Legends of the Land

By: Amara Tamborini                                                                                                                                       5/20/16

On our final leg of the Shamrocker tour, we stopped at Loughcrew Cairns. Dating back 5000 years, the Loughcrew Cairns is a series of passage tombs that acts as a calendar. Depending on where the light from the sun shines through correlates with the time of year. These passage tombs are unique because instead of illuminating the marker stone on the summer or winter solstice like most typically work, these allow light to pass through on the Equinox. Archaeologists believe that there must have been a deeper meaning or another purpose for these stones. Though there is no answer for sure, it is believed that they were also used for celebrations and religious ceremonies.

According to old Gaelic folk tales, the stones have another meaning. These passage tombs can be found at the top of the the hill “Sliabh na Callaí”. Sliabh na Callaí is the Gaelic term, translating to “the hill of the witch” or “hag’s hill”. The tale says that the land was once ruled by an evil witch named “An Cailleach Bhéara”. Atop one of the hills next to a tomb is a large chair like stone and it was her throne. It was said that one day An Cailleach Bhéara was leaping from hill to hill carrying stones in her apron. As she jumped across the hills, stones began to fall out, creating cairns at the tops of the hills.

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I was surprised by how the culture and people of Ireland have held on to their folk tales and myths. Our guide Dave also mentioned the Irish belief in fairies. The legend says that fairies and mortals once fought together to rid the earth of other evil creatures. When they had concurred the land, the two species split the earth in two; the light and the night. The humans were given the Earth’s surface (light) and the fairies were given the ground below (night). The fairies are allowed to come above ground, but to do so, they must use special tress to cross over. If one harms or cuts down a fairy tree, the fairies will harm you or even kill you and your family as punishment. Though the belief in fairies is not as prominent in Irish culture, the respect and superstition is still very present. So much so that roads and buildings are rearranged and built around these trees to preserve the trees and prevent any potential harm from the fairies.