Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oíche Shamhna! Oíche Shamhna! Oíche Shamhna!

Is breá liom é! Hope you all have a good one folks. I’ll be back with a proper post tomorrow, and hopefully some photos, but for now I just wanted to wish you all a magical Samhain’s eve. Slán agus oíche mhaith agaibh!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Not Just A Scary Face

"THEN Cuchulain went on his way, and Cathbad that had followed him went with him. And presently they came to a ford, and there they saw a young girl thin and white-skinned and having yellow hair, washing and ever washing, and wringing out clothing that was stained crimson red, and she crying and keening all the time. 'Little Hound,' said Cathbad, 'Do you see what it is that young girl is doing? It is your red clothes she is washing, and crying as she washes, because she knows you are going to your death against Maev'e's great army.'"

"Cuchulain of Muirthemne" by Lady Augustus Gregory, 1902

It’s a tale almost every Irish schoolchild will be only too familiar with- the young hound of Cullen and the king’s druid on their way to the most famous battle in Celtic lore, The Cattle Raid of Cooley. Taken from the 2000-year-old Ulster Cycle it’s also the earliest written record of an encounter with that most famous of Ireland’s fairies, the banshee.

I think I’m actually going to go as banshee now, not a vampire. No doubt I’ll change my mind a couple of dozen times again over the next 24 hours, but for the moment banshee it is! I’ll probably just stick to the obvious scary version, because it’s easier, though the aul Bean Sidhe comes in all sorts of guises. The screeching ghostly spectre that most people, myself included, usually associate with her is just one of  many faces.
<--- by Sweetheart Sinner Creations

Her most famous face, certainly. Maybe that’s because her brief appearance in that wonderfully true-to-life movie Darby O’Gill was so memorable (I know it frightened the proverbial out of my wee childhood self).  But it might also be because she’s often confused with the Morrigan, an old raven-feathered deity from Irish mythology who is also associated with death. While the Morrigan accompanies a soul passing over, however, the banshee only alerts the living to the passing of that soul.  She really can’t do you any harm at all, and she isn’t always a vision of terror either.

Anyway, I’ve bored of searching for costume ideas online so instead tonight I’m going to point you in the direction of a little more Samhain reading, this time from Lady Gregory’s ‘Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland’ (1920). Specifically this chapter on banshees and other death warnings,  which provides a more accurate account of the whole phenomenon. Or, if my inane babbling has already bored you of all things screaming and keening, you might enjoy this chapter. It’s packed full of tiny little ghost stories :) 

You know it’s funny; this book hails from an age when it was all the rage in Ireland for intellectuals to troop across the country collecting folk and fairy tales from the lesser classes.  The majority of the practices, traditions and urban legends documented from the period have more or less died out over the subsequent generations, but there are still a lot that endure.  And reading back over them I’ve realised that the ones with the most staying power  seem to be those concerning death and dying.  Ah, but sure isn’t that the nature of the human condition. We’re obsessed with our own mortality. That must be why we love Halloween so much! Well, hope you’re all having a spooktacular start to this seasonal weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Costume Ideas (and Some Old Fashioned Gossip)

As usual, I’ve left my Halloween costume till the last minute. Every year’s the same; I have all these great plans then the next thing I know it’s Halloween weekend and I’m still sitting with a brand new unopened sewing kit. I’ve a couple of days left yet, though I’ll probably just end up making a few alterations to last year’s outfit. Again. This’ll be my fourth time wearing basically the same thing, I hope no one notices!

I suppose I could wear the evil nurse getup I had for the cancelled haunted house show, but I’d rather something more classically spooky. I had been planning on a gothic/Victorian vampire sort of thing, and the outfit I already have does have a proper corset and a shirt with black flared sleeves,  but I doubt I’d have time to sort out the rest of it at this stage. That hasn’t stopped me searching about for inspiration though!  I have to laugh out loud when I think of myself making anything near as good as these, even if I’d months left to do it, but a girl can dream. Actually, if I’m dreaming then I’d just buy one of them.

