Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Little Lame Donkey.

This is a lovely story about a donkey and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s called,


The Little Lame Donkey.

It was a cold night. There was a full moon that lit up the snow covered meadow where the little lame donkey stood. He’d been there since the spring when he arrived with a small travelling fair. He was limping then and his owner decided to leave him behind when the fair moved on. The little donkey didn’t mind, at least he wouldn’t have to pull the heavy cart in which the children sat while he took them around the short circuit in the fairground. He was quite content to stay in the meadow, there was plenty of grass to eat and the local farmers who owned the surrounding fields threw him cabbages, turnips and carrots and they made sure that he always had plenty of water to drink.

But the little donkey was very lonely, particularly tonight for it was Christmas Eve and all donkeys know about Christmas, after all it was one of his ancestors who carried Mary to Bethlehem.  He heard the sound of the village clock in the distance strike midnight and because he felt so lonely he brayed a long, sad bray. Suddenly he heard another sound, this was a different sound. It was very quiet at first, a jingling, tinkling sound and it seemed to be coming from overhead. The little donkey looked up but he couldn’t see anything through the falling snowflakes. The jingling, tinkling sound slowly faded away to be replaced by another sound, crunching footsteps in the snow, someone was walking up the meadow towards him. The little donkey suddenly felt very excited who could it be out at this time on Christmas Eve?

It was a man, a big man dressed all in red, he had a red coat with a hood pulled up over his ears, a pair of red trousers and a pair of black wellington boots and he seemed to be carrying a large sack on his shoulders. As he got closer the little donkey noticed that the man had a big bushy white beard and twinkling eyes.

“Hello fellah, how are you” the man said as he removed the sack from his shoulder and placed it on the ground.

The donkey thought he knew the answer before he asked the man the question but nervously he said “Hello, who are you?”

The big man smiled, “Well I’m known by different names in different places. Sometimes I’m called Sinterklass,some call me Kris Kringle or Saint Nicholas. Here in Ireland I’m called Santa Claus or Father Christmas. I quite like Santa or Father Christmas”.

“But I thought you rode on a sleigh pulled by reindeer” said the donkey,

“I do” replied Father Christmas, “but I’ve nearly finished delivering all the presents for this year so I’ve let the reindeer go on ahead. They’ve been working very hard. I heard you braying a moment ago and you sounded so sad and lonely so I decided to come and see you”

“Where are you going now” asked the little donkey

“Well my final delivery is just outside Westport and I have a couple of chimneys to drop into”

“but Westport is about 5 miles away” said the little donkey,

“I know” said Father Christmas “but it won’t take me long to walk”

The donkey looked down to the large sack next to Father Christmas’s feet,

“I could help you” he said, “You could lift the sack onto my back and I could carry it for you”

“But what about your lame leg” answered Father Christmas,

“I can do it” insisted the little donkey,

Father Christmas smiled and said “Very well, if your sure, I would be very grateful for your help” and he lifted the sack and gently placed it on to the little donkey’s back and off the two of them went, across the meadow, down into the valley and headed towards Westport.

They chatted away as they walked and time passed quickly. They made four stops on the way and Father Christmas took mysterious and exciting looking packages from the sack and disappeared down the chimney of each house. They eventually arrived at a little farm just outside of Westport just as the sun began to wake up. Dawn was breaking and the little donkey noticed a wisp of smoke curling from the chimney of the farm house.

“Their awake early” said Father Christmas as he lifted the sack from the donkey’s back. “Time I wasn’t here” He patted the little donkey on the neck. He placed a smaller sack next to the donkey and said,

“Goodbye my friend, take care and I’ll see you again next year” The donkey looked around but Father Christmas was nowhere to be seen.

Just then the back door of the farmhouse opened and Mrs Foy came out to feed the chickens. She saw the donkey.

“What have we here” she said in surprise, she turned back and called into the farmhouse “Come out here quick, we have a visitor”

Her husband and children appeared in their dressing gowns and slippers ,

 Mr Foy said “Where did he come from” He walked over to the donkey. “Look at this” he said, “I think Father Christmas has been here” he patted the little donkey on the neck and he bent down to examine the sack.

By this time the children had become extremely excited, it was Christmas morning after all. They ran over to the little donkey and for a moment they even forgot about the sack bulging with Christmas presents.

“Look daddy” said one of the children, “There’s some tinsel around the donkey’s neck and there’s a label on it”

Mr Foy looked at the label and read the message out loud,

“Here is a special present for you all. He has a lame leg. Please take special care of him for he is my friend. Have a very merry Christmas”
Well they did look after the little lame donkey, they loved him. Mr Foy who knew a lot about animals helped the donkey’s leg to get better. In the spring he was even well enough to let the children ride him around the farmyard and he was never lonely again. As far as I know, he is still with them to this day

The Boy's at Án Post

Here is a little story to warm your heart. I’ve simply called it

The Boy’s at An Post.

Once upon a time not that long ago the sorting office for An Post was relocated from the local post office to a central location in Athlone. There was a fellah working there whose job it was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses.

One day a letter came to his desk addressed to God in very shaky handwriting. He looked at it and thought to himself “I’d better open this one and see what it’s all about”

When he opened it he began to read. It said,

“Dear God, I am an 83 year old widow living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse, it had a hundred euros in it. It was all the money I had in the world and I won’t get my next pension cheque until after Christmas. I’ve invited two of my friends over for Christmas dinner so we won’t be lonely but without that money I won’t be able to buy any food. I have no family and no one to turn to, you’re my only hope. Can you please help me”

With a tear in his eye the postal worker went around the department and showed the letter to all his colleagues. Every one of them decided to put a couple of euros into an envelope and by the end of the day they had collected 95 euros. They sent it to the old woman’s address which was written on the top of the letter. All of them felt a warm glow because of the kind thing they had done.

