Category Archives: Celtic

Temperate rainforest…

I had to reblog this as Pucks Glen, Argyll, Scotland is where part of my novel, Protect Her takes place. These are gorgeous pictures.

this fragile tent

water falling, pucks glen

It stopped raining so we went off into the forest, getting some air before the arrival of guests who will be with us for New Year.

It is only a slight exageration to suggest that the forests of Argyll are part of the fragments of temperate rainforest left in northern Europe. Huge old trees in a sponge of moss and leaf mulch, well watered by the western Scottish climate.

As ever, my camera came along. I think I have a million photos of some of these places- searching for the play of light and the movement of water. I never quite manage it but some come close.

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A Slice of Scottish Streetlife

In honor of Tartan Day…today April 6th

The Beauty Along the Road

A parade of bag pipe bands is an essential part of the Highland Games held in Nairn, Scotland, each summer. The bands gather in a park and then march down the streets to the fairgrounds. We stopped this group of fellows to ask them about their band and their outfits.

The boys from the band The boys from the band

They proudly showed off the essential components of their band attire, correcting our playful usage of the word “skirt” by stating firmly: “It’s not a skirt, it’s a kilt!”

Then they hurried back to the rest of their band to line up for the big parade. Tartan patterns of different colors, long scarves, kilts and knee socks gathered in a colorful melee, then finally found their place in line.

gathering the troops gathering the troops

final touch-up final touch-up

Did you see that leopard print?

Drummer in leopard print Drummer in leopard print

Spectators of the two- and four-legged kind lined the sides of…

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March Magic

Before all the magic drains out of March, I thought I’d share the little story I wrote to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. (With a name like “Ireland” I think I was destined to spin stories and sing songs.)
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A Leprechaun’s Love

“Will you be choosing the gold or the Leprechaun?” The Irish glen fairly rang with a voice that didn’t quite sound human.

Maddy stared at the tiny man who could have walked off of the pages of any of the Celtic Myth volumes that she used to teach her class. She’d been piecing clues together for the last five years, but now that she had the Leprechaun and gold in her sight, she realized she’d never really believed.

The creature’s bored voice. and raised bushy eyebrows caused her to study him. He either didn’t care about the outcome, or he wanted to hurry her along for another reason. Leprechauns…

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Blessed Ostara

Happy Spring everyone.

Kate Wood

Fáilte! Welcome!

Today, at exactly 9:57 am PDT (the exact moment of this posting, in fact), marks the beginning of Spring. This is a wonderful time of celebration. In Celtic traditions, this is known as Ostara.

Courtesy of Navanna Courtesy of Navanna

Not to be confused with Ēostre, a Germanic goddess, Ostara is the pagan name for the vernal or spring equinox (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). Ostara marks the awakening of the Great Goddess from her winter’s sleep. She has been preparing for this awakening since Imbolc.

This time marks the end of the dreary days of winter, and welcomes the fresh days of spring. It’s a time for embracing the new beginnings, new loves, new lives wished for during yule.

As with all Celtic festivals, there are many traditions associated with Ostara having to do with food. Interestingly, many of these same traditions echo those of…

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Guinness and Onion Soup

Blog O'The Irish

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Ingredients
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves minced garlic
8 cups thinly sliced onions
Gray salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 1/2 cups dark beer (recommended: Guinness)
6 cups beef stock
6 slices country bread cut 1/2-inch thick, toasted
1/2 pound Irish Cheddar, sliced thin
Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and cook briefly to release aroma. Add onions, season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes stirring often. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are golden brown.
Add the thyme, vinegar, and beer. Reduce beer by half and add the beef stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes.
Preheat the broiler. Transfer soup to an ovenproof serving dish or individual ovenproof soup bowls. Top with toasted bread slices and sliced…

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The Cult of the Banshee, a supernatural tale for St Patrick’s Day

freaky folk tales

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Do you believe in the supernatural? Do you accept that there is something unseen in ourselves, in our thoughts, in our inner consciousness, which Nature will not allow us to entirely ignore?