On another note, all these gowns have got me thinking on a little piece of Victorian gossip I heard recently. Did you know that Oscar Wilde was having an affair with Bram Stoker’s wife? Yea, I thought that too! But apparently he liked his bread buttered on both sides. My fiancé’s dad is a bit of an antique collector and has a special fascination with any sort of documents relating to Irish history and the like. One of the pieces in his collection is an original letter written by Mrs Stoker to Wilde- and it’s a love letter! Supposedly the pair were a bit of an item. *tisk* And you think you know someone! Poor aul Bram…

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole

By robinpika, found via Poisoned Apple on Tumblr.
Well, not exactly. That title’s a little misleading and irrelevant actually; this post has nothing to do with rabbit holes. Or Alice. The ‘tumbling’ bit does have a point though, because today I bring you news of my latest online adventure! Yes folks, I’ve gone and started a Tumblr mini-blog.

I didn’t even really mean to, it just sort of happened before I realised what I was doing. I couldn’t sleep the other night so I thought I’d go on a wee quiet wander round blogland. One of my visits was to A Cottage in the Woods where the lovely Zuzu has been proclaiming the wonders of the Tumblr for some weeks now. Previously I’d resisted the urge to dip my toes in the whirlpool of mini-blogging, knowing what I’m like when it comes to these online avenues of procrastination.  But, wouldn’t you know, half an hour after just going over for a nosy of Zuzu’s wonderful page I was trying out themes and fonts for my own wee Tumblr. I just couldn’t help myself!

I know, first Flickr and now Tumblr. I seem to be developing a bit of a thing for sites that discriminate against the letter ‘e’. Ah, the modern world and it’s wacky ways. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to let my extracurricular internetting get in the way of this blog. I realise I’ve been slacking here a little bit recently- I’d planned to post every single day of October- but I’ve plenty of posts lined up for the next wee while. My tumblring is only going to be for when I’m not in the mood or don’t have time for proper blogging.  And it may even help provide inspiration for posts here too, there’s so many wondrous treasures to be found on there. Like this:

I came across the image at a great little blog called Library Land, who'd reblogged it from An Apple a Day, but it didn’t have a click-through link so I can’t tell you much else about it. Do any of you know the story behind it? It looks amazing! Anyway folks, drop me a line if you have your own Tumblr page so I can follow you. You can check out my own here, though I haven’t got too many images up there yet. Still just testing the water, you know. Well, hope you’re all having a lovely evening!

p.s. I’ll be back with a more Halloweeny post tomorrow. May as well make the most of the spooky season while it’s still upon us!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Things That Made Me Smile

I wasn’t planning on posting today but I just had to pop in to say this: I LOVE blogging! I’ve been feeling pretty down this past week (nothing too serious, just a bit stressed and I’ve an old health complaint playing up) and today seemed like it  was just going to be another crappy one. Not so, because when I logged into my emails this morning I had a couple of wonderful little surprises waiting for me! 

Remember last week’s blog party? Well a few talented and gracious bloggers doubled up their wonderful party posts as giveaways. And guess what, I won not one but two of them. Yes two! How lucky am I?! Well usually not very, quite the opposite in fact. I never win anything, but now two prizes in the one day! They say these things come in threes, so I really better play the lotto this week.

Just look at what I’ve won too. Firstly I found out I am to be the fortunate recipient of one of these spooky yet adorable painted eggs from the lovely Melissa at Ardoria Studios. Aren’t they fantastic? If you like them then check out Melissa’s blog.

As soon as I’d got the good news from Melissa another little message appeared in my inbox from Belinda of Bel’s Nook who has awarded me, wait for it, a witch’s journal! I have to admit, I’ve been slacking with my journaling recently but now that I’ve won this amazing handmade creation I’ll have to get right back into it. I just love this little artisan book! Please go visit Belinda too for a healthy dose of Halloween goodness.

Anyway, I just want to say go raibh mile, MILE, maith agaibh to you ladies! You have really cheered me up no end and I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. Thank you!

Friday, October 22, 2010

All in the head, or a visit from the dead?

When I was little I was obsessed with ghost stories; reading them, hearing them, making them up. My younger sister only recently informed that I did, in fact, scar her at an early age with my tales, both true and imaginary. I had no idea she ever took them seriously, but there you go. Anyway, one of my favourite books back then was True Irish Ghost Stories by St. John D. Seymour and Harry L. Neligan, (1914). I don’t have a copy of it anymore and I’d actually forgotten all about it until I came across it online the other day.  It’s now free from copyright, apparently, and in the public domain.  It really is great reading for the spooky inclined, I’d highly recommended it on a dark October evening.

