Celtic Legends, Halloween, Interesting Stories

The Irish Legend of the Banshee

The Irish Legend of the Banshee

The image that comes to most people’s minds when they hear the word “banshee” is that of a floating ghostly figure that wails and is in general quite terrifying. You might also be familiar with the age-old concept that banshees are considered to be portents of impending death. The whole account of the Banshee may be found here.

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The Banshee, pronounced bean-sidhe is the woman of the fairies and maybe an ancestral spirit appointed to forewarn members of certain ancient Irish families of their time of death. According to tradition, the banshee can only cry for five major Irish families: the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’Gradys and the Kavanaghs. Intermarriage has since extended this select list.
Whatever her origins, the banshee chiefly appears in one of three guises: a young woman, a stately matron or a raddled old hag. These represent the triple aspects of the Celtic goddess of war and death, namely Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain.) She usually wears either a grey, hooded cloak or the winding sheet or grave robe of the unshriven dead. She may also appear as a washer-woman, and is seen apparently washing the blood stained clothes of those who are about to die. In this guise she is known as the bean-nighe (washing woman).
Although not always seen, her mourning call is heard, usually at night when someone is about to die.

Irish families of their time of death. According to tradition, the banshee can only cry for five major Irish families: the O’Neills, the O’Briens, the O’Connors, the O’Gradys and the Kavanaghs. Intermarriage has since extended this select list.
Whatever her origins, the banshee chiefly appears in one of three guises: a young woman, a stately matron or a raddled old hag. These represent the triple aspects of the Celtic goddess of war and death, namely Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain.) She usually wears either a grey, hooded cloak or the winding sheet or grave robe of the unshriven dead. She may also appear as a washer-woman, and is seen apparently washing the blood stained clothes of those who are about to die. In this guise she is known as the bean-nighe (washing woman).
Although not always seen, her mourning call is heard, usually at night when someone is about to die.

A banshee is a spirit that does not have a physical body and can take any one of the following forms:

A stunning woman who was wrapped in a shroud.
A slender woman with a white outfit, long red hair, and a red lipstick.
A woman who is silver-haired and wears a long garment of silver.
A headless lady who is completely nude from the waist up and is carrying a dish of blood.
An elderly lady with eerie red eyes, a green outfit, and long white hair was standing there.
A geriatric lady who was clothed entirely in black and had long, gray hair. She wore a veil over her face.

Origins of the Banshee Folklore

According to historians, the first accounts of the Irish Banshee date back to the eighth century and were based on a ritual in which ladies sung a mournful song to express their condolences over the passing of a loved one. These ladies were known as “keeners,” and because they took alcoholic beverages as payment, they were considered to be sinners. As a result, they were condemned to a life as banshees as their punishment. It is said that if a Banshee is seen, she would quickly disappear into a cloud of mist while making a sound that is comparable to the sound of a bird flapping its wings. This is a part of the legend surrounding the Banshee. According to urban legend, banshees do not bring about death; rather, they just serve as a warning of impending doom.

Banshees Are Both Good and Bad 

There are a few banshees that had deep links to their family in life and remained to look after them after death. These banshees are the exception to the rule that banshees are monsters filled with hatred. When they make their appearance, these Banshees take the form of beautiful, entrancing ladies who perform a mournful, eerie song that is full of care and love for their family. This song can be heard a few days before a member of the family passes away, and in the vast majority of instances, the song can only be heard by the individual for whom it was written.

On the other hand, there is the Banshee, a terrifying creature that most of us are familiar with. She is furious and terrifying. These ladies, throughout the course of their lives, had reasons to despise their family, and now they emerge as grotesque and terrifying apparitions that are full with animosity. The howls that are coming from these banshees are enough to give you the chills all the way down to your bones, and rather than appearing to warn a member of the family, these banshees are rejoicing in the impending death of someone who they despised.

Celtic Holidays, Halloween, Irish Traditions

Autumnal Equinox the Celebration of Mabon

Today is the first day of autumn. The fall equinox will occur today, September 22, 2021, at 3:21 p.m. Eastern.

