Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Soul Cage.

We have just returned from a week in Donegal. One of the places we visited was Glencolmcille Folk Village, a collection of Thatched cottages and artefacts. One of these cottages was a fisherman’s cottage and outside, leaning against the walls were some lobster pots. They put me in mind of an old Irish story from long ago and I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy it.

The Soul Cage.

Jack and his wife lived in a small cottage on the coast. Jack was a fisherman just like his father and his grandfather before him, it was a family tradition and although some would think it was a wild and desolate place to live they were happy and content. They had their own little spot that was well protected from the Atlantic winds where their boat lay nice and snug. As we all know here on the west coast the storms can come on a richly-laden ship and when this happens who can blame a man who finds things like fine bales of cotton, barrels of rum or wine, casks of brandy and even kegs of tobacco washed upon the shore. In some ways Jack had his own little kingdom. To be fair to him, there was many a time he braved the storm in his little boat to rescue a sailor from a sinking vessel so in many ways you could say that these pickings were his reward.

Now many a night Jack heard and saw strange sights and sounds but as you can already tell he was a brave and hardy man and nothing daunted him. In fact, Jack often wished he could meet a Mermaid or a Merrow for he had been reared to believe that luck always came from meeting them. He would often see the Merrows moving along through the water in their magical robes of mist and although he always chased after them he never caught up with them and many a scolding he got from the wife when he arrived home with no fish for the dinner. Little did she know what he was really after? What annoyed him even more was the fact that both his father and grandfather had told him many a story about their dealings with the Merrow.

However, fortune smiled on Jack one day. As he was strolling along the beach looking to see what had been washed up after a storm he saw perched on a rock a little out to sea, what looked like a green man  holding a  hat in his hand. Jack rubbed his eyes and looked again, yes it was still there, unmoving upon the rock, after staring and wondering for a good half hour Jack gave a whistle and shouted to get its attention, when the Merrow (for that’s what it was)heard this he gave a start, put his hat on his head and dived into the sea. Well that was it, Jack’s curiosity was now risen and he returned to the same spot every day but never saw him again. He decided that he must have been dreaming and left it at that. One day however, after another storm he was again walking along the shore when he saw the Merrow swimming and jumping around the same rock as before. He suddenly realised that it was after a storm when he first saw him and he now only had to choose when he wished to meet him.

One extremely windy day, before he got to the point where he had a view of the Merrow's rock, a storm came on so furiously that Jack was had to take shelter in one of the caves which are so numerous along the coast; and there, to his astonishment, he saw sitting before him a thing with green hair, long green teeth, a red nose, and pig's eyes. It had a fish's tail, legs with scales on them, and short arms like fins. It wore no clothes, but had the cocked hat under its arm, and seemed engaged thinking very seriously about something. Jack, taking his courage in his hands, approached the Merrow and said “Your servant, sir” to which the Merrow replied “Your servant, Jack”. Jack was surprised that the Merrow knew his name and said so.

“Why man, I knew your grandfather long before he was married to Judy Regan, your grandmother! Ah, Jack, Jack, I was fond of that grandfather of yours; he was a mighty worthy man in his time: I never met his match above or below, before or since, for sucking in a shellful of brandy. Although you’re poor father had no head at all for the drink. I hope it’s your grandfather ye take after?”

“Don’t you be worrying about me” said Jack, “I can hold me own”

"Well, I like to hear you talk so manly; you and I must be better acquainted, if it were only for your grandfather's sake."

"I'm sure, said Jack, "since your honour lives down under the water, you must be obliged to drink a power to keep any heat in you in such a cruel, damp, could place. Well, I've often heard of Christians drinking like fishes; and might I be as bold as ask where you get the spirits?"

"Where do you get them yourself, Jack?" said the Merrow, twitching his red nose between his forefinger and thumb.

“You must have a well stocked cellar sir, It would be worth seeing” said Jack.

“Meet me here next Monday at the same time and we will see what we can do” said the Merrow, and with that they parted like long lost friends.

