Monday, December 31, 2012

May I take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. Best wishes to you and yours and may the new sun shine down upon you and light your way. Please enjoy the celebrations but remember "Don't drink and drive" and think of your pets or stock as they may find the loud noises of fireworks a little frightening. I look forward to posting new and interesting bits and pieces for you and reading your comments (always appreciated).

Keep smiling,


Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sluagh.

The Sluagh are dead sinners that return as evil spirits that hunt for souls.  They come from the west, flying in groups like flocks of crows and attempt to enter the dwelling of someone who is close to death in order to steal their soul. It is for this reason that west-facing windows are kept shut at all times. This allows the soul of the deceased to reach heaven before the Sluagh can intercept it.  The Sluagh are well known in Ireland and Scotland and it was a name that brought terror to those who lay on their death beds.  Stories of who and what The Sluagh were date back through our folklore and these stories would be handed down from generation to generation. The stories may differ slightly but the bones of the story is always the same. Be wary of the shadow in the corner.

Once upon a time, long, long ago. In fact so long ago that only the storytellers remember it. Witches and Wizards walked among us and Fairies and Druids were not as rare as they are today.  Magic was in the air and the gods/goddesses were honoured and death was but another path upon the journey.  It was a time when the world was new and everything was possible.

Even then tales of The Sluagh were told. They were described as the souls of the darkest sinners, sinners so evil that not even the fires of the eternal flame would burn them. They were so evil that the underworld spat out their rotten souls and the earth rejected their very presence.  They were cursed to soar above the earth like a flock of birds welded together for eternity. Never to set foot or claw upon the ground.

The Sluagh is an Irish word meaning host, and they continued in their evil ways even after death.  Drifting on the westerly wind they would watch and wait until they felt a dying soul and if they found a door or window left slightly open, the evil souls would enter and linger in the shadows over the dying and wait. If you were sat nearby you may have even hear the eerie sound of whispers as The Sluagh sucked the soul from the weak and dying body.

  Once the stolen spirit was captured a terrified scream would echo from the shadows and continue through the night slowly becoming farther way before growing silent. The soul of the dying would now be joined to the unforgiving dead,  now they too were cursed to roam forever through the dark night. Damned to an eternity of sorrow, innocent or evil, any soul would do, it did not matter to The Sluagh.

The Sluagh were said to be bird like with long thin fingers that were webbed with leathery skin (a bit like a bat). They had caped like wings that flapped in the night and long claws that protruded from deformed legs. They were said to smell like rotten meat and it was the sound of beating wings together with this smell that alerted you to their presence. If you then heard a knock on the door or a nail scratching at the window you would be wise to ignore it. When darkness fell it often brought death. It always brought shadows.

In modern day Ireland stories are just that, stories, to be laughed at or viewed as entertainment. Nothing more than superstition or bedtime reading. Stories told by the storyteller sending children to sleep before the Sandman sprinkles his magic dust or the bogeyman crawls out to get you. However take a minute and answer me this. Have you ever lain in bed, watching shadows creep across the room, but there is no light to make shadows? Have you ever heard a far away shriek? Was it a cat, wait a minute. It didn’t sound like a cat, Oh I know, it must be an owl. Or was it?  What about the time you woke up from a deep sleep with that scary feeling that someone or something was watching you. Sometimes you wake up in the morning feeling more tired and drained than when you went to sleep, your head hurts, your limbs ache, you feel thirsty. You think you may be coming down with something for that’s what it feels like.

 Perhaps as you lay sleeping The Sluagh came for you. Remember the shadows on the ceiling or in the corner of your eye? When you looked again they weren’t there. Could it be that The Sluagh was feeding but hearing the sound of a weaker soul they left you sleeping? However now they know where you are, they can hear you breathing, lock your doors and keep your windows shut. Look to the west at night, are they flocks of crows returning home to roost...or something else.

 Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore –
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door –
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door –
Only this and nothing more."

Extract from The Raven (published 1845) Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849.
Keep smiling and Happy New Year to you all.
                            I watched this the other day and thought some of you may enjoy it.

                                 I will put up a new post shortly, until then "Keep smiling" :).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

                                                                   Eru the Dragon (2).

Once upon a time, long, long ago.  High on a mountain there lived a dragon called Eru.  She was a very lonely and sad dragon because she had no friends.  Everyone in the local village was afraid of her but this was only because no one had ever tried to talk to her or get to know her.  Eru would love to make friends and if people would only give her a chance they would soon find out that she was the loveliest, friendliest dragon you could ever hope to meet.

Over the years many knights in shiny armour would climb the mountain hoping to kill Eru but they never managed it.  By the time they got to the top they were far too tired and their armour made so much noise that Eru heard them coming long before they got anyway near the top so she would just fly away and hide somewhere else until the got fed up and went home.

One night when all the people in the village were sleeping a very bad dragon called Shadow flew down on the village and stole some sheep.  In the morning the people woke up to find some of their sheep gone and they became very angry.  Guess who they blamed... Yes you 're right...Poor old Eru. However had they bothered to get to know Eru they would have discovered that she was a strict vegertarian and would never hurt any other animal never mind eat them.