The Sun will be exactly above the Earth’s equator at that time, appearing overhead at noon as seen from the equator. Every year, around the same time, the Sun shines directly over the equator, distributing the same amount of light on both sides of the planet.

This is the start of shorter days and colder weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

This month marks Mabon, the Celtic name for the autumn equinox. Mabon is the second of three Celtic harvest festivals: Lammas, Mabon, and Samhain, which takes place next month. Mabon represents the heavy harvest, whereas Samhain represents the harvest of the dead and what remains from this month’s efforts.

Mabon was originally a harvest festival (Lughnasadh was the first), when farmers gathered hearty foods such as gourds, pumpkins, grapes, and apples. Modern Mabon celebrations are a time to express gratitude to Mother Earth for her abundance, both literally and spiritually.

This is also known as Mea’n Fo’mhair by the Druids, and it honors the Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of cider, wine, herbs, and fertilizer are appropriate. Mabon (like Ostara) emphasizes balance because it is one of the few times during the year when true balance can be observed in nature. There is no distinction between day and night.

Happy Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bone)

Celtic Holidays, Celtic Jewelry, Celtic Legends, Halloween, Irish Jewelry, News

Have you Ever Heard of the Legend of the Celtic Cat?

The Legend of the Celtic Cat

In Celtic folklore there is a magical set of cats or “fairy cats”. In Scotland they are known as the cait sith. In Ireland they are called cait sidhe. Whether Gaelic or Scotch Gaelic they are both pronounced as “caught shee”. The cait sidhe aren’t your ordinary felines, they are thought as fairies, even witches, and as spirit creatures that merely take the form of a cat. Those that have seen them describe them as being unusually large, all black cats with a spot of white fur on their chest. Generally, the cait sidhe is viewed as fearsome and was used as a symbol by Celtic warriors.

Our Celtic Cat Pendant is absolutely purrrr-fect! This beautifully diamond accented Celtic Cat Pendant with black enamel pays tribute to the cait sidhe. The cait sidhe is a mythical fairy creature in Scottish and Irish folklore.

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Celtic Holidays, Celtic Legends, Halloween, Interesting Stories, Irish Traditions, News

The Celtic Origins of Halloween and Halloween Traditions

As children and adults around the world take part in the spooky festivities of Halloween on the night of October 31st, All Hallows Eve, few know of its ancient Irish Celtic roots in the Samhain (Samain) festival.

Read more about Celtic Halloween Origins, Samhain Traditions, and Halloween Superstitions online at The Irish Jewelry Company.

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Irish Halloween Traditions and Halloween Origins. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.theirishjewelrycompany.com/irish_halloween_traditions_halloween_origins.

Halloween, Interesting Stories, Irish Traditions

IRISH HALLOWEEN TRADITION – BARMBRACK

There are many Irish Halloween traditions in Ireland. One of my favorites is barmbrack.
Barmbrack is at the very core of the Irish Halloween traditions. The Halloween Brack, much like Christmas pudding traditionally contained various objects baked into the sweet bread. These various items were used as fortune-telling. In the barmbrack items like a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring were traditionally used. When an item is received in the slice, had a meaning for that person. For instance if you got the pea, the person would not marry that year, the stick, you’ll have an unhappy marriage , the cloth or rag meant bad luck or you’ll be poor; the coin of course meant you’ll have good fortune or be rich and the ring, meant you would be wed within the year. Other items also added to the brack were medals, usually of the Virgin Mary to symbolize going into the priesthood or becoming a nun, although this tradition isn’t very popular today.