On the Monday Jack was surprised to see the Merrow had two hats with him, on e under each arm. “Why have you two hats with you?” asked Jack. “You will need to wear one so you may come down and dine with me” replied the Merrow. Now Jack was a brave man so he did as he was bid even though he was afraid of drowning and they both left the cave. When they reached the rock the Merrow said “just put this hat on your head, and mind to keep your eyes wide open. Take hold of my tail, and follow after me, and you'll see what you'll see." Into the sea they dived, and, at last, to Jack's great surprise, they got out of the water, and he actually found himself on dry land at the bottom of the sea. They landed just in front of a nice house that was slated very neatly with oyster shells! And the Merrow, turning about to Jack, welcomed him down.

Jack really was hungry, and it gave him no small pleasure to perceive a fine column of smoke rising from the chimney, announcing what was going on within. Into the house he followed the Merrow, and there he saw a good kitchen, right well provided with everything. There was a noble dresser, and plenty of pots and pans, with two young Merrows cooking. His host then led him into the room, which was furnished shabbily enough. Not a table or a chair was there in it; nothing but planks and logs of wood to sit on, and eat off. There was, however, a good fire blazing upon the hearth--a comfortable sight to Jack. “Come in and have a wee drink and I’ll show you the cellar” said the Merrow. Jack ate and drank till he could eat no more: then taking up a shell of brandy, "Here's to your honour's good health, sir," said he; "though, begging you pardon, it's mighty odd that as long as we've been acquainted I don't know your name yet." "That's true, Jack," replied he; "I never thought of it before, but better late than never. My name's Coomara."

At length said he to Jack, "Now, my dear boy, if you follow me, I'll show you my curiosities!" He opened a little door, and led Jack into a large room, where Jack saw a great many odds and ends that Coomara had picked up at one time or another. What chiefly took his attention; however, were things like lobsterpots ranged on the ground along the wall.

"Well, Jack, how do you like my curiosities?" said old Coo. "Upon my life, sir," said Jack, "they're mighty well worth the looking at; but might I make so bold as to ask what these things like lobster-pots are?"

"Oh! the Soul Cages, is it?"

"The what? Sir!"

"These things here that I keep the souls in”.

"Arrah! What souls, sir?" said Jack, in amazement; "sure the fish have no souls in them?"

"Oh! no," replied Coo, quite coolly, "that they have not; but these are the souls of drowned sailors."

"The Lord preserve us from all harm!" muttered Jack, "how in the world did you get them?"

"Easily enough: I've only, when I see a good storm coming on, to set a couple of dozen of these, and then, when the sailors are drowned and the souls get out of them under the water, the poor things are almost perished to death, not being used to the cold; so they make into my pots for shelter, and then I have them snug, and fetch them home, and is it not well for them, poor souls, to get into such good quarters?"

Jack did not know what to say so he stood up and said he though it was time for him to return home. Just as you like, Jack," said Coo, "but take a duc an durrus before you go; you've a cold journey before you." Jack took the parting glass and out of the house they went. Coomara placed the hat upon Jack’s head told him to throw it back when he reached the surface and with a great heave launched Jack up into the water.

As time passed, Jack kept thinking of the souls trapped in the lobster pots and he came up with a plan to release them. He would invite Coomara to dinner, get him drunk, take his hat, swim down and release the souls and come back all before Coomara sobered up. Now what to do with the wife? Jack decided to pretend to have become very pious and said to Biddy (his wife, for that was her name) “It would be good for our souls if you were to go and do the stations around the Holy Well, but you’ll have to stay there from dawn till dusk, for you have been awful slow in yer wifely duties” (we won’t say what her reply was). The coast was now clear so away Jack went to the rock and gave the agreed signal to Coomara, which was throwing a big stone into the sea. Up came Coomara, "Good morning, Jack," said he; "what do you want with me?"

“Would you like a bit of dinner and a few drinks with me?”

“I would” said the Merrow, “when do you want me to come?”

“Oh, how does one o’ clock sound, that way it will still be daylight for you to go home by”

"Perfect, sounds good to me" said Coomara.

At the dinner Jack took care to have his own liquor well watered, and to give the strongest brandy he had to Coo. At last says he, "Pray, sir, did you ever drink any poteen?--any real mountain dew?"

"No," says Coo; "what's that, and where does it come from?"

