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The Folklore of Ireland

Irish Myths, Legends & Folklore

Ireland is an old country… a very old country. It is a place simply brimming with myths and legends. Famous for its oral stories, Ireland has so many stories that have been passed down through each generation, with various versions of each.

These stories are often linked to landscapes – either a specific spot like the Giant’s Causeway, or else many places like Diarmuid and Grainne and their various caves.

From giants to selkies, from tragic lovers to witches, from magical bulls to humans turned to swans, join us on this series to learn the unique myths and legends of Ireland.

Finn McCool: The Giant of the Giant's Causeway - Part 1

Once upon a time, there was a magical emerald land called island. In the northern stretches of this land, there lived a Irish giant called Fionn McCool (or in Irish, Fionn Mac Cumhaill). Fionn is one Ireland’s most prominent mythological characters, and yes it is he that is credited with building the Giant’s Causeway. Built all because of a proposed fist fight with a Scottish giant that never actually happened because Fionn got scared, and relied on the ingenuity of his wife to cleverly disguise him as a baby. 

Supposedly, his Scottish rival ran away in terror at what surely must be a massive giant if his baby was that big, tearing up the causeway behind him.

But… it’s better to read the whole story.

Meet Fionn McCool

The Hag of Beara: The Winter Witch - Part 2

No, we’re not talking about the winter witch of Narnia – though C.S. Lewis has admitted that he was inspired by Ireland when writing The Chronicles of Narnia. So, maybe there’s a connection.

But the Hag of Beara is an under-appreciated character of Irish folklore. She is supposedly the goddess of winter or the witch of the winter, and it is her who is in charge of turning the clock from Summer to Winter.

Legend says that you have to head outside on February 1st (St Brigid’s Day, the first day of spring on the Gaelic calendar). If the weather is poor, it means that the Hag of Beara is asleep and winter will soon end. However, if the day is bright, she’s awake and collecting firewood to make winter last longer. February 1st is the one day a year that people hope the weather will stay poor…

Learn more about the Hag of Beara, Ireland’s winter witch. 

Meet the Hag of Beara

Diarmuid & Grainne: Ireland's Tragic Lovers - Part 3

Keash Caves Sligo

Tales of tragic lovers exist in many cultures – most famously, the doomed lover’s of Romeo and Juliet. Diarmuid and Grainne are Ireland’s tragic or doomed lovers.

As the story goes, Diarmuid stole his chieftain Fionn McCool’s intended bride after the couple met and fell in love. Their love was so strong that Diarmuid and Grainne decided to escape together and went on the run indefinitely. Legend has it that Diarmuid and Grainne never slept in the same place and accross Ireland, there are dozens – perhaps hundreds! – of “Diarmuid and Grainne beds” – caves, nooks, rocks and other standout geological formations where the couple supposedly spent a night while on the run.

Until, well, their luck ran out, and they were caught.

Find out more about the doomed Diarmuid and Grainne. 

Meet Diarmuid & Grainne

Stay tuned for the next in our blog series on Irish myths and legends!

In the meantime, take a look at other articles from our blog. 

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