That night the people of the village laid in wait so they could catch the dragon if it came back. Shadow had now got a taste for lovely wooly sheep so he did indeed come back, he flew down onto the village and started to attack the sheep but the people of the village came running out of their hiding places and started firing arrows at him. Shadow got very annoyed at this and turned his attention to the villagers, many ran away and hid but some souldn't run that fast and Shadow caught them.

The villagers were screaming and they made so much noise that they woke up Eru who was asleep on top of her nearby mountain.  She flew down to see what all the noise was about but when she saw Shadow she got frightened for she knew just how bad he was.  She was just about to fly away and hide when she saw that Shadow had caught some of the villagers.  Eru became angry, even though the villagers were always trying to hurt her and even sent knights up her mountain to kill her she knew she couldn't let Shadow hurt the villagers and destroy their homes.

Eru flew straight at Shadow, he didn't see her coming and when she hit him he crashed to the earth.  He hit the ground so hard his wings were damaged and the villagers rushed in and finished him off.  Eru landed on the ground,

"Are you alright?" she asked the villagers.

The people of the village didn't know what to do, they were shaking in fright expecting to be eaten at any minute.

"Don't be scared, I wont hurt you" said Eru.

One of the little girls of the village walked forward and said,

"Thank you for saving us, my name is Mary.  You are very beautiful, what is your name?"

"My name is Eru and you are very welcome" said Eru.

All the other villagers introduced themselves and thanked Eru for her help.  Eru became good friends with them and even let the village children ride on her back.  She lived happily and protected the village from harm.  She never felt lonely or sad ever again because now she had loads of friends who had got to know her and found out that she was the kindest dragon you cold ever hope to meet.

So if you ever meet a dragon called Eru be kind to her and you never know she might even let you ride on her back.

Keep smiling, and never judge someone by appearances.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

To all my readers.

May I wish you all a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas/Yule/Solstice. May the new sun shine down upon you and bring you light. I also wish you all a prosperous New year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter Solstice.

Solstice literally means 'Sun Stands Still', for a few days around the time of the winter solstice the sun appears to stand still in the sky in that its elevation at noon does not seem to change. The winter solstice date is normally considered to be the 21st of December in the northern hemisphere; however at the winter solstice the position of the sun remains the same for three days. No one's really sure how long ago humans recognized the winter solstice and began heralding it as a turning point -- the day that marks the return of the sun.

Many cultures the world over perform solstice ceremonies. At their root, an ancient fear that the failing light would never return unless humans intervened with magical ceremonies.

Yule is the day of the winter solstice, the one of the longest night. This solar festival falls close to Christmas. As the Christians converted the Pagans, they adopted many of the country dwellers’ traditions to facilitate the acceptance of Christianity. The Celtic and Germanic/Nordic traditions are the biggest influence of Pagan plants on Christmas traditions. Some of the plants associated with this time of year are:


Holly berries, cloaked in sharp green leaves, are brightest in winter. The Druids revered this plant as sacred. It has been associated with winter magic and believed to repel evil. The Celts of the British Isles and Gaul believed the Holly King ruled over winter and death.

In Scandinavian mythology, the holly belonged to Thor & Freya. The plant’s association with Thor's lightning meant that it could protect people from being struck by his bolts.

Norsemen and Celts would plant a holly tree near their homes to ward off lightning strikes. The crooked lines of the holly leaves most likely gave rise to its association with lightning, as well as the fact that holly conducts lightning into the ground better than most trees.


Ivy is an evergreen vine symbolizing immortality. It had been a symbol of eternal life in many pagan religions, including Druidism. The Christians who converted these Pagans embraced it as a symbol for the new promise of eternal life.


Mistletoe is another plant that is sacred to the Celts and the Germanic/Norse. They believed the plant enhanced fertility because it stayed green in the winters.

The Druids believed the mistletoe's magical properties extended beyond fertility. It was believed to cure almost any disease and was known as the all healer.

Sprigs fixed above doorways of homes were said to keep away lightning and other types of evil. Because the plant has no roots it was believed that it grew from heaven.

Druid priests, five days after the New Moon of Yule, would cut mistletoe from the sacred oak with a sickle made of gold. The branches were divided into sprigs and given to people to hang over their doorways for protection. Mistletoe was placed in baby cradles to protect them from faeries.

The Mistletoe Magic:

From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor.

Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the "soul" of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions.

The Greeks also thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning. The traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement.

Kissing under the mistletoe:

Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek/Roman festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. They probably originated from two beliefs. One belief was that it has power to bestow fertility. It was also believed that the mistletoe also possessed "life-giving" power.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Later, the eighteenth-century English credited it with a certain magical appeal and called a bunch of mistletoe 'a kissing ball'. At Christmas time a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill. If the girl remained unkissed, she cannot expect not to marry the following year. In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry.

