Tag Archives: folklore

The folks stories, medicine, and spirits, of Irish Travellers. Traveller author and activist Oein DeBhairduin on AEWCH!

2 Nov

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Want to buy the books mentioned on this ep? Oein’s amazing book, Why The Moon Travels is only available in the US via the publisher, but I strongly suggest you get it. It’s wonderful. Here’s a link.
For the rest of the books mentioned and some related to what we discuss, please go to my booklist for AEWCH 130 on bookshop.org. It will  help support independent bookstores, and the show gets a small financial kickback, too.

Friends,

I wrestled over whether or not to post an episode about the election tomorrow, but one of the things I kept thinking about was: when we contract our view of the world into political forces and events, what and who get neglected?

In 2004 when George W. Bush won a second term, my friend called me, frantic. I told her to go outside, look at the trees. What were they doing? She told me they were still and swaying with the wind. And the birds? Moving from branch to branch. And the sky? A calm came over her.

What dimension were those beings in that they could stand still, that they could live without the same sort of fear so many were in? Perhaps you could argue that it was merely that they hadn’t the capacity to fear. But then, what did they have the capacity for, and what could we learn from it?We have to remember that the world is big and waiting for us to listen. Or, in the words of Yeats:

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

So this time of this year I was thinking about what we neglect in narrowed vision of the world. And that leads to the question of who are the human beings who are forgotten. And finally, as an interweaving of the two: who is forgotten who can give us a different sense of connection to what is forgotten?

A lot of you probably have never even heard about Irish Travellers, an indigenous minority here in Ireland. But they have their own language, traditions, and culture. As the name Travellers implies movement and a nomadic aspect of life plays a part in all that.

I hadn’t known anything about Travellers until I moved here in 2019. But I have to say it’s dismaying how few people in Ireland know much about Travellers. So as I was trying to learn more about Travellers, I turned to twitter, of course. It’s still good for that if you use it that way. And many people recommended Oein DeBhairduin’s new book of Irish Travellers folk tales, Why The Moon Travels, with illustrations by Leanne McDnoagh.

Oein is an author, herbalist and Travellers’ rights activist. In his book, there are stories about spirits, animals, giants, plants, and medicine. It’s a great book, and it’s my hope that this is a great episode as an introduction to non-Travellers about the multi-layered lives and experiences of Travellers, beyond just their struggles under ignorant or deliberately racist and imperialist legislation here in Ireland.

As a great bonus, Oein reads two of the tales in the book he reads “The Birth of the Rivers” and “Airmid’s Voice.” I’m so happy to share this with you.

Remember, the world is big, and there are many friends you haven’t yet met.

ON THIS EPISODE

  • Are myths and folktales merely just-so stories?
  • Are stories alive? If so, what are they, anyway?
  • The way Christianity (specifically Catholicism) intersects with Travellers stories.
  • The way the landscape comes to life when you start relating to its beings by name
  • Getting in touch with city spirits
  • The way that spirit wants to involve us in its action
  • On not believing in fairies (but not wanting to piss off the fairies)
  • Challenges Irish Travellers face under deliberately racist or otherwise ignorant legislation

SHOW NOTES

• For more on Oein, here’s an interview with him about his developing spirituality. And here’s a good interview with him (done by Irish mythological writer Deirdre Sullivan) just after Why The Moon Travels came out. And here’s a link to the Parish of the Travelling People, which Oein is involved in. Also, buy his book!

• For more on Irish Travellers in general, here’s the Irish Travellers Movement website. And here’s the Travellers’ organization, Pavee Point. Here’s a great article, “A Brief History of the Insitutionalisation of Discrimination Against Irish Travellers” by Dr. Sindy Joyce.

Karl Kroeber‘s wonderful Native American Storytelling: A Reader of Myths and Legends isn’t available on bookshop.org except as an extremely pricey hardback, so I’m posting it here in a link via amazon. And here’s a photo of Karl.

• I talked about the “positive void” of language and its relationship to occult practice, with Scott Elliot Hicks on AEWCH 122.

• Actually the story about the witch at Lough Derg is a story about a sorcerer at Lough Gur, Conner.

• Here’s an essay about the Lough Derg pilgrimage by Manchán Magan.• Here’s the road (or one of them anyway) that got moved to accommodate the fairy bush. And here are stories of the “hungry grass.”

• The “Twelve Doors to the Soul” are all places where you could strike to kill someone because an opening wound would create a sort of door through which the soul would leave. They are: Top of the head, hollow of the occiput, the temple, Adam’s apple, suprasternal fossa, the armpit, the breast bone, the navel, the bend of the elbow, the bend of the legs, the bulge of the groin, the sole of the foot.

• Here’s the actual Paracelsus quote: ““…all our nourishment becomes ourselves; we eat ourselves into being… For every bite we take contains in itself all our organs, all that is included in the whole man, all of which he is constituted… We do not eat bone, blood vessels, ligaments, and seldom brain, heart, and entrails, nor fat, therefore bone does not make bone, nor brain make brain, but every bite contains all these. Bread is blood, but who sees it?”

• “All the things that people say they hate about Travellers are things they say they love about culture.” – Oein

Until next time friends,
XO
CH

Irish Travellers in 1950s Ireland. Photo by Tony Whelan