Well Christmas came and went and after the holidays they had all returned to work when another letter came from the old woman. Once again it was addressed to god in the same shaky handwriting. All the workers gathered round while the letter was opened. It read,

“Dear God, how can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me. With the money you sent I was able to buy all the food and we had a lovely Christmas dinner. I told my two friends all about your wonderful gift. By the way, there was five euros missing, I think it must be those thieving fellahs at the sorting office”

Séan's Special Gift.

This is a story that may bring a tear to your eye, it’s a lovely tale about the love of two people. It’s called

Sean's Special Gift.

Can you remember the most meaningful present you’ve ever given to someone? It doesn’t have to cost the earth or be something flashy. It’s the joy of giving a gift to someone that really shows the thought that you’ve put into it and that’s what makes them so important. Here is a story about one such gift; I hope it reminds you of that special moment and how it may relate to your own Christmas story.

Sean steadied himself against the cold night wind, holding tight to his silver topped walking stick he stared at all the beautiful things in the shop windows on Bridge Street,

“What do I get for her” he said to himself. He only needed one present but it had to be perfect and time was running out.

Snowflakes began to fall and people walked by some loaded up with bags some still looking for that last minute gift. People carrying Xmas shopping and the air seemed filled with the sound of people calling out to those that they recognised

“How are ye” and “Happy Xmas”

Children with eyes wide looked in the shop windows and pulled at their parents hands “Look Mammy, Daddy” they shouted as they tugged at their sleeves dragging them away from boring stuff like dresses and jewellery and towards the more exciting windows with toys and sweets.

Sean turned around very carefully for now the street was slippy with snow and leaning on his walking stick he wandered down towards the end of Bridge Street. What wonderful things he saw, beautiful shiny objects, and the smells, Ohhh the smell was lovely, mince pies and mulled wine, turkey and ham. The air seemed alive. He pulled his scarf a little tighter and put his head down but even though he wore a wide brimmed hat the cold wind still stung his eyes and froze his cheeks. It even brought tears to his eyes, or was that the wind or something else?

Window after window Sean passed and each was filled with different things that at various times throughout his long life he had bought. A diamond ring, a wedding ring, elegant clothes, baby things, toys oh yes loads of toys especially those toys that you had to put together or those that you forgot to get batteries for.  Sean smiled as he remembered how she’d laughed and swore at him for being a complete eejit, fancy forgetting the batteries. She laughed as he tried to put the toys together and she’d bring him a cup of tea. They’d sit and talk about Christmases past and they’d nibble at the mince pie and drink the milk that the children had left for Santa and Rudolf. Then when all the work was finished they would sit in front of the fire and say a prayer to the child who had changed the world all those centuries ago, they’d pray for peace, they’d kiss and hold each other close. Yes they were the times he remembered best about this time of year, the times when they knew love best and their years were so very full.

Sean smiled and whispered to himself so that those who stood near him didn’t hear “Wonderful, wonderful times, but my present, I must find my present”

He turned and began to walk back down the other side of Bridge Street. Past Port West, Past Gavin’s, past the cafes and the smell of freshly baked cakes and pubs filled with the sound of laughter. He came to a stop at a toy shop window and looked in. He saw sail boats and dolls, games and teddy bears. He saw them all and lost himself in the ghost of Christmas past as he remembered the faraway sound of children’s laughter. Then he felt a shiver down his spine, despite his warm coat, his hat, gloves and scarf. Sean was growing colder, he was growing tired and yet still he saw nothing, nothing that stood out and said to him “Here I am, your perfect gift”

Then as if by magic he saw it, there it was tucked away in a corner of the window high up on a shelf only just visible behind the more expensive toys. Yes there it was, the perfect gift, the most perfect gift of all. Sean entered the shop bought the gift and asked the nice girl behind the counter if she would wrap it in some lovely Christmas wrapping paper. Then he went outside and seeing a taxi he hopped in.

“Where to” the taxi driver asked,

“Castlebar hospital please” Sean replied.


Arriving at the hospital Sean paid the driver, giving him a nice tip and they wished each other a very Happy Christmas. Sean went through the revolving doors and went to the elevator, pressing the button he went up to the women’s ward, to Mary’s room.  He opened the door and went in, took of his hat,coat, gloves and scarf and he pulled the chair close to Mary. He took her hand and held it, gently stroking it.

“Hello Mary” he said, not expecting an answer and of course none came.

Sean stared at her beauty, the rest of the world saw an old woman of 80, wrinkles, frail, white hair and swollen, gnarled, arthritic joints but not Sean. With his eyes he saw those things but not with his heart. With his heart he saw a woman who had devoted her life to him, a young woman standing on a step ladder as they decorated the baby’s room, she was giggling and had paint in her hair. He saw a woman playing with the children and comforting them when they felt ill, a woman with skin that was smooth and fresh and eyes that twinkled in the light.

He heard the soft sound of her voice as she sang their children to sleep and he heard her laughter as they played in the garden kicking autumn leaves and throwing snowballs in winter.  His heart smelled her scent mixed with the salt air as they walked along Bertra Beach, they’d seen the world with lover’s eyes and he felt the comfort of waking up next to her every day.

Yes this was Mary, the Mary that Sean saw. Not the Mary connected to life by wires and tubes.