Recipe
INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon dry active yeast
⅔ cup/158 milliliters lightly warmed milk
1 egg, beaten
1 ⅔ cups/214 grams all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting
¼ teaspoon cinnamon 12002851_1068039236547381_8260594681565605031_n
¼ teaspoon clove
¼ teaspoon mace ( Mace is made from the lacy, red outer coating that covers the shell around the nutmeg kernel. )
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons/28 grams unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing pan
¼ cup/50 grams granulated sugar
½ cup/75 grams golden raisins
½ cup/75 grams black raisins
½ cup/75 grams currants
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

In a small bowl, whisk the yeast and milk together. Leave it to bubble slowly in a warm spot 10 minutes, then whisk in the beaten egg.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, put the flour, cinnamon, clove, mace, salt, butter and sugar. Mix well, incorporating butter with fingertips (or paddle, if using mixer) until absorbed.
Pour the yeast-milk-egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon (or dough hook, with mixer).
When the dough begins to come together, add the raisins, currants, lemon zest and orange zest, then mix to combine. It will be somewhat sticky dough. Dust lightly with flour, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until the dough feels smooth. Pat dough into a rectangle.
Butter a loaf pan and lay in the dough, pushing down so dough covers bottom of pan. Stretch plastic wrap loosely over pan and put in a warm place, covered with a kitchen towel, for about an hour, until doubled in size. Uncover.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and center a rack in the oven. Bake loaf on the centered rack for 45 minutes, until well browned. Carefully tip the loaf out of the pan onto a cooling rack. To tell whether it’s done, thump the bottom of the loaf with your fingertips; it should sound hollow. Let cool to room temperature before slicing, if possible. ( NYT recipe)

 

Happy Halloween!

To wish someone a happy Halloween, you can say:

Oíche Shamhna Shona Duit (EE-hyeh HOW-nuh HUN-uh ditch*)

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Celtic Legends, Halloween, Irish Traditions

The Origins of Halloween Costumes

On Halloween night children would dress up in scary costumes and go house to house. ‘Help the Halloween Party’ and ‘Trick or Treat’ were the cries to be heard at each door.

This tradition of wearing costumes also dates back to Celtic times. On the special night when the living and the dead were at their closest the Celtic Druids would dress up in elaborate costumehalloween kidss to disguise themselves as spirits and devils in case they encountered other devils and spirits during the night. By disguising they hoped that they would be able to avoid being carried away at the end of the night. This explains why witches, goblins and ghosts remain the most popular choices for the costumes.

 

Read more about Celtic Halloween Traditions and Origins. Shop Irish Halloween Gifts.

Celtic Legends, Halloween, Irish Traditions

The Dullahan, the Irish Headless Horseman

Have you ever heard about “The Dullahan”, the Irish Headless Horseman?

The Irish legend of the Dullahan, or English translation “dark man” is unnerving. The AdobeStock_56147609.jpegHeadless Horseman or Dullahan is the Irish foreteller of death. The Dullahan rides a jet black horse with flames shooting from its eyes, carrying his head under one arm. Irish folklore says that when he stops riding, a human dies.
There are many versions of this scary tale. Some say that the Dullahan throws buckets of blood at people he passes, while other say he simply calls out the name of the mortal that will soon die.


But as with most evil entities the Dullahan has a weakness. The Dullahan can not stand the sight of GOLD. So you would be wise when traveling on this Halloween to carry a wee bit of in case you have a run-in with this headless horror!

Read more about Celtic Halloween Traditions and Origins. Shop Irish Halloween Gifts.

Celtic Holidays, Celtic Legends, Halloween, Interesting Stories, Irish Traditions

The Pooka In Irish Folklore

The púca (Irish for spirit/ghost), pooka, phouka, phooka, phooca, puca or púka is primarily a creature of Celtic folklore. Considered to be bringers both of good and bad fortune, they could either help or hinder rural and marine communities.The Púca can have dark or staunch white fur or hair. The creatures were said to be shape changers which could take the appearance of horses, goats, cats, dogs, and hares. They may also take a human form, which includes various animal features, such as ears or a tail.

The Phooka
Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee

 

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Celtic Legends, Halloween, Irish Traditions

Irish Halloween Traditions

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Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ SOW-in, Irish pronunciation: [sˠəuɪnʲ]) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.
 
