought to Ireland during the Crusades. Others believe it to be the rock pillow used by St. Columba of Iona on his death bead or his portable altar he took with him while doing missionary work in Scotland. Some believe that the stone was first presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314 to recognize his support in the Battle of Bannockburn. Lore dictates that the stone was previously in Ireland then taken to Scotland and brought back to Ireland in 1314. It is also said that during the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Dermot McCarthy, had been required to surrender his fortress to the Queen as proof of his loyalty. He told her he would be delighted to do so, but something always happened at the last moment to prevent his surrender such as throwing a dinner party or event for the officers charged in the takeover. Many believe this was the charm of the Blarney Stone in effect. The Queen replied to this as “Odds bodikins, more Blarney talk!”

Kissing the Stone has been performed by literally ‘millions of people’ in the world, including world statesmen, literary giants, and legends of the silver screen. Kissing the stone is kissing all of these people by proxy, and by the magical law of contact – gaining the gift of gab that all these people possess. Its not an easy kiss and its important for the lips to touch the bluestone. This quest involves ascending to the castle’s peak, leaning over backwards on the parapet’s edge, entrusting a stranger (Castle guard) with your life by holding on to you. Today, safety wrought-iron guide rails and protective crossbars help prevent death or serious injury. Prior to these installations, the kisser was in danger of serious life risk as they were grasped by their ankles and dangled from the plummet. According to the Sherlock Holmes radio dramatization in “The Adventure of the Blarney Stone” (March 18, 1946) reported a man attempting the kiss plummeting to his death – but determined to be a murder as his boots had been greased before the attempt. The cautious and germ phoebic consider the Blarney Stone to be the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world, as ranked as such by Tripadvisor.com in 2009. It is documented that more than 300,000 visitors come to kiss the stone every year. When I attended in 2010, I watched the guards use antiseptic wipes after every kiss and had hand sanitizer on the spot. Urban legends are amiss that claim locals go up to the Blarney stone at night and piss on it. Of course, anyone who has ever been to the Blarney stone, knowing the tight and tiny ascension up the treacherous tower (that is locked after hours and guarded) that even with breaching security and risking royal criminal punishment, would have to be damn good aim to hit the Blarney stone. Much of the urban legend comes from the incident in the film “Fight Club” where the narrator urinates on the Blarney Stone during his visit to Ireland as his first act of vandalism.

    ‘Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses
    He never misses to grow eloquent;
    ‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber, Or become a member of Parliament.
    “A noble spouter he’ll sure turn out, or An out and outer to be let alone;
    Don’t try to hinder him, or to bewilder him, For he is a pilgrim from the Blarney stone.”

In 1825 Sir Walter Scott came to kiss the blarney stone. Father Prout in 1837 spread word of the wonders of the Blarney Stone making it even more of an attraction amongst the nobility and curious. In 1883 the future President William H. Taft of the United States came to kiss the Blarney Stone. By 1887 the new railway into Blarney afforded many travelers the opportunity to kiss the stone, including boxing legend John L Sullivan, at that time the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. In 1912 Winston Churchill came to kiss the stone. In 1984 Ronald Reagan claimed to have kissed the stone.

Many nation’s around the world have attempted to obtain the Blarney Stone. There are quite a few imposters out and about. The one and true stone is in the Blarney Castle.In 1893 during the World’s Fair in Chicago the Blarney Castle and stone was mimicked with the promoters billing that it was the real stone people were kissing, this of course was false. According to a tradition at Texas Tech University, a stone fragment on display since 1939 outside the old Electrical Engineering Building claims to be a missing piece of the Blarney Stone. In 1938 American businessmen offered the Colthurst family a million dollars to allow the stone to go on tour in the U.S. but the offer was rejected.

The Blarney Stone is just the “icing of the cake” when it comes to the magic and myths of Blarney Castle. Even the grounds in its gardens have their attractions and history, as small caves and structures in the Rock Close garden may have neolithic habitation possibilities, and potentially the home to a mythical witch that was trapped in a rock. The Blarney Witch is said to have servitude to the Castle to grant wishes for those walking up and down the Wishing Steps backwards with their eyes closed focusing on only their wish. The Close also has a Dolmen, Fairy Circle, as well as a Druid’s cave and ceremonial circle. The Martin River that runs through the estate is believed to be possessed by ghosts of salmons leaping for ghosts of flies. Enchanted cows walk from the depths of the lake to graze on the meadows below the castle. There is also a glade where Faeries are believed to be at play.