Whether we believe it or not, it always makes for fun and frolic at Christmas celebrations. Even if the pagan significance has been long forgotten, the custom of exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe can still be found in many European countries. Now if a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life. In France, the custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year's Day: "Au gui l'An neuf" (Mistletoe for the New Year). Today, kisses can be exchanged under the mistletoe any time during the holiday season.

The Mistletoe Legend:

For its supposedly mystical power mistletoe has long been at the centre of the folklore tales of many countries. One such tale is associated with the Goddess Frigga. The story goes that Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death which greatly alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end.

In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. However, Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe.

Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it, striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally restored by Frigga, the goddess and his mother.

It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that whoever should stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm would befall them, but they should receive a kiss, a token of love. What could be more natural than to translate the spirit of this old myth into a way of thinking and accept the mistletoe as the emblem of  Love which conquers Death?

Happy Solstice. Happy Yule. Happy Xmas. To all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When I tell some of my stories I use puppets, just to entertain the children. This is a story that I wrote for use with a lovely gold and green dragon. Hope you like it as I value your opinions.  It was written for those who might be a little different in some way.

Eru the dragon.

Once upon a time, long, long ago in fact so long ago that only the storytellers remember it.

There was a beautiful green and gold dragon called Eru.  She lived in a secret cave in the side of a mountain with her grandmother.  The cave was so secret that only the dragons knew where it was.

Eru had lovely green and gold scales, flaring nostrils, and a long spiky tail.  She had beautiful shiny wings that opened up in the rain like an umbrella and kept her dry.

All of the other little dragons looked at her and sighed.... some even wished they could be just like her because she could run fast and fly very high as well as being very beautiful.

But Eru had a secret that made her very sad.  She was a little different from other dragons. She couldn’t breathe fire.

Every day Eru sat in the back of her cave where no one except her grandmother could see her and huffed and puffed but not a single flame appeared. Not a spark, not even the tiniest puff of smoke.  Grandmother would say to her, “Don’t worry Eru, it will happen all in good time”.  Eru was sad because she couldn’t toast marshmallows with her friends or play Catch the Fireball all she could do was sit and watch and pretend that she really didn’t want to play and she really didn’t like toasted marshmallows.

Poor Eru, she felt that she was so different that maybe she wasn’t even a proper dragon at all. Maybe she was something else.  Grandmother dragon saw how sad she was and asked her what was wrong and Eru told her about how sad she felt and that if she couldn’t find her fire then she would never be a real dragon. Grandmother dragon listened and an idea popped into her head. She told Eru about a holy mountain where the dragon god lived, it was a place that was known only to dragons and it would be there that Eru would find her fire. The holy mountain was far away and Eru would have to go on the journey alone, it would take her a few days to get there and she would have to travel through the dark forest hat surrounded the holy mountain.

The following day Eru set out and it didn’t take her long to get to the dark forest.  In the forest lived many strange looking creatures.  Hanging upside down in one of the trees was a small animal with teeth and small wings. He looked a little bit like a mouse but of course a mouse doesn’t have wings does he?

“Who and what are you?” asked Eru.

“Well, I was trying to have a nice sleep but if you must know, my name is Ding and I am a bat”.

Eru thought to herself

“I’ve got teeth and wings just like Ding.  Maybe I could stay here”.

Eru and Ding played together all morning and by lunch time they were a little hungry. After lunch they felt a little sleepy so Ding hung upside down on a branch but when Eru tried it the branch bent down because she was too heavy and she bumped her head on the ground.

“Ouch” she said.

“Your a lovely friend Eru, but you’re not really a bat are you?” said Ding,

“No” said Eru, “I’m a dragon”, and she gave a little sigh.

Out of her mouth came a small puff of smoke. Eru told Ding about her search for fire.

“I’ll have to be on my way” said Eru, “I won’t forget you”, and she gave Ding a kiss on his nose. She felt a little warm inside but still no flame came out.

The next day Eru woke under a big tree,

“Hello” said a voice.

Eru looked up and saw a strange looking creature with beautiful colours and sharp claws.

“Hello” said Eru, “Who and what are you?”

“Squawk, My name is Tom and I’m a parrot” said the colourful creature.

Eru thought to herself,

“I’ve got beautiful colours and sharp claws just like Tom. Maybe I could stay here?”

All day they played together chasing each other around the forest but by dinner time they were hungry. When they had finished their dinner Tom said,

“You know Eru you are a wonderful friend and I’ve enjoyed playing with you but you’re not really a parrot. What are you doing in the forest?”

“No” said Eru, “I’m a dragon”, and she gave a little sigh.

Out of her mouth came a small puff of smoke. Eru told Tom about her search for fire.

Tom listened and then he said

“Eru, your fire is inside you, all you have to do is believe in yourself and in time it will come”

“I’ll have to be on my way” said Eru, “I won’t forget you”, and she gave Tom a kiss on his beak. She felt a little warm inside but still no flame came out.

