From Ireland: Her Wit, Peculiarities and Popular Superstitions

« Contents | Queries »

HAD not Shakespere embalmed in the "Midsummer Night's Dream" the Popular Superstitions and Fairy lore current in England at the time of Elizabeth, the present generation could form but a very faint idea of the ancient belief of our forefathers in the witcheries of their sylvan deities and household gods. In this utilitarian age it would be superfluous to discuss, or even to enumerate, the causes which have combined to obliterate this poetry of the people in England; suffice it to say, that it has gradually vanished before the spread of education, and the rapid growth of towns and manufactories.

A wild and daring spirit of adventure—a love of legendary romance—a deep-rooted belief in the supernatural—an unconquerable reverence for ancient customs, and an extensive superstitious creed has, from the earliest times, belonged to the Celtic race. We cannot, therefore, wonder that among the but partially civilized, because neglected and uneducated, yet withal chivalrous inhabitants of a large portion of Ireland, a belief in the marvellous should linger even to the present day. It is, however—and chiefly from the causes enumerated in the first chapter of this little work—rapidly becoming obliterated; never to return. When now I enquire after the old farmer who conducted me, in former years, to the ruined Castle or Abbey, and told me the story of its early history and inhabitants, I hear that he died during the famine. On asking for the peasant who used to sit with me in the ancient Rath, and recite the Fairy legends of the locality, the answer is: "He is gone to America;" and the old woman who took me to the Blessed Well, and gave me an account of its wondrous cures and charms—"Where is she?"——"Living in the Workhouse."

These legendary tales and Popular Superstitions have now become the history of the past—a portion of the traits and characteristics of other days. Will their recital revive their practice? No! Nothing contributes more to uproot superstitious rites and forms than to print them; to make them known to the many instead of leaving them hidden among, and secretly practised by the few.

These tales form part of a large collection made for my amusement many years ago, or which were remembered since my boyhood, and they have been written as a relaxation from severer toil. Several of them have already appeared in the "Dublin University Magazine." They are now collected and presented to the public in their present form, chiefly in the hope of eliciting information from those who may be further acquainted with such matters; for which purpose I have here subjoined a list of Queries, on which I should like to have answers from my country readers. I have also added a copious index of both names and subjects, which will, I trust, likewise assist in bringing forth new matter. Should this little volume be acceptable, it will be followed by another when time permits.

« Contents | Queries »