Once I stumbled upon it myself I abandoned what I was doing and ended up engrossed in it once again. I don’t really like reading at length from a screen, though, so I’ve been coming back to it all week. This afternoon I got to this chapter, ‘Apparitions at or After Death’, which got me thinking about a couple of eerie little tales of my own I’d like to share with you.  Considering this is the time of year when the dead like to come back for a wee visit, I thought they were kinda appropriate.  They're 100% true, too. I’m sure a lot of you out there have had or heard of similar experiences, it seems this type of phenomenon’s really quite common. I'd love to hear about them!

Visitor I

My mother grew up in Lanarkshire in Scotland, but she always had family here in Ireland including a  great-aunt whom she was named after. One night when she was about ten she woke up and her aunt was sitting on the edge of the bed smiling at her. My mum just presumed she’d arrived over for a visit and wanted to come in and say hello. Apparently they proceeded to have a wonderful conversation, after which my mother went back to sleep and dreamt the most vivid dream of her life. It was about a man running down a hill pushing a wheel. Anyway, the next morning she got up and went to the kitchen expecting her aunt to be sitting there.  Instead, she found her family all upset. And when she asked after her aunt’s whereabouts she was told that they’d just got word from Ireland that she had passed away during the night. Confused, she told them about her visit. Her sisters laughed and said it was a dream and that she’d been talking in her sleep all night. It was only when she told her mother about the dream she actually did have that she was taken seriously. You see, at the very same time as her aunt was dying my mother also had a cousin being born in a house just down the hill from her aunt’s in Ireland. The child was coming into the world just as her aunt was leaving it, and for some reason my mother knew all about it over in Scotland.

Visitor II

My fiance has a similar but spookier story. His grandfather, Jack, was the gravedigger for their local parish, and as you’d imagine he had no shortage of tales to tell. This one didn’t happen in the churchyard, though it’s almost creepy as the one that involved coffins moving in the earth. (Don’t ask, it’ll freak you out!) Anyway, one afternoon Jack was sitting at home when there was a knock on his door.  It was a man, not an old one but not young either, and he was there to make arrangements for a burial. The man was quiet but friendly and quite specific about the grave he wanted dug. That was all grand and everything was sorted out so Jack sat himself down to enjoy the rest of his day off. Then, about an hour later, he got a phone call from the local hospital. The person on the other end wanted to organise the burial of a relative. In such a small community it was rare for Jack to have two bookings, as it were, in the one day. He quickly realised, though, that the person on the phone was arranging the same funeral as the man at the door had been and so informed them that everything had already been taken care of. The caller insisted that he must be mistaken, but when Jack described the man at the door he was met by stunned silence from the other end of the line. “That’s impossible,” said the stunned caller, “You’ve just described the deceased man, and he only died 15 minutes ago.” 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spooky Food Sculpture

Hi folks. How goes it today? Hope you’ve recovered from all that blog partying, I know it’s taken me a few days! I’d never joined in a shindig of that scale before and while it was pretty exhausting it was unbelievably fun. I really cannot praise Vanessa enough! Can’t wait for the next one :) Anyway, I’m going to spend the rest of the evening calling in on any party posts I might’ve missed and catching up with all the wonderful comments on my own post. Thank you all so much, by the way!  I actually just reread the thing and it’s riddled with typos, though I’m not going in to fix them ‘cause for some reason Blogger always messes up the spacing anytime I try. I think you all got the gist of it either way. But still, it’s bugging me!

Right, I suppose I better post something now. How about some edible art? I thought these sculptures by Dimitri Tsykalov might do nicely, particulary after all my chat about decorative Halloween food. These are definitely far too amazing to eat, but they might provide you with some festive inspiration. Forget the pumpkins and turnips, why not try your hand at cabbage carving?!  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Welcome revellers…

…to my Halloween wedding party! Before you ask, no, I haven’t eloped in the past couple of days without telling you. This is all imaginary unfortunately. After having my original real-life blog party plans ripped up and thrown out the window last week I was at a loss for something interesting to contribute. But then this dawned on me!