“Oh, that’s a secret, but what I can tell you is that it’s fifty times stronger than any brandy or rum you have ever drank, and as you’re a friend of the family, I have a few bottles to treat you with”

Coo was delighted: he drank and he sung Rum bum boodle boo over and over again; and he laughed and he danced, till he fell on the floor fast asleep. Then Jack, who had taken good care to keep sober, snapped up the cocked hat, ran off to the rock and dived into the sea and soon arrived at Coo's house. All was quiet and in he went, turning up the pots he heard a little sound like a low whistle (for no-one can see a soul) and having set them all free he went outside. Now, how to get back to the surface? All of a sudden ~Jack saw a large cod passing by so he grabbed its tail, the cod in amazement made a dash for the surface taking Jack with him. He got to the rock in no time and without a moment's delay hurried home, rejoicing in the good deed he had done.

Meanwhile, Biddy had returned home from the Holy Well. Entering the house she saw the mess Jack had made (for no man can keep a kitchen clean). All of a sudden she heard a grunt from under the table and looking down she saw Coomara on the floor surrounded by poteen bottles. “Holy mother of God, that pig of a husband of mine has turned into a proper beast” and she rushed out of the house. As she was wondering what to do she heard singing coming up the road and recognised the sound of Jack’s voice. Well she was so pleased that she didn’t have to be married to an auld smelly man-fish, Jack explained to her all he had done and the great thing he had done for the souls of the fishermen.

Coomara never missed the souls, for fishermen and sailors were always getting lost at sea so the lobster pots were always filling up again. Jack and Coomara remained the best of friends and he continued finding excuses to get into the house beneath the sea unknown to Coomara and freeing the newly trapped souls. This went on for many years until one day Coomara never answered the call. Without the hat, Jack could not swim down to see what had become of the Merrow, he believed that the old man-fish, or whatever he was, had either died, or gone to some other part of the sea. Of the souls, no more was heard.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hy-Brasil, Ireland's Atlantis??

The Island of Hy-Brasil.

I’m sure that you have all heard of the ‘lost Island ‘of Atlantis but I wonder how many of you have heard of Hy-Brasil?

The Island of Hy-Brasil is said to lie somewhere off the west coast of Ireland. According to ancient legend it was a mysterious Isle ruled over by priests who were said to have possession of the secrets of the universe. The Island was said to be shrouded in mist but every seven years it became visible for one day although it was still notoriously difficult to reach.

The name Hy-Brasil, also called the Fortunate Island, may have its origins in the old Irish word, Breas, which means noble or fortunate. In Folklore it is said that this Island takes its name from Breasal. The High King of the World in Celtic history. He may be related to Bresal Echarlam mac Echlach Baethlaim, from the stories of Lugh at Tara.

There have been many attempts in the past to locate this mythical land. In 1497 the explorer John Cabot reported that he had found the land and the renowned navigator Pedro Alvarez Cabral claimed to have reached the Island in the 1500’s.

In the 1674 Captain John Nisbet, sailing in the waters off the west coast of Ireland encountered a thick fog. As the fog lifted he and his crew saw an Island close by. He decided to drop anchor and send four members of the crew to investigate. It is claimed that they spent a day on the Island returning to their ship laden with gold and silver which they said had been given to them by an old man who they had found living on the Island. When they returned to Ireland, a second ship under the command of Alexander Johnson set off to find the Island, no doubt encouraged by talk of gold and silver. He returned to Ireland and confirmed Captain Nisbet’s story.

The last time the Island was sighted was in 1872 when the author T.J. Westropp and a number of companions claimed to have seen the Island appear and then vanish.

In his book "Ireland - A Journey into Lost Time", P.A. Ó Síochán says that knowledge of a lost land is "inherent all through Celtic literature and history".

In Ireland, he says, "the legend concerned a lost island in the Atlantic off the west coast, called Hy-Brasil: Hy meaning island and Brasil (Breasal) meaning mighty and beautiful in the Gaelic."

"It lay to the west and north-westwards from a junction with the Aran islands and the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare."

The most distinctive geographical feature of Hy-Brasil, is that it appears on maps as a perfect circle, with a semi-circular channel through the centre. The circular perimeter of the island was confirmed by both Saints Barrind and Brendan, who separately walked the shore to determine where the island ended, but never found it. Most likely, they were walking in circles.