“It’s Christmas Eve Mary” Sean said softly, “I’ve brought you a present, would you like to open it or save it for tomorrow?”

Knowing that Mary couldn’t answer Sean reached for the gift and placed it on the bed beside her. “I tell you what, why don’t we open it now. See the beautiful ribbon that the girl in the shop put on it. And didn’t she choose beautiful paper to wrap it in. It’s red and has little Santa’s on it, I picked it especially for you cause I know you like it. She did a marvellous job of wrapping it up”

With aged, trembling fingers Sean unwrapped the gift and while doing so he journeyed back in time.

“The Cow’s gone dry Mary” he shouted as he walked through the door,

“What are you going to do” answered Mary.

“We’ll have to shoot her and make beef burgers for the dinner” Laughed Sean,

“I’ll put the kettle on” replied Mary.

This was their greeting every night when Sean came in from work. How it began, they couldn’t remember. Just a bit of fun, just being young and foolish. It was funny really because they didn’t live on a farm and Sean had no idea how to milk a cow, he worked in an office. All they knew was it was a bit of fun, it was their special way, no one elses. It was their special way of saying “I Love you and it’s good to be home”

Sean pulled the last of the wrapping paper from the box in which the present sat. “Here it is Mary, give me your hand” Sean drew her hand towards him so that Mary could hold the gift. Then he placed it in her palm. It was a small, fluffy toy. A black and white cow that mooed when sqeezed. The cow lay in Mary’s limp hand, Sean reached over and squeezed the cow, “Mooo, Moooo”

In the silence of the room Sean heard a quiet, soft, muffled sound. Looking from the toy to her face he saw Mary’s eyes, open and distant. Her lips moved slightly. Sean rose from his chair in disbelief. It had been months since Mary had stirred. Gently, afraid of breaking the spell Sean leaned towards Mary. He bent down and put his ear near to her mouth and said “What my dear, what did you say”

Quietly Mary whispered “What are you going to do”

Sean had never felt such a surge of joy. Those few words from Mary’s lips. What a gift, what a gift, never had there been such a wonderful gift. Tears welled up in his eyes and fell on Mary’s cheek. Our words, our special words he thought, then choking back the tears he said,

“We’ll have to shoot her and make beef burgers for the dinner”

All that night, all that holy Christmas night, Sean waited for Mary’s response but Mary lay silent. She held her cow and she gently passed into the great beyond.

Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric.

The sacred mushroom was the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom, also known as "fly agaric." These mushrooms are now commonly seen in books of fairy tales, and are usually associated with magic and fairies. This is because they contain potent hallucinogenic compounds, and were used by ancient peoples for insight and transcendental experiences.

Most of the major elements of the modern Christmas celebration, such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees, magical reindeer and the giving of gifts, are originally based upon the traditions surrounding the harvest and consumption of these most sacred mushrooms.

The active ingredients of the amanita mushrooms are not metabolized by the body, and so they remain active in the urine. In fact, it is safer to drink the urine of one who has consumed the mushrooms than to eat the mushrooms directly, as many of the toxic compounds are processed and eliminated on the first pass through the body.

It was common practice among the shaman of ancient people such as the Sami of Finland, and the people of Siberia, to recycle the potent effects of the mushroom by drinking each other's urine. The amanita's ingredients can remain potent even after six passes through the human body. Some scholars argue that this is the origin of the phrase "to get pissed," as this urine-drinking activity preceded alcohol by thousands of years.

Reindeer were the sacred animals of these semi-nomadic people, as the reindeer provided food, shelter, clothing and other necessities. Reindeer are also fond of eating the amanita mushrooms; they will seek them out, and then prance about while under their influence. Often the urine of tripped-out reindeer would be consumed for its psychedelic effects.

This effect goes the other way too, as reindeer also enjoy the urine of a human, especially one who has consumed the mushrooms. In fact, reindeer will seek out human urine to drink, and some tribesmen carry sealskin containers of their own collected urine, which they use to attract stray reindeer back into the herd.

The effects of the amanita mushroom usually include sensations of size distortion and flying. The feeling of flying could account for the legends of flying reindeer.
Santa Claus, super shaman.

Although the modern image of Santa Claus was created at least in part by the advertising department of Coca-Cola, in truth his appearance, clothing, mannerisms and companions all mark him as the reincarnation of these ancient mushroom-gathering shamans.

Originally Santa Claus was not red and white, but was first depicted like this due to a seasonal link to native spiritual traditions involving hallucinogenic red and white mushrooms known as fly agaric. When it was time to go out and harvest the magical mushrooms, the ancient shamans would dress much like Santa, wearing red and white fur-trimmed coats and long black boots.

Later the Coca Cola Company would patent these colours and popularise the now universally accepted colours of Santa’s costume. One of the side effects of eating amanita mushrooms is that the skin and facial features take on a flushed, ruddy glow. This is why Santa is always shown with glowing red cheeks and nose. Even Santa's jolly "Ho, ho, ho!" is the euphoric laugh of one who has indulged in the magic fungus.

Sami Ceremony and Entheogenic Mushrooms.

The red and white fly agaric mushrooms also played a part in the aboriginal origins of the flying reindeer image that is now popularly associated with Christmas. These mushrooms, or plant teachers, have always been used in rituals involving the sacred reindeer by the shamans of the Sami tribal peoples, who are still practicing traditional lifestyles as nomadic reindeer herders in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia today.

