Bluiríní Béaloidis is the podcast from The National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin, and is a platform to explore Irish and wider European folk tradition across an array of subject areas and topics. Host Jonny Dillon hopes this tour through the folklore furrow will appeal to those who wish to learn about the richness and depth of their traditional cultural inheritance; that a knowledge and understanding of our past might inform our present and guide our future.
Podcasts are available for download directly from SoundCloud or via iTunes.
Blúiríní Béaloidis 30 - The Stray Sod
There are numerous accounts in tradition of wayfarers who suffer fits of confusion and disorientation while traversing the natural landscape. Such bouts were at times attributed to the influence of the fairies (who would set wanders astray for their own amusement) or the power of the stray sod (an enchanted sod of earth which set those who trod upon it astray). While the accounts vary, these occurrences involve situations in which individuals are forced to navigate a landscape characterised by its sudden shift into unfamiliarity and strangeness. Tilled fields that are worked by day become unnavigable and impassable by night. Well-worn and intimately known paths, crossroads and laneways are rendered odd, unknown and eerie all at once. The landscape at times becomes unrecognisable, indefinite and nameless. Landmarks are erased, inverted or otherwise replaced with new and unidentified features. Grand residences and strange houses appear on the side of hitherto barren hills. Impenetrable fogs, mists and coloured hazes descend and disorientate. Rivers, ditches, woods and walls appear to block all progress through the land. Lights rise and float in the distance and familiar reference points fall away, leaving the experiencer to navigate strange and foreign scenery which is at once indeterminate and unknown, with disenchantment coming at the dawn, leaving the exhausted wayfarer to suddenly realise their location, often only short distance from their homes.
For episode 30 of Blúiríní Béaloidis Jonny traverses fields, hedges, ditches and heights examining narratives concerning stray sod and 'seachrán sí' (fairy straying) traditions; from the graves of unbaptised children to illusions and phantasms appearing in the natural landscape, and from spirits of the dead refused entry to either heaven or hell, to workings of the fairy host, join us as we explore the liminal personae who inhabit those isolated and unknown portions of the landscape.
Blúiríní Béaloidis 29 - A Folk History Of Ireland's Protestants (with Dr. Deirdre Nuttall)
The Irish Folklore Commission (established in 1935) tasked itself with the documentation of the unwritten customs, beliefs and narratives of the Irish people; those ‘disiecta membra’ (as James Hamilton Delargy described them) of a rich heritage which it was feared was in danger of dying out and disappearing forever unless swift action was taken to gather up the fragments that remain, lest they perish. Delargy, and those with whom he worked, endeavoured to secure for future generations the sources of inspiration and pride which he saw as having languished in the ‘lumber room’ of history; those tales, traditions and songs of Ireland, cultural expressions he understood as representing ‘the State Papers of a forgotten and neglected people’.
The work of the Irish Folklore Commission then, in recording the voices and ideals of the ordinary people of Ireland , aimed to represent those communities whose voice was not heard among the formal archival records of the state. But, there are silences in every archive, and the Irish Folklore Commission was no different, having its own particular biases and tendencies. Among these biases was an initial focus on the customs of rural people over those in towns and urban areas. Another, and one which is the subject of today’s discussion, was the absence of material collected from Ireland’s Protestant community. Thankfully, this has recently been addressed by Dr. Deirdre Nuttall, who, working with the National Folklore Collection between 2013 and 2017 conducted a folk history of Ireland's Protestants consisting of ninety eight interviews and seventy six questionnaire responses, the results of which she has recently published in her book ‘Different and the Same: A Folk History of the Protestants of Independent Ireland’.
Join Jonny and Deirdre as they discuss 19th century conceptions of 'the Folk', examine Protestant origin stories and consider counter-narratives to Ireland's major historical events embedded in the communal memories of Ireland's Protestant community.
'Different and the Same' is published by Eastwood Books, and is available from the publisher directly at:
The book is available in all good bookshops in Ireland, and online.
Blúiriní Bealoidis 28 - Land & Language(with Manchán Magan)
My guest for this edition of Bluiríní Béaloidis is writer and documentary maker Manchán Magan, whose recent book 'Thirty-Two Words For Field' is a meditation on old Irish words and the nuances of a way of life that is vanishing with them. The book considers the 'richness of a language closely tied to the natural landscape' which 'offered our ancestors a more magical way of seeing the world'. It considers the 'sublime beauty and profound oddness of the ancient tongue that has been spoken on this island for over 2,000 years'. In this discussion, we consider how language and tradition binds us to the landscape, expolore the role of tradition in modernity and speculate on the ancient connections between Ireland and India.
Manchán's book 'Thirty-Two Words For Field' has been nominated for numerous awards, and (as of December 2020) is already in its fourth printing.
Copies can be purchased from directly from the author here: http://manchan.com/32-words-for-field
Or at all good independent book shops:
Blúiríní Béaloidis 27 - The Banshee (with Professor Patricia Lysaght)
The Banshee is a well known supernatural figure in Irish folk tradition. In origin a patron goddess caring for the fortunes of her people, the banshee of folk belief is usually considered to be a harbinger of death, being said to follow certain families from generation to generation. Traditions about her are spread widely throughout the country, and for this episode of the podcast Jonny has the privilege of speaking with Professor Patricia Lysaght, who is the world authority on the topic of the Banshee.
