You might think that Irish mythology is full of giants, what with Fionn building the Giant’s Causeway, and the number of ancient stone monuments named ‘The Giant’s Bed/ Leap/ Grave’, but you’d be wrong. There is, however, a specific reason why giants exist in local Irish folklore.
In Irish mythology, the Tuatha de Danann and the Sidhe are described as being tall and beautiful with red or fair hair, pale skin and blue or green eyes. Their appearance played no small part in elevating their status to that of Gods.
Swans are seen as a symbol of love and fidelity around the world because of their custom of mating for life. In Irish mythology, swans are usually depicted as shape-shifters, capable of transforming into human and bird form at will.
There’s something hypnotic and beguiling about watching golden flames leap, fanning your face with melting warmth, whilst the hiss and pop as they consume their fuel, fills your ears, and clouds of fragrant wood-smoke drift around you… the experience of fire is quite a feast for the senses. A fire can be soothing and relaxing, or mesmerising and exciting, or uncontrollable and frightening.
Our ancestors were well aware of the effects of fire. Mastering this element had changed their lives, yet was fraught with danger. Homes were temporary affairs, constructed of degradable substances such as wood and thatch, and thus highly flammable. Even the landscape could be destroyed by the application of fire, or it could be revitalised.
Halloween is the Christian overlay of a celebration far more ancient, a pagan Celtic festival called Samhain. Halloween is thought to be when the dead and the undead walk the earth, bringing havoc and fear to the living. As far as we can tell, the ancient Irish people never had a God of the Dead, so who was Donn?