The next day Eru woke up in a clearing in the forest. She looked up and saw the holy mountain a short distance away. She thought of her new friends Ding and Tom and suddenly felt a great heat building up inside her. She flew to the bottom of the mountain, she felt all alone and a little bit frightened but then she remembered Tom’s words.

“All you have to do is believe in yourself”,

She thought of all her friends back in dragon land and she thought of her grandmother. Up the mountain she climbed, higher and higher. As she climbed she looked up and saw smoke coming from the top of the mountain. It seemed to shine in the sunlight and it looked as if the whole mountain was on fire.

She reached the top of the mountain expecting to see the dragon god, she was shaking all over, but there was no one there, no dragon just a big black hole.

“It’s a volcano” said Eru, “It’s just a volcano but there’s no fire, it’s gone out”

Eru began to cry. Now as we all know dragon tears are the most magical things in the world, Eru’s teardrops fell into the dark hole and a tiny flame appeared from the hole.  Eru gave a huge sob and before she knew what had happened she sucked the flame into her mouth and swallowed it. Oh dear.

Eru gave a little burp and out her mouth came a puff of smoke followed by... a bright orange flame.

Eru nearly fell into the big black hole, “What was THAT”, she said.

She tried to burp again, nothing happened, she coughed, she sneezed, she jumped up and down, but nothing happened. She was just about to give up when she remembered her grandmother’s words.

“Don’t worry Eru; it will happen all in good time”

“Well grandma, this is my time” shouted Eru and she gave a huge blow and from out of her mouth shot a bright orange flame.

“Fire” she cried, “I’ve found my fire”

Eru jumped up and down in excitement and the more she jumped the brighter the flame shone.  She stayed on the mountain top all night practicing and in the morning when the sun came up she flapped her wings and headed back to dragon land. She flew over the dark forest and looking down she gave a little puff of smoke and blew a little flame just in case Ding and Tom saw her.

She arrived back to dragon land where her grandmother and friends were waiting together with all the other dragons.

“There you are Eru” said the dragons, “Where have you been? We were worried about you; the dragon god has been blowing fire all night”

“That was me” shouted Eru in excitement.

“No it wasn’t Eru, everyone knows you have no fire” replied the chief dragon

Grandmother looked out from the door of their cave and smiled,

“All in good time” she thought.

“Was it like this” said Eru and she blew out a bright orange flame,

Eru’s friends clapped their wings and shouted “Dragon Fire”,

“No” said Eru, “Its Eru fire”

And that children is a true story, although it might never have happened.

So if you’re a little different just remember the words of Eru’s grandma and friends.

“Believe in yourself and one day your time will come”.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The House of Mystery.

There is a lovely rustic house on the banks of the River Shannon in Baile An Taibhse a small rural village in County Clare. It is shown on records as far back as 1715. It was previously owned by the McDermott family until 1975 and was said to have had a tragic and sordid history whilst under their ownership. Was it this history that some say caused it to have been possessed by evil forces?

In the year 1975 a good, gentle man called John Murphy killed his entire family and then in desperation killed himself. Was it murder-suicide or was there some other darker force at work?

John Murphy was not a local man but those who knew him did not believe him capable of such horrific crimes. When the last remaining member of the McDermott family had died the house had been placed on the market but due to its dark history there was no local interest. However, it was seen by John Murphy who yearned for a simpler life and bought by him in 1975. He was at the time living in England and as soon as the papers were signed he, his wife and three children relocated. As a painter he was able to work from home, setting up a studio in one of the out buildings. May of 1975 was for the time being a happy time.

They say John had an interest in the supernatural and that he began to research the history of the house. Was it this interest that set the wheels in motion? His mental health began to suffer, he began to hear voices and he became paranoid suffering from feelings of persecution. His family became withdrawn and isolated; they refused to talk with their neighbours deciding instead to remain indoors as much as possible.

It was round the end of October when it happened. John had a huge row with some of the locals; the reasons are lost in time. He stormed off and went home, later that night and for the next two nights passerby’s said they heard raised voices, yelling, angry voices, and then....

The police called at the house, receiving no answer they forced an entry, what they found caused some of the officers to become violently sick....It was a terrible sight. Dressed only in their nightclothes, Yvonne (the wife) and the three children (Claire, age 8; Anne, age 5; and Sabrina; age 4) were brutally murdered. Yvonne’s throat had been slit; a later autopsy indicated that this had been done after death. All the children had knife wounds. To make matters worse all four bodies had been propped up against the wall in a sitting position, eyes wide open, staring up at the ceiling where John Murphy was hanging from an electrical cord tied to a wooden beam. He was covered in blood.

Yvonne and the children had been murdered in their own bedrooms and their bodies moved to the room in which they were found by the police. Above each of these four victims was a message, written in their own blood. The murder weapon turned out to belong to John Murphy and the police decided that it was an open and shut case. One of murder and suicide. Case closed.