With some the supernatural takes the form of luck, of a blind belief in Fate, while the particular brand of others is ghosts pure and simple. Between those two, luck and ghosts, there is a wide range of speculation and assertion.

Without doubt, the supernatural exists to a large extent in the imagination. I do not say that it exists only or entirely in the imagination, but I do consider that the imagination has a great influence upon the existence of the supernatural. A highly strung, nervous, imaginative temperament is more susceptible to, and receptive of the supernatural; it is what I may term a good medium; it catches and retains a sensation without attempting or wishing to…

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Ireland’s scary monsters

The top ten scariest monsters and demons from Celtic myth – PHOTOS

The monsters of Ireland’s ancient past from the Dearg Due to the Questing Beast

By

IrishCentral Staff Writers,
Published Monday, May 13, 2013, 12:51 PM
Updated Saturday, June 29, 2013, 2:55 AM

PHOTOS – The scariest demons from Celtic myth slideshow

The Celtic culture has always feared an array of evil forces. The ancient Celts had hundreds of deities, but as with most cultures, they had their demons as well.

Some of the Celtic “monsters” were originally gods, but were later demonized as pagan creatures when many of the Celts became Christians.

IrishCentral has hunted down the 10 most frightening of these Celtic and Irish demons and monsters.

1. Dearg Due – the Irish vampire

Yes, Dracula himself is an Irish creation (Irishman Bram Stoker created the modern image of the monster in his masterpiece novel), but there’s also a vampire that resides right smack in the middle of Ireland.

Dearg-due, an Irish name meaning “red blood sucker,” is a female demon that seduces men and then drains them of their blood.

According to the Celtic legend, an Irish woman who was known throughout the country for her beauty, fell in love with a local peasant, which was unacceptable to her father.

Dad forced her into an arranged marriage with a rich man who treated her terribly, and eventually she commit suicide.

She was buried near Strongbow’s Tree in Waterford, and one night, she rose from her grave to seek revenge on her father and husband, sucking their blood until they dropped dead.

Now known as Dearg-due, the vampire rises once a year, using her beauty to lure men to their deaths.

Not to worry, though – there is one way to defeat Dearg-due.

To prevent the undead from rising from the grave, simply build a pile of stones over her grave. No, it won’t kill her, but at least you’ll hold her off until next year!

2. The Dullahan – the Irish headless horseman

Another legendary Irish monster is the Dullahan, a name that can be translated to “dark man.”

Often portrayed in contemporary fantasy fiction and video games, this foreteller of death is the Irish version of the headless horseman.

The Dullahan rides a headless black horse with flaming eyes, carrying his head under one arm. When he stops riding, a human dies.

Some versions of this legend say that the Dullahan throws buckets of blood at people he passes, while other say he simply calls out the name of the mortal that will soon die.

As with most evil forces, the Dullahan has a weakness – gold.

The creature is scared of the substance, so any lonely travelers this Halloween night would be wise to have some on him in case they have a run-in with this headless horror!

PHOTOS – The scariest demons from Celtic myth slideshow

3. Banshee – the Irish wailing ghost

A famous Irish creature that some say teams up with the Dullahan is the Banshee.

One of the most recognizable Celtic creatures, having made a guest appearance in “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” and all, the Banshee is a female spirit whose wail, if heard outside of a house, foretells the death of one of its inhabitants.

Several versions of the Banshee legend say the feared ghost rode alongside the Dullahan in a black cart drawn by six black horses. The pair is said to whip the horses with a human spinal cord.

But most legends say the Banshee was terrifying enough on her own.

Descriptions of her appearance vary, from an ugly old hag to a beautiful young woman, but all agree that the creature’s blood curdling wail will be heard three times before someone dies.

4. Balor – the Celtic demon king

Balor is the demonic God of Death in Celtic mythology.

Sporting one eye and a single gigantic leg, the evil creature was King of the Fomori, demons who lived in the dark depths of lakes and seas.

Balor can kill someone just by staring at them with his evil eye, so he kept it closed most of the time, so as not to constantly be tripping over dead bodies.

