Friday, 15 February 2013

How Fairy Traditions Influence Modern Ireland

How Fairy Traditions Influence Modern Ireland

Fairy traditions and beliefs were once rife in Ireland and, while they do not continue in the modern age to the extent that they once did, fairies still hold influence over Ireland today.  Lets look at some cases in which people's beliefs have influenced modern Ireland.

In March 1997, an electricity substation was intended to be built on an old fairy fort in Kilkeel, Ireland. However, once work began on the project, a chain of accidents occurred, some of which included failures of machinery and injuries to those involved. While the Irish are not necessarily avid believers in fairies, they do respect that disturbing such places may invite bad luck and, consequently, blamed fairies for this run of bad luck. This belief had repercussions, with the substation being relocated. There are many other examples of this Irish belief of ill luck following those that disturb old fairy forts, causing problems in the construction of buildings and also roads.

The fairy bush which moved a motorway (Original)
 
This deep-rooted belief surfaced in 2000, in Latoon, Co. Clare, when workers refused to destroy a hawthorn bush which stood in the way of the £100m bypass of Newmarket-on-Fergus. Hawthorn bushes are said to be sacred to fairies and it is considered an invitation of bad luck to cut one, let alone to destroy it. Consequently, the road was constructed around the hawthorn bush as opposed to destroying it.

Fairies make the news in Ireland (Original)
In January, 2007, fairies were blamed for problems with electricity poles that had been erected in Sooey, Ireland. ESB contractors erected a number of electricity poles, two of which were placed within 20 yards of a fairy fort. However, within a short time, these two poles were bent over by the wind. The contractors returned and straightened the poles, only for them to fall over during the Christmas holiday period. While non-believers blamed strong winds, some locals insisted that the fairies were showing their disapproval. One local man was quoted as saying, 'Some of the others have bent over a bit but none have been knocked over completely like the two near the fort.' He added that those local to the area had 'great respect for the fairy fort' and that it had never before been interfered with for fear of what may have followed.

The Hill of Tara (Original)
Another example of the Irish apprehension of fairy forts occurred during the construction of the M3 motorway in Ireland. Apparently, during the planning of the M3's construction, Eddie Lennihan, a storyteller, warned the Irish Government against destroying the fairy forts of Tara Skryne Valley and that, if they did, they would be cursed. A spokesman for the National Roads Authority allegedly mocked the seanchai and said that they were unconcerned. In June 2007, Dick Roche, the Minister for the Environment, signed an order to destroy Lismullin Henge, a 4000 year old astronomical observatory and place of worship that has been called one of the most important archaeological finds of the century and has, by the Irish, been associated with fairies, and work on the M3 began. A series of accidents followed. Dick Roche was held up by an armed gang, was demoted and lost his job; the Minister of Transport, Martin Cullen was almost sucked out of a helicopter when the door fell off; the chief Health and Safety Officer was seriously injured by a falling tree when the felling of trees began at Rath Lugh; and a worker was killed when he became trapped in a fairy house. Then, in the summer of 2009, several large wasps nests, which, according to Celtic Lore, are associated with the anger of Mother Earth, were discovered throughout the Valley. The destruction of the many fairy forts along with the occurrence of accidents has led many of the Irish to believe that they have been cursed. Anti-highway activist, Carmel Divine told reporters that a 'modern day Curse of Tara' has been unleashed on Ireland due to the 'destruction and desecration of the M3 Motorway'. She claims that all of Ireland's troubles date back to 2007, when the work on the M3 began and that, as long as humans continue to meddle with sacred ground, the curse will remain.

In 2011, locals blamed the bankruptcy of Sean Quinn's multi-billion euro empire on fairies. They believe that Quinn incurred the fairy's wrath when he relocated a 400 year old megalithic tomb in order to expand his quarry near Ballyconnel. Eddie Leniham was quoted as saying, 'You don't interfere with a fort, a 'sceach', or fairy bush...' He added that while the belief in these traditions is not as strong as it once was, it is far from gone.

The Aughrim Wedge Tomb in the grounds of the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan (Original)

The occurrence at Kilkeel, as I have demonstrated above, is not an unusual event in Ireland. The fear of destroying forts and raths due to the repercussions that may follow has come up during many different construction projects over the years and, while a hindrance to the Irish Government and construction companies, this belief helps to preserve Ireland's many archaeological sites that would otherwise be destroyed.

Next time: We will learn about Puck, his origins and how he is portrayed today.