Monday, October 26, 2009

The Red-haired Man's Wife

The Red-haired Man's Wife

Ye muses divine, combine and lend me your aid
To pen these few lines for I find my heart is betrayed
By a maiden most fair, who was dear unto me as my life,
But from me she has flown and is known as the red-haired man's wife.

I straight took my way next day through a shady green grove,
And crossed hurling streams, where sweet birds mostly do rove
In the glade of a shade where nature displays her delight
I stood all amazed - and gazed on the red-haired man's wife.

I remember the day that I gave to you my true heart,
When you solemnly swore that no more we ever would part
But your mind's like the ocean, each notion has taken her flight
And leaves me alone to moan for the red-haired man's wife.

A letter I sent by a friend down to the sea-shore,
To let her understand I'm the man that does her adore,
And if she would but leave that slave I'd forfeit my life,
She'd live like a lady and ne'er be the red-haired man's wife.

I offered a favour and sealed it with my own hand,
She thus answered, instead - would you lead me to break a command
Please sir, be easy - let nature not cause so much strife
I was given away - and will stay as the red-haired man's wife.

U2 World Wide Broadcast of the Rose Bowl Concert

U2 World Wide Broadcast of the Rose Bowl Concert

Yes, they are Irish musicians also.....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Refutation of Cambrensis by Geoffrey Keating

Cambrensis says, in his ninth chapter, that in Ireland the men used to marry the wives who had been married to their brothers, upon the death of their brothers: and he says that the tithe used not to be paid in Ireland, and that there was no regard for marriage there till the coming of Cardinal John Papiron; this, however, is not true for him, as we shall prove in the body of the history, and as will be evident from this same introduction shortly hereafter. He says, in his seventh chapter, where he treats of the wonders of Ireland, that there is a well in Munster which presently makes a man grey when he washes his hair or his beard in its water, and that there is likewise a well in Ulster which prevents greyness. Howbeit, there are not the like of these wells in Ireland now, and I do not think there were in the time of Cambrensis, but these wonders were (merely) set forth as a colouring for his lies.

Cambrensis says, in his twenty-second chapter, that whenever the nobles of Ireland are making a compact with each other, in presence of a bishop, they kiss at that time a relic of some saint, and that they drink each others blood, and at that same time they are ready to perpetrate any treachery on each other. My answer to him here (is), that there is not a lay nor a letter, of old record or of ancient text, chronicle or annals, supporting him in this lie: and, moreover, it is evident that it was obligatory on the antiquaries not to conceal the like of this evil custom, and even to put it in (their) manuscript on pain of losing their professorship, if it had been practised in Ireland. Wherefore it is clear that it is a lie Cambrensis has uttered here. Cambrensis says, in his tenth chapter, that the Irish are an inhospitable nation here is what he says:— Moreover, this nation is an inhospitable nation {Est autem gens haec, gens inhospita.}’’(says he). However, I think Stanihurst sufficient in his history by way of reply to him in this matter; here is what he says, speaking of the generosity of the Irish:—Verily (he says), they are a most hospitable people; and there is no greater degree in which you may earn their gratitude, than freely, and of your own will, to make your resort to their houses. {Sunt sane homines hospitalissimi, neque illis ulla in re magis gratificari potes, quam vel sponte ac voluntate eorum domos frequentare.}’’

Hence it may be inferred, without leave of Cambrensis, that they are hospitable people, (and) truly generous in regard to food. ...
Again, he says, in the twenty-fifth chapter of his narration concerning Ireland, that the king of Cinéal Conaill, i.e.
O'Donnell, used to be inaugurated in this wise: an assembly being made of the people of his country on a high hill in his territory, a white mare being slain, and being put to boil in a large pot in the centre of the field, and, on her being boiled, he to drink up her broth like a hound or a beagle with his mouth, and to eat the flesh out of his hands without having a knife or any instrument for cutting it, and that he would divide the rest of the flesh among the assembly, and then bathe himself in the broth. It is manifest that this thing Cambrensis tells is false, according to the ancient record of Ireland, for it is thus it describes the mode in which O'Donnell was proclaimed, to wit, by his being seated in the midst of the nobles and of the council of his own territory; and a chief of the nobility of his district used to stand before him with a straight white wand in his hand, and on presenting it to the king of Cinéal Conaill, it is this he would say to him, to receive the headship of his own country, and to maintain right and equity between each division of his country: and, wherefore the wand was appointed to be straight and white, was to remind him that so ought he to be just in his administration, and pure and upright in his actions. I marvel at Cambrensis reporting this lie, and I conceive that it was through malice he inserted it in his work. For it is well known that they have been at all times devout and religious people; and that many of them forsook the world, and finished their lives under religious rule, and, moreover, that from them came many saints, such as Columcille, Baoithin, Adhamnan, and many other saints whom we shall not mention here. Besides, it is not credible that the nobility of Ireland would permit the king of Cinéal Conaill to have in use that barbarous custom which Cambrensis mentions, seeing that the Catholic religion has lived among them from the time of Patrick to the Norman invasion, and, accordingly, I consider that it is a malicious unwarranted lie Cambrensis has uttered here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Halloween Customs

