Saturday, 2 April 2016

LOUGH GUR - “a personality loved, but also feared.”

The land surrounding Loch Goir, Lough Gur in Co. Limerick 
has been inhabited continually for 6,000 years.  


Early Bronze Age wedge tomb on the shore of the Lough.


Pics: loughgur.com & ancientireland.org

The bronze Lough Gur Shield, known as the ‘Sun Shield’, dates to 700 BCE 
and appears on the beautifully designed information boards adjoining the lake.

Stone circles, standing stones, tombs, barrows and hill forts dot the landscape 
and there is a wealth of folklore. 


However, the heart of this sacred landscape is the Lough. 

Although it was a spring day when I visited, the water was still and silent, holding mysteries 
dimly remembered in folk tales. 



“ Lough Gur dominates the scene. It was to us a personality loved, but also feared.
Every seven years, so it is said, Gur demands the heart of a human being.”


It is believed that Lough Gur was originally a circular lake belonging to Fer Fi
leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann and brother of the Goddess Áine, who has her palace beneath 
the waters.
As Bean Fhionn, the White Lady, it is Áine who summons a victim to the lake every seven years and takes them to her realm below. 



“Called the Enchanted Lake; some say that in ancient days there was a city where the lake is now.”


Áine is described in folklore as a fairy Bean-tige, housekeeper to Gearóid Iarla, the enchanted son of one of the Earls of Desmond.
Gearóid, banished to the lake, is doomed to return every seven years and gallop over its’ surface seated on a milk white horse shod with silver shoes.

Knockadoon © michaeldebarra.com

The hill of Knockadoon, once an island, has on its’ shore a rock formation 
known as the Suideachan Bean-tige, the Housekeeper’s Chair, 
which is the seat of the goddess Áine. 


Pic © Derek Ryan Bawn - more information The Tipperary Antiquarian

Also known as Áine’s birthing chair and the Old Hag’s Chair, 
no mortal may sit on this stone without losing their wits.

© 2015 National Folklore Collection, UCD. 

Across the Lough from Knockadooon stands Knockfennel, named for Áine’s sister. 
It is understood that this hill too is hollow and within resides Fer Fi, the king of the fairies. 

Knockfennel

His realm is entered through a cave which has a small opening at the back.
“It was said anyone who had the courage to squeeze through the hole would find himself in the hollow heart of the hill.”


Entrance to the Otherworld courtesy of The Standing Stone.
More photos of the cave can be found on The Standing Stone.ie  

In the distant past on Samhain night, when the bonfire was lit on Knockfennell and on the sixth night of every moon, the sick were brought out into the moonlight to be healed. 
This night was known as ‘All-Heal’.

If the patient did not recover by the eighth or ninth night of the moon they would hear the ceolsidhe, the fairy music which Áine brings to comfort the dying. 
The music itself, the Suantraighe, is sleep music played by Fer Fi on his harp .

“They say the Suantraighe is the sweetest tune of all, 
and that anyone who hears it falls into a trance with its beauty. 
But ‘tis a sleep from which no mortal man or woman will ever awake.”

Words of the late Tom McNamara, local seanchaí, storyteller. 


Lough Gur Heritage Centre - loughgur.com
The design of the centre is based upon the ancient lake-dwellings.


Today Lough Gur is a wildlife sanctuary, popular with local people and tourists yet there is a feeling of stepping into a landscape still alive with the old stories. 

And once the visitors have departed and the Lough settles into night

Moonlight over Lough Gur © Michael de Barra.

The Shining Ones race in their boats across the water whilst Áine’s enchantment remains irresistible 
to those who hear her call. 




‘The Enchanted Lake’ Video - Nicky Fennell, produced by Mike McNamara.



To hear more stories about the Lough from the late Tom McNamara 
please visit Voices From The Dawn.






4 comments:

  1. It is so beautiful, especially the picture of the lake by moonlight. It is understandable why there are is so much magic attached to the area. How lovely to think of those dying hearing the wonderful music and getting some comfort xxx

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  2. Thanks Fran - yes I love that story too. It is a beautiful place to visit. xxx

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  3. Beautiful. Than you for sharing. I will be visiting next month. Have you been in to the entrance of the Other world via the Standing Stone?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Maggie - Do you mean the stone at Grange? I was there this weekend :)

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