However, unless John had superhuman powers how did he get up to the ceiling? No ladder was present, no chair, no way he could have possibly have lifted himself up never mind tie the cord round his neck. Even so, he was a quiet man, non-violent. Had he become mentally ill and finally cracked? Had evil forces made him mentally ill? Was he under some demonic possession from the house? How did he end up hanging from the beam? Did some evil force kill him once he had carried out the murders? So many unanswered questions. None of the locals will talk about the house even now. It is known that John had argued with some of the locals just before the murders, were they the victims of some horrific crime and cover-up. The house and its reputation conveniently perpetuating folklore and keeping the truth hidden.

Some years later, the mystery of the house and the tragic events were still generating a lot of interest, in fact it had become quite infamous, so much so that a group of young people decided they would carry out their own investigation. They planned to break into the now boarded up house and spend a few nights there to see what they could discover.  At first all went well, they set up the equipment they had bought in order to assist them in their endeavours and they settled down for the night. Some locals reported hearing angry voices, raised voices quarrelling, just like before. Of course no one realised that there was anyone in the house, they just thought it was the sounds of the house and its history and hurried pass.

Eventually, worried that no communication had been received from any of the young people their families decided to gain access to the house. The equipment was still running and there was even music playing on the radio. The young people, however, were nowhere to be found. They had simply vanished without trace.

Had the house claimed more victims? Did the evil forces within the walls of the house drive them away, if so where were they? Had they been murdered because they had discovered the secret of the previous killings? Again so many unanswered questions.

We may never know the truth, the truth lies buried within the walls of the house and the house remains silent. Some say as you walk past on a lonely winters evening you can hear moaning coming from the house. Or is it just the wind. I’ll let you decide.

Sleep well. Oh and Happy Halloween.


Jack O’Lantern.

According to Irish folklore, a man named Jack, well known for his drunkenness and quick temper, got very drunk at a local pub on Halloween. As his life began to slip away the Devil appeared to claim Jack's soul. Jack, eager to stay alive, begged the Devil to let him have just one more drink before he died. The Devil agreed. Jack was short of money and asked the Devil if he wouldn't mind assuming the shape of a sixpence so Jack could pay for the drink and after the transaction the Devil could change back.

Seeing how the Devil is quite gullible in almost all of these folk tales, he agreed again to help Jack out and changed himself into a sixpence. Jack immediately grabbed the coin and shoved it into his wallet which just happened to have a cross-shaped catch on it. The Devil, now imprisoned in the wallet screamed with rage and ordered Jack to release him.

Jack agreed to free the Devil from his wallet if the Devil agreed not to bother Jack for a whole year. Again, the Devil agreed to Jack's terms. Realizing he now had a new lease on life, at least for a year, Jack decided to mend his ways. For a time Jack was good to his wife and children and began to attend church and give to charity. Eventually, Jack slipped back into his evil ways.
The next Halloween as Jack was heading home the Devil appeared and demanded that Jack accompany him. Once again Jack, not too eager to die, distracted the devil by pointing to a nearby apple tree. Jack convinced the Devil to get an apple out of the tree and even offered to hoist the Devil up on his shoulders to help him get the apple. The Devil, fooled once again by Jack, climbed into the tree and plucked an apple. Jack took out a knife and carved a cross into the trunk of the tree. Trapped once again the Devil howled to be released and told Jack he would give him ten years of peace in exchange for his release. Jack, on the other hand, insisted the Devil never bother him again. The Devil agreed and was released.

Almost a year later Jack's body, unable to withstand his evil ways, gave out and Jack died. When Jack tried to enter Heaven he was told that because of his meanness he would not be allowed in. When Jack attempted to gain entry into Hell, the Devil, still smarting from years of humiliation, refused Jack admission. However, being the kind Devil that he was, he threw Jack a piece of coal to help him find his way in the dark of limbo. Jack put the piece of coal into a turnip and it became known as a Jack O'Lantern. On Halloween if you look you can still see Jack's flame burning dimly as he searches for a home. Of course when Irish people went to America they discovered the pumpkin and as it was easier to carve it soon replaced the turnip.


The Bogeyman.

Many years ago parents would sometimes threaten their children with the words “if you don’t behave, the bogeyman will get you”. However, who or what was the bogeyman?

A bogeyman might live under the bed, in a wardrobe/closet, in a dark cupboard under the stairs or anywhere that might be dark or spooky. If you looked through the keyhole you may see an eye looking back at you...that may be the bogeyman looking back at you.

Bogeymen can appear as shadowy figures you see out of the corner of your eye but when you look there is nothing there.  They can change shape to look like black dogs, weirdly shaped trees with branches shaped like claws or glowing eyes that appear in the dark of night.  They may even stand behind you, causing you to feel uneasy sending a shiver up your back.

The bogeyman is a general term for a frightening figure that was used to frighten the vulnerable and the word itself may derive from the old Anglo-Saxon word Boh, meaning demon. This may also have given rise to the custom of creeping up behind someone and shouting “Boh” or “Boo” meaning “The devil is behind you”.

 Here in Ireland our bogeyman was also known as Bloody Bones or Rawhead and this bogeyman has spread throughout the U.K. and North America presumably through the Irish diaspora (Diaspóra na nGael).

