aliisaacstoryteller

I love bogs. Not only do they provide us with sweet-smelling turf for burning over the winter, which keeps us so warm and cosy and drowsy, but they hide extraordinary secrets which they allow us to find, now and again.

Such as bog butter…


Bog butter in wooden vessel on display at Cavan County Museum.

Bog butter in wooden vessel on display at Cavan County Museum.


Various spectacular votive offerings…


Gold torcs and bracelets on display at National Museum of Archaeology, Dublin.

Gold torcs and bracelets on display at National Museum of Archaeology, Dublin.


And bog bodies…


Gentle Face of Bog Body. Tollund Man. By Sven Rosborn - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4330462

Gentle Face of Bog Body. Tollund Man. By Sven Rosborn – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4330462


And then there’s this… Read More

The cairns of Loughcrew are known in Irish as Siliabh na Cailleagh, meaning ‘the Witches/ Hag’s Mountain’, and can be found in two groups spread over the hills of Carnbane West and Carnbane East, overlooking the town of Oldcastle in Co Meath. The Loughcrew cairns are estimated to be around 5200 years old.

The ‘Witches Throne/ Chair’ is located on Canbane East at the base of Cairn T, which is a short, steep climb up from the car park.



The Witches Throne is a huge kerbstone carved with armrests at the base of cairn T at the highest point of Loughcrew. It measures  3 m (10 ft) across, and 1.8 m (6 ft) high, and is estimated to weigh in the region of 10 tons.  The site’s discover, Eugene Conwell, in the 1860s made a drawing of the stone which reveals that it was once covered in mystic symbols. Sadly these have been eroded by the elements and can no longer be seen. It is quite distinct from the other kerbstones, which makes you wonder, did it have some special significance to the people who placed it there?



Local folklore claims that the cairns were formed when a giant witch, known as the Cailleagh, was leaping from summit to summit carrying huge boulders in her apron. Some of the stones fell from her apron and scattered across the hilltops, thus forming the cairns.

The Cailleagh sat and surveyed her territory from her throne, and it’s not hard to see why she chose this spot as her vantage point… the views are stupendous!  On a clear day, it is possible to see the Cooley mountains, Mourne mountains and Slieve Gullion to the north east, the Dublin and Wicklow mountains to the south east, Slieve Bloom mountains (Laois and Offaly) to the south, and mountains in Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo to the west.

Unfortunately for the witch, one day she slipped whilst touring the hilltops of her domain, and tumbled to her death. She was buried beneath a cairn where she fell.

Today, it is said that if you are brave enough to sit in her throne, the Cailleagh may grant you a wish. Well, it’s worth a try!



You can read more about Loughcrew in my posts Equinox at Loughcrew, and Loughcrew| Mountain of the Hag.


The cairns at Loughcrew are open and free to visit throughout the summer months. An OPW guide is on hand to show you around the site. There is car parking, which is also free.
You can arrange a guided tour of Loughcrew cairns hereFind out more about Loughcrew and other associated sites here.


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There is a deep-rooted fear in many cultures that Friday 13th is a very unlucky day, yet no one knows where this superstition has come from, or why it is so widespread.It is certainly true that some pretty rotten things have happened in the past on this day, which have earned it such a terrible reputation.

For example, on Friday 13th October 1307, hundreds of Knights Templar were rounded up and put to death in France.In the Bible, Judas was the thirteenth person present at the Last Supper. Jesus was crucified the very next day, which was a Friday.


Black cat resting against dark background, disappearing into the shadows

Innocent pet, or witches familiar? It wasn’t just the woman who was roasted alive.


In numerology, the number 12 is considered to be a number of ‘completeness’; there are 12 months in  year, 12 hours in a day followed by 12 hours of night, there are 12 signs of the zodiac, etc.In comparison, the number 13 is seen as irregular, imbalanced.

There is a Norse myth which tells that twelve Gods were dining in the great hall of Valhalla, when the trickster-God Loki turned up uninvited. He proceeded to convince the blind God of Darkness, Hoder, to shoot Baldur the Beautiful, God of Joy with a mistletoe-tipped arrow, thus we have another example indicating why the ancient people may have believed the number 13 to be unlucky.

By contrast, the ancient Egyptians actually believed the number 13 to be very fortunate indeed. They thought that man experienced twelve phases during his mortal life, but the 13th was to ascend to eternal after-life, which was considered a joyous event, even though achieved through death.

The moon is associated with the divine feminine as the feminine cycles were linked to the phases of the moon. In Ireland, Aine was Goddess of love, growth, cattle and light. Her name means “bright” as she lights up the dark.Although the origins of this superstition cannot now be traced, some say it goes right back into our distant pagan past. Ancient pagan religions were matriarchal; they believed in the Goddess and Mother Earth, and venerated the ability of the female to bring forth life.

The year was counted by lunar cycles, unlike today’s Gregorian calendar, of which there were thirteen, and also thirteen menstrual cycles in a year.

As the priests of the new religion, Christianity, tried to wrest control from the pagans, they suppressed the power of the female; fertility and the sexual act was seen as unclean. Where childbirth was once seen as joyous and miraculous, the new religion considered the new mother unclean and she was not allowed into the church until she had been ritually purified forty days later.  I’m pretty sure the thirteen menstrual cycles were seen as unclean, as well!


La Super Pleine Lune


Over time, this dislike of the number 13 may have adopted a more sinister tone, as the pagans associated with it became thought of as evil devil-worshippers.

