Thursday, October 30, 2008

A new home for the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture

Just in time to get ready for the upcoming 10th and one-year-anniversary edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture, the carnival has a new online home. After residing since its birth here at Small-leaved Shamrock, it has grown and is now big enough to be out on its own in the world wide web. It will continue to come to visit often here at Small-leaved Shamrock (and other blogs, too!) but it will also have its very own home.

Visit Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture (the blog) to read previous editions of the carnival, see a complete list of past carnival participants, learn how to submit your own article to the upcoming edition, and more.


Don't forget to stop by West in New England for the most recent 9th edition on Irish Superstitions entitled Luck of the Irish.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Black cats, lucky pennies and troublesome fairy folk

The Irish are a superstitious lot. My grandmother was the one that taught me: don't walk under a ladder, don't open an umbrella inside a house, watch out for black cats, etc. I don't live by any of these maxims today, but I do think of my grandmother whenever one of these situations comes to pass.

My mother passed down her share of Irish folklore, sometimes without even realizing it. Every new purse I received from her had a shiny new penny inside. Did you know, Mom, that the "luck penny" is an Irish tradition?

It seems that the Irish penchant for storytelling and poetry has long lent itself to an awareness of the spirit world and the possibility of its impact on daily life.

Earning a daily wage and putting bread on the table were hard for the Irish people for centuries. Added to that was the difficulty of having to avoid actions, places and dates that held superstitious warning. Don't forget the work of the fairy folk. They seemed to always be causing trouble.

Bridget Haggerty has an enjoyable article on the Irish Culture and Customs website that lists many of the superstitions that are not as well remembered today. In God Between Us and All Harm - Irish Superstitions she writes of superstitions surrounding the weather and the sea, livestock and wild animals, and many ailments known to plague the Irish of long ago. Bridget also shares a number of warnings referring to different days of the week and holidays stating, "To live through an ordinary day in old Ireland without being mindful of so many superstitions would have been impossible. Add to this burden the special beliefs surrounding important dates in the calendar."

Bottom line: Life was complicated for the Irish people.

In 1852 William Robert Wilde shared the thoughts of those looking ahead for Ireland: "There is every reason to hope, however, that the decay of such superstitions is not far distant, and that the diffusion of learning will remove every vestige of them."

Sixty-six years later in 1918, William Butler Yeats wrote in his introduction to Irish Fairy and Folk Tales:
"In spite of hosts of deniers, and asserters, and wise-men, and professors, the majority still are averse to sitting down to dine thirteen at table, or being helped to salt, or walking under a ladder, or seeing a single magpie flirting his chequered tail. There are, of course, children of light who have set their faces against all this, though even a newspaper man, if you entice him into a cemetery at midnight, will believe in phantoms, for every one is a visionary, if you scratch him deep enough. But the Celt is a visionary without scratching."
Visionaries, poets and dreamers: that is the character of the Irish soul. Because of the wildness of their imaginations, centuries of Irish people complicated life for themselves with their required procedures for safety, housework, and the every day living. Yet, now we discuss and miss their colorful ways.

As William Robert Wilde discussed in his 1852 Irish Popular Superstitions, the loss of the ancient culture of Ireland, superstitions and all, is the loss of the "poetry of the people":
"In this state of things, with depopulation the most terrific which any country ever experienced, on the one hand, and the spread of education, and the introduction of railroads, colleges, industrial and other educational schools, on the other,--together with the rapid decay of the Irish vernacular, in which most of our legends, romantic tales, ballads, and bardic annals, the vestiges of Pagan rites, and the relics of fairy charms were preserved,---can superstition, or if superstitious belief, can superstitious practices continue to exist?

"But these matters of popular belief and folks'-lore, these rites and legends, and superstitions, were after all, the poetry of the people, the bond that knit the peasant to the soil, and cheered and solaced many a cottier's fireside. Without these, on the one side, and without proper education and well-directed means of partaking of and enjoying its blessings, on the other, and without rational amusement besides, he will, and must, and has in many instances, already become a perfect brute. The rath which he revered has been, to our knowledge, ploughed up, the ancient thorn which he reverenced has been cut down, and the sacred well polluted, merely in order to uproot his prejudices, and efface his superstition. Has he been improved by such desecration of the landmarks of the past, objects which, independent of their natural beauty, are often the surest footprints of history? We fear not."

