Irish Folklore & Tall Tales
By Allison Mazur
May 20, 2016
Over the course of our stay in Northern Ireland and Ireland, we have learned about the history and cultures of both countries. Mythology is a unique aspect of both cultures, as each utilized mythology to explain the Earth’s unexplainable events. Irish mythology fascinates me, probably because I believe in a higher being or something out there, and maybe that something is fairies rather than a god. I’m open to many possibilities since nothing has been concretely proven.
One of the first stories I heard was about the Giant’s Causeway. The amazing visitor center at this UNESCO World Heritage site even has a short animated film depicting this story. So the story goes that Irish giant Finn McCool picks a fight with the Scottish giant Benandonner by throwing parts of the Antrim coast toward Scotland. Unfortunately for Finn McCool, Benandonner turns out to be a massive giant. Benandonner’s size sends Finn literally running for the hills of Ireland. Finn and his wife play a trick on Benandonner causing him to retreat to Scotland and rip up the causeway between Ireland and Scotland. This myth explains the hexagonal stone structures left behind on Ireland’s coast. Or one can take the scientific approach and say that the speed the lava was cooling after a volcanic eruption caused this strange rock formation pattern.
Another legend we heard from our guide Dave was about fairy trees. While fairies aren’t necessarily believed in, the traditions and customs are respected in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Fairy trees are said to be the means fairies have of accessing Earth and the sky from underground, so it is very important that fairy trees are preserved. People often make offerings to the fairies in the form of small ribbons or cloth that they tie around the branches in exchange for a wee bit of luck. It is said that your wish will come true when your offering falls off the tree.
Like I said previously, I am not one to denounce the existence of fairies. They may or may not exist; I am open to both possibilities. In fact I believe we witnessed a fairy miracle today when we visited the fairy tree. Camille dropped her phone into the well when she was dipping her string into the water, and it was still functioning once she retrieved it. I like to think the fairies gave Camille some of their magic today. So say what you want about mythology, fairies, and folklore, but also realize that they were extremely helpful to the Irish in explaining unexplainable phenomena.