There is of course an explanation for what people have claimed to see. There is an area near Ireland called the Porcupine Bank. This is an area of the Irish shelf approximately 200 kilometres off the west coast. This is a raised area of seabed that lies between the deep-water Porcupine Seabight and Rockall Trough that features many species of cold-water corals. It is quite possible that during extreme spring tides that this Bank is exposed to the surface and in 1870 a paper was read to the Geographical Society of Ireland that suggested this could be the case.

So in conclusion there are three questions you could ask yourself

1) Is Hy-Brasil Ireland’s version of Atlantis? The mist shrouded land of mystery.

2) Is it The Land of The Ever Young (Tir na Nog)? The Land Beneath The Wave.

3) Is it really just a sandbank? Less romantic but more practical.

I am only the storyteller, I leave you to decide.


On the ocean that hollows the rocks where ye dwell

A shadowy land has appeared, as they tell;

Men thought it a region of sunshine and rest,

And they called it Hy-Brasil, the isle of the blest.

From year unto year on the ocean’s blue rim,

The beautiful spectre showed lovely and dim;

The golden clouds curtained the deep where it lay,

And it looked like an Eden away, far away!

A peasant who heard of the wonderful tale,

In the breeze of the Orient loosened his sail;

From Ara, the holy, he turned to the west,

For though Ara was holy, Hy-Brasil was blest.

He heard not the voices that called from the shore–

He heard not the rising wind’s menacing roar;

Home, kindred, and safety he left on that day,

And he sped to Hy-Brasil, away, far away!

Morn rose on the deep, and that shadowy isle,

O’er the faint rim of distance, reflected its smile;

Noon burned on the wave, and that shadowy shore

Seemed lovely distant, and faint as before;

Lone evening came down on the wanderer’s track,

And to Ara again he looked timidly back;

O far on the verge of the ocean it lay,

Yet the isle of the blest was away, far away! p. 248

Rash dreamer, return! O ye winds of the main,

Bear him back to his own peaceful Ara again,

Rash fool! for a vision of fanciful bliss,

To barter thy calm life of labour and peace.

The warning of reason was spoken in vain;

He never revisited Ara again!

Night fell on the deep, amidst tempest and spray,

And he died on the waters, away, far away!

From Tales of the Enchanted Isles by Dorothy P. Lathrop (1926)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Hellfire Club.

The Hellfire Club.

Greed, depravity, scandal, and immorality. Why is it that certain individuals work behind the scenes manipulating the strings of government, the church, and seats of power? Maybe we will never really know for sure but one thing we can be sure of these shadows will always feel the need to be drawn together and these are the origins of such places as The Hellfire Club.

In the early 17th century Europe had entered a new era, that of The Enlightenment. It was also known as the age of reason and was a time when man began to use his reason to discover a new world by casting off the superstition and fear of the medieval world. In his effort to discover the natural laws which governed the universe he was to make huge scientific, political and social advances. Rational thought and logic was the new belief and this led to the rejection of the authority of both the church and the state. Immanuel Kant expressed the motto of the Enlightenment when he said “Aude Sapere” (Dare to think). However The Hellfire Club had its own motto over the entrance to their first building “Fais ce que tu voudrais” (Do what thou wilt).

The first Hellfire Club was founded in London in 1719 by a drunkard, aristocrat Philip, Duke of Wharton but it is his successor Sir Frances Dashwood (Chancellor of the exchequer) who was to go on to gather together what he termed “the most esteemed persons of quality” in Ireland and Britain. Dashwood bought the grounds and subterranean caves of Medmenham Abbey in 1746 and transformed them into a hedonistic playground of transgressions for the wealthy; excesses of food, drink and women, not to mention rumoured blaspheming, Black Masses, Satanic rituals and paganism, sacrificing publically to Bacchus and Venus – gods of wine and sex. This was to become the clubs pervading philosophy. In the years it was in existence it numbered many of the famous within its ranks, people such as Benjamin Franklin and the then Prince of Wales.

The Irish branch was founded in Dublin in 1735 by the Earl of Rosse, 1st Grand Master of the Irish Freemasons a position he held twice. However, upon inheriting a million pounds from his grandmother (a huge sum in those days) he resigned his position. He then did what most well to do young men did at that time, the Grand Tour. Europe and Egypt and all their mystery’s fell open to him and he began to further his interest in the ‘dark arts’ quickly making a name for himself as a ‘sorcerer and a practitioner of black magic’.