The Koryak shamans of Siberian tribes gained notoriety in the grand western narrative of discovery when their winter solstice rituals involving the fly agaric were observed and recorded by anthropologists/adventurers, giving rise to several modern Christmas myths.

At this ceremonial time, the Koryak tribe’s people would work ritually with the mushrooms in their family tents. Their shamans would also work with the mushrooms to reach a non-ordinary state of reality that allowed them to do spirit-walking.
Spirit Walkers Bringing Gifts.

Koryak spirit walkers would visit the tents of their fellow tribesmen on their flying reindeer, the reindeer being a sacred totemic being for Sami tribal peoples. Once there, they would enter the tent through the smoke hole in the roof and distribute more mushrooms as gifts. Then they would exit through the chimney hole and fly away on their reindeer beings once again.

It has been suggested that the egg-nog Christmas tradition was even grounded in these rituals, based on the practice of tribesmen drinking the agaric-spiked urine of the shamans who had ingested the mushrooms, perhaps mixed with egg and spices to disguise the taste. (Makes you think twice about mulled wine, for that matter!).

Clearly, the origins of many western Christmas traditions such as Santa’s elves, Santa coming down the chimney, gift-giving, Santa’s colours, Santa’s home base in the Arctic North, and mistletoe can all be linked to time-honoured indigenous tribal ceremonies and customary practices.

Aboriginal Christmas Reflections.

Christmas is as good a time as any to acknowledge the contributions of indigenous peoples around the planet to the formation of global knowledge, culture and innovations since the “age of discovery”. So much of the technology, food, textiles, traditions and even mathematics that formed the basis for modern western civilisation was ‘borrowed’, or synthesised, or developed in conjunction with native peoples.

So spare a thought for the planet’s fourth-world (indigenous) peoples at Christmas time, most of who are excluded from the bounty of first-world colonies built on stolen native lands, resources and knowledge. So many Aboriginal people are even excluded from basic rights like education.

Spare a thought as well that in the ‘first world civilised countries’ (I use that term loosely) every year people spend more money on Christmas presents for their pets than it would cost to educate every third-world and fourth-world person on earth who is currently denied schooling and medical aid. Think about that over your Xmas turkey.

Ho, ho, ho.

The fly agarics’ religious connections are far reaching. It is widely thought to be the “Soma” talked about in Hindu scriptures, and some also believe it to be the “Amrita” mentioned in Buddhist scriptures. Closer to home, there is a popular myth that Nordic Viking warriors used to consume fly agaric to send them into their berserker rages, although compelling evidence for this theory is hard to find.

Another theory, again difficult to substantiate, suggests that Zulu warriors consumed fly agaric before battle during the Zulu war, and that, in part, this helped them leave the field victorious during the famous “charge of the light brigade”.

In ‘civilised’ Europe its use has given rise to the ‘little people’ such as faeries and leprechauns.

Lewis Carroll was familiar with the affects of Fly agaric, in Alice in Wonderland there is a scene where a caterpillar is sitting on a mushroom (Fly agaric) smoking a pipe. Alice is in front of him at mushroom height and she nibbles on the mushroom to make herself bigger and smaller.

After Alice in Wonderland was published images of the Fly agaric appeared in much of the Victorian literature and it was also painted on children’s toys and cradles. It continues to serve as a classical symbol of enchanted forests and magical groves-the kind of places where fairies, gnomes and all sorts of strange, wonderful and sometimes frightening creatures dwell. Familiar, mysterious and magical.


Fly Agaric is a powerful fungus, whose effects can be extremely variable and dangerous in the hands of those who do not know what they are doing (In Irish we call them Amadán).

Self-experimentation is not recommended. In particular all amanita species with a white or greenish cap should be avoided, as these are definitely very deadly.

The information provided in this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be used as medical advice. I do not take or share in any responsibility for any events that may occur as a result of self-experimentation.

Have a great Yule, Winter Solstice and Christmas.

Don't forget those who may not be as fortunate as you, especially in this cold weather, be them human or animal we are all part of the wheel.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Travellers or Pavee.