Colcannon for Dinner:
Boiled Potato, Curly Kale (a cabbage) and raw Onions are provided as the traditional Irish Halloween dinner. Clean coins are wrapped in baking paper and placed in the potato for children to find and keep.
The Barnbrack Cake:
The traditional Halloween cake in Ireland is the barnbrack which is a fruit bread. Each member of the family gets a slice. Great interest is taken in the outcome as there is a piece of rag, a coin and a ring in each cake. If you get the rag then your financial future is doubtful. If you get the coin then you can look forward to a prosperous year. Getting the ring is a sure sign of impending romance or continued happiness.
The Ivy Leaf:
Each member of the family places a perfect ivy leaf into a cup of water and it is then left undisturbed overnight. If, in the morning, a leaf is still perfect and has not developed any spots then the person who placed the leaf in the cup can be sure of 12 months health until the following Halloween. If not…..
The Pumpkin:
Carving Pumpkins dates back to the eighteenth century and to an Irish blacksmith named Jack who colluded with the Devil and was denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to wander the earth but asked the Devil for some light. He was given a burning coal ember which he placed inside a turnip that he had gouged out.Thus, the tradition of Jack O’ Lanterns was born – the bearer being the wandering blacksmith – a damned soul. Villagers in Ireland hoped that the lantern in their window would keep the wanderer away. When the Irish emigrated in their millions to America there was not a great supply of turnips so pumpkins were used instead.
Halloween Costumes:
On Halloween night children would dress up in scary costumes and go house to house. ‘Help the Halloween Party’ and ‘Trick or Treat’ were the cries to be heard at each door. This tradition of wearing costumes also dates back to Celtic times. On the special night when the living and the dead were at their closest the Celtic Druids would dress up in elaborate costumes to disguise themselves as spirits and devils in case they encountered other devils and spirits during the night. By disguising they hoped that they would be able to avoid being carried away at the end of the night. This explains why witches, goblins and ghosts remain the most popular choices for the costumes.
Snap Apple:
After the visits to the neighbours the Halloween games begin, the most popular of which is Snap Apple. An apple is suspended from a string and children are blindfolded. The first child to get a decent bite of the apple gets to keep their prize. The same game can be played by placing apples in a basin of water and trying to get a grip on the apple without too much mess!
The Bonfire:
The Halloween bonfire is a tradition to encourage dreams of who your future husband or wife is going to be. The idea was to drop a cutting of your hair into the burning embers and then dream of you future loved one. Halloween was one of the Celt ‘fire’ celebrations.
Blind Date:
Blindfolded local girls would go out into the fields and pull up the first cabbage they could find. If their cabbage had a substantial amount of earth attached to the roots then their future loved one would have money. Eating the cabbage would reveal the nature of their future husband – bitter or sweet!

Another way of finding your future spouse is to peel an apple in one go. If done successfully the single apple peel could be dropped on the floor to reveal the initials of the future-intended.

Anti-Fairy Measures:
Fairies and goblins try to collect as many souls as they can at Halloween but if they met a person who threw the dust from under their feet at the Fairy then they would be obliged to release any souls that they held captive.
 
Holy Water:

Holy water was sometimes anointed on farm animals to keep them safe during the night. If the animals were showing signs of ill health on All Hallows Eve then they would be spat on to try to ward off any evil spirits.

Read more about Celtic Halloween Traditions and Origins. Shop Irish Halloween Gifts.

Celtic Legends, Halloween, Interesting Stories

The Halloween Samhain Bonfire in Ireland

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THE BONFIRE

The Halloween Superstition says the bonfire is an Irish tradition to encourage dreams of who your future husband or wife is going to be. The idea was to drop a cutting of your hair into the burning embers and then dream of you future loved one.

Halloween was one of the Celt ‘fire’ celebrations. The bonfire has long been associated with Halloween and continues to be a common tradition in much of the Halloween celebrating world.

The ancient practice of lighting large fires dates back to the festival of Samhain  now known as Halloween. It is the celebration of summer’s end and the beginning of the dark season or winter. Samhain marks the end of the harvest and the old year. It is also the beginning of the new year and up coming harvest season . On the eve of Samhain, young people would go from house to house asking for offerings of food and kindling for the Samhain bonfires fires. The following day, the traditional day of Samhain, November 1st, people would extinguish their hearth fires and gather together to light large fires on sacred hill tops in honor of and to make offerings to the gods.