I’ve actually been planning on starting a bridal blog for ages, though I’ve too many other things on the go at the minute to get round to it. I don’t know what it is about weddings; I’m not the most girly-girl but as soon as I got engaged last year I started pouring over wedding magazines, salivating over dresses and décor.  Maybe it’s because they’re just like Halloween- a great excuse to dress up and gorge on food and merriment.

Usually I think a themed wedding’s fine if it’s subtle and tactfully done, it can add that personal charm, though too often the theme can become overwhelming and take away from the significance of the day. With Halloween, however, more is definitely more! I might have been lamenting the increasingly forgotten quiet spookiness of Irish Samhains past in my recent posts, but what I don’t think I made clear is that I really do love the modern American-ised holiday too. It has such a fun carnival atmosphere, perfect for a completely over-the-top wedding day extravaganza.  Plus, I’m a huge Tim Burton fan and, well, that just goes without saying.

In reality himself and I will probably just grab a some family and friends and head off to Italy for a few days to do it on the cheap. The pennies aren’t too plentiful and the minute, I’m afraid. But for this evening at least I would to like you to join me on a little journey of imagination, where budgets are limitless, the sun always shines, and time stands still. Let us begin…
The Location 

*To begin with I'm going to have to ask you do a bit of mental picturing.*

While neither of us are religious, I at least have a spiritual side and the thought of a quickie in a registry office seems rather pointless to be honest. Our original plan when we got engaged was to have the ceremony in a four-thousand-year-old pre-Celtic ring fort up on a hill near where we live, but for the day that’s in it some hallowed ground seems more appropriate. As such, the wedding proper would be held in this overgrown churchyard exactly half way between where we both grew up.

Like any graveyard worth it’s salt, this place has countless stories to tell. And it’s definitely haunted too; the other day when I went to take these photos, my mum’s dog went completely uncharacteristically crazy at one of the tombstones. The poor wee thing was terrified. Anyway, I don’t have time to get into it’s history right now, but I’ll just tell you that it dates from the sixth century and is so much more beautiful in real life. You can check out loads more photos of it on my Flickr page, though they really don’t do it justice.

We’d have the service at around 5pm, just catching the fading evening light. In reality the weather would probably be atrocious but this is a fantasy, after all, and in this reverie it would be dry and smoky, with mist hanging over the fields the way it’s wont to at this time of year. Then when the sun sets the fog would lift to reveal a huge harvest moon and a blanket of stars hanging over the lough which the grand ballroom of the reception hotel looks onto.

This is said hotel. Not much to look at is it? Well bear with me. Built in the mid-nineteenth century, this place once oozed Victorian charm. Even as late as the 1980s it was described by one travel writer as being a worthy setting for an Ealing comedy. I had vintage photographs of it to show you, but I’ve forgotten them so you’ll have to take my word for it. It doesn’t really matter though, because this is what it looks like today. Partially gutted by a fire a couple of decades ago, it now lies abandoned overlooking the shore front of our town. 

I’ve never been inside myself but from what I hear I imagine dusty chandeliers, once grand but now creaky sprawling staircases, hallways like those in The Overlook, cobwebs and candelabras… Perfect really!

Again, it’s high up there on the haunted scale too.  My secondary school was right around the corner from it and I’ve heard many an urban legend about the entire area encompassing the hotel. Some were about rooms in the main building itself, others about a particularly cursed house next to it, and loads about students from the school holding séances in and around it. Every one had a tragic or otherworldly ending. I wish I’d time to tell you some of them, maybe I’ll do a post on it another day.

The Décor

I think the graveyard is pretty enough in itself not to need any embellishment, and the hotel is almost eerie enough not to need much work done to it either. There’d definitely be no need to tidy it up too much; we could keep all the spider’s webs and dust layers for effect. (Personally I think the rats could stay as well but I’d say some of the guests might not be too keen on that.) There’s also a heap of antique furniture lying around inside on account of a local manufacturer once using it as a storeroom. All we’d need to do is drape old white sheets over anything that didn’t have a tatty charm.

