Monday, May 25, 2009


Irish mythological site.

This small LAKE in Co. Limerick, inhabited for almost 6,000 years, is surrounded by low hills, each of them connected with a goddess or god. Site of the largest extant STONE CIRCLE in Ireland, the Grange, the lake is believed to be an entrance to the OTHERWORLD, a belief common to Celtic lands where water was seen as the dividing line between this world and that of the FAIRIES.

The many legends connected with the lake emphasize a cycle of time, usually seven years. Each time that cycle passes, distinctive events occur. The lake empties of water, and passersby see a tree growing from its bottom, covered with a GREEN cloth; beneath it, a woman named TOICE BHREAN sits KNITTING. The goddess or fairy queen Áine is similarly seen at Lough Gur each time the seven-year cycle ends, as is her enchanted son GERÓID IARLA, born to her after her affair with Maurice, earl of Desmond, who saw her swimming in the form of a SWAN and stole her cloak in order to capture her. As with other such marriages, the groom was put under a taboo by the bride, in this case to show no surprise, no matter what their son might do. Maurice forgot himself when, at a banquet, the now-grown Geróid shrank himself into a tiny being and leaped into a bottle, then out again, resuming his regular size. The moment Maurice called out in amazement, Geróid disappeared into Lough Gur, appearing on its surface as a GOOSE. Every seven years, he emerges from his fairy residence on the island named for him, Garrod Island, and takes on human form as he leaves the lake. He rides a white horse and leads the WILD HUNT across the land.

Other legends tell of a FAIRY HOUSEKEEPER who appears on the chair-shaped ancient monument called the Suidheachan or “housekeeper’s seat” near the lake. The housekeeper once fell asleep when the dwarf harper, Áine’s brother FER Í, stole her COMB (a female anatomical symbol, suggesting the theft might have been a rape), whereupon the housekeeper cursed the CATTLE of the region as well as the dwarf. Fer Í returned the comb, but to no avail, for the CURSE held and he died. The housekeeper, or another fairy woman, is believed to “steal”—drown—a human in the lake waters once every seven years. The lands around the lake are believed to be the territory of the fairy race, who frequently kidnap children from its shores.

Sources: Carbery, Mary. The Farm by Lough Gur: The Story of Mary Fogarty. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1937; Croker, T. Crofton. Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland. London: William Tegg, 1862, pp. 167 ff; Dames, Michael. Mythic Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992, pp. 73 ff; Evans- Wentz, W. Y. The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe Humanities Press, 1911, pp. 78–79, 81 ff.

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