Spooky Irish Halloween Myths Oct 27, 2013 22:27:04 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Oct 27, 2013 22:27:04 GMT -5
Top Spooky Ancient Irish Myths Surrounding Halloween
Although many mythological creatures roamed ancient Ireland throughout the year, the changing of the season was of special importance and the significance is reflected in several ancient myths. Samhain, the Celtic celebration from which modern Halloween is derived, was a time for climatic action in many old Irish stories.
Celtic Celebrations. The Celts believed the year was divided into two parts, the lighter half in the spring and summer and the darker half in the fall and winter. Samhain, or Halloween, was the division between these halves and a time the Celts believed the veil between our world and that of the dead at its thinnest. According to the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress, the Celts wore costumes to confuse spirits roaming about at this time of the year.
Fionn MacCool. According to one of the several stories recounted in Tales of the Elders, every year at Samhain for twenty-three years, the fire-breathing creature Aillen would lull the men of Tara to sleep and burn the court to the ground during the night. The young hero Fionn MacCumhail avoided sleep by sticking the sharp end of his spear into his forehead and killed Aillen with that spear on Samhain. Because of this deed, he was made head of the Fianna, an independent warrior group.
Lugh. Probably best known as Cu Chulainn’s father, the god of light enters the court at Tara to join the Tuatha de Dannan at Samain. According to Whitney Stokes’s 1891 volume, The Second Battle of Moytura, when Lugh enters the court, the Tuatha de Danann are oppressed by the Fomorians. After the high king gives him command over the Tuatha de Danna, Lugh begins preparations to overthrow them. Following days of battle, Lugh and the Tuatha de Danna are victorious.
Queen Maeve. In the ancient Irish epic poem, Tain Bo Cualigne, the legendary Queen Maeve (pictured above) of Connacht waits until Samhain to start the Cattle Raid of Cooley. During her raid, which drives the plot of the epic, she attempts to capture a prize bull of Ulster in order to match the possessions of her husband Aillel. The young hero Cu Chulainn single-handedly defends Ulster until the Ulster men’s birth pangs are over and they can fight.
Emer. As noted in John T. Koch’s The Celts: History, Life and Culture, in the myth “The Wooing of Emer,” Samhain is mentioned a couple of times. The story follows the courtship of the lovely Emer who is transformed into various creatures before being reunited with her husband. Samhain is the first of the four “quarter days” mentioned by the titled heroine. Also in this story, Oengus claims the kingship of Bru na Boinne, what is today Newgrange, on Samhain.
Nera. This hero from Connaught undergoes a bravery test set forth by King Ailill. For the king’s own gold-hilted sword, a man must leave Ailill’s hall and go to the gallows where a man was hanged and tie a twig around the victim’s ankle. Others had tried and given up after they were harried by spirits. On Samhain night, Nera completes the task and the man comes alive and asks for a cup of water. After Nera gets him water, he sees the royal buildings burned to the ground and a woman from the fairy mounds tells him it is a vision that will come to pass if the people of the court are not warned. In one version of the myth, cited in Patricia Monaghan's Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore, he is captured by the fairies and held in a fairy mound until next Samhain.
Source: Michelle K. Smith, IrishCentral, October 26, 2013.