Halloween Customs

by Dennis Doyle

Although the word "Halloween" comes from the words "All Hallow's Eve", literally the evening before the "Feast of All Saints", the celebration of this night and many of the practices pre-date Christianity. For centuries, the night before November 1st marked the begining of the pagan Celtic New Year and the official beginning of the dark half of the year, called "Samhain" (pronounced sow-wen). The druids would offer sacrifices on this night. In Irish Gaelic, it is still called "Oíche Shamhna" (pronounced "ee-hah how-nah") or "Samhain Night".

In the Celtic lands of Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man, the spirit world was never very far from everyday life. The Celts believed that spirits both benign and malignant were in intimate contact with regular people. Each family had it's own "Banshee" (fairy woman) who would appear occasionally to family members to announce an impending death. When Christianity came to the Celts, this same sense of closeness between the spirit and regular life became a feature of Celtic Christianity. God and Mary and the saints were always a hovering, helping presence in Celtic spirituality, but the trickster fairy folk, the Sidhe (pronounced shee), the leprechaun, the pookas, and the banshee still also remained at hand.

Never was this mischievous element in the spirit world closer to the people than on the eve of Samhain. The doors were wide open to the spirit world and spirits were on the road and in the lonely dark places that night. Holy water was sprinkled on farm animals to protect them. Hollowed-out turnips or gourds with candles inside were made into makeshift lanterns to help light the way of the spirits back to where they came from. There are stories of people who lost their way on this night, and found themselves among the fairies. It was said that when this happened, they heard beautiful music and were offered delicious food and drink. When they left the fairies a few hours later and got back to the real world, they find out that they've really been away for years.

In Ireland, it is a custom to bake a ring into a loaf of barnbrack bread, and the person who finds the ring would soon be married. Dunking for apples and coins was a portent for success in achieving wealth. Some would wear outlandish costumes masquerading as the souls of the dead. The traditions of Halloween which we celebrate in this country were brought here by Irish and Scottish immigrants who lived these Celtic customs.


All Hallows Eve: evening of the Catholic celebration of All Saint's Day, "hallowed" means "holy" or sacred
banshee: the dead spirit of a family member who appears when someone else in the family is about to die
barnbrack bread: a type of fruit cake
benign: likely to be good
Celt, Celtic: a tribal nomadic barbaric peoples who originally lived in central Europe and who eventually settled in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Britany, Cornwell and parts of Spain.
druids: a Celtic priesthood
dunking: dipping your head in water to catch a piece of fruit or a prize with your teeth while holding your breath
fairies, the Sidhe: supernatural creatures who are immortal and have special other-worldly powers
gourd: the dried shell of a pumpkin or squash
hallows, hallowed: an older version of the word "holy" as in "Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name."
hollowed-out: made empty inside
holy water: water blessed by a Catholic priest for use in religious rituals of baptism or for protection
hovering: hanging over a thing in the air
intimate: very close
Irish Gaelic: the native language of the Irish people
leprechaun: a short mischievous spirit, an elf
makeshift: made quickly of stuff which is laying around, hence, temporary
malignant: likely to be bad or evil
masquerading: in costume, in disguise
"mischievous element": supernatural trouble-makers
outlandish: wild, makeshift, incredible, disordered
pagan: not Christian, refering to the preChristian nature religions.
pooka: a wild devil spirit which often takes the form of a wild goat
portent: a mysterious sign foretelling an important event
Samhain: November 1, the Celtic new year pronounced (sou'-whan)
trickster: one who likes to trick people or cause inconvenient trouble

Local irish Dance Competition on October 24-25

October 24-25 - Orange County Feis, Doubletree Hotel Anaheim, 100 The City Drive, Orange, CA. .