For the ancient Celts, everything was interconnected, even numbers. All numbers had meanings, or associations.

Learn More

Source: Irish Mythology | Friday 13th… Unlucky for Some?

Are you brave enough to spend the night in a haunted castle?

Ross Castle lies on the shores of Lough Sheelin, along the border of Co Meath and Co Cavan, not far from Oldcastle. It is said to be one of the most haunted castles in Ireland.

There are many reports of ghostly experiences at Ross Castle. It is said to be haunted by Sabina, daughter of the cruel Black Baron.

Sabina and her father were of English descent, and locked in battle with the Gaelic native Irish. However, Sabina fell in love with Orwin, son of an Irish Chieftain. When they tried to elope across Lough Sheelin to freedom, their little boat capsized, and Orwin was drowned. Although Sabina was saved, she was so grief-stricken at the death of her lover, that she refused to eat or drink. She fell into a coma and died, but it is said her spirit haunts the castle still, searching for her lost love, Orwin. (You can read her sad story in full here.)

The castle was built in 1553 by Richard Nugent, 12th Baron of Delvin, also known as the Black Baron, in defence against the native Irish of Cavan. Read More

Ireland’s last witch-burning

In 1895, poor Bridget Cleary was the last woman in Ireland to be burned as a witch. Her story is a sad and terrible one, which I could only deal with writing about in small doses. She endured so much suffering through no fault of her own, was gruesomely murdered, and in the end was not even allowed a Christian burial. I think she deserves to be remembered.

Unusual woman

Bridget was only twenty six when she died. She was unusual for a woman of her time; she worked as a seamstress, and did well enough that she could afford to dress herself in all the latest fashions. She also kept a flock of hens and sold eggs to raise additional income. Thus she was a financially independent woman of means who stood out from the other women in her rural community.

Unusual Marriage

Her marriage was also unusual; she met Michael Cleary in Clonmel in August 1887, where they were quickly married, after which she returned to live with her parents in Ballyvadlea, County Tipperary. He remained in Clonmel where he was employed as a cooper (making wooden vessels bound by metal hoops, such as barrels). Bridget continued to support herself and live as an independent woman in control of her own finances. Read More

St Féichín’s Way is a 3km loop walk around the ancient monastic settlement at Fore. It takes in a selection of the historic sites associated with the monastery, such as the holy well known as St Féichín’s Bath, thought to be the remains of an ancient cist burial; the Columbarium; the Gate House; Gallows Hill, and the Rejected Stone, and a motte and bailey site, as well as areas of natural beauty, like the buzzard habitat, the 300 year old beech tree, the oak plantation, and the daffodil walk.

Fore comes from the Irish Fhobhair, meaning ‘the town of the water springs’. The monastery was founded there by St Féichín in 630AD, where it is said  there were as many as three hundred monks and two thousand students in residence at any one time, so it was quite a busy and thriving community in its heyday. Read More

If you like all things literary and historic, then you will love this unique little museum. It has no fancy gizmos and gimmicks, like most modern museums; it relies purely on great content in glass cases, just like traditional museums used to be. There is one modern convenience, though: we have the benefit of audio headphones, which makes for a more immersive experience, although you don’t really need them to enjoy the museum.

Established in 1991 as a celebration of Irish writing of the last three hundred years or so, the collection is housed in one of the great eighteenth century houses on Parnell Square in Dublin, so it’s very easy to get to.

It features authors who are considered to have greatly contributed to Ireland’s literary heritage, and to have impacted significantly on the literary world in general, such as  James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett to mention but a few. Read More

Most of you will no doubt be aware by now that I have returned to full-time education. Well, I’m about to start my second year, but you can imagine how my ears pricked up during last year’s induction when someone mentioned Maynooth University boasts the oldest tree in Ireland within its grounds.

Trees feature quite a lot on my blog… I love them. So naturally, I immediately set about looking for this special one. Which wasn’t as easy as you’d think. Most people, including staff, had no idea what I was talking about and looked at me as if I was slightly mad. Eventually, a librarian tracked down a member of security who was able to point me in the right direction.  There I was, causing havoc already and I hadn’t even started my studies yet. ☺ Read More

According to popular belief, the Brehon Laws were quite forward thinking when it came to equality between the sexes. This is certainly true of the divorce laws, but not so much in other areas, for example property and legal rights. It certainly seems to state that women could participate in all the same professional occupations as men, such as warriors, law-givers and poets.

However, what most people overlook, is that the laws represented an ideal, just like our laws of today.

For example, we believe our society is sophisticated, just and equal, when in fact, it is anything but. Legislation amounts to words on a page; it’s what we like to think our society looks like.

Meanwhile, as any woman can tell you, women are still discriminated against, particularly in the workplace, and the LGBTQ community face horrible prejudice on a daily basis, as do the disabled. I have personal experience of these. Read More

I‘ve been to the Hill of Tara many times, and I’m lucky enough to live within easy driving distance of it. I drive past it twice a day on my way to uni and back, but I rarely have time to stop, as I’m always hurrying to class, or hurrying home again. Despite the familiarity, it’s a place I feel drawn to and love going back to, whenever I can.

My visits are usually lonely events, though, but there are times when that feels right, and other times when I feel the need to share the wonder with someone who feels the same way. So one day I decided to join Treasa on one of her Walking Tours of Tara, and I can honestly say I’m so glad that I did. Read More