I for one, while not worrying myself with the effects of crossed knives on the table in my kitchen, or a bed in my house facing the door, hope to learn more about the historic ways of my Irish ancestors. After all, I've written this article on Friday: the day of the week when a new project should not be started, according to Irish legend (as written by Lady Francesca Wilde in Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland). At least I haven't cut out a dress, fixed a marriage, moved or gone on a journey today. The fairies would really be after me then.

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This post has been submitted to the 9th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture hosted at West in New England. Lucky you! You can enjoy reading all of the entries about Irish superstitions.

Want to read more about ancient Irish traditions surrounding the feast of Samhain (Irish new year), the day we now celebrate as All Hallows' Eve? You might enjoy Bridget Haggerty's An Irish Halloween.

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One last note - a travel tip for you:

Making a trip to Ireland and want to learn the stories of the local ghosts and fairies? It might not be so easy. Here is a suggestion courtesy of William Butler Yeats in his introduction to Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, 1918:
"...if you are a stranger, you will not readily get ghost and fairy legends, even in a western village. You must go adroitly to work, and make friends with the children, and the old men...

"The old women are most learned, but will not so readily be got to talk, for the fairies are very secretive, and much resent being talked of; and are there not many stories of old women who were nearly pinched into their graves or numbed with fairy blasts?"

Lucky you decided to read this...

...because the deadline for the 9th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture is tomorrow!

Hosted by Bill West of West in New England, it will be a look at the superstitious nature of the Irish people. Try your "luck" at writing a piece and join us for the fun! Submit your article right away to be included in this edition, to be published on October 31.

See you there!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Famine in the family: Blog Action Day 2008


Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event uniting the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters as they post about the same issue on the same day. This year's theme is POVERTY. The goal, according to the Blog Action Day website, is to raise awareness of poverty and trigger a global discussion.

Read my articles for Blog Action Day 2008 here:
We are truly a global family on this earth, and part of the family is suffering right now. Read my articles to learn about some of my ancestors' experiences with poverty, the state of poverty and famine in the world today, and some ways that you can help those in need right now.

If you'd like to read more about poverty, visit the Blog Action Day 2008 website for links to the words of more than 12,000 participants worldwide.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The real Annie Moore remembered at last

This authentic Irish blue limestone grave marker was dedicated October 11, 2008 at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. It honors Anna "Annie Moore" Schayer and her children who are buried along with her: a fitting memorial to a woman who represents in the minds of many the courage of the Irish-American immigrant. From the day she entered America as the first Ellis Island immigrant in 1892, to this late but beautiful memorial, her life has been one of surprises.

Long live the memory of "Annie Moore", and long live the courage of the Irish people!

Thanks to Megan Smolenyak for the permission to use this photograph of the gravestone taken at its dedication yesterday.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A day of celebration for Irish-Americans

Annie Moore, the famed first immigrant to arrive at Ellis Island has been in the news lately. This week her name will be back on the lips of many as she is memorialized with an Irish limestone marker on her previously unmarked grave in Queens, New York. The placing of the headstone will involve a ceremony that any Irish-American would be proud to attend.

Plans include the singing of the "Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears" Ellis Island tribute by Ronan Tynan. Also attending will be a host of other prominent guests including the song's composer Brendan Graham, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York Dennis Sullivan, radio host Adrian Flannelly, Ireland's New York Consul General Niall Burgess, genealogist Megan Smolenyak, New York Commissioner of Records and Information Brian Andersson, and many others, including Annie Moore's descendants. New York's County Cork Pipe and Drum Band will perform during the ceremony. New York's County Cork Benevolent, Patriotic and Protective Association will also participate.

All are welcome to attend the event, which will be held Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 3 p.m. at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. For details contact Julia Devous, great-granddaughter of Annie Moore and project spokesperson with the Irish Cultural and Learning Foundation of Phoenix, Arizona at julia@anniemoore.net or genealogist Megan Smolenyak at smolenyak@att.net.

Whether or not you're able to attend, it's a great day to wave your Irish flag here in America!

For additional details about the memorial and the life of Annie Moore, see the Irish Echo article Annie's Day, Annie Moore Gets Her Day in Cork and New York! on Megan's Roots World blog, or the website of The Irish Cultural Center of Phoenix, Arizona (online home of the Annie Moore memorial project).

For more background on the story of the discovery of the final resting place of Annie Moore, see The Irish Echo's Putting Things Right: Icon Annie Moore lived, and died, in New York's hardscrabble streets.

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