 That being said, weddings are such a wonderful excuse to get crafty. Wherever and however I get  married, for example, I’m definitely having paper flowers. Let the real ones grow where they are, I want to make my own! And when it comes to DIY Halloween décor the mind literally boggles. Here are a just a few ideas for inspiration:


The Dress

Ah yes, the dress. Now this is where I become undone. It’s also a perfect example of the gulf between my real life plans and my fantasies. Whereas I actually plan to get a really simple and plain tea length number, my imaginary dress could be almost anything. Well, anything except one of your typical strapless, poofey get ups.  I’ve included here just a tiny example of ones I love, and these are only the those I think would suit Halloween. You know, I’ve so many inspirational gowns bookmarked I could start a whole blog for them alone!


One of the most enduring elements of the traditional Halloween is the custom of wearing masks. Back-in-the-day folks believed they’d prevent them from being recognised by any of the wandering souls returning for their annual visit. If there’s any truth in that then we’d definitely need to don a few for protection in our haunted reception site.

Food and Drink

One thing that’s wonderful about a Halloween party is that the food can double up as decoration. Just take that most wonderful Autumn delight, the toffee apple. They look and taste yummy, and we could attach little name tags to them and use them as place settings and favours.

We could also put the insides of all those turnips we’d have carved to good use in the hearty banquet of Irish seasonal treats we’d be laying on: vegetable broth dished out from a giant cauldron and served with wheaten bread; coddle and cabbage and bacon and champ for the main; baked pears, apple tarts, and berry crumbles for dessert. Later in the night we’d serve tea and barmbrack for supper.

All this would be washed down with as many beers and ale we could muster, as well as whiskey, red wine, cider, and even mead.  Oh, oh, and absinthe poured over sugar for that dry ice effect. 
As for the cake, instead of going all ‘Corpse Bride’ and ghoulish I think an old fashioned vintage style classic tiered creation would fit better with the old world atmosphere of the location. And, like in bygone days, we’d have little trinkets baked into it for luck.


After we’ve recovered from the feasting we’ll need something lively to get us back on our feet, like a decent ceili band. They’re always good for a laugh and suit all ages. We’d have to have a fair aul dose of rock thrown in there too though, for after when all the mammies and daddies have sneaked off to bed. And what better band for it than one of my all time favourites (and his too!) The Smashing Pumpkins. Don’t forget this is a fantasy people, so we’d have the actual guys themselves playing! We could get in The Pixies too for pure 90s heaven.

While we waited on those guys to set up we could take a stroll down to the beach for a huge bonfire. The path down would be lit with luminaries and before returning to the party guests would get paper lanterns to release into the sea air. Hell, we may as well throw in some fire works too. It is Halloween after all.

Just For Fun 
  Finally *phew* I’ve just a couple of ideas for other little quirky finishing touches. I can’t believe how long this post has taken me, and to think that this is the shortened version! I would never have gotten it published on time if I’d included everything I’d planned on. Maybe I really will have to start a wedding blog… Anyway, I love the idea behind these little cards from HandyKane that guests can fill out and leave for you to read in coming years. With our friends and family I dread to think what they’d predict for us. I’d say it’d make good reading though!

And  how about getting an arty friend to alter your zombify some of your wedding snaps as a gift, something like this wonderful art print from Corpse Key Co.

Well there you have it, folks, a little run down of my imaginary Halloween wedding. Thanks for reading and I hope I haven’t bored the arse off you all! I’d also say a special hello to any newcomers who have found their way via Vanessa and her wonderful party. I hope to be visiting all of your little corners of the web shortly!

I’ll leave you now with a little video from the aforementioned Smashing Pumpkins.  They actually have so many better songs than this, some really beautiful ones that would be perfect for a first dance, but I love this video. I generally love all their videos, though this is probably the freakiest and most Halloweeny. I’ve also had weird dreams based on it in the past, but we’ll not get into those now…Anyway, thanks again for stopping in. Hope you all have a fantastic Halloween!


Attention partiers! 
My post is taking a little longer than anticipated; I've a few pesky gremlins conspiring against me this evening. Festivities will hopefully commence within the next couple of hours (around 10pm GMT).
See ya'll then!