The God of Death would provide his Fomori with victims, but the evil race was left to their own devices  when Balor was killed by his son Lug, who shot him with a slingshot.

Now the Fomori have returned to their waters and transformed into sea monsters who prey on humans.

Perhaps it’d be a good idea to stay away from any bodies of water this Halloween!

5. Sluagh – the dead Irish sinners

Though they’re not so much “demons,” Sluagh are scary creatures that hunt down souls.

According to Irish folklore, Sluagh are dead sinners that come back as malicious spirits.

These spirits come from the west, flying in groups like flocks of birds, and try to enter a house where someone is dying to take away that person’s soul.

Some Irish families would keep their west-facing windows shut at all times to keep the Sluagh out of their homes.

Some say the Sluagh is the Irish version of the Wild Hunt, a European folktale about ghostly hounds or spirits traveling around in packs foretelling of death and disaster.

6. Carman – the Celtic witch

Carman is the Celtic goddess of evil magic.

This destructive witch roamed around with her three evil sons: Dub (“darkness” in Irish), Dother (“evil”) and Dain (“violence”), destroying anything or anyone in their path.

Carman put a blight on Ireland’s crops and terrorized the Irish until the Tuatha De Danann, the “peoples of the goddess Danu,” used their magic to fight and defeat her, and drove her sons across the sea.

Guess this is one demon you can check off your list of scary creatures to worry about this Halloween.

PHOTOS – The scariest demons from Celtic myth slideshow

7. Kelpie – the Celtic sea monster

The kelpie is a monster right out of Celtic myth. The creature can take on multiple shapes, but usually it appears in the form of a horse.

The kelpie galloped around Ireland, looking like a lost pony, attempting to trick women and children into riding on it. But the strange thing about this pony is that its mane would always be dripping with water.

If a woman hopped on, the monster would then run into the water, drowning its victim, and then would take her to its lair to eat her.

The Irish demon would sometimes transform into a handsome man to lure women to its trap, but a telltale sign that it was a kelpie was if that “man” had kelp in its hair.

Ladies, take note – meet a guy with seaweed on his head on Halloween night, don’t go home with him!

8. Caorthannach – the Celtic fire-spitter

Caorthannach, thought by some to be the devil’s mother, is a demon that was fought off by St. Patrick when he banished the snakes out of Ireland.

The saint is said to have stood on the mountain now known as Croagh Patrick and expelled all the serpents and demons out of the Emerald Isle into the sea to drown.

One monster, however, managed to escape – Caorthannach, the fire-spitter. The demon slid down a mountain away from the saint, but Patrick spotted her, and chased her down upon the fastest horse in Ireland, which was brought to him.

The pursuit was a long one, and Caorthannach knew St. Patrick would need water to quench his thirst along the way, so she spit fire as she fled, and poisoned every well she passed.

Though the saint was desperately thirsty, he refused to drink from the poisoned wells and prayed for guidance.

Patrick eventually made it to the Hawk’s Rock, where he waited for Caorthannach. As the demon approached, he jumped out from his hiding spot and banished her from Ireland with a single word.

The evil fire-spitter drowned in the ocean, leaving a swell behind that created the famous Hawk’s Well.

9. Leanan Sidhe – the evil Irish fairy-muse

Both a muse and a demon, Leanan Sidhe is another one of Ireland’s mythological vampires.

The fairy was a beautiful woman who was said to give inspiration to poets and musicians – but at the price of their lives.

She would make the artist her lover, sharing with them her intelligence, creativity and magic, but when she left, the men would be so depressed, they’d die.

Leanan Sidhe would then take her dead lovers back to her lair.

Rather than directly suck the blood of her victims, Leanan Sidhe got creative, and collected their blood in a giant red cauldron, which was the source of her beauty and artistic inspiration.

As with Dearg-due, to prevent the undead Leanan Sidhe from rising, one must put a cairn of stones over her resting place.

A tip to artists: perhaps you should look elsewhere for inspiration, rather than risking falling into the evil hands of the Leanan Sidