aliisaacstoryteller

You may have noticed there was no blog post from me last week. I try really hard to keep the blog updated as often as I can, but sometimes things happen which change that, and this was one of those times.

I had been planning to introduce you to a particular lady from Ireland’s history, and indeed, the post is actually half written. I thought it would be an easy post to write, because I already know something about her. However, so many obstacles popped up during the writing of it, that I gave up; I felt it wasn’t meant for me to write, or at least not yet.

It wasn’t writer’s block, but that all my research seemed to contradict itself, no matter what angle I approached it from. I was frustrated and puzzled.

I was driving home from uni on Thursday, wondering about this, when the following thought came into my head: “You have unfinished business.” Those were the exact words, and here’s where you might think me slightly mad… Read More

Eithne and Fidelma were sisters who lived in the time of St Patrick. Their story is incredible, although it may be argued that the two young women themselves were not. They were pagan princesses, daughters of Laoghaire, High King of Ireland in 432AD, when Patrick is said to have lit his paschal fire in defiance of the King, pagan custom and ritual.

When Patrick first approached the King, the sisters, known as Eithne the Fair, and Fidelma the Red, were not at court. Following tradition, they were fostered out at Cruachan, also known as Rath Croghan, in the province of Connacht, made famous as the royal residence of Queen Medb.

There, the two girls were in the process of being educated by two Druids, Maol and Caplait, who were said to be the wisest men in all of Ireland at that time. Clearly, then, they were being trained as Druids, an education which is believed to have spanned over twenty years. Read More

Today I visited the shrine of Saint Dympna in a tiny little place called Lavey in Co. Cavan. Although Dympma is quite a well-known seventh century saint in Ireland, her association with Lavey is a relatively unknown local tradition.

Dympna is one of Ireland’s tragic heroines. According to legend, she was just fifteen years old when she came to her untimely end at the hands of her very own father. Her life may have been short, but she inspired the birth of something wonderful which still goes on to this day.


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Back in Lavey this afternoon, I came to where I thought the shrine was located, but which appeared to be a farm-house and dead end. I knocked on the door, and explained that I was looking for Dympna’s shrine, and the man who answered said, “I’ll just get my coat and take you down there. Have you a bottle for the holy water?”

When I gaped at him blankly, he went inside and fetched a small, bright orange, plastic Ribena bottle, surely the most humble receptacle that has ever collected holy water. Ever. Read More

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh
(pronunciation Ah-vleen fwee vosh-ah gheev)

Happy New Year to you all, and thank you for supporting Aliisaacstoryteller last year! I hope 2018 will be good to you. I can’t believe we’re already two weeks in… time sure flies.

Why the long silence, Ali?

Well, let’s just say the Christmas break did not go completely to plan. Two days before the big day itself I was flying around trying to make sure everything was ready, and I managed to injure my eye, which meant I could barely see, and was in agony. I couldn’t drive, do the food shopping, and certainly couldn’t see to read, write or blog. It certainly put a damper on the festivities for me.

After Christmas, Carys and I caught the Aussie flu. I was very ill, and in fact, I’m still not fully recovered, but life has to go on; I have my family to take care of, and I had to study for my exams… that was the last thing I felt like! Only one more exam to go next week, and then I have some time off until semester two starts at the end of January.

Of course I learned something from all this; as usual, I was trying to do too much, thinking ahead and not concentrating on the here and now; also, I need to take better care of myself, for my sanity as well as my health. I’m probably not the only one… am I right???


Happy New Year from Aliisaacstoryteller

Top Posts of 2017

Thank you for visiting aliisaacstoryteller last year. I write for fun about a subject I love, and I’m so happy that so many of you enjoy it, and feel the same. Thank you also for all the emails; I love getting to know you, and appreciate you taking the time and trouble to get in touch. I try to answer each one, but sometimes I get a bit snowed under, as aliisaacstoryteller is just a one-woman-band, so if you didn’t get a reply from me, I apologize sincerely.

These are the posts you liked most in 2017: Read More

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.

Read More

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