Let me tell you a story…
Did you feel yourself relax when I said that? Did you lean forward slightly, waiting to hear more? Were you transported immediately to childhood, when the world was full of stories and magic and wonder? That is the power of story. Story is more than simply a form of entertainment. It is about human connection and higher consciousness. We listen to story to be transfixed, but also to discover truths about ourselves through the stories of others. A good storyteller is akin to a magician. He brings the magic of our world to life, and through that magic we are spellbound.
The people of Ireland have mastered the art of storytelling as part of their culture. In fact, they have name for these spell-binding artists. They’re called shanachie (seanchai in Irish/Gaelic), which means professional Celtic storyteller.
I had the pleasure of hearing Philip Byrne share an ‘Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies’ at the Brazen Head Pub in Dublin. He had our attention immediately as he promised to tell us about the history of the Irish people, the food they ate, the things they believed, and why they were so superstitious about the fairy world. We spooned bites of Irish Stew into our mouths while he talked about the potato and its importance to the people. We swayed in our seats while he sang a song about Colcannon. We leaned forward in our seats while he talked about the power of the fairy world.
“You have to understand that back then people believed this (fairy) world was real. And when you believe it’s real everything that happens to you, all those unexplainable things that you can explain by normal knowledge can be explained as the actions of that world. It sort of fills that void in the mind and gives an explanation to things.”
I want to believe in fairies.
Oddly, it came up more than once on my trip through Ireland. As we drove through the countryside toward County Clare, our tour guide pointed out a fairy tree in the middle of the highway that the officials decided to build around. Apparently, to tear it down would bring bad luck and doom from the fairies. I heard that’s exactly what happened to the company that made the ill-fated Delorean cars. They tore down a fairy tree and the company went bankrupt. There was an entire display about it in Limerick’s Gallery of Art. Since then, people seem to be more careful. That superstition lives on.
What many of us don’t understand is that the fairy world was a dark world; not the romanticized version that Disney shows us. People believed that everything that happened to them was the work of fairies. In the harsh world they lived in, they didn’t dare cross the fairies or enter the fairy world uninvited. To do so was sure to bring havoc.
In case we didn’t get the point, Philip shared a story about the fairy world that started like this:
Now Brain O’Donnell was a decent hard working farmer who lived in the village of Corbally, in the county Limerick. At the back of Brian’s cottage there was up the field a fairy fort and every Saimhain the night of Oct31st – Halloween – he would hear the most beautiful music from fort. However he knew well enough to stay away. You don’t wander into the fairy world uninvited to do so would be to invite disaster.
But curiosity is a terrible thing. One year on Saimhain night the curiosity got the better of him. Out the door of the cottage he went and up the field towards the fairy fort. As he closer he saw light from side of fort. On investigation he saw that it was a door leading to a tunnel. In he went and down, down, down the tunnel into the very heart of the fairy fort.
I’m not going to share any more. This is something you need to experience for yourself. You need to sit in a cozy room of Dublin’s oldest pub and listen to the stories and music that Ireland is famous for. After all, stories are a great way for community to come together. They become a shared experience for those who gather around to hear them. It’s magical.
*The Brazen Head Pub graciously treated me to an Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies, but the opinions expressed are all mine.
Do you believe in fairies?
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I love that real storytellers still exist. There’s a large tree in my neighboring town right in the middle of a two-way street. They built the street around it and, although beautiful, I always thought it quite odd. Now I know, it’s a fairy tree.
I love that storytelling and storytellers are still so honored in Ireland. I live in the Appalachian region of America which has strong Irish roots. Storytelling is still tradition here, too. Hope that always continues!
Btw- how lucky are you to have a fairy tree nearby. 🙂
What a great teaser, and perfect opening to your story of a story.
Thanks, Lane! I didn’t want to give all the stories away. It is much more enchanting to hear them told than to read them, I think.
I liked all the mini-stories in this post … especially the one about the cars and the fairy trees.
Thanks! I loved all the storytelling that evening. I didn’t want to give too much away, though. Hopefully I touched on just enough.
Ooh, sounds good. A pro storyteller in a pub and a good pint. That would be on my list.
Exactly! Plus, it’s a beautiful pub. Very atmospheric.
Thanks for this Juliann, subjects close to my heart. The ‘seanchai’ have ancient roots and were in great demand in the days where little or nothing was written down for the ordinary folk. And the faerie folk are very real to the country Irish. I’m exploring some of these themes in my present WIP.
I remember you saying that. I can’t wait to read your novel when you’re finished!
How lovely indeed (your were treated 🙂 ). I enjoyed this very much – & yes, I relaxed when you said ‘Let me tell you a story’. A charming post, of life.
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
I’m glad to hear that the art of story telling is alive and well in Ireland. Of course the gift of the Blarney is essential. 🙂
Ha ha. So true!!
Well, I kissed the Blarney Stone and can tell quite good stories. 🙂
I just started a new blog. You can find me here: http://anotherday2paradise.wordpress.com/
Thanks for sharing. I’ll check it out. 🙂
I loved all the stories I heard in Ireland. I believe in Fairies!
I do, too. 😉
I love the Brazen Head. It’s one of my favorite pubs (I would say the favorite but really it’s impossible to decide once and for all on these things). You might like Ireland: A Novel by Frank Delaney if you haven’t read it yet. One of the main characters is a storyteller and the novel weaves his stories of Irish history and myths in with his travels through Ireland.
Thanks for the book reco, Sheila! I’ll definitely have to check that out. Sounds like a great wintertime read.