There are many iconic themes associated with Irish folklore, many of which have stood the test of time. Locals play on them during patriotic days like Armagh’s St. Patrick’s Festival to good effect. However, these festivities and themes may garner some misconceptions about Irish culture.
Below, we explore some of the most popular themes people associate with the Emerald Isle and attempt to put some of them to bed – for good.
Fairies have certainly been a source of intrigue in this country for generations – the Irish Folklore Commission has stored untold numbers of stories from Irish residents about their experiences regarding them. For decades, farmers used to reserve segments of their land for fairies in the form of ring forts, some of which were left unscathed for hundreds of years.
In the early 20th century, Irish families would shout out the door when chucking water out of their back doors just in case fairies were walking down the road. Even Ireland’s inaugural President, Douglas Hyde, admitted to believing in fairies. However, while Irish people still choose not to meddle with fairy ‘property’ like ring forts, unfortunately, there is little which proves these creatures are anything more than mythical figments of our imaginations.
Pots of Gold
There has long been a saying of ‘finding pots of gold at the end of a rainbow’. Irish legend states this gold was left behind on the island when the leprechauns left these shores. Some say it was buried to avoid humans ever detecting it, while others say they were just forgetful. What we do know is that leprechauns never existed in the guise they are portrayed today. In fact, they are simply light-hearted fictional characters which help to give a sense of global identity.
Nevertheless, it remains a key symbol in Irish culture, symbolising an individual’s hopes and dreams – essentially fulfilment in life. Given the fruitful connotations of pots of gold in Irish culture, it’s no surprise that developers have sought to lean on this theme in a number of online casino games. Many of the latest bingo slots feature similar imagery such as leprechauns, rainbows and four-leaf clovers, playing up to the legend and allowing them to resonate with Irish slot and bingo players.
Leprechauns are one of the most heart-warming and enduring myths in Irish culture. The country takes these diminutive supernatural figures very seriously. There’s even a man who claims to be the last leprechaun whisperer in Ireland, hailing from the small village of Carlingford at the bottom of Slieve Foye.
The first references of leprechauns dates back to the publication of a medieval tale called ‘Echtra Fergus mac Leti’, known as the Adventure of Fergus, son of Leti. In the tale, the King of Ulster is awoken by three leprechauns attempting to haul him into the sea. Upon being captured, the leprechauns agree to grant the King three wishes in exchange for their release. This tale alone thus offers an explanation for the longstanding notion of leprechauns bringing good fortune. However, despite the likes of William Yeats attempting to bring attention to leprechauns in his 19th century works, there’s never been a sighting of such a being on the Emerald Isle.
While such folkorian tales have left an indelible mark on Irish culture, it seems they are just that: tales. Nevertheless, they have both defined and enhanced the nation’s identity on the global stage.