In 1735, he emerged on the Irish social scene and founded the Hellfire Club. The exact nature of what the members got up to is still open to conjecture but the rumours would make you shiver. Black masses, mock crucifixions, homosexual orgies and prostitutes dressed as nuns. It was even rumoured that servants were doused in brandy and set alight, black cats and even dwarves were sacrificed on an altar..

Lord Rosse never lost his sense of humour. In 1741, as he lay dying at his house on Molesworth Street, he received a letter from Dean Madden, the Vicar of St. Anne's, lambasting him as a blasphemer, scoundrel, gamester and such like, and imploring him to repent of his sins without delay. Noting that the Dean has simply addressed the letter to ‘My Lord’, Rosse put the letter into a fresh envelope and instructed a footman to deliver it to Lord Kildare who lived at nearby Leinster House. The ruse worked a treat and Lord Kildare, one of Dean Madden’s most pious and generous parishioners, was mortified to think the rebuke-filled letter was directed at him. Lord Rosse died before anybody worked it out. He was probably laughing as he went.

The Hell-Fire Club was disbanded following his death.

Below are stories that concern two of the Hellfire Club members:

Darkey Kelly.

The truth about Darkey kelly, burned as a 'witch' 250 years ago ... but who was really a serial killer.

Darkey Kelly, whose real name was Dorcas Kelly ran a brothel in Copper Alley, off Fishamble Street was supposed to have become pregnant with the child of the city sheriff Simon Luttrell (Lord Carhampton), and she demanded he support her financially. Folklore suggests that he responded to her demands by accusing her of witchcraft and of sacrificing her baby in a satanic ritual, the baby’s body was never found. She was found guilty and sentenced to death. She was partially hanged and then burned at the stake in a public execution on Baggot Street in Dublin. The date was 7th January 1761.

However, it has now been suggested that the real reason for her execution was murder. She was actually accused of the murder of John Dowling, a shoemaker and those investigating the murder were to find the bodies of five other men hidden in the brothel. Reports of rioting in Copper Alley by prostitutes was recorded after her execution. She may even be Dublin’s first female serial killer? It has been said that in 18th century Ireland women were second class citizens and this was reflected in the form of execution. Men found guilty of murder were simply hanged whereas women were first throttled then cut down and burnt alive.

In the 1780s Simon Luttrell’s son Henry, who also had the title Lord Carhampton also hit the news. He was accused of raping a young teenage girl in a brothel (like father, like son). The girl was supplied to him by the brothel keeper Maria Lewellyn. By a strange twist of fate, Lewellyn was the sister of Darkey Kelly. Henry Luttrell had the young girl and her parents falsely imprisoned. The girl’s mother died in prison. Luttrell’s charges against the girl and her family were later dismissed in court.

Source: No Smoke Without Hellfire” a community radio show on Dublin’s South 93.9 FM produce by Eamonn McLoughlin, researcher Phil O'Grady. Based on an article written by Alan O'Keeffe of the Evening Herald.

Simon Luttrell was created Baron Irnham (of Ireland) in 1768 and Earl of Carhampton in 1785. He was a member of the Hellfire Club in Dublin. After the usual fashion of satirizing any unpopular character, the first Lord Irnham was introduced in a satirical ballad, in which the Devil is represented as summoning before him those who had the strongest claim to succeed him as King of Hell. Having summoned amongst others Lord Lyttleton, the ballad concludes

But as he spoke there issued from the crowd

Irnham the base, the cruel, and the proud

And eager cried, "I boast superior claim

To Hell's dark throne and Irnham is my name."

Lord Santry.

The Lord Santry Trial’ details the events that took place in 18th century Dublin at the Hell Fire Club. The club had acquired the name, ‘The Devil’s Kitchen’, and the rascals associated with it were called ‘bucks’. They were often the bored sons of the aristocracy who engaged in drunken sexual orgies. One of the leading lights of the Hell Fire Club was Lord Santry, a 29-year-old infamous aristocrat. He caused an outrage when he stabbed a servant, Laughlin Murphy, to death with his sword.