Travellers or Pavee.
Travellers used to travel in horse drawn wagons that were called barrel top or vardo wagons and before that with donkeys and tents. Now most Travellers have trailers ( caravans) and motor vehicles if they are still on the road. Traditionally Travellers burned the wagon that the person died in. In modern times many may not wish to continue to live in the trailer, the home that some nomadic families now live in, if a person dies there.
The name "Travellers" refers to a roaming Irish ethnic group. Irish Travellers are a group of people with a separate identity, culture and history, although they are as fully Irish as the rest of us. They have their own language known as ‘cant’ or ‘gammon’ and academics sometimes refer to it as ‘shelta’ and travellers will sometimes use this language to speak to each other. Irish travellers are native to Ireland and have been part of Irish society for hundreds of years and while their history is largely unrecorded they are recorded before the 12th century.
Occupations within the travellers traditionally include tinsmithing, seasonal farm work, selling door-to-door and scrap metal recycling. Some of these jobs are becoming rarer within the community such as tinsmithing and many travellers today have diversified into other areas such as market trading and antique dealing. Some travellers have their own business such as shops and garages and others are employed in community enterprises, voluntary organisations and training centres. However, just as in the settled community there are some travellers who are unskilled and dependent on social welfare in order to survive.
As stated earlier, there is not a great deal of historical research on the Traveller way of life although there are references to various nomadic groups dating back to the 12th and even the 5th century. Travellers were craftsmen, entertainers, message carriers, horse traders, and provided a variety of skills. They were involved in specific economic activity throughout history that can be associated with a nomadic way of life.
As industrialisation brought new methods of communication and cheap plastic, Travellers as with other groups in Ireland began to experience a change in their role in Irish society and had to adapt their lifestyle to accommodate these changes. Under many pressures to adopt a sedentary or settled lifestyle Travellers have resisted and have proved their ability to survive and maintain their cultural identity. This identity has a number of common features, history and experiences; it has an oral tradition, and value system that sets it apart from the settled community. Travellers also have a history of having to protect that identity from the attempts made to assimilate them into the majority population.
Travellers have been largely ignored in the literature of the “Great Tradition”. Not all families originated at the same time or in the same way. Some Traveller families date back centuries while others have adopted a travelling lifestyle in relatively recent times. “Tinker” and “Tynkere” first appear as trade surnames during the 12th century. This word comes from the word “Tinceard” which means tincraft and it suggests that at this time there was clearly a group of Travelling crafts people who made and mended pots and pans and who played an important role in Irish history. The itinerant tinsmith or “white-smith” as well as tanners, musicians, bards and artisans travelled throughout Ireland fashioning jewellery, weapons and horse trappings out of bronze, silver and gold in exchange for food and lodging. Today, Travellers are characterized by a growing solidarity and Political activism based on their own increased sense of ethnic or group identification as Travelling People.
In order to preserve their unique identity, Travellers operate within a type of social separation.  Interaction between Travellers and other Irish people is typically limited to economic exchanges and brief instrumental encounters with bureaucrats or institutional representatives such as the police, welfare, and hospital personnel. Practices of some Travellers (e.g., keeping unsightly campsites, drinking in public, aggressive selling tactics),  reinforce social distance between members of the two groups. However, prejudice and discrimination have played a larger role in segregating the two communities.
Government proposals to build official campsites for Travellers are invariably rejected by the local Community. Most people avoid any interaction with Travellers; very few would consider marrying a Traveller. Since the mid-1960s, the Irish government has attempted to solve what it labeled "the itinerant problem," that is, the existence of Traveller families living on the roadside in tents and wagons without basic amenities such as running water, toilets, and electric lights. The solution was believed to lie in settlement, in placing families on serviced government campsites and in houses from which they could send their children to school, get wage-labour jobs, and learn to live a settled life. Assimilation was the goal.
Since then, however, Travellers have become more vocal and politically aware. Political action groups have been organized in some cities. Travellers now consider themselves to be an ethnic group with the rights to maintain their own identity and life-style while enjoying the privileges of other citizens.
Many Travellers now live on sites, both council and private, some have moved into houses and many still have nowhere to camp and live on unauthorised sites constantly being moved on. Travellers have a common ancestry and one is born a Traveller. Their contribution to music and story-telling has been of great importance to these traditions. Travellers were the link between isolated communities in a rural society. They carried the music, stories and news from village to village. They also kept these traditions alive during the oppression of the British, who tried to destroy Irish Culture. Travellers were more difficult to restrict as they were moving from place to place and contributed in no small way to the fight for Irish independence.
 Travellers also served with great courage during the war (Great Emergency) and two traveller men were awarded the Victoria Cross the highest medal for bravery. Many traveller women acted as medics, air raid wardens and were members of the auxiliary services. T
hey have been subject to oppression and discrimination and have often hidden their identity to avoid discrimination, especially if they have moved into housing. Travellers have the same rights as the majority population and now have protection under the Race Relations Act in Ireland as a recognised ethnic minority community.

Tir na nóg. The Land of Eternal Youth.

This is a story that has been told to generations of children down through the years and today I will tell it to you, hope you enjoy it.

Tir na nóg. The Land of Eternal Youth.

Once upon a time long, long ago in the west of Ireland there lived a young man called Oisin.  One autumn morning he was out exploring the wild hills with the Fianna, they were the ancient warrior hunters of Ireland. It was a bright but cold misty morning. Suddenly from out of the mists they saw a white horse appear and upon its back sat the most beautiful woman that Oisin had ever seen. The sun glistened off her hair and she seemed to be surrounded by a magical glow. The horse and rider came to a stop and the young woman spoke to Oisin and the Fianna. Stepping forward Oisin introduced himself and as their eyes met they fell instantly in love.

“I am Niamh of the golden hair, daughter of the King of Tir Na Nog” she said in a voice that sounded like the most enchanting music that Oisin had ever heard. 

“Come with me to my father’s land and there you will never grow old nor feel sorrow. My father has heard wonderful things about the great warrior named Oisin and I have come to take you back with me to the Land of Eternal Youth”

Oisin hesitated for a moment, he thought of his friends and family and how he would be sad to leave them but his hesitation lasted only a moment for he had fallen under a fairy spell and he cared no more for any earthly thing only for the love of Niamh of the golden hair.  He quickly climbed up onto the white horse. Oisin promised to return shortly, and they waved goodbye and rode off into the mist. Oisin was never to see his family or his friends ever again.

When they reached the sea the white horse ran lightly over the waves and soon they left the green fields and woodlands of Ireland behind.  The sun shone and the riders passed into a golden light that caused Oisin to lose all knowledge of where he was he didn’t know whether they were still crossing water or if they were on dry land. Strange sights appeared and disappeared and Oisin saw many strange creatures, some wondrous, some terrifying. He tried to ask Niamh what these visions meant and were they real or imagined but Niamh told him to say nothing until they arrived at Tir Na Nog.