Bloodybones was believed to live in places near water and this may be why he may be found under the sink hiding in the cupboard near the water pipes.  It was said that Bloody Bones would reward good children but naughty children would be taken down through the sink hole or drainpipes into the drains or sewers and there they would be drowned.

This Samhain/ Halloween be careful, if you see a rock that looks as if it has hair on it then it may just be a bogeyman. You may see a black dog covered in scabs or scars, is it really a dog? When you are out for a walk in the woods and you hear a noise or you are standing by a lake and you suddenly feel uneasy, who knows what may be lurking in the undergrowth or beneath the dark waters.  The bogeyman can take many shapes so don’t look over your shoulder.

Sweet dreams.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Poor Tailor.

                 Here is a story that I've told to children and they seem to enjoy it. I hope you do too.

                                                                     The Poor Tailor.

Once upon a time there was a poor tailor. His house was full of cloth – beautiful, beautiful cloth. But none of it was for him. It was all waiting to be turned into clothes for other people.

 Then one day he looked out of his door and there on his doorstep was a big bundle of beautiful red cloth – a present for the tailor.

 Well, straight away he took that cloth inside and he spread it out on his big table and he got out his scissors. And he began to snip.

 Snip, snip, snip. Snippety, snip, snip…

 And out of that cloth he made a...coat.

 It was a wonderful coat. He loved that coat. He wore it in the Spring and the Summer and the Autumn and the Winter. He wore it and he wore it and he wore it…until one day it was all worn out.

And he was just about to throw it away, when he had an idea. He spread the coat out on the table and…he got out his scissors and...

Snip, snip, snip. Snippety snip snip.

Out of that coat he made a...waistcoat.

Oh, what a waistcoat it was. He was so smart in that waistcoat. He wore it to all the best parties. He wore it and he wore it and he wore it…until one day it was all worn out.

And he was just about to throw it away, when he had an idea. He spread the waistcoat out on the table and…he got out his scissors and…

Snip, snip, snip. Snippety, snip, snip…

Out of that waistcoat he made a...hat.

Well, he loved that hat. He wore it in the sun and the rain and the wind and the snow. He wore it and he wore it and he wore it…until one day it was all worn out.

And he was just about to throw it away, when he had an idea. He put the hat on the table and…he got out his scissors…

Snip, snip, snip. Snippety, snip, snip…

Out of that hat he made a...hanky. A handkerchief.

He sneezed in that hanky and he sneezed in it and he sneezed in it and he sneezed in it, until one day it was all worn out.

And he was just about to throw it away; because there is nothing you can make out of a tiny little hanky....when he had an idea...he got out his scissors...

Snip, snip, snip. Snippety, snip, snip...

Out of that hanky he made...a button. His lucky button, he kept that button until he became an old, old man.

One day that button was all worn out. He was just about to throw it away when he had an idea.

This time he left his scissors in his pocket.

Out of the button and the hanky, the hat and the waistcoat, the coat and the beautiful red cloth that had been left as a present for the tailor he made....A Story.

And it is that story that I have just told you.
I hope you enjoyed it and you may even tell it yourself.  Keep smiling.




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Little Dandelion.

The little dandelion.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, the flowers had a huge argument about which of them were the most beautiful, the most special, and the most loved by the humans and by the fairies. The argument lasted for weeks, with each flower claiming to be the most beautiful and the most loved. Finally, all of the flowers agreed that the only way to settle the argument was to let the Flower Fairies decide.

The Flower Fairies sent the wisest, gentlest and kindest fairy to settle the problem and to give one plant her blessing and the title of the "most perfect" flower. The little Fairy decided to test each flower by asking them one question.

The first flower the Fairy talked to was the Rose.

 "Where would you most like to live?" she asked it.

"I would like to climb the castle wall." said the Rose. "And then kings and queens and nobles would pass by everyday and exclaim over my beauty, my scent and my delicate nature."

The Flower Fairy walked sadly away from the Rose.

Next the Fairy came to a tulip, standing tall and proud.

 "Where would you most like to live?" she asked the Tulip.

 "Oh, I want to live in a public garden" said the Tulip. "Where everyday people would come and admire my wonderful colours and see how straight and tall I stand."

 Once again, the Fairy walked away feeling sad.

She walked until she came to a forest. There she found some Violets. She asked them

 "Where would you most like to live, little Violets?"

 "Oh" said the violets quietly "We like it here hidden in the woods where no one can see us and where the trees keep the sun from dulling our beautiful colour."

The fairy thanked the Violets and walked on looking for more flowers to talk to.

She talked to the Tiger Lily who was much too wild and fierce.

She talked to the Sunflower who barely answered her because all she wanted to do was be warmed by the sun.

The little Flower Fairy talked to the Orchids who only wanted to be taken out to dances and she tried to talk to the Daffodil but it was too busy looking at its own reflection in the water to speak to her.

The little Fairy, with tears in her eyes, was ready to give up and go home when she came to a field with bright fluffy yellow flowers on long thin stalks. The leaves were long and jagged and very close to the ground. But the flowers....oh how happy and cheerful they looked in the field!