More information about Irish Dance is at:

The Pogues at the Club Nokia Saturday October 17

Legendary Irish band the Pogues put a politically charged punk spin on traditional tunes, making it one of the most revered bands of the '80s. With lead singer Shane MacGowan at the helm, who is largely responsible for novel-length bar tabs after each show, Pogues fans have come to expect the unexpected whenever the band takes a stage. Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A. 8 p.m. Sat. (213) 765-7000.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gerald of Wales - Giraldus Cambrensis

Gerald of Wales, History and topography of Ireland, ed. John J. O’Meara (London 1982),
fragments of pp 100-110

‘I have thought it not superfluous to say a few things about the nature of this people both in mind and body, that is to say, of their mental and physical characteristics…

Irish Dress
Although they are fully endowed with natural gifts, their external characteristics of beard and dress, and internal cultivation of the mind, are so barbarous that they cannot be said to have any culture. They use very little wool in their dress and that itself nearly always black – because the sheep of that country are black – and made up in a barbarous fashion. For they wear little hoods, close-fitting and stretched across the shoulders and down to a length of about eighteen to twenty-two inches, and generally sewn together from cloths of various kinds, Under these they wear mantles instead of cloaks. They also use woollen trousers that are at the same time boots, or boots that are at the same time trousers, and these are for the most part dyed.

Battle Customs
When they are riding, they do not use saddles or leggings or spurs… Moreover, they go naked and unarmed into battle. They regard weapons as a burden, and they think it brave and honourable to fight unarmed. They use, however, three types of weapons – short spears, two darts … and big axes well and carefully forged, which they have taken over from the Norwegians and the Ostmen…They are quicker and more expert than any other people in throwing, when everything else fails, stones as missiles, and such stones do great damage to the enemy in an engagement.

They are a wild and inhospitable people. The live on beast only, and live like beasts. They have not progressed at all from the primitive habits of pastoral living. While man usually progresses from the woods to the fields, and from fields to settlements and communities of citizens, this people despises work on the land, has little use for the money-making of towns, contemns the rights and privileges of citizenship, and desires neither to abandon, nor lose respect for, the life which it has been accustomed to lead in the woods and countryside.

They use the fields generally as pasture, but pasture in poor condition. Little is cultivated, and even less sown. The fields cultivated are so few because of the neglect of those who should cultivate them. But many of them are naturally very fertile and productive. The wealth of the soil is lost, not through the fault of the soil, but because there are no farmers to cultivate even the best land: ‘the fields demand, but there are no hands.’ How few kinds of fruit-bearing trees are grown here! The nature of the soil is not to be blamed, but rather the want of industry on the part of the cultivator. He is too lazy to plant the foreign types of trees that would grow very well here.

Mineral Wealth
The different types of minerals, too, with which the hidden veins of the earth are full, are not mined or put to any use, precisely because of the same laziness. Even gold, of which they are very desirous – just like the Spaniards – and which they would like to have in abundance, is brought here by traders that search the ocean for gain.

They do not devote their lives to the processing of flax or wool, or to any kind of merchandise or mechanical art. For given only to leisure, and devoted only to laziness, they think that the greatest pleasure is not to work, and the greatest wealth is to enjoy liberty.

This people is, then, a barbarous people, literally barbarous. Judged according to modern ideas, they are uncultivated, not only in the external appearance of their dress, but also in their flowing hair and beards. All their habits are the habits of barbarians. Since conventions are formed from living together in society, and since they are so removed in these distant parts from the ordinary world of men, as if they were in another world altogether and consequently cut off from well-behaved and law-abiding people, they know only of the barbarous habits in which they were born and brought up, and embrace them as another nature. Their natural qualities are excellent. But almost everything acquired is deplorable…

This is a filthy people, wallowing in vice. Of all peoples, it is the least instructed in the rudiments of the Faith. They do not yet pay tithes or first fruits or contract marriages. They do not avoid incest. They do not attend God’s church with due reverence. Moreover, and this is surely a detestable thing, and contrary not only to the Faith but to any feeling of honour – men in many places in Ireland, I shall not say marry, but rather debauch, the wives of their dead brothers. They abuse them in having such evil and incestuous relations with them…

Moreover, above all other peoples they always practise treachery. When they give their word to anyone, they do not keep it. They do not blush or fear to violate every day the bond of their pledge and oath given to others – although they are very keen that it should be observed with regard to themselves. When you have employed every safeguard and used every precaution for your own safety and security, both by means of oaths and hostages, and friendships firmly cemented, and all kinds of benefits conferred, then you must be especially on your guard, because then especially their malice seeks a chance…

