aliisaacstoryteller

Today I met up with Treasa and a bunch of lovely ladies for a visit to Cruachan and Oweynagat. To say I was nervous is a bit of an understatement; not because I was meeting up with a group of people I didn’t know (daunting enough for someone like me), but because a) I’ve never been caving, and never wanted to, and b) you know, it’s a space which belongs to the Morrigan, and she’s definitely scary, in a wonderful and terrifying kind of way. But, Treasa invited me, and I trust her, and if you love Irish myth and ancient sites, you can’t not go. I’d avoided it long enough.

When I got up this morning and saw the sun was shining, I knew it was a day for facing fears.

We met for lunch first in the Percy French Hotel in Strokestown. I’m glad we did this, as it broke the ice, and was really fun, and also, it meant I could follow in my car behind someone who knows where they’re going, and hopefully not get lost. 😁

First we went to the main mound at Cruachan. It’s huge! And what a view! I could hear one of our group drumming as I walked up to the top. The beat carried to me faintly on the breeze, seeming to enter my bloodstream, so that I almost didn’t know if it was my pulse or my heartbeat stirring. It kind of felt magical, and right. Read More

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. 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

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

For those who may not know, this time last year I enrolled as a mature student at Maynooth University to study for a Bachelor of Arts in History and English. I sat my end of year exams in May, and since then have been contemplating my next steps.

There is no question that I will be continuing with my studies. I have decided on a Double Honours in Celtic and Irish Medieval Studies, and English. And now the work really begins, because in reality, first year was just a practice run for the real thing. To continue, I had to achieve a pass at 40%; I actually got 69.3%… that’s how pernickety they are. If I had got just 0.7% more, I would have achieved a First.

Going to uni at age forty nine was a mad and difficult decision which has turned out to be a wonderful thing. I never had a third level education when I was young, but I think I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it, if I had. Maynooth has a mature student population of 10%, and is looking to increase it, probably because on the whole, mature students tend to do better than their younger peers.

However, it’s not been easy. Here, in no particular order, are 10 things I have learned about being a mature student in my first year.

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a celebration of life

Today, the Irish are well known for their love of partying and enjoying the craic; whilst this may seem like stereotyping, it’s no exaggeration. Nor is it a new phenomenon… I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was one day discovered to be a trait handed down through the centuries in Irish DNA. 😀

Historically and mythologically, Lughnasadh was pretty much the biggest party of them all. One of the four ancient Irish pre-Christian festivals (the others being Imbolc, Bealtaine and Samhain), Lughnasadh was celebrated midway between the summer solstice and autumn equinox, around August 1st.

As Christianity spread across Ireland, the event was adapted as a festival of thanksgiving for the harvest, and moved to the nearest Sunday.

In a way, this feels very appropriate to me, for Lughnasadh originated way back in the era of the Tuatha de Danann, not so much in thanks for the harvest, but in thanks for a life… the life of a very special woman, or Goddess, named Tailtiu. Read More

A man borne of a virgin was destined for great things.

THE INTERNATIONAL VIRGIN BIRTH

The virgin birth is not just a Christian ‘thing’… weird and wacky birth stories exist in ancient cultures from all around the world.

forty five virgin births were reported in the US in recent years.Buddha, for example, entered his mother’s womb in the shape of a white elephant; Athena was born from Zeus’s forehead, Dionysus from his thigh; Vishnu descended from heaven into the womb of a mortal woman and was born as Krishna; the prophet Muhammad was born of a mortal woman but had no father; Coatlicue was unknowingly impregnated by a bunch of feathers which she found and stowed in her clothing, later giving birth to Aztec god Huitzilopochtli; in Japan, Momotarō was found inside a giant peach floating down a river, and so on.

Despite all these marvelous miracles, however, the pregnancy of a chaste and virginal woman is the most enduring and beloved tale of all. And unsurprisingly, the immaculate conception almost always results in the birth of a spectacular male child who goes on to achieve great deeds as an adult. Read More

The legend of the veiled one

Who was the Cailleach Bheara? She appears as a mysterious and shadowy figure hovering around the edges of Irish folklore and myth, yet very little is known about her.

The word cailleach has come to mean ‘hag’, or ‘crone’, yet in Old Gaelic it actually means ‘veiled one’. This conjures up images of early Medieval Christian nuns, yet it is possible that the word has more ancient origins and could refer to the wise-women or female Druids of pre-Christian and maybe even pre-Celtic times.

The legend of the cailleach can be found not only in Ireland, but in Scotland and the Isle of Man, too. She is associated with Winter, and the creation of the landscape. Read More

Hey! Did you know there’s  ONLY 2 DAYS LEFT to get your Bloggers Bash votes in? I know, time is flying! Make sure you’ve got your tickets if you’re planning on coming. Can’t wait to catch up with old friends from last year, and make some new ones! See you there…

 

Source: 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards VOTING OPEN @bloggersbash #BloggersBash

It’s that time of year again… the Irish are preparing to party, big time, ‘cos there’s nothing we like more than celebrating the death of a saint. And all around the world, everyone wants in on the act.

Despite controversy, Enda Kenny is already in the US preparing to hand over the customary crystal bowl of shamrocks to President Trump on Thursday. This is a tradition which was started back in 1963, and symbolizes the ‘special’ relationship Ireland has always had, and hopes to maintain, with the US. Read More