"Little one" said the Flower Fairy "What are you called and where would you like to live?"

"I am a dandelion" said the little flower."I'd like to live where ever there are children. I want to live beside the road, and in the meadows, and push up between the sidewalks in the cities, and make everyone feel happier when they see my bright colours."

The Dandelion chattered on happily saying

 "I want to be the first flower that the children pick in the spring and take to their mothers.  I can even tell if a child likes butter by being rubbed under their chins, and if a child makes a wish and blows my seeds, I could carry that wish on the wind."

The Flower Fairy smiled brightly and said "Little Dandelion, you are the most perfect and special flower of all and you shall have your wish! You will blossom everywhere from spring till autumn, and be known as the children's flower."

And that is why the dandelion arrives so early and pushes her head up everywhere and why she is so loved by children all over Ireland.

Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Pig With A Wooden Leg.

The Pig With A Wooden Leg.

A journalist became lost on the back roads and stopped at a farm to get directions. As he was talking to the farmer he noticed a pig with a wooden leg. "How did the pig get a wooden leg?" he asked the farmer.

"Well", said the farmer, "that's a very special pig. One night not too long ago we had a fire start in the barn, and that pig set up a great squealing that woke everyone, and by the time we got there he had herded all the other animals out of the barn. Saved them all."

"And that was when he hurt his leg?" asked the journalist anxious for a story.

"Nope, he pulled through that just fine." said the farmer. "Though a while later, I was back in the woods when a bear attacked me. Well, sir, that pig was nearby and he came running and set on that bear and chased him off. He saved me for sure."

"Wow! So the bear injured his leg then?" questioned the journalist.

"No. He came away without a scratch. Though a few days later, my tractor turned over in a ditch and I was knocked unconscious. Well, that pig dove into the ditch and pulled me out before I got cut up in the machinery."

"Ahh! So his leg got caught by the combine?" asked the journalist.

"Noooo. We both walked away from that one." says the farmer.

"So how did he get the wooden leg?" asked the journalist?

"Well", the farmer replied, "A pig that good, you don't want to eat him all at once”!


The Storytellers New Coat.

The Storyteller's New Coat

The storyteller dreamt of a new coat.  He dreamt of that coat so many times he convinced himself that he could not tell stories without it.  In fact he simply could not live without one.

So he began to search for it. Day and night, far and wide. He searched so hard that he forgot to tell the wonderful stories that he knew, in time he lost the skill, He had  forgotten how to sit by a roaring fire and how to say those magic words:

"Once upon a time"

Then one day, while he was wandering the road’s of Ireland, he found it, the perfect coat. And my, was it perfect?

The collar was perfect. The buttons were perfect. The pockets couldn’t be more perfect! It was a perfect coat. It would be perfect for telling his stories in!

The storyteller bought it there and then, he placed it on is back and admired himself in the mirror. He put the collar up, he put the collar down. He put his hands in the pockets; he took his hands out of the pockets. It was perfect!

It was then the storyteller realised that to be a perfect storyteller, he would have to have new boots. How could he perform the perfect story in the perfect new coat and still wear his worn out old shoes.

So again he searched, and  again he forgot to tell his wonderful stories.

Well he searched in Belfast, Ballina and Bantry. He searched in Castlebar, Cork and Charlestown, Tipperary and Tralee. He searched in Limerick, Galway and Mayo! But it was on the Clare Island that he found the perfect boots.

And my, were they perfect? He bought them there and then. He stamped up and down in them he marched like a soldier and danced like a cowboy......Yee Haa.....They were perfect, the most perfect pair of boots the storyteller had ever worn.

And the storyteller stood in front of the mirror, he admired his perfect new boots, he admired his perfect new coat and he was just about to go and tell his stories when he realised that to be a PERFECT storyteller, he would have to have a new hat.

How could he perform in the perfect new coat and the perfect new boots without a perfect new hat? So again he searched for the hat. Forgetting to tell his stories. All the hats he tried were no good. They were all too ordinary, too fancy, too dull or too plain, but then on a market stall in Westport he found it. The perfect hat. Tall and thin, black silk that gently caught the breeze, with a Peacocks feather in the side.

Well he bought it there and then and placed it on his head and looked as fine as any Storyteller who could possibly tell a tale.

And the storyteller looked at himself in the mirror, admired his perfect new hat, his perfect new boots, his perfect new coat and he readied himself to go!

It was then that the storyteller realised he had forgotten all of his stories. So obsessed had he become with finding the perfect new coat, the perfect new boots, the perfect new hat, that he had forgotten all his stories, every single one, every single line, every word. He was a storyteller without a tale!

In the autumn the storyteller sold his new coat to pay for food for his belly.

In the winter the storyteller sold his new boots to pay for wood for his fire.

In the spring the storyteller sold his new hat to buy a new book of tales.

And in the summer the storyteller began to tell again!


So remember, Work with what you have or you may not work at all!


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Inishkea and Inishglora.

