Posts

Showing posts from December, 2013

The Wran's Day in Corca Dhuibhne

Image
The Wran’s Day, which happens on 26 December, just after the winter solstice, is as much a part of the holiday season in Corca Dhuibhne as Christmas Day itself. Its name’s a corruption of the English word ‘wren’, and in Irish it’s Lá an Dreoilín

There’s endless research on the Wran’s Day, and suggestions that dreoilín, the word for wren, comes from draoi-éan, ‘druid’s bird’. It’s linked to ancient midwinter festivals and shamanism, when a shared web of ideas and information was accessed like a form of internet powered by human energy, and to later folk traditions like Straw Boys and Guisers. 
Its rituals belong to a dream state beyond stories, or even words, when there were just images and rhythms.
But if you turn up in Dingle on 26 December, what you’ll see is one big party. Basically, the town gets taken over by musicians and dancers. In the past, the boys back west used to dress up in rags and old coats turned inside out. They’d smear soot on their faces, or wear masks, and go from …

Christmas Eve in Ireland

Image
The old people believed that animals celebrated the birth of Christ and that beasts in the sheds and sheep on the hills went down on their knees at midnight. 


Here in Corca Dhuibhne lighted candles still shine in each window as a sign of welcome to Mary and Joseph, travelling the night in search of shelter. Traditionally, the candle should be lit by the youngest member of the household and only be blown out by a girl whose name is ‘Mary'.
In the past, house doors were left unlatched so that Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller, could come in. A loaf of bread left out on the table for the passing stranger was said to ensure bread in the house for the hungry months ahead. And a bowl of water left by the hearth to be blessed by the travellers was carefully saved by the woman of the house on Christmas morning, to be used for cures throughout the coming year.



People said that blackthorn branches flowered at midnight on Christmas Eve, and that bees woke from their deep winter s…

Received Wisdom

Image
This is Tomás Ó Criomhthain. He was born on The Great Blasket Island off the westernmost end of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula. The island's an isolated place, hard to access and often cut off from the mainland for weeks by fierce Atlantic storms. There's a story that its people took refuge there from invasion and land grabbing on the mainland. The community they built believed that it preserved a cultural inheritance that held lessons for the world.

The photo was taken sometime in the mid 1930s and the book in Tomás's hand was written by himself. Writing was not a part of the Blasket islanders' culture. In their oral tradition the knowledge, skills and beliefs that made up their worldview were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. They were farmers and fishermen, musicians and storytellers, whose community depended for survival on a deep, shared understanding of their environment and a vivid sense of spiritual awareness of their own place within it.