Sunday, 22 March 2015

Spring & The Three Hags.

Cailleach Bheara - a commission for a resident living near the Bheara Peninsula, Co.Cork.
At the Spring Equinox, when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal, it feels that we are held
at a place of balance between Summer and Winter.
Here the past few days have been full of sunlight and gentle warmth as the crows build their
nests and the trees begin to green but this morning saw a frost return to the land.

In Ireland we have no evidence or folklore to support the idea that the Celts celebrated a festival
at this point in the year, however an old story from Coolea, Co. Cork tells of the three Cailleach,
Old Women or Hags, who are responsible for the development of growth during March.
The tale begins on Brigid's Day at the start of February when one Hag, described as
a 'veiled one', stands under the ground attempting to push up the vegetation whilst the two other
Hags stand above ground to keep it down.
After the middle of March the single Cailleach below is joined by another and both push up the
plants together whilst one Hag remains above ground to resist.
By the end of the months all three Hags are beneath the land pushing up the new growth for Spring.

In a time before the Celts, the Neolithic people were aware of the Equinoxes and
this knowledge of astronomy and the landscape can be seen at many sites across the island.

 Spring Equinox solar alignments at Grianán of Aileach, Co. Donegal & Gossan Stones, Co. Wicklow.

The most well known of these sites is probably Cairn T on Sliabh na Caillí, "the hag's mountain"
in Co. Meath, part of the Loughcrew Megalithic complex. 
The sun's rays at the Equinox sunrise shine down the passageway of the cairn to illuminate an 
inner chamber.
Slowly the light travels across the rear stones shining on the megalithic stone carvings...

© Clare Tuffy

bringing the sun into the body of the land and into the place of the ancestors ...

The Cailleach painting : here
until the home of the Cailleach returns to darkness once more.

To see this special event please watch Michael Fox's video below :

For more information on the Grianán of Aileach please visit the Unknown Swilly blog HERE
The Gossan Stones can be found HERE

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Storyteller

Model: Seanie Larkin

The traditional Irish storyteller is the Seanchaí, which originally meant a 'bearer of old lore'.
These storytellers were part of the great oral tradition of Ireland who remembered and passed
on a large number of tales across the generations. Their particular style of speech and gesture,
as well as their role as custodians of folk tradition, are understood to link them back to the
filí, the poets of pre-Christian Ireland.

Some Seanchaithe travelled from one village to another trading their stories for food and shelter
whilst others settled and became the Storytellers of their particular area.
Many of the stories, which are still being told today, focus on special places within the landscape, Otherworldly animals or beliefs about the Sídhe and their customs.

One such story - The Oldest Creature is being told by the Seanchaí in the painting above:

"A certain man, amazed at the coldness of a particular night, wonders if there was ever so cold
a night before.
He sets out to discover the answer to this....

and first meets an otter lying in a deep hole on top of a rock. The otter tells him that he has been there so long that the hole has been worn in the rock by its body, but it has never seen so cold a night as recently.

Next the man meets....

 Seabhac Acla - the Hawk of Achill, Co. Mayo, which is perched on an anvil
and has been there for so long that the anvil is almost worn away by the rubbing of its beak after eating. Neither has it seen so cold a night.

Finally the man encounters....

the one-eyed Bradán Easa Rua - the salmon of Assaroe, Co. Donegal.
The salmon tells him that it does indeed remember a colder night an extremely long time ago.

It had frozen so fast that night that when the salmon had jumped out of the water to catch a fly,
the river had turned to ice when it returned.
The salmon had lain on the ice sure it would die until a bird came along and plucked out one of its eyes.
The heat of the blood from the eye melted the ice, and so the salmon had returned to the water. "
- from 'The Lore of Ireland' by Dáithi Ó hGáin.

One of the best known Seanchaí today is Eddie Lenihan and you can see him introducing his
art of telling a good story below.
You can find Eddie's book "Meeting The Other Crowd" HERE

Please contact me on the email form below if you would like to order  
an Art Card of The Storyteller /Seanchaí .