Inishkea and Inishglora.

Off the County Mayo coast, caressed by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean we have a number of beautiful Islands.  The little Island of Inishkea was named after a woman called Kea or Gedia who founded a small community of nuns on the Island.  On this Island there is an inhabitant that is of a different kind, a lonely crane.  From the beginning of time he has been there, perched high on a rock looking out over the sea, he ignores all of the other sea birds and is never visited by any of his own kind.  All life passes him by as if it is but a shadow and still he remains, standing there in solitude and there he will remain, keeping vigil until the end of time.  It was here after flying along the west coast that the Children of Lír met the lonely crane and he asked them “What sort of birds are you that speak with human voices?”, and they told him of the long sad story regarding their enchantment and exile by the wicked witch.  The local people cannot explain the legend, they just accept it.
Nearby is the small Island of Inishglora, it is steeped in legend and superstition.  Folklore suggests that it is upon this Island that the Children of Lír are buried It is said that the end of their enchantment coincided with the arrival of Saint Brendan on Inishglora.  St Brendan had a church built on the Island and every Sunday the swans attended Mass there, sitting on the roof of Teampall na bhFear (Church of the men) and every time the communion host was raised the swans drooped their wings and bent their necks.  It was said that Saint Brendan rewarded their devotion by baptising them whereupon they immediately regained their human form, but only for a few moments before they were to crumble into dust (they were over 900 years old). However, before they turned to dust one of the Children of Lír called Fionnuala gave instructions for their burial.  She asked for a wide grave to be dug near the little church; and the Children of Lír were buried together, as Fionnuala had directed-Conn at her right hand, Ficra at her left, and Aed standing before her face. Saint Brendan raised a grave-mound over them, placing a tombstone on it, with their names engraved in Ogham; after which he uttered a lament for them, and their funeral rites were performed.  Tradition tells us that while the Gaughan family lived on the Island they kept the grave covered with white stones, it is still tended to this day by one of the locals who travels across from the mainland.

There is another great legend that concerns the Island of Inishglora which states that bodies buried there do not corrupt because it is believed that its air and soil had a special power, it preserved the bodies of the dead from decay.  Instead of being buried, the corpses were brought to the island, where they were left lying above ground in the open air. They retained their ordinary looks unchanged, and their nails and hair grew quite naturally; so that a person was able to recognise not only his father and grandfather, but even his ancestors. This is mentioned in the Book of Ballymote as one of the wonders of Ireland and O'Flaherty says of it in his Ogyia ;-

"At Inisglóire in view of lrrus shore,
Should we the bodies of our sires explore,
We'd find them blooming, both nails and hair,
No human-flesh can fade or perish there."13

Gerald of Wales, writing in 1146, went even further :-

"ln this island human corpses are not buried and do not putrefy, but are placed in the open and remain without corruption. Here men see with some wonder and recognise their grandfathers, great grandfathers, and great great grandfathers and a long line of ancestors''.

Of course if you visited the Island today you will not see piles of unburied bodies littering up the place. May be their descendents returned to the Island and buried them but this could have been a missed tourist opportunity (no offence intended).  However, local people claim that the story was true until the monks left the island.
It is also claimed that rats or mice cannot live there and that sand or clay from the island would banish these pests even on the mainland. Gerald of Wales had no doubt about it. He wrote :-

''There is another remarkable thing about this island.While the whole of Ireland is infested with mice, there is not a single mouse here. For no mouse is bred here, nor does one live if it be brought in. if by any chance it is brought in, it makes straight for the nearest point of the sea and throws itself in; if it be prevented, it dies on the spot. ''
There is a less well-known tradition that infertile couples who did a station there were blessed with a family. Having done the station they repaired to a special bed on the island - Leaba na h-Athchuinge. One of the earliest fertility clinics! We are also told that Inishglora is frequented by a curious blackbird, whose only other habitation in Ireland is Sceilg Mhicíl.

No one lives on the Island today but there you will find the ruins of old buildings, there are fragments of two churches Teampall na bhFear (Church of the men) and Teampall na mBan (Church of the women). There are some beehive huts where the monks would have lived although these may predate Christianity and may just have been recycled by the monks?  There is a well,, known as Saint Brendan’s well with steps leading down to it.  This well has its own superstition, it states that if a woman takes water from the well it will turn to blood and it will be full of worms, this has been put to the test and has been found to be untrue.  Could this superstition be based on some practical reasons?  It may have something to do with lonely monks going down the steps into a lonely dark place and meeting a lonely nun fetching water, of course we all know what can happen then don’t we, IT WAS THE WATERS FAULT. So there you have it, the women had to be kept away from the well. You will still find garden herbs introduced by the monks and nuns hundreds of years ago growing wild all over the Island, locals say that the herbs will grow until the end of time. May be they will, who can say.
One last interesting point, it is claimed that in the past all ships sailing by the Island lowered their top-sails to honour Saint Brendan the Navigator who founded the settlement there. So next time you see one of the local boats lowering their sails or sounding their horns you’ll know why.