Thursday, March 15, 2018

Supernatural Friday: St. Patrick's Day is a Very Mythic Day

Sorry to be late with posts, but the past two weeks I've been to a convention, then became ill from a sinus infection. Next Friday, will be about the ghost stories of the haunted Biltmore Hotel in Rhode Island I stay at for Stokercon 2018, and what happened to me there.

Once upon a time, blue was the color to wear. That's right, not green, but blue! Because blue was the color of Ireland's flag. It was changed to green most likely due to the shamrock.

St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland. Except that would be hard, as there never been snakes in Ireland. Separated from England and the Continent thousands of years ago, Ireland emerged from the Ice Age snake-free.

Contrary to popular belief, the shamrock is not the official emblem of Ireland. Ask any head of state or diplomat. That honor goes to the Celtic harp. But in the hearts and minds of people all over the world, the shamrock is considered the symbol of Ireland. You could say the shamrock is the emblem of Irish culture.

The shamrock was once known as "seamróg", pronounced "Seamroy,”  which meant "little clover". They also mention the fact that it is a very common clover that grows heartily in Ireland.

Many agree that the ancient Druids honored it as a sacred plant. The Druids believed the shamrock had the power to avert evil spirits. Some people still believe the shamrock has mystical, even prophetic, powers. It is said that the leaves of shamrocks turn upright whenever a storm is coming.

According to Lady Wilde, the shamrock "enlightens the brain and makes one see and know the truth".

The ancient Irish Celts also revered the shamrock because it has three leaves, and they considered "3" to be a sacred number. The ancient Celtic Druids believed many numbers held mystical powers.

The three leaves shaped like hearts were associated with the Triple Goddess of Celtic mythology, otherwise known as the "Three Morgans". The Triple Goddess represented the Triple Mothers, the hearts of the ancient Celtic tribes.

This Celtic tradition of honoring "3's" continued in Ireland for millennia.

Three was also sacred to devotees of the goddess, Brighid, signifying totality. And the Irish bards continued the significance of "3's" by using triple repetition in their storytelling rhythms.

Legend of the Banshee
When most people think of a Banshee, they imagine a floating, spectral figure wailing and generally being extremely frightening. You may also be aware of the old belief which states that Banshees are harbingers of death.

What is a Banshee?
A Banshee is said to be a fairy in Irish legend and her scream is believed to be an omen of death. The scream is also called ‘caoine’ which means ‘keening’ and is a warning that there will be an imminent death in the family and as the Irish families blended over time, it is said that each family has its own Banshee!
A Banshee is a disembodied spirit and can appear in any of the following forms:
§  A beautiful woman wearing a shroud
§  A pale woman in a white dress with long red hair
§  A woman with a long silver dress and silver hair
§  A headless woman carrying a bowl of blood that is naked from the waist up
§  An old woman with frightening red eyes, a green dress and long white hair
§  An old woman with a veil covering her face, dressed all in black with long grey hair

Historians have traced the first stories of the Banshee to the 8th century which were based on a tradition where women sang a sorrowful song to lament someone’s death. These women were known as ‘keeners’ and since they accepted alcohol as payment, they were said to be sinners and punished by being doomed to become Banshees. According to the mythology of the Banshee, if she is spotted, she will vanish into a cloud of mist and this action creates a noise similar to a bird flapping its wings. Legend says that Banshees don’t cause death; they only serve as a warning of it.

Banshees – The Good & Bad
Not all Banshees are hate-filled creatures; there are some that had strong ties to their families in life and continued to watch over them in death. When they manifest themselves, these Banshees appear as beautiful enchanting women that sing a sorrowful, haunting song which is filled with concern and love for their families. This song can be heard a few days before the death of a family member and in most cases the song can only be heard by the person for whom it is intended. 

On the other side of the coin we have the angry and scary Banshee that most of us are familiar with. During their lives, these women had reasons to hate their families and appear as distorted and frightening apparitions filled with hatred. The howls emitted by these Banshees are enough to chill you to the bone and rather than appearing to warn a family member, these Banshees are celebrating the future demise of someone they loathed!

And forget that cute little guy on the Lucky Charms cereal box. Leprechauns are more like the character played Warwick Davis in the Leprechaun movies is not cute or nice. Like many fairies, they were brutish and nasty little people. They were the grumpy, insufferable, alcoholic elves in employ of other fairies. 

According to the book The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews, the leprechaun legend can be traced back to eighth-century tales of water spirits called "luchorpán," meaning small body. The legend eventually evolved into a mischievous household fairy said to haunt cellars and drink heavily.

Leprechauns are shoemakers. Some researchers claim that the word leprechaun came from the Irish 'leath bhrogan,' meaning shoemaker, said to be the sprites' main vocation.

If you happen to come across a Leprechaun, be sure to hold on to him.  According to Irish legends, people lucky enough to capture a 
leprechaun can barter his freedom for three wishes. But dealing with a leprechaun can be a tricky proposition.

A leprechaun is a trickster figure who cannot be trusted. Folklorist Carol Rose offers a typical tale of leprechaun trickery in her encyclopedia "Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins," it concerns "a man who managed to get a leprechaun to show him the bush in the field where his treasure was located. Having no spade [shovel], the man marked the tree with one of his red garters, then kindly released the sprite and went for a spade. Returning almost instantly he found that every one of the numerous trees in the field sported a red garter!"

Like most fairies, leprechauns have a distinctive sound associated with them. While the Irish banshee can be identified by a mournful wail, leprechauns are recognized by the tap-tap-tapping of a tiny cobbler hammer, driving nails into shoes, that announces they are near.

Leprechauns are always male. In the 1825 book "Fairy Legends" noted that Leprechauns seem to be entirely male and solitary. No female Leprechauns at all! They are often described as bearded old men dressed in green and wearing buckled shoes. Sometimes they wear a pointed cap or hat and may smoke a pipe. But Leprechauns weren't always dressed in green, nor wore pointed caps or  hats. Early tales of the creatures reported wearing red clothing and tri-cornered hat perched on their heads. 

And according to Carolyn White’s A History of Irish Fairies, there is no record of any female Leprechauns existing. This of course means that Leprechauns defy typical laws of biology by surviving and there is no evidence which tells the story of how they breed. The book also mentions that Leprechauns are deformed children of the fairies.

Next time you watch that horror film, Leprechaun, remember that is the true fey being.

But no matter if myth or truth, enjoy the day and dance a little jig. Just don't overdo the green beer and Irish food.



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