Friday, October 15, 2010

In Memoriam

I’m a little sad tonight.  I’ve just sat down to organise tomorrow’s party post (which by the look of it is going to take all night!) but I can’t stop thinking about the post I should’ve been preparing. As I explained before, I was supposed to be taking part in an awesomely terrifying Haunted House event. Over the past couple of weeks I should’ve been taking photographs and little video snippets of each night’s performance and I was going to take you all on a virtual horror ride tomorrow evening. But alas, the show is no more. 

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start giving out about stinking bureaucrats and all that carry on again. Instead I’m going to bring you the full version of the trailer I posted back when I was buzzing with excitement about the whole thing.  Ah, what could’ve been… It was filmed at last year’s show which I wasn’t able to take part in due to ill health. I'd been waiting all year for my chance at freaking out the locals! And this one was going to be even bigger and bloodier. *sigh*  Once again all credit for the video goes to Ciarán at Stromek Design. Oh, and I’d personally recommend watching it alone in the dark! Woo ha ha ha!

One more thing, my mood has been somewhat improved by the receipt of a great wee award from the ever lovely Annalee over at Absynthe&Arsenic. Behold the ZOMBIE RABBIT! Ain’t he just the cutest little freaky bunny you’ve ever seen?  Thanks missus, he really cheered me up :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stuck For Party Food Ideas?

I have a little recipe for you this evening. It’s for the Irish Halloween cake, barmbrack. Actually, it’s more a bread than a cake but we’ll not split hairs. Either way it’s yummy. I’ll not be baking it myself for another couple of weeks (I‘ve other plans for the blog party), but I did have some shop-bought stuff this morning. Toasted with the butter melting into it, washed down with a good strong cup of tea. Heaven.

It’s really worth going to the effort of making your own ‘cause the kind you buy these days are so boring. Some might taste good, and the odd one might have a cheap plastic ring thrown in, but for health and safety reasons they don’t bake in any other little charms or prizes anymore. When I was a kid it was so exciting to see what you were going to get. You only ever really cared about the coin, though; it was usually a 50p or £1 piece, a fortune in the days when penny sweets cost a penny.  

<---A brack by any other name…image by Tom Allen.

Ah, yet another one of those dying traditions I was lamenting the last day. Fortune telling used to be a big element of an Irish Halloween but, like the poor wee fae, it’s becoming increasingly forgotten. Baking lucky trinkets into things like barmbrack or apple tart was just one of the many ways of predicting your fate for the coming year. If you were served the slice of brack with the coin in it, for example, you could expect a wealthy time ahead. 

A ring, a pea, a thimble, a piece of cloth, a matchstick, a button…any combination of these items or others might be baked into a brack. They all have a meaning, usually something to do with money and marriage, but I can’t recount them all right now. Goggle’d probably tell you. Though you really could use anything that symbolises something to you. Just wrap up the little tokens in greaseproof paper and toss them in to the dough mix!

Right, back to the recipe. Just a few things to note first of all: some people say you should soak the dried fruit in tea over night to make them plump and juicy, but I wouldn’t bother me arse. Keep your tea for drinking with it. And you can also use baking soda instead of the yeast like your supposed to, or even just self raising flour, especially if your as inexperienced a baker as I am. Oh, and in true Irish baking style, all measurements are approximate :)

You will need:
-1lb Dried Fruit (raisins, sultanas, mixed peel etc);
-An Egg;
-1lb Flour;
-1 Teaspoon Baking Soda;
-1 Teaspoon Mixed Spice;
-6oz Brown Sugar;
-Honey for glaze (optional).

Sift the flour, baking soda, spice etc into the fruit mixture. Add the beaten egg and mix. Pour mixture onto a lined and greased 7” round cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven for about an hour and a half. Let stand for ten minutes then cool on a wire rack. Brush on the melted honey for decoration. 

Naturally, there are much more complicated and fancier recipes out there but this is about the most my oven expertise can handle.  I hope some of you give it a go, and don’t forget to include the lucky charms!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Halloween: Time of the Fae

So you think Halloween’s all ghosts and witches, goblins and ghouls do you?  It is, I suppose. But what about fairies? This is the time of year they’ll get ye, you know; restless souls aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the thinning veil between here and the Otherworld. Not so long ago people had the wisdom to remember that and kept an especially watchful eye for spritely shenanigans around now. These days, though, the autumnal power of the fae folk tends to get overlooked in favour of imported pumpkins and sugar-coated candy.