Following the incident, Santry simply tossed the landlord of the tavern - where the incident occurred - a coin and implied that the whole thing was better hushed up. However, that didn’t happen. Santry was tried for the death of Murphy and found guilty by his peers, causing a major scandal in those times. Santry never went to the scaffold; he was awarded a full pardon. The Duke of Devonshire, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, had been largely responsible for petitioning King George II.

If Santry had gone to meet his death, it would have been a beheading. Instead he lived to carry on his rakish life. He was attainted, which meant he had to forgo his estate, but that was returned to him after the pardon in 1740. A year after his pardon, Santry travelled to see George II in person and thanked him face to face. On Lord Santry’s death his title became extinct.

The Black Cat of Killakee.

In the early 1960s, workmen renovating a derelict 18th-century farmhouse near the notorious Hellfire Club in Rathfarnham witnessed strange phenomena culminating in the appearance of a gigantic black cat. Artist Tom McAssey, who was helping to convert the house into an arts centre, said the temperature in the old ballroom plummeted suddenly and a locked door swung open, revealing a hideous black cat with blazing red eyes. Afterwards the house was exorcised and no sightings were reported for several years. Then in 1969, a group of actors staying at the centre held a mock séance and apparently invoked the spirits of two women who had assisted at the Hellfire Club’s satanic rituals, during which black cats were worshipped and often sacrificed. The arts centre was replaced with Killakee House, in which a portrait of the hellish cat painted by Tom McAssey glowered down upon brave diners.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Swan. Eala.

The Swan. Eala.

In Celtic tradition the Swan is associated with deities of healing waters and the sun. They are associated with music, love, purity and the soul. They are shape-shifters, can take human form, and have mastered the elements of water, earth and air. They can always be recognized by the gold or silver chain that hangs around their neck.

Among Druids, the Swan represents the soul, and is associated with the Festival of Samhain. The swan aids us in travelling to the Otherworld. Swans are also sacred to Bard’s and their skin and feathers were used to make the tugen, the ceremonial Bardic Cloak.

Swan - A swan's feather, sewed into the husband's pillow, will ensure fidelity.

Swans mate for life so to give someone a swan feather is to invite a long life of love.

It is believed to be unlucky to kill a swan.

A swan cannot hatch its eggs unless there is a storm,

Three swans flying together meant a disaster was going to occur.


There was a time in ancient Ireland when the people believed in magic and in druids and spells. These were the days of the Tuatha De Danann tribe, the Goddess Danu and of Lir, the lord of the sea.

Lir's wife, Eva, had given him four beautiful children. The two eldest, Fionnuala and Aodh, went swimming in a small lake. But these were no ordinary swimmers! They possessed gills for breathing and webbed feet as they were, after all, the offspring of 'the ruler of the land beneath the waves'.

They met a messenger who told them that they were wanted by their father. They went home immediately only to find their father disturbed.

'What is wrong father?' they enquired

'Your mother has given birth to twins' he replied

'....and has gone off to rest'

'What do you mean father?' they asked

Lir explained that this was what humans called 'death' but that since they were immortal that their mother had gone to recover, possibly for a thousand years or more. The children were to look after the new brothers, Fiachra and Conn.

The children kissed their mother for the last time and then left.

As the children grew Lir's spirits declined until one day he met Aoife, the sister of his wife. Aoife was possessed of magical powers and soon enough it was known that she and Lir would marry. The new family thrived under the influence of their new mother but not for long as guilt and jealousy about the children's real mother took its toll on Aoifes health. She fell into sickness for a year but recovered only to start to become old before here time.

Aoife was a changed woman now and one day suggested that she and the children should visit their grandfather. On the journey they stopped by a lake and she encouraged the children to go for a swim. The four children played happily in the water, not noticing that their stepmother was now standing at the waters edge wearing her fathers magic cloak.

'For too long you children have stood between your father and I, but not for much longer!' she cried

'We cannot be killed by you...' Aodh replied,

'...we are the Children of Lir and if you harm us our ghosts will haunt you!'

'I’m not going to kill you.....' she shouted

'......but I am going to change you!'

At this she bowed her head and started an incantation. The children looked at each other in fear as they saw a red and gold circle envelope them on the water. They saw Aoife open up her cloak from which the great light of a fireball emerged and hurtled towards them, burning all in its wake.