Their discussion takes in the rich array of customs and beliefs concerning her, starting with an exploration of the names by which she is popularly known, before moving on to the ways in which she manifests to the people. Her function as a prognosticator of death in the community, the attitudes to life and death that are expressed through her, and the ways in which ancient ideas and motifs concerning her have survived to the modern day are further explored, with archival audio excerpts supplementing the conversation.
Patricia's book 'The Banshee: The Irish Supernatural Death Messenger' is the authoritative work on the topic, and is available to purchase online: https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&cm_sp=SearchF-_-home-_-Results&an=lysaght&tn=banshee&kn=&isbn=
This episode features some music by Landless from their 2018 Bleaching Bones, which can be purchased here: https://landless.bandcamp.com/album/bleaching-bones-2
Music from 'Opening the Astral Doors' released in 2010 by Further Records is also featured: https://furtherrecords.org/album/opening-the-astral-doors
Blúiríní Bealoidis 26 - Seals In Folk Tradition (with Ailbe van der Heide)
Seals have been an integral part of coastal life in Ireland for generations, and as such there exists a large body of tradition, belief and narrative regarding them. They were described in tradition as being enchanted people, wise women, fallen angels and drowned (or indeed reincarnated) fishermen, and encounters with them often relate how they would speak to, plead with or warn those fishermen who were about to attack or kill them out at sea or on the shore. Certain families in Ireland (Coneelys, O'Kanes, Dowds, O'Sheas and Gallaghers among them)were considered to have been the result of a union between a mortal and an enchanted seal, and many narrative accounts collected in Ireland describe how such unions came about when a mortal man who came upon a seal-woman in human form on the shore stole her cloak (which allowed her to change form) took her home, married her and had children with her, until one day she discovered her hidden cloak and left her children and husband to return to the sea.
For this month's edition of Blúiríní Jonny is joined by Ailbe van der Heide to discuss the topic of seals in folk tradition, join them as they traverse the coasts and islands around Ireland and further afield to consider the interplay between nature, culture, appearance and reality which is brought across by these liminal beings.
Some material mentioned in this episode:
'Monolingual Irish Speaker': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UP4nXlKJx_4&ab_channel=AnGhaeilge
Seán Ó hEinirí (John Henry) in conversation with Professor Séamas Ó Catháin of the Department of Irish Folklore. This video is from a documentary called 'In Search of the Trojan War' from 1985.
'People of the Sea' by David Thomson: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/309401.The_People_of_the_Sea
Bairbre Ní Fhloinn: 'Tadhg and Donncha...' in Islanders and Water Dwellers (1996) https://www.fourcourtspress.ie/books/folklore-commission/islanders-and-water-dwellers/
Linda May-Ballard: Seal Stories and Belief on Rathlin Island in Ulster Folklife
Martin Puhvel, 'The Seal in the Folklore of Northern Europe' Folklore, volume 74 issue 1: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0015587X.1963.9716898
Bo Almqvist 'Of Mermaids and Marriages. Seamus Heaney's 'Maighdean Mara' and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill's 'an
Mhaighdean Mhara' in the Light of Folk Tradition', Béaloideas, Iml. 58 (1990), pp. 1-74 (Available online through JSTOR)
Alexander H. Krappe, 'Scandinavian Seal Lore', Scandinavian Studies , Vol. 18, No. 4 (1944)
Blúiríní Béaloidis 25 - Midsummer
Midsummer has long been observed as a period of jubilant celebration, with communal gatherings at bonfires and prayers, recitations, music, songs, dance and merriment being the order of the night.
Join Jonny for episode 25 of Blúiríní Béaloidis as he explores the origins of midsummer festivities in Europe; recounting the raucous antics of the Brotherhood of the Green Wolf in France, considering the eve of the feast of St. John the Baptist as a symbolic counterbalance to Christmas and focusing on the protective and magical properties of the night. The fires burn on every hill and height, join us as we celebrate midsummer!
Our thanks for Michael Anderson and Schola Antiqua for permission to include their beautiful rendition of 'Ut queant laxis' in this episode. To learn more, and support them directly visit: https://www.schola-antiqua.org/
If you want to really get into the meat and bones of Irish folklore, check out this podcast. A rich tapestry of local Irish people of distant and recent past sharing their stories and scholarly types offering their insight. Fantastic stuff!
This pod is an absolutely beautiful and fascinating collection of cultural legends and myths. I encourage anybody that wishes to learn of true Celtic culture to take a seat in they’re favorite beat up arm chair and press play, alternatively, if you just enjoy a really gripping yarn, do the same! Myself, this is my gardening companion!
Fascinating, somewhat academic, podcast on Irish folklore. The hosts are fantastic, and the content is a nice balance of narration alongside field recordings. I find myself transfixed and a little terrified by every episode I’ve heard.