Speaking of, what ever happened to carving turnips and bobbing for apples? And I bet no one gives trick-or-treaters monkey nuts and mandarins at the doors anymore. Poor parents nowadays with their buzzed up kids. When I was little we came home with bags of fruit and nuts; you were doing well if you got a couple of chocolate bars or a toffee apple. No one decorated their houses then either, and people told ghost stories instead of partying. It was spookier!

It’s funny to think of the cycle of Halloween as a holiday over the past couple of centuries: first the Irish took it with them on their coffin ships to America. There it was adapted to fit with the harvest of the new land (e.g lots of pumpkins, not so many turnips), as well as being mingled in with similar traditions from other cultures (the Mexican Day of the Dead, for example). Then you Yanks, being the grandmasters of capitalism that you are, sold the whole thing back to us via Mars bars and movies. Don’t get me wrong, this new version of Halloween is as much fun in its own way, probably more so. I just can’t help mourning how many of the Irish traditions we’ve lost even since I was a child in the late 80s. Like the fairy stories! Image source

Yes, I did remember about the fairies. The whole point of this post was to not forget the fairies! They don’t have blogs of their own, you see, and need someone to draw attention to their plight as an underappreciated spirit race at this most important time of year, when their influence on the human world is at its strongest.  After all, the fae can be as scary as any other spooky spectre abroad on a Samhain eve. Just look at the most terrifying vision of them all- the Banshee, whose name is actually only the anglicised form of ‘Ban Sidhe’, literally meaning ‘woman fairy’. You wouldn’t want one of those things showing up at your door on a dark night, believe me. Image by Norma Peters

She gets them a bad press though, in my opinion. Fae come in many forms and not all their influence is to be feared. In fact, most of the time if you do them a good turn they’ll repay you straight back, like in the wee anecdote below. Taken from a lovely little set fairy and ghost stories collected from around my local area by the good people over at, it’s a great example of why we should embrace the little folk and their mischievous ways. And be on the lookout for them this festive season!

To the mind of the older generation the world of spirits was all around. The souls of the dead did their Purgatory in the area in which they lived during life; fairies lived in every hill and dell and were constantly in touch with human beings, and the devil and his assistants were all the time on the watch. In the daytime nothing was visible but at night the whole spirit world became fully active. The lonely road and the empty house were spots to be avoided. Only the rash and the foolhardy went to such places.

Some fairies were good. Donall O Gallchoir and Sean O Gormain of Gortlesk in Ballygorman were making poteen at a wild and lonely spot at the bottom of the Bengorms. It was midnight when the stilling was completed the two men sat quietly sampling the whiskey. Suddenly a small, red-haired woman appeared with a small tin pan in her hand. The two men regarded her, without fear, as a spirit. She asked for some whiskey, which was given to her. As she turned to leave she thanked them in Irish and told them that the police were coming. Then she disappeared.

The men hurriedly hid all the apparatus and, each with a keg of whiskey on his shoulder, went in haste up the bens by a devious route. At the top they secreted themselves for a while. Soon they saw a party of police go directly towards where they had been stilling. The men quietly went their way in safety to Gortlesk.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Spooky Gimp Photos

First of all today I want to apologise for boring you all with yesterday’s ramblings. I was just in one of those moods and I shouldn’t really have inflicted it on you poor fellow bloggers. I really could’ve ranted so much more, but sure couldn’t we all. At the end of the day, though, I never intended this blog to be my soapbox and have deliberately shied away from discussing ‘serious’ stuff here. I do enough of that in the real world, this is supposed to my escape!

Right, so back to my usual sort of thing. I’m finally going to get into these blog parties! As I said yesterday a vast majority of my planned posts for these shindigs have been scuppered, though I’m still not exactly at a loss for things to blog about. It such an amazing time of year, how could I be. I think I’ll get these out of the way first, some creepy-effect photos I’ve been working on. I probably already shared some of these in their original form ages ago, but I think they’re different enough now to justify reposting them. You can fview these and more in larger sizes in this Flickr set. By the way, I just want to point that I didn’t actually add that pinkish halo to the photo of Mary above. It just came about as a result of the texture I added. In fact, I didn’t even notice it for days! Spooky, eh?

Related Posts with Thumbnails