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.
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/
Blúiríní Béaloidis 24 - Folk Medicine
It was said in tradition that 'there isn't an ailment or infirmity the cure of which doesn't grow in the fields or along the hedges', and indeed, our forebears employed a wide range of historical practices to drive out infirmity and illness. While a great deal of folk cures were entirely practical in their application, many others turned to the use of magic, sacrifice and the use of charms, rituals or prayer – modes of thought quite at odds with altogether more modern, secular perspectives.
Far from being casually forged in the half-light of ignorance, our folk cures reveal those measures which, being deeply concerned with human life and welfare, were called on in times of crisis, in order to provide reassurance and comfort in the face of insecurity, illness and anxiety.
For this episode of Blúiríní, Jonny examines definitions of folk medicine before taking a look at the healing deities of Classical European Paganism, and Irish mythology alike. Our explorations will then turn to consider the host of plagues, pestilences and infirmities outlined in our medieval chronicles, before we take a look at folk cures recorded in the archives of the National Folklore Collection University College Dublin.
As we presently accustom ourselves to life in varying degrees of 'lockdown', it is worth turning to the past, in order to draw on the endurance, strength and patience with which our forebears held themselves through hardship. As the saying goes, 'Ní neart go chur le chéile!' ('There is no strength without unity!')
Selected Readings of Interest:
Chapter Title: Talitha Qum! An Exploration of the Image of Jesus as Healer-PhysicianSavior in the Synoptic Gospels in Relation to the Asclepius Cult Chapter Author(s): Frances Flannery
Book Title: Coming Back to Life Book Subtitle: The Permeability of Past and Present, Mortality and Immortality, Death and Life in the Ancient Mediterranean Book Author(s): Bradley N. Rice Book Editor(s): Frederick S. Tappenden, Carly Daniel-Hughes Published by: McGill University Library. (2017) Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvmx3k11.22
Some Notes on Homeric Folk-Lore Author(s): W. Crooke Source: Folklore, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Mar. 30, 1908), pp. 52-77 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises, Ltd. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1254711 Accessed: 20-03-2020 12:03 UTC
Indo-European Dragon Slayers and Healers and the Irish Account of Dian Céacht and Méiche: https://www.academia.edu/10246879/Indo-European_Dragon-Slayers_and_Healers_and_the_Irish_Account_of_Dian_Céacht_and_Méiche
Cath Maige Tuired: The Second Battle of Mag Tuired https://celt.ucc.ie/published/T300010/index.html
The Identification of Some Pestilences Recorded in the Irish Annals Author(s): William P. MacArthur Source: Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 6, No. 23 (Mar., 1949), pp. 169-188 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/30006592 Accessed: 20-03-2020 12:41 UTC
The Ancient Irish Hot: Air Bath Author(s): Seaton F. Milligan Source: The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, Fourth Series, Vol. 9, No. 81 (Oct., 1889 - Jan., 1890), pp. 268-270 Published by: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25506556 Accessed: 20-03-2020 12:22 UTC
Dr. Pat Logan: Making the Cures: Ancient Cures for Modern Ills, The Talbot Press, Dublin (1972)
Seán Ó Súilleabháin: Nósanna agus Piseoga na nGael / Irish Folk Custom and Belief
National Folklore Collection - www.Dúchas.ie
Blúiríní Béaloidis 23 - Holy Wells In Folk Tradition
Lying in overgrown fields, by churches and next to roadsides all over Ireland, are hidden holy wells and sacred springs which have for countless generations been visited as sites of pilgrimage and devotion. These wells are generally small bodies of water dedicated to a local patron saint, and were often renowned for the healing properties.
For this edition of Blúiríní, we shall trudge across the fields on pilgrimage to these sacred wells, commencing with an exploration of the early Irish literature, which describes the creation of Ireland's rivers when an otherworld woman breaks a taboo in visiting a secret well of knowledge, the rivers of which burst forth and engulf her. Moving on to consider Ireland's placenames in connection with holy wells, we will examine the changing attitudes of Christian tradition to these wells and to the Pattern day - those communal celebrations in honour of the patron saint to whom the well is dedicated, which degenerated into 'discreditable orgies' and scenes of drunken violence, being eventually put down by the Church. The curative (and malevolent) properties of these wells will also be explored, as will be the broader European context for veneration of sacred springs.
For this episode I was very lucky to have been joined by Eddie O'Neill and Rosaleen Durkin, who very kindly showed my some of Wicklow's Holy Wells and spoke of their significance. Eddie's family have tended Lady Well in county Wicklow for three generations, and each year on the 15th of August (the Feast of the Assumption) the the entire community would visit the well to offer devotions, and to engage in merriment together, dancing and playing sports. Rosaleen Durkin, a native of Mayo, now living in Wicklow, set up (along with some friends) the group 'Wicklow Wells' which aims to 'preserve and document all the local traditions and folklore and where possible make them more accessible to locals and visitors alike'.
For more, see the Wicklow Wells Facebook Page: https://bit.ly/2SRKeZt
For Rosaleen's site, see: https://irishsacredwells.com/
This episode features a beautiful piano piece titled 'the Five Daughters' by Richard Moult. For more of Richard's music and art please visit his site: http://starred-desert.com/
Customer ReviewsSee All
Incredible depth and richness
I have always loved mythology but I discovered the power of Irish fairy tales after randomly picking up a library book of them years ago at my college library. Its been such a joy to find a podcast that delves so deeply into their history. No other stories have captivated me so much as the Irish stories of other beings and worlds that are just across the veil. Amazing podcast. Can't wait for more.
💜 soul enriching podcast!
this podcast is brilliant. i have so much respect for the facilitators & how they honestly present the material in a format that is interesting, easy to understand and fun to listen to. i can feel the passion & knowledge they have for spreading and preserving all this magic 💜 i will say i have been wishing for information around not so hetero-normative archetypes within the druids & other characters. as a queer person i wish this angle was explored more. thank you so much!
As a woman descended from Irish women, but far from home, this podcast is more dear to my heart than any other. Thank you so much for sharing, Claire and Jonny.