From an old and evil custom they always carry an axe in their hand as if it were a staff. In this way, if they have a feeling for any evil, they can the more quickly give it effect. Wherever they go they drag this along with them. When they see the opportunity, and the occasion presents itself, this weapon has not to be unsheathed as a sword, or bent as a bow, or poised as a spear. Without further preparation, beyond being raised a little, it inflicts a mortal blow. At hand, or rather, in the hand and ever ready is that which is enough to cause death…

Crowning an Irish King
Woe to brothers among a barbarous people! Woe to kinsmen! When they are alive they are relentlessly driven to death. When they are dead and gone, vengeance is demanded for them. If this people has any love or loyalty, it is kept only for foster children and foster brothers… There is in the northern and farther part of Ulster, namely in Kenelcunill, a certain people which is accustomed to appoint its king with a rite altogether outlandish and abominable. When the whole people of that land has been gathered together in one place, a white mare is brought forward into the middle of the assembly. He who is to be inaugurated, not as a chief, but as a beast, not as a king, but as an outlaw, has bestial intercourse with her before all, professing himself to be a beast also. The mare is then killed immediately, cut up in pieces, and boiled in water. A bath is prepared for the man afterwards in the same water. He sits in the bath surrounded by all his people, and all, he and they, eat of the meat of the mare, which is brought to them. He quaffs and drinks of the broth in which he is bathed, not in any cup, or using his hand, but just dipping his mouth into it round about him. When this unrighteous rite has been carried out, his kingship and dominion have been conferred.’

Musical Ability
I find among these people commendable diligence only on musical instruments, on which they are incomparably more skilled than any nation I have seen. Their style is not, as on the British instruments to which we are accustomed, deliberate and solem but quick and lively; nevertheless the sound is smooth and pleasant.

It is remarkable that, with such rapid fingerwork, the musical rhythm is maintained and that, by unfailingly disciplined art, the integrity of the tune is fully preserved throughout the ornate rhythms and the profusely intricate polyphony—and with such smooth rapidity, such 'unequal equality', such 'discordant concord'. Whether the strings strike together a fourth or a fifth, [the players] nevertheless always start from B flat and return to the same, so that everything is rounded off in a pleasant general sonority. They introduce and leave rhythmic motifs so subtly, they play the tinkling sounds on the thinner strings above the sustained sound of the thicker string so freely, they take such secret delight and caress [the strings] so sensuously, that the greatest part of their art seems to lie in veiling it, as if 'That which is concealed is bettered—art revealed is art shamed'.

Thus it happens that those things which bring private and ineffable delight to people of subtle appreciation and sharp discernment, burden rather than delight the ears of those who, in spite of looking do not see and in spite of hearing do not understand; to unwilling listeners, fastidious things appear tedious and have a confused and disordered sound.

One must note that both Scotland and Wales, the latter by virtue of extension, the former by affinity and intercourse, depend on teaching to imitate and rival Ireland in musical practice. Ireland uses and delights in two instruments only, the cithara (likely a harp) and the tympanum (perhaps a hammer dulcimer). Scotland uses three, the cithara, the tympanum and the chorus. Wales uses the cithara, tibiae (whistles, flutes) and chorus. Also, they use strings made of brass not of leather. However, in the opinion of many, Scotland today not only equals Ireland, her mistress, but also by far outdoes and surpasses her in musical skill. Hence many people already look there as though to the source of the art.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Example of Early Irish English

From a book dedication:


Printed from MS. Rawl. B. 490.]
folio 28b

IN the Honoure of the Hey Trynyte, Fadyr, Sone, And Holy gooste, Almyghti god; oure lady Seynte mary, and al the holy hollowes of hewyn: To yow, nobyll and gracious lorde, Iamys de Botillere, Erle of Ormonde, lieutenaunt of oure lege lorde, kynge henry the fyfte in Irland, humbly recommendyth hym youre pouer Seruant, Iames yonge, to youre hey lordshipp: altymes desyrynge in cryste, yowre honoure and profite of body and Sowle, and wyth al myn herte the trynyte afor-sayde beshechynge that he hit euer Encrese. Amen. Amen.

Fragment of a ballad:

Icham of Irlaunde
Ant of the holy londe
Of Irlande.

Gode sire, pray ich the,
For of saynte charite,
Come ant daunce wyt me
In Irlaunde.

-- Anon., (14th century)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The First St.Patrick's Day Parade

The first St. Patrick's Day parade in America took place in New York City in 1762.

Ogham Writing