One can kiss the stone from Monday thru Saturday, 9 am to 6:30 pm in September and May, 9 am to 7 pm from June through August, and 9 am to sundown from October to April. On Sundays, kissing can commence from 9 am to 5:30 pm during the summer, and 9 am to sundown during the winter.

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Morrigan

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The Morrigan

by Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Productions, on December 28, 2013. © 2013: All Rights Reserved – www.technogypsie.com

Also known as The Phantom Queen (“Morrigan”), The Great Queen (“Morrigan”), “Morrigu”, “Morrigna”, “Morrighan”, “Mir-rioghain” (modern Irish), “Morrighan”, “Morgan”, “Mir Rigan”, “Morrigu”, “The Dark Fae Queen”

Goddess of Life, Death, Battle, strife, and sovereignty

Ancestry: Father was Aed Ernmas, Her mother was Ernmas and she has two sisters known as badb and Macha. Her sons were “Glon”, “Gaim”, and “Coscar”.

Corresponding Deity: “Nemon” (Venom), “Macha” (Battle and the Mother), “Fea” (Hate), “Badbh” (Fury); Anu; and “Anand”.

Associations: War, Life, Death, Dark Fae, Dark Elves, Ravens, Crows, the Earth, Mugwort, Yew Trees, Willow Trees, Quartz Crystals; strife, and sovereignty

Forms/Shape shifting: Hag, The Carrion Crow, eel, wolf, heifer, old crone,

Sacred Sites: Plain of Muirthemne (Dundalk, County Louth); Cave of the Cats (Roscommon, county Roscommon); River Unshin (Corann); “The Paps” hills in the North or The Di Chich na Morrigna (pair of hills) (‘two breasts of the Morrigan’) in County Meath; The Cooking Pit of the Morrigan (Fulacht na Mor Rioghna) burnt mound site in County Tipperary; and others.

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Cave of the Cats, Rathcroghan, Ireland

Description: – The Morrigan, the Triple Goddess, known in modern film fantasy (such as “Lost Girl”) as the Queen of the Dark Fae goes far back to the origins of Irish mythology. She is depicted as a Faerie Queen as well as a Goddess. She was the Goddess of Death, Battle, Life, strife, War, and sovereignty. She resided in the Northern realms which were associated with that of the Earth, justice, and the Ancestral Dead. As a Triple Goddess she was also the Crone aspect of the Earth Goddess. The other aspects were “Macha” as the “Mother” and “Anu” as the “Maiden”. She was known to many as the Goddess of War, Life, and Death. She could take life as quickly as she could give life. She was often seen teamed up with the Furies : The Goddesses of War as “Fea”, “Nemon”, “Badbh” (as her three aspects) and “Macha”, “the Mother” who was also the “battle fury”. Indo-European translations suggest that the term “Morrigan” roots as meaning “terror” or “monstrousness” relating to the Old English “maere” meaning “nightmare”, Scandinavian “mara” or Old-Russian “mara” also meaning “nightmare” and “rogan” meaning “queen”. She was known as the “Great Queen”, “Phantom Queen”, and/or “Queen of Demons”. She was notorious for appearing before great warriors when their life was in danger offering them an alternative and assistance in exchange for a commitment, item, or duty. She was known to have appeared before Cuchulainn in a variety of forms. His father, the Dagda, was recorded to have made love to her during creation myths. Cuchulainn was said to have described her as a beautiful woman with streaming long hair, red eyebrows, and wearing a long red cloak and armed with a gray spear riding in a chariot. While he was in battle, she challenged him as an eel, wolf, old crone, and heifer. Other theorists claim the cult of the Morrigan can be tied into many of the other megalithic Goddess cults such as to Matrones, Idises, Dosir that appeared as triple Goddesses as well. Many of these inter-related to fate, death, and birth. Others say the Morrigan is more similar to Norse Mythology’s – the Valkyries as harbingers of death, using magic to cast blessings or curses on warriors and heroes and choosing who will live and die. She was a known shape shifter who could change form at will. One of her favorite battlefield shapeshifting forms is either the crow or raven. The Morrigan has also been accused of inspiring the Irish monnerbund groups who would band together as a group of young warrior-hunters who lived on the borders of society and participating in lawless activities before joining the mainstream when they got older. Some say these groups as well as the Fianna dedicated themselves to her and that she was their Matron. They would gather together at the infamous Fulacht na Mor Rioghn burnt mound sites and cook their hunted deer here somewhat in the like regard of the three hags who cooked the hound in the Cuchulainn myth. She is also seen as a guide to the Underworld or Otherworld, with mazes and passageways, tunnels and caverns leading not only to her lair, but those of Otherworldly entities and places. In this way she is seen as a a dark Queen of the faerie kingdom. She will choose the souls and spirits that she wants to guide down certain paths whether correct or incorrect in achieving their chosen destinations. She is known to use foul weather to cloak passageways or roads, with subtle mists or dense fog, storm clouds, thunder, lightning, or bezerk noises to misguide the traveler. As a Goddess of Sovereignty she is associated with the land and the earth, also as seen as the ruler of the land by granting victory and kingship to those she deems fit. According to myth, legend, lore, archaeology, and literary evidece she could have been the first and earliest of the tribal / territorial Goddesses in Ireland, whereas her connection to land, kingsip, and sovereignty was important if tribal land threatened.

Folklore: There are many Irish myths and legends involving the Morrigan, and this list is but a sampling: The Tain Bo Cuailgne, The Morrigan and Cuchulainn, The Battle of Muirthemne, Bres Mac Elatha and the Tuatha De Danann, The Hostel of the Quicken Trees, The Exploits of the Dagda, The Awakening of the Men of Ulster, The Morrigu, Cruachan, Dagda, The Courting of Emer by Lady Gregory, The Story of the Tuatha De Danann, and Donn Son of Midhir to name a few. In the “Battle of Mag Tuired” (Cath Maige Tuireadh), the Dagda comes across the Morrigan on Samhain at the river Unius where she is washing herself with one foot on each side of the river’s bank. It is said the river was formed from her urination. The Morrigan makes love to the Dagda just before he goes to battle with the Fomorians and they form a tryst. She promises him she would summon the great Druids of Ireland to cast a spell on behalf of the Tuatha De Danann destroying Indech, the Fomorian King, taking from him “the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valour.” She was believed to have taken two handfuls of his blood and depositing them in the Unius river. As the battle is about to be joined, Lugh, of the Tuatha De Danann asks each of them what power they are bringing to battle … he was unable to interpret the Morrigan’s reply, but knows it involved pursuing, destroying, and subduing. In Battle she chants a poem that breaks the battle and the Fomorians are driven off into sea. After that, she chants another poem that celebrates the victory and prophesizes the end of the world. When she appeared before Cuchulainn as a beautiful red-headed warrior, he turned away her amorous attempts, and apparently in due form during his battles in the Ulster Cycle conflicted him as a heifer, eel, wolf, and old hag. During his battle at Muirthemne, she appeared to him as three crones who were roasting a hound on a rowan spit. He was not to eat of the meat for his namesake was after the hound. Eating such would be forsaken and represent the day he dies. The crones shamed him into eating the tabooed flesh and that led to his death in battle that same day. The Morrigan transformed to the form of a black crow, flew to his corpse, and sat on his soldier so that the enemies knew he was truly deceased. Another Cuchulainn’s death tale depicts Cuchulainn encountering the Morrigan as a hag washing his bloody armour in a ford prophesizing his death. After this, Cuchulainn holds himself up tied to a standing stone with his own entrails so he could die standing upright and it is in this pose that the Morrigan transformed as a crow lands on his shoulders so all knew he was dead. Another tale talks of the Morrigan appearing as an old crone trying to cross a stream in front of Diarmuid O’Duibne. No one in Diarmuid’s company took pity on her except he, and went to the stream carrying her across the water on his back. During this act, she transformed into a beautiful tall sidhe woman who was from Tir na nog. She blessed him with the gift that no woman could ever resist his look or refuse him. A woman named Grainne fell in love with him causing him to gain the wraith of Fionn Mac Cumhaill who was also trying to woo’ her. Another legend tells about the Morrigan luring away Odras’ bull. Odras then follows her to the Otherworld through the cave of Cruachan. The Morrigan discovering this, awaits for Odras to fall asleep and then turns her into a pool of water. I’ve always wondered if this “cave of Cruachan” is the “Cave of the Cats” in Roscommon, and if the the pool of water just beneath the rockfall leading up to a hole and passage to the Morrigan’s house is poor old Odras?

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just by the pool’s edge, before the shamble
up to the Morrigan’s Home
Cave of the Cats, Rathcroghan, Ireland

History: The earliest manuscripts referring to her are in the 8th century O’Mulconry Glossary saying that “Macha” is one of the three “morrigna”. 9th century Latin Vulgate translation of the Book of Isaiah as the Lmaia translating to Herbrew Lilith, described in the glosses as “a monster in female form, that is a morrigan”. The 9th century C.E. Cormac’s glossary also describes her as does a gloss in the H.3.18 manuscript of “gudemain” meaning “spectres” with a plural form as “morrigna”. The earliest account depicting the Morrigan as an individual was during the Ulster Cycle stories where the tale between her and Co Chulainn are told in the Tain Bo Regamna (“The cattle Raid of Regamain”). In the 12th century texts known as the “Mythological Cycle” she is also described and told tales about. In the “Lebor Gabola irenn” she is listed amongst the “Tuatha De Danann” as a daughter of Ernmas, granddaughter of the Nuada. In the Mythological Cycle, Ernmas is said to have three sisters known as uriu, Banba, and Fodla which are synonyms for Ireland and were married to Mac Cuill, Mac Cocht, and Mac Graine, the last three Kings of Ireland that were Tuatha De Danann. Ernmas had three daughters who were Badb, Macha, and the Morrigan that were described as being “wealthy”, “springs of craftiness”, and “sources of bitter fighting”. The Morrigan was also referred to as being named “Anand”. She had three sons, “Glon”, “Gaim”, and “Coscar”. The 17th century “History of Ireland” by Geoffrey Keating stated the oriu, Banba, and Fodla worshiped Badb, Macha, and the Morrigan respectively. The 1870 publication of “The Ancient Irish Goddess of War” by W.M. Hennessey was very popular in dressing the Morrigan as a war or battle Goddess. She was also at times linked with the Banshee because of her raven or crow-like shape shifting image and her involvement with foretelling omens, oracles, and prophesies involving certain warrior’s and hero’s violent deaths, just as the Banshee do. The scholar Patricia Lysaght states that “In certain areas of Ireland this supernatural being is, in addition to the name banshee, also called the badhb.” It was through this interpretation that the Morrigan was known not only to cry out imminent death but also the outcomes of war.

Present-day Rites and Rituals:

Many Neo-Pagans today celebrate, worship, honor, and pay tribute to “The Morrigan”. This can be found in many different Pagan traditions such as Druidism, Wicca, Witchcraft, and Celtic Shamanism. Sometimes she’s included in ceremonies with other Deities, while others actually set up permanent shrines in her honor. These shrines sometimes have items sacred to her such as a bowl of brine and blood, raven or crow feathers, red cloth, menstrual blood, and anything else that represents life and death, fertility and war, the crow, or mythology associated with her. Some modern-day Morrigan cults suggest that the rites be kept sweet and simple, to encompass her mythos, and add in elements of her symbology. They say when you fee her presence to offer her something of value to you such as your blood, hair, or favorite beverage. She is infamous attendee of initiations regardless of being a birth, a death, transformation, or a commitment. Some ritualists call the Morrigan down into their cauldrons in order to gain her prophecy or wisdom there.

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Banshee

Banshee
Bunworth Banshee, Fairy Legends and Traditions of
the South of Ireland by Thomas Crofton Croker, 1825

This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
This applies to Australia, the European Union and those countries with a
copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

The Banshee

An Irish malevolent female Faerie that is often connected to a family even though she lives in the woods, bog, or forest. They are known to scream like a howling wind or a screeching of an owl plummeting to its prey when a family member’s death is imminent and will continue onwards long after the death in mourning. This is where the common phrase “scream like a banshee” comes from. Some blame the Keener women who wail in mourning at funerals gave birth to the legend of the banshee. They seem to be attached to families that have the Ó or Mac prefix. They harber omens of death and messages from the underworld. Their main purpose is to warn of death by beginning to wail if someone is about to die. Some say they only warn if someone is about to die in a violent means such as a tragic accident, murder, or catastrophe. They are not always seen, mostly heard, especially at night. Some claim the island winds that Ireland, Scotland, and England experiences howling through the windows, shutters, or glass panes sound like a banshee and is the root of the noise. I can attest every windy night I’ve spent in Ireland, I’ve heard what I imagine to be the wail of the banshee. In fact as I write this, the wind is making such noises coming through the windows and wood work. Another logical explanation is that of the owl – Screech Owls have a similar sound to that of banshees and during their nocturnal hunts are known for their chilling screech.

However there are those that claim to have seen them, and when they do, they often appear as an ugly scary looking hag or old woman. Others claim they shape-shift and while can appear as an old hag, can also appear as a young beautiful woman. In addition to appearing as an old hag, they have been described as wearing grey or white gowns with long pale hair that they brush with a silver comb, though this could come from mixing them up with mermaids says scholar Patricia Lysaght. Some Celtic lore suggests that banshees originated from the death of a wash woman who died in childbirth and is why banshees are often seen washing or preening next to pools or fjords in the forest or along the banks of a spring or river. Though this could be a confusion of them with naiads. They are sometimes described as having winds and being in flight, while other legends confine them to walking the land in the dark of night. Some say they’ve been blended by monks descriptions of them with Lilith. Lilith is often depicted as a voluptuous female with feather like hair, wings, owl-like feet, perched atop two male lions binding them together by their waists. Some legends claim the manifestation of a banshee at first would transform into the Irish battle Goddess known as the Morrigan. She has also appeared in anamorphic forms such as a stoat, hare, hooded crow, or weasel. There are counterparts of the Banshee throughout the Western world, such as in Scotland as the “bean sith” or “bean-nighe” that is often seen washing blood stained armor or clothes of those about to die. Reports of sightings of bean sith and banshees were abundant even as of recent times. They are also found in Welsh mythology, Norse mythology, and American folklore.

A report from Kings James I of Scotland in 1437 claimed he was approached by an Irish seer who was later identified as a banshee. She foretold of his murder at the instigation of the Earl of Atholl. Irish history and mythology tell tales of many prophets who were believed to be banshees that advise the local courts of Irish Kings, and the great houses of Ireland. On Rathlin island, legend describes the banshee’s cry as a “thin screeching sound somewhere between the wail of a woman and the moan of an owl.” In Leinster, there are tales of the “bean chaointe” whose wail is so piercing that it shatters glass. In Kerry, tales report of the scream as a low pleasant singing of a song. In Tyrone, reports as the sound resembling two boards being struck together. They have been said to have cried during the death of Brian Boru. 18th century C.E. American folklore talk about banshee tales in Tar River, North Carolina, though could be the report of a ghoul that was mislabeled a banshee. In South Dakota, a banshee is said to wail upon a hill near Watch Dog Butte. None of the American legends associate the wail with a oracle of death.

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Pooka

pooka

Pooka
Pooka, Phouka, Phooka, Phooca, Púka

by Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Research © 2013 Technogypsie.com

While in urban racial slurrage the term ‘pooka’ can mean a fat or slothful person lacking basic hygiene or modesty, traditionally it is Irish shape shifting dark faerie spirit that would appear in a variety of forms, like horses, old hags, dogs, goats, bulls, goblins, hares, or eagles. In County Down, the Pooka is described often as a short disfigured goblin who is demanding of his/her share of the harvest. In County Laois, it is depicted as a gigantic boogeyman. In Waterford and Wexford it is a large eagle with a giant wingspan, and in Roscommon often as a goat. Regional differences and descriptions vary. Regardless of the form they were most often very black with blazing red eyes. “They appear here and there, now and then, to this one and that one.” According to the Urban Lore dictionary. A mountain or hill creature that preys on the weak, the lost, the confused, a weary traveler, or appears to foretell prophecy on November 1ast to those consulting it. They always appear around dusk, luring an individual to a treacherous fate, often involving a cliff or a ditch. They often would offer rides to weary travelers sending them off at a high speed just before dumping them in a ditch and running away laughing. They were in many terms a trickster and prankster.When chickens see a Pooka they won’t lay eggs, cows won’t make milk. It will appear in front of certain homes call out of the names it wants to take on a wild ride, and if those people don’t come out of their houses, will vandalize their yards. Pooka’s have a grasp of the human languages and are able to talk to any human in the tongue they speak, luring them into their entrapment, confusing them, then terrifying them. Another creature that entices humans onto their backs for a ride are the kelpies. Kelpies will take them on a wild ride and then dive into the nearest body of water to drown them and eat them. The Pooka takes them on a wild ride and dumps them in a ditch, off a cliff, in a bog, or plays a trick on them. Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland, was rumored to have ridden the Pooka … and did so by using a special bridle by incorporating three hairs of a Pooka’s tail. He rode the Pooka in its horse form staying on its back until it was exhausted and surrendered to his will. From this the Boru extracted two promises from it that it would no longer torment Christian people and ruin their property and that it would never attack an Irish unless they are drunk or abroad with intent to do harm. The Pooka agreed. Since the death of Boru, it has forgotten its promises and continues with its original activity.

Some believe the term “Pooka” came from the Vikings as they came to Ireland, referring to the Old Norse term “pook” or “puki” meaning “nature spirit”. These inter-related to the Germanic languages and terms for “pucel”, “pook”, or “puck” meaning benevolent or malevolent nature. Around Europe there are similarly correspondent creatures such as the Welsh “pwca” or “pwwka” or the Cornish “Bucca”, the Channel Islands “pouque” or the poulpique in Brittany. The Welch word “Gwyll” which is their correspondence to the Irish “Pooka” is used to describe gloom, darkness, a shade, a goblin, and the nightmare which is quite similar of the Irish creature. Some believe Pooka or Puca comes from the Irish word “poc” meaning “male goat” or “Blow from a cudgel”. W.B. Yeats wrote about the Pooka as the Poc meaning “he-goat” as a wicked devilish creature. Croker said that a boy near Killarney had told him that “old people used to say that the Pookas were very numerous long ago … were wicked-minded, black-looking, bad things … that would come in the form of wild colts, with chains hanging about them.” Halloween by some Irish is called “Pooka night” and in France the Pooka are blamed for blighting crops that remain in fields or blackberries left unfit to eat. It was always suggested that children do not eat over-ripe blackberries in the fields as it was a sign that a pooka had cursed them. Sometimes they would puke, spit, or defecate on the fruits making them foul to eat. Sometimes farmers would leave a small share of a crop as the “puca’s share” to appease them. Pooka’s however must be civil on November 1st, their day of reign. In some regions, the entire month of November is known as the “month of the Pooka” and during Halloween in some parts of Ireland, children go out “with the Pooka” while others stay indoors for fear of what the Pooka will do to them. During Easter, the Easter Bunny is seen by some as the bunny form of a Pooka bringing chocolate eggs and sweet to kids at Easter which inspired the 1950 film “Harvey” directed by Henry Koster.

One of the classic Irish tales of the Pooka is that of Morty Sullivan and the Black Steed who at 14 ran off from home to America leaving his parents behind alone and sad for their loss of him until their death. When he returned he learned of their fate, felt responsible and sought release from his sins. While hunting for absolution one dark night he came upon a Pooka who lured him onto her black steed that dumped him off a cliff. Pookas can also be a friendly spirit if well treated helping farmers and millers with their harvest. Another tale about Phadrig who fell asleep in a mill and awoke to the clatter of 6 little faeries buzzing around milling corn while a Pooka in the form of an old man wearing tattered clothes directing them with their duties. Phadrig felt sorry for the Pooka, so bought him a fine silk suit and laid it out on the floor for him. The Pooka was delighted then said he was a fine gentleman and would no longer grind the corn no more. Lady Wilde wrote about Pooka that were helpful to farmers and told the tale of Phadraig differently … where the pooka appeared as a bull and told young Phadraig to come to the old mill that night … and after their meeting the pookas would come secretly at night and do all his work for him milling the sacks of corn into flour, running the farm, and doing his chores. This made the farmer’s boy very happy and in reward gave the Pooka a fine suit – but then all the pookas went off to see the world ending their work. This apparently didn’t bother Phadraig as the farm was wealthy and allowed the farmer to retire and sent Phadraig to school. At Phadraig’s wedding, the Pooka left him a gift of a golden cup filled with drink that ensured happiness. Others have described the Pooka as being goblin-like vampiric and blood thirsty. Tales of them chasing down humans, killing them barbarically and eating of their flesh.

There is a place name in the Wicklow Mountains called the “Poula Phouk” meaning “Pooka’s Hole” that is a waterfall that is believed to form the River Liffey. The “Binlaughlin Mountain” in Fermanagh County is also known as the “Peak of the Speaking Horse”. This is one area where some gather in high places to meet with a speaking horse for its prophecy on Bilberry Sunday. The Poula phouk was named after an animal spirit that encountered a pooka there. Currently there is a hydro-electric power station at this point where the river drops through a 150 fee plummet into a narrow gorge in three phases – the second drop is the pool known as the “Hole of the Pooka” and is the scene from where Padraig O’Farrell tells of a Kildare man named Grennan on a hunt chasing a fox, chased it into Tipperkevin north of Ballymore Eustace in County Kildare. The fox appeared here and led the hunter to the river Liffey. During the same point of the chase, a black steed appeared and thought to be a Pooka began to chase it too. As they raced along the Liffey, the Pooka and Grennan made it to the gorge. Grennan tried to recall the hounds though the Pooka tempted them to their fates. The fox headed for the narrow part of the gorge, spied the Pooka’s red eyes, and jumped missing the ledge and falling into the turbulent falls below. The Pooka lept across the gorge and vanished into the woodlands. Grennan followed the hounds and the fox, all which were swimming desperately to get out of the pool, leading to their death. As they died he could hear the Pooka laughing. This Pooka’s hole was also blamed on various floods caused by the power station built at its pool. Again the Pooka’s laugh was heard.