Eventually they arrived at the Land of Eternal Youth and it was just as Niamh had promised. It was a land where nobody knew sadness, nobody ever aged, and everyone lived forever.  Together they spent many happy times but there was always a piece of Oisin’s heart that seemed empty, he began to feel lonely and missed his home in Ireland. He wanted to see his friends and family once again. He begged Niamh to let him return to Ireland but she seemed to be very reluctant to let him go. She finally agreed and gave him the white horse that had brought him to Tir Na Nog but she warned him that when he reached the land of Erin he must not step down from the horse nor touch the soil of the earthly world for if he did then he could never return to the Land of Eternal Youth.

Oisin set off and once more crossed the mystic ocean. Although Oisin thought that only a few years had passed it had in fact been three hundred years. You see time slows down in Tir Na Nog and when he arrived back to his homeland he saw that things had changed. The Fianna no longer hunted the green hills and the grand castle where his family and friends lived was no longer there all that stood were crumbling ruins covered in ivy. With a feeling of horror Oisin thought that he had fallen under some fairy spell that was mocking him with false visions, he threw his arms in the air and shouted the names of his family and his friends but there was no reply, he tried once more but all he heard in reply was the sighing of the wind and the faint rustle of the leaves in the trees. With tears in his eyes he turned and rode away hoping that he would find those he looked for and that the fairy spell would be broken.

Oisin rode for days but found no sign of his people. He rode east and there he saw a group of men in a field, he rode towards them hoping to find some answers, maybe they knew where the Fianna had gone. As he approached he saw that the men were trying to move a large rock from the field, as he came near they all stopped work and gazed at him because to them he looked liked a messenger of the Fairy folk or an angel from heaven. He was far taller than normal men, he carried a beautiful sword and wore bright and shining armour and the horse he rode seemed to float above the ground casting a golden light around both itself and its rider.  Oisin looked at them and thought how puny these men looked, the size of the rock would have meant nothing to the Fianna and he began to feel great pity for them. He bent down from his horse, put one hand on the rock and with a mighty heave he lifted it from the ground and flung it away from the field. The men started shouting in wonder and applause, but their shouting changed into cries of terror and dismay when they realised what they had witnessed. They began to run away knocking each other over in the process.

Unfortunately for Oisin the girth of his saddle had snapped as he heaved the stone away and he fell to the ground. In that second his horse vanished into a mist that suddenly appeared and Oisin rose from the ground dressed in rags. Feeble and staggering, he was no longer the youthful warrior he was but a man stricken with old age, white bearded and withered, crippled with arthritis he let out a cry of horror. Oisin now knew why he could find no trace of his people, he had been in Tir Na Nog for a few weeks but here in the earthly realm three hundred years had passed and now he had each of those years repaid.

The men who had run away looked back across the field and seeing what had befallen Oisin they returned. They found him lying on the ground with his face hidden in his arms; they lifted him up and asked who he was and what had happened to him.

With tears in his eyes Oisin said,

“I was Oisin son of Finn, can you tell me where he lives for I cannot find him”

The men looked at each other and then at Oisin, one of them said,

“”Of what Finn do you speak off, for there is many of that name”

“Finn MacCool, captain of the Fianna of Erin” replied Oisin.

The man said “You’re a daft old man and you made us daft thinking you were a young man before. But we now have our wits about us and we can tell you that Finn MacCool and all his generation have been dead for three hundred years. They live now only in songs and stories told. We now follow another, his name is Patrick and he teaches a different way to live”

Oisin was left to wander Ireland a lonely old man. He met Patrick and told him of his family and the Fianna who had disappeared from Ireland hundreds of years ago, the magical land of Tir na Nog and his love for Niamh and as he ended his story a great weariness swept over him and he closed his eyes and went to his eternal rest.

Today we still tell the story of Oisin, Niamh and Tir Na Nog and on a misty autumn morning if you see a shimmering white horse dancing in the waves maybe its Niamh riding her steed as she searches for her long lost love. Or maybe it’s just the crest of a wave, I’ll let you decide.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Bat (Part two).

And now a few stories for those who are young at heart.


The Bat. Part Two.

These are a some stories that I’ve adapted from various traditions.  I tell them to children and they seem to enjoy them and all adults are just grown up children. You know you’re never too old for a story.

Why the Bat has no friends.

Once upon a time long, long ago, there was a big fight between the birds of the air and the animals with teeth that lived on the ground. The bat said to himself:

“I’ve got wings and I can fly so I think I’ll be on the bird’s side”

Early on in the fight the birds were losing so the bat crept away and hid under a log.  He stayed there until the fighting stopped for a while. 

All the creatures wanted to go home for lunch. As the animals of the ground were passing by the bats hiding place he slipped out and joined them.

“Hold on”, Shouted one of the animals looking closely at the bat,

“Aren’t you one of those who fought against us, what are you doing here, you should be with the birds”

“Me” said the bat, “Oh no not me, I’m one of you. I don’t belong to the bird people. Just look in my mouth. Have you ever seen a bird with teeth like mine? No, I’m one of you people, my teeth are like yours”

The animals of the ground looked at each other and nothing more was said and bat stayed with them.

After lunch the animals and the birds went back to fighting again but this time the birds won and the bat sneaked off and hid under his log again. Soon it was dinner time and everyone went home for something to eat. As the birds flew by the bat crawled out from under his log and slipped in among them.

“What are you doing here” said one of the birds, “You are one of the animals of the ground, and we saw you fighting for them”

“Who me” said the bat, “Oh no I’m one of you, I don’t belong to the animals of the ground. Look at me; have you ever seen one of the animals of the ground with wings like mine? No I’m one of you people, I’m like you”

 The birds looked at each other and nothing more was said and bat stayed with them.