The fireball hit the water and caused masses of steam to rise about the children and they soon lost all feeling in their legs, arms, shoulders and head. They soon regained their sight only to see Aoife laughing at them. Aodh tried to attack her and flailed his arms about furiously but nothing happened except the splashing of water. He turned to look at his brothers and sister only to see that they had all been turned into the most beautiful swans ever seen.

Aoife scowled at them again and told them that they were to spend nine hundred years as swans, three hundred on Lough Derravaragh, three hundred on the Straits of Moyle and three hundred on the Isle of Inish Glora. To end the spell they would have to hear the bell of the new God.

'I leave you with your voice however, and the most beautiful singing ever heard' she said.

Lir searched for his children that day, but Aoife told him that they had been attacked and killed by wild boars. Fionnuala, now in swan form, approached her father and told him what Aoife had done. Lir was furious and banished Aoife into exile as an evil demon of the air.

Lir faithfully visited his children and the power of his love ensured that their time on the lake was one of bliss. He knew though that the 300 years of the first phase had passed and that the next phase of the spell was about to begin. The swans left for the Straits of Moyle, never to see their father again.

Their time on the Northern Straits of Moyle were not so joyous, with frequent storms separating them, only for they to join up again. Another 300 years passed but they had survived together.

They departed the cold straits and made their way towards Lough Derravaragh. They flew over the land, hoping to find their father's fort, but it was now nothing more than ruins. They wept because they knew the time of the Tuatha De Danann was gone.

They travelled West to the waters of Inish Glora and found refuge on a small saltwater lake where time passed slowly. One day an old man named Mochua visited the lake and the children enquired of him if he was a follower of the new God. The startled man asked if they were the children of Lir and they told him that they were.

'Are you a holy man?' asked Fiacra.

'I am...' came the reply.

The children knew that to break the spell that they would have to hear the bell of a new God toll in their own land.

Mochua told them all about his new God and all about Saint Patrick who had brought his faith to their country.

The children became excited as they knew that this was the new God their stepmother had told them of. They stayed with Mochua for many years who gave them sanctuary in a small chapel which he had built. He intended to make a bell and collected old swords, shields and other metal to make it. The bell was now completed and was about to be rung when another disaster occurred.

A Warrior dressed in armour entered the chapel. He had come for the children who were famed for their wonderful singing.

'I am Liargren, King of Connaught' he shouted,

'My wife desires those swans and I will have them.

Give them here or I will tear this building down.'

Fionnuala looked at Mochua and then said that they would agree to go away with this King. Liargen was amazed to hear her speak but soon composed himself and ordered his men to take the children away. They were being loaded onto a carriage when suddenly, the church bell tolled loudly.

Time seemed to stand still, but in another instant a great white mist had been blown off the nearby lake and enveloped the children as it had done 900 years before. The mist changed into all of the colours of the rainbow before a great wind gusted it away.

The children had at last been transformed back into human form.

Liagren fled immediately, never to return. Mochua baptized the beautiful children who had begun to age rapidly and so it was that the children of Lir, the last of the Tuatha De Danann died soon afterwards, their legend to live on forever.

The Children of Lir : (C) Copyright

Top image : Belarussian coin.

Middle image : Irish coin.

Lower image: Mongolian coin.

For those born in the month of July.

Holly - The Ruler

July 8 – August 4

Those of you born under this sign have a regal bearing. You tend to have great leadership qualities and are able to overcome obstacles and challenges with tact and diplomacy. When you face setbacks you simply put your head down and get on with it and very rarely are you defeated.

Although you can and often do appear arrogant this is not the case you are just confident of your skills and ability and it is this confidence that inspires others to follow you. You are highly intelligent and usually fly through tests or exams where others may struggle. You are both generous and affectionate and have true integrity but you are sensitive when others criticise you.

Sometimes you may appear to be a little demanding when it comes to relationships, you are very down to earth and spiritually content. You have a good eye for a bargain and love collecting artefacts. You are tolerant towards others and loyal especially to your spouse. You do not have a wandering eye and tend to fall in love and stay there often marrying those you have known as childhood romances.

You have a good sense of humour but not at other people’s expense. You can be a little bit of a recluse and protective of your private space. You have a tendency to be lazy if not kept stimulated and a bit of a miser with money.

Remember this is just for a bit of craic.