Bibliography / Recommended Reading:

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Morty Sullivan and the Spirit Horse


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Tale of Morty Sullivan and the Spirit Horse

The tale took place between Gougane Barra
and Tobar Ghobnatan. This was the story of a 14 year old named Morty who ran away from home leaving his parents to die heartbroken when he left Ireland on a ship to America. 30 years after they died, Morty returned to find of their deaths. So he went on a pilgrimage to atone for his sins, and was recommended to do so at Ballyvourney at St. Gobnait’s well. He ran off on that advice traveling many miles on into the dark, a new moon nonetheless, with stars obscured by a thick fog. He ascended into the valleys and got lost, but pushed on to reach his destination. The fog grew thicker and thicker lost he became and in doubt he was going to find the chapel. He saw a light not far off in the distance and as it went towards it the light became distant and distant twinkling dimly through the fog. He continued onwards with his journey nonetheless for he thought it was Saint Gobnait guiding his feet through the mountains to her chapel. He realized the light came from a fire of an old woman which came to a surprise to him that a alone woman would travel as far as he on such uneven roads in the dark. He said to her “In the holy names of the pious Gobnait, and of her preceptor Saint Abban .. how that burning fire move on so fast before me, who can that old woman be sitting beside the moving fire?” and upon those words found himself close to the warm fire beside the old woman who was eating her supper. She appeared to him angry at having her meal disturbed, and her eyes would roll at him at every bite. Her eyes were not normal like human eyes, but a wild red color similar to that of an eye of a ferret. He sat in silence watching her. She asked him “What’s your name?” with a sulfurous puff of a breath coming out when she spoke, nostrils distending, eyes growing a bright red. He replied “Morty Sullivan at your service.” She replied “Ubbubbo! we’ll soon see that! and her eyes turned pale green. She said “Take hold of my hand Morty and I’ll give you a horse ride to your journey’s end” and as they did, the fire going before them, shooting out bright tongues of flame flickering fiercely. They approached a cave in the side of the mountain where the hag called for her horse – out of which came a jet-black steed with clanging hoofs. “Mount Morty Mount!” she cried seizing him with supernatural strength and forcing him on the back of the horse. He cried “O that I had spurs!” grasping frantically to the horse’s mane, catching a shadow that bore him up and bounded forward with him, springing him down a cliff onto the rugged bed of a torrent. Pilgrims coming back from Gougane Barra found him flat on his back under a steep cliff down which he had been flung by the phooka. He wads bruised by the fall and said to have sworn on the spot by the hand of O’Sullivan – “Nulla manus, Tam liberalis, Atque generalis, Atque universalis, Quam Suilivanis” never again to take a full quart bottle of whiskey with him on his pilgrimage. The lesson from this fable is to young men to stay at home, live decently, and stay sober if they can, and not to travel around the world. A tale of delusion and whiskey and a long night’s quest through the woods with hallucinations of a phooka-like hag and steed.

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Goibnui, the Smith of the Tuatha Dé Danann

Goibnui, the Smith of the Tuatha Dé Danann

Other names:
Govannon (Welsh), Gofannon (Welsh), and Gobannos (Gaulish), Goibniu, Goibhnet, Goibhniu.

Counterparts:
There is suggestions that Goibnui, the Smith of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was replaced by Saint Ghobnatan. The site of Tobar Ghobnatan had archaeological evidence of a hut and artifacts such as iron slag, a crucible, and metalworking tools leading experts to believe that the site was used for iron works before its Christian occupation. This may have been the metalworking site of Goibnui. This also led to St. Gobnait to being a Patron Saint of Iron Workers. Both names have similar roots. Monastic site where St. Gobnait’s house, well, church, and grave resides has suggestive evidence that it had formerly been a Pagan Shrine with fairy wells. Gofannon (Welsh) and Gobannos (Gaulish). He lived on in Irish myth as Goban Saor, the craftsman who built the two round towers.

Deity / King / Lord of:
Irish/Celtic God of Smiths, Faerie lord of Metal craft. Son of Goddess Danu. Brew master of Immortality elixirs.

Qualities:
iron working, smelting, metal working, brew master, beer.

Description:
Goibniu is the Irish God of Smiths and was a son to the Goddess Danu. He was the official Smith to the Tuatha de Danann. He is found in company often with Luichtne the carpenter, Creidne the wright, and Diane Cecht the leech. His parents are unknown, but believed to be the hypothetical son of Danu, brother to Dagda and Dian Cecht. Others claim his family to be Tuirbe Trágmar (father), Net (grandfather), Balor Elatha (half-brothers), and Dagda (Nephew). He continued on in Irish folklore as Goban Saor, the legendary craftsman who built the round towers.

History:
He was believed to be killed alongside Dian Cecht by a painful plague that struck Ireland.