This went on day after day and the bat always joined the winning side when the fighting stopped but soon the animals and the birds said,

 “This is silly, we shouldn’t be fighting all the time” so they decided to make friends. But what should they do about the bat?

The King of the animals and the King of the birds had a meeting to decide whether the bat belonged to the birds of the air or the animals of the ground.  They decided that because the bat had teeth he was an animal but he also had wings so he must be a bird. However, because he was naughty always joining the winning side he couldn’t be trusted so they said:

“Bat will fly like the birds but he will do so only at night when the animals are hunting, he will be alone and will never have any friends among those who fly or those who walk, and so it has been ever since.


But do you know why the bat fly’s at night?

Once upon a time, long, long ago when the world was first made it was never dark or cold. The sun shone bright and yellow all day and all the animals were lovely and warm and it was always light.

 At night time the moon shone bright and silvery, in fact it was nearly as bright as day time. 

One day Mother Nature asked the bat if he could be trusted to go on a mysterious journey for her. She wanted the bat to carry a basket up to the moon as he had wings to fly and strong teeth to hold onto the handle of the basket. Inside the basket was all the black darkness in the world, but of course the bat didn’t know this.

Bat flew off carrying the basket between his teeth but it soon became too heavy and he thought to himself:

“Oh dear this basket is very heavy and I’m tired and hungry”

So the bat flew down and went to find some food and have a little sleep (lazy thing).  As he hung upside down in a nearby tree two weasels came walking along and saw the basket.

They thought someone had lost it.

“That’s a large basket” said the first weasel, “I wonder if it’s full of nice things to eat?”

“Let’s open it and have a look” said the other weasel.

Just as they were peeking under the lid the bat came back.

“Hey, what are you doing to my basket” shouted the bat

The weasels dropped the basket in shock, bat tried to catch it but it was too late, it hit the ground and the lid fell off. All the darkness escaped.

Ever since that time the bat sleeps during the day and gets plenty of rest so he is ready to fly when the sun goes to bed and the moon comes out. When night time comes and it gets dark you will see him rushing about everywhere. 

Do you know why?

Well, he is trying to catch all the pieces of black darkness to put them back in the basket so he can take them to the moon before Mother Nature finds out.


Another story that suggests why the bat only comes out at night.

Once upon a time there was a rat called Michael who had a friend called Brendan the bat. They always ate their meals together but the bat didn’t really like Michael the rat because he thought he was very noisy.

One day it was the bats turn to cook the meal so he decided to make some soup. When they were sat eating Michael the rat said,

“How do you make such lovely soup, it’s always so tasty?”

The bat replied, “I always boil myself in the water and my flesh is so sweet and juicy it always makes the soup taste fantastic”

He then offered to show the rat how it was done. He got a pot of warm water which he told the rat was boiling water, and in he jumped, after a few minutes the bat climbed out. Now the bat had already prepared a bowl of boiling hot soup which he brought to the rat, it tasted fantastic and the rat gobbled it all up.

The rat then said goodbye to his friend the bat and went home. When he got there he told his wife that he was going to make some sweet, tasty soup that would taste just as good as the bats as he had learned his secret. He told her to boil up a big pot of water which she did and when she wasn’t looking he jumped straight into the pot of boiling water and was dead within seconds.

As soon as the rats wife looked into the pot and saw the dead body of her husband she hit the roof. She went straight to the king of all the animals and angrily reported what the bat had done. The King straight away ordered the arrest of the bat and everyone rushed around trying to catch him. However, the bat had a feeling that he might get into trouble for tricking the rat so he went into hiding.  All day the animals and birds looked for the bat but they couldn’t find him. The bat decided that it would be much better for him if he changed his habits so he began to come out to feed only at night when it was dark so no one would see him. So that is why the bat flies at night and that is the story of the bat.

The Bat (Part one).

As we are getting near to Halloween I thought I’d tell you a little about one of the creatures of the night and how it is viewed in folklore.

The Bat. Part One.

Feared as creatures of the night associated with death, sickness and witchcraft. Made famous as the familiars of vampires by the cinema.  Revulsion against them, however, is far from universal, and their quizzical faces have often inspired affection. There were no glass windows in the ancient world, and so people had little choice but to share their homes with bats.
They sleep hanging upside down by their feet. They live in shelters such as caves or hollow trees, but they also take advantage of human structures. Like most small animals that are drawn to human habitations, bats have often been identified in folk belief with the souls of the dead. As a result, in cultures that venerate ancestral spirits, bats are often considered sacred or beloved. When spirits are expected to pass on rather than return, bats appear as demons or, at best, souls unable to find peace. They are often thought of as the embodiment of evil and an indicator that a house is haunted or even worse.
Traditionally bats have been seen as witch familiars so whenever you see a lone bat it might be a witch in disguise. The devil and dragons are often depicted with bat like wings and in some cultures witch doctors wear bat amulets and make potions with parts of bat bodies. In the middle ages, anyone who had bats, known as witches birds living in their house were accused of being a witch and could have been burned at the stake.
In Central America the bat is seen as the god of death and bat motifs decorate burial urns and graves. Some North American tribal folklore suggests that the long eared bat, which has an arrow shaped growth on its nose, eats volcanic rock and spews out fire arrows. In China bats are a symbol of good luck, long life and happiness and at one time Chinese mothers would sew small jade buttons in the shape of a bat on the caps of their babies.  Some Australian Aboriginal tribal folklore regards the bat as a luck totem and in Turkey; some people still carry a bat bone as a love charm.
In Ancient Egypt physicians prescribed parts of the bat in the treatment of asthma, rheumatism, baldness, bad eyesight, toothache, and fever. They also believed that if you hung the body of a bat over the doorway of a home then it would prevent the entry of demons that carried these diseases.
In India, the skin of a large fruit eating bat (known as flying foxes) is still applied to cure lumbago and rheumatism.
Other superstitions about bats include,
If a bat flies into the kitchen and at once hangs on to the ceiling, it’s lucky, but if it circles around twice before settling down, then it’s seen as a sign of bad luck. If it circles around your head three times then get yourself measured for a box because it means death is coming visiting.  
If when trying to drive a bat out of the room, it fly’s against a light or candle and puts it out, then that is a very bad omen.
In Ireland if a bat was seen near the house it was taken as a sign of an impending death for a member of the household. However, we have bats in our roof space (they came in last winter). We are quite happy with them and they cause us no problems whatsoever. When bats are seen acting in a playful manner it is a sign that good weather is about to come, probably because there are more insects around on warm dry evenings so that means more food for the bats.
A common bat seen in and around hedgerows at dusk is the Pipistrelle Bat. Their Irish name is Laltog Fheascrach which means ‘bat of the evening’.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Kelpie (Part One).

