Now readers, we’ve been through alot together. At the beginning of my journey I was ready to head back straight to Canada and be reunited with my cozy bed and a hot cup of chicken noodle soup. However, instead I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. In doing so, I encountered people from all walks of life, stood where innocent civilians were gunned down, where druids performed ceremonial rights, where the collision of tectonic plates created mountains, and where the spewing of lava and erosion resulted in stunning hexagonal columns. I have sat inside pubs listening to locals sing their tunes, walked down cobblestone streets with a skip in my step, stuffed my face late at night, and tried honey mead for the first time. I have listened to individuals jokingly mention feuds between family houses, laughed about one truly horrifying music video, learned how to say hello in Gaelic, and met a Boston man with a dog named Peanut who found his true love in Ireland.
While my story so far has been about the places I visited in Ireland, I do want to reflect on the fact that while it was a beautiful country it was the memories that were associated with it that make it all the better. It was the Irish folklore of fairies and leprechauns, the ghost stories of old castles, rubbing the engraving of fertility goddesses in church walls, leaving a part of my soul in the Dingle Peninsula, and learning how to use the term “craic” which made all the difference. It is at this time I want to take a step back to elaborate on these memories and small things I learned throughout my trip. So bear with me and take a moment to enjoy the legends and folklore of Ireland. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.
During one of our lengthy bus rides, our tour guide began to educate us on the folklore and legends of the Irish. He told of us of fairies, fairy circles, and fairy trees. There are many different kinds of fairies and spirits, and one kind of spirit was known as the Púca. In folklore, the Púca is a shape-changing trickster. While there are accounts of them being helpful, our guide informed us that they are often seen as a hindrance rather than being a helping hand. So much in fact, that if you fell flat on your face or tripped on a crack, one often deemed it to be the work of these beings. You see, these little buggers love to cause mayhem and thrive off of it. However, the púca isn’t the only mischievous creature capable of causing mayhem. The next creature is one which is often associated with Ireland: the leprechaun. It is said that if you steal a leprechaun’s lucky coin, one is able to barter with it to grant you wishes in exchange for their freedom. However, before you go out seeking leprechauns, be advised that the likelihood of getting your wishes fulfilled are slim, as these crafty little beings are great at manipulating your words in order to cause more mayhem. To make matters worse, if you manage to catch one and let it escape, luck will not be on your sides friends. These stories were riveting and whether or not I saw truth in them, it was great to hear about magical creatures and mischievous beings. We are often so caught up in our own lives and trying to explain things logically, as adults we have lost that sense of imagination and wonder. As our guide carried on his story, he spoke of the dwellings where some of these magical creatures resided; fairy trees. These trees are so important, that an entire road in Ireland was once diverted in order to avoid cutting a fairy tree. Even more interesting, was learning about the significance of fairy circles. These naturally occurring ring of mushrooms were places in which fairies sung and celebrated. Mortals who entered the circle, would be punished for trespassing on their grounds. These punishments ranged from broken limbs to other serious injuries or misfortune. As someone who studied history in university, it was refreshing to learn an alternative kind of history beyond epic battles and political struggles. It taught me to see the world in a less black and white kind of way.
Now, if the fairies and leprechaun stories aren’t your cup of tea, then perhaps a ghost story may be more to your liking, As a child, I spent an unreasonable amount of time watching paranormal investigation shows. I liked to imagine a world in which the people who had passed on were still looking out for us from beyond this mortal plane. As I got older this obsession would go to watching shows about mediums talking to people’s loved ones from beyond the grave. And so, when our tour guide began the story of the ghost of Red Mary, I was already hooked. In the outskirts of County Clare, Ireland sits a ruined castle called Leamaneh castle. As the story goes, this castle once belonged to a woman named Mary and her husband Conor O’ Brien. The couple lived there together, however far from happily. You see Mary was known for her flaming red hair, but even hotter temper. And so, one day after an especially heated argument it is said she planned the murder of her husband Conor O’Brien. During a battle, he was mortally wounded and while laying on his deathbed, she began the search for a new suitor in order to keep her inheritance. One by one men lined up to marry her, and each time she would tire of one suitor is is said she would murder them or get rid of them. After about twenty five men, she was finally punished for her actions. One night, she was taken from her quarters and was buried in the hollow of a tree where she slowly starved to death. Since that day, the castle has slowly fallen to ruins and it said Red Mary can be seen walking the halls and haunting the surrounding land of the castle.
You have now heard about mischievous magical beings and angry sceptres, and with that I would like to finish this post on a positive note. During my trip, our bus took a drive down the Dingle Peninsula. This peninsula lies on Ireland’s southwest Atlantic coast, and consists of sandy beaches and sharp precarious cliffs. During our drive, our tour guide made up stop at Inch Beach which is a small beach known for its incredibly dangerous ocean waters. If I haven’t mentioned before, it was September when I visited Ireland and I was not about to take a full dip into the waters despite the incredible temptation to do. However, our guide let us know that if we were to dip our toes in the waters a piece of our soul would be left behind. In order to obtain it, we would have to return to the same spot within twenty years or lose that piece of our soul forever. While, the notion of losing a piece of your soul might be alarming, it was easy to see how even without dipping my toes in these icy waters, a piece of my soul would remain in Ireland. It is a beautiful place full of great adventures and if dipping my feet in these waters, made me make a pact to come back for sure one day then I sure as hell was going to dip my feet in those waters. So I rolled up my pants, removed my boots and embraced the waves rolling into the shore and the water beneath my feet. I couldn’t think of a better place to leave a part of my soul behind.
Stay tuned for the final part of the Ireland series coming soon!