Folklore/Mythology:
He was believed to be able to smith swords that would always strike true. He was in possession of the Mead of Eternal Life. He, Credne, and Luchtainel were believed to be the creators of the magical weapons used by the Tuatha de Danann in battle. He and his brothers Creidhne and Luchtaine were known as the Trí Dée Dána, the three Gods of art, who forged the weapons which the Tuatha Dé used to battle the Fomorians. He was believed to be a creator of beer that would make its drinker immortal. He was a master brewer for the Tuatha de Danann. His feast would protect the Tuatha de Danann from sickness and old age.

Archaeology/History:
Referred in the Book of Invasions as “Goibniu who was not impotent in smelting, Luichtne, the free wright Creidne, Dian Cecht, for going roads of great healing, Mac ind Oc, Lug son of Ethliu.” Another text referring to him was the St. Gall codex referencing him in a charm during the “Second Battle of Magh Turedh” calling upon him in a spell to remove a thorn “very sharp is Goibniu’s science, let Goibniu’s goad go out before Goibniu’s goad!” During the Second Battle, Ruadan (son of Bres and Brighid) was sent to kill him. As the Fomorians felt he’d make a good spy, he was asked for parts of a spear from Goibniu assembled by a woman called Fron. Ruadan threw the spear at Gobniu wounding him. The spear was pulled out and he was keened by Brigid inventing the practice of keening and giving it to humankind. Keening is the high-pitched wailing for the dead often referenced to the Banshee (beansidhe). He went to the Well of Slaine, watched over by his family and healed by its magic waters, returned to battle, making more weapons for the Tuatha de Danann, and won Ireland from the Fomorians. His weapons always made their mark and wounds inflicted by them were always fatal. His ale made the Tuatha de Danann invulnerable. the Lebor Gabála Érenn describes him as as ‘not impotent in smelting’.

Monuments and Artifacts:
The site Moytura in County Sligo is supposed to be associated with him as is the Moytura site in County Roscommon.

Bibliography/Recommended Readings:

  • R.A.S. Macalister 1941 “Lebor Gabála Érenn: Book of the Taking of Ireland” Part 1-5. Dublin: Irish Texts Society.

  • Gray, Elizabeth A. 1982 “Cath Maige Tuired: The Second Battle of Mag Tuired”. Dublin: Irish Texts Society. URL: http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T300010/index.html
  • MacCulloch, J.A. 1911 “Religion of the Ancient Celts.” Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.

113013-195
Could St. Gobnata be a modernized version of Goibniu?
Statue at Tobar Ghobnatan

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Lelawal, The Maid of the Mist

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Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara, New York

Lelawal, The Maid of the Mist
* Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara, New York *

The Myth of the Maid of the Mist is a Native American legend from the Ongiaras Tribe about a young woman, named Lelawal, the Maid of the Mist. She lost her husband at a very young age and was lost in sorrow. She canoed along the Niagara River to the Falls, singing a death song paddling into the current. She was caught up in the rough waves and hurled into the falls, but as she fell, Heno, the God of Thunder who lived in these falls caught her carrying her down to his home beneath the veil of waters falling. Heno and his sons took care of her until she healed. One of his sons fell in love with her, married, and bore a son who learned to be a God of Thunder. The Maid however missed seeing her family and tribe. Heno reported to her that A great snake came down the mighty river and poisoned the waters of her people. They grew sick and were dying, being devoured by the snake until the mass disappearance of the tribe occurred. She begged Heno to be able to go back to the realm of her people to warn them of the dangers, so he lifted her through the falls back to her people. She advised them to move away from the river onto higher lands until the danger passed. Heno came back and brought her back to her husband. Once the great snake discovered that the people deserted the village, it went into a rage hissing and going upstream to search for them. Heno rose up through the mist of the falls and threw a giant thunderbolt at the snake killing it in one blast. The giant body floated downstream and lodged just above the cataract creating a large semi-circle that deflected huge amounts of water into the falls just above the God’s home. Heno swept through the falls trying to stop the massive influx of water caused by the position of the corpse. His home was destroyed. He called for the Maid and his sons returning up into the sky making a new home in the heavenly realms watching down over the humans, Heno thundering in the clouds as he once did in the falls. The thunder of the falls is Heno’s voice. [ http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/09/the_maid_of_the_mist.html ] Other legends claim Lelawala was betrothed by her father to a king she despised and secretly wanted to be with He-No, the God of Thunder, who lived beneath Horseshoe Falls. In the middle of heartache she chose to sacrifice herself to him, paddling her canoe into the Niagara River and swept off into the Falls. He-no caught her, merged with her spirit, and lived forever in his sanctuary behind the falls, whereas she became the “Maiden of the Mist”.

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Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara, New York

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