The Kelpie part one.
The kelpie like the Aughisky is a supernatural water horse from Celtic folklore that is believed to haunt the rivers and Loughs of Scotland and Ireland. The horse's appearance is strong, powerful, and breathtaking. Its hide was supposed to be black (though in some stories it was white), and will appear to be a lost pony, but can be identified by its constantly dripping mane. Its skin is like that of a seal, smooth but as cold as death when touched. Water horses are known to transform into beautiful women to lure men into their traps. It is understood that the nostril of the horse is what creates the illusion of grandeur. The water horse creates illusions to keep itself hidden, keeping only its eye above water to scout the surface, much like the illusion of a fish's pupil or a crocodile. It is wise to keep away from them.

As the story of the kelpie differs depending on the region where it is told. Other versions of the story say that the kelpie is "green as glass with a black main and a tail that curves over its back like a wheel" or that, even in human form, they are always dripping wet and/or have water weeds in their hair.
The water horse is a common form of the kelpie, said to lure humans, especially children, into the water to drown and eat them. It performs this act by encouraging children to ride on its back. Once its victims fall into its trap, the kelpie's skin becomes adhesive and it bears them into the river, dragging them to the bottom of the water and devouring them, except the heart or liver. Commonly known as spirits of the dead, they are malevolent creatures. Well its one way to keep children away from the edge of the lough.

An exception is an Irish tale in which, the coming of Christianity began to mark the end of the mystical period of Ireland, a water horse fails to travel to Tír na Nóg with its fellow mystical creatures and instead rises above water, seeking a wife. However, after attempting to court a rather clever girl, who consults a druid about the situation, he is captured and forced to work to be taught compassion. After learning his lesson, he is given the choice of departing to Tír na Nóg or drinking a magic potion that will make him a real man. The water horse, now full of love, decides to drink the potion which erases the memories of his life as a water horse and gives him the chance to live with the clever girl with whom he has fallen in love.

Some say the kelpie is not always male, but may also take the form of a human woman. In this instance, the kelpie is often referred to as a water wraith and is most often seen clothed in a green dress.  She is just as treacherous as a male Kelpie.

There was one way in which a Kelpie could be defeated and tamed;  the Kelpie's power of shape shifting was said to reside in its bridle, and anybody who could possess such a bridle could force the Kelpie to submit to their will.   A Kelpie in subjugation was highly prized, it had the strength of at least 10 horses and the endurance of many more, but the fairy creatures were always dangerous captives especially those as malignant as the Kelpie.

As we have heard the water monsters that were said to inhabit our lakes had the ability to shape shift and so they may appear as Water Hounds, Water Horses or even Humans. Here follows one such story.

The Kelpie’s Wife.

There once was a Kelpie's wife, who lived beneath the Lough with her baby son, whom she loved dearly. The Kelpie's wife loved her husband but she missed the warmth of the sun and her family, for the Kelpie had stolen her away from them without as much as a farewell.

One day, when her husband was out hunting victims, the cold and the darkness became unbearable and she fled to the surface, leaving behind her baby son, for she knew the Kelpie loved his son and would care for him. Once at the surface she basked in the warmth of the sun and soon made her way to her parent’s cottage. Her family were overjoyed to see her, for they thought she had died and so they held a great Celidh.

The Celidh dragged on into the night and the Kelpie's wife soon forgot her husband and child with the joy of being reunited with her family. During the night there came a great storm and suddenly, from outside the cottage, they could hear the champing of a horse's hooves.

Her husband had found his wife gone and was furious, for he loved her so greatly that he viewed her escape as the ultimate crime. Taking the form of a black stallion he banged on the cottage door but he couldn’t enter, for he had not been given permission to enter and cross the threshold. He called for her in rage filled screams. The Kelpie's wife was frightened and also sad for she loved her husband but wished to stay with her family. Eventually, during the night, they heard a great 'thud' as something hit the door. After this, there was silence.

In the morning when the Kelpie had returned to the Lough, they found lying on the ground, the decapitated head of the Kelpie's son. In revenge for his wife's betrayal he had slain his only son. This was the price to pay for breaking a Kelpie's heart. The Kelpie's wife lived contently and was never again bothered by the Kelpie, who had learnt his lesson of love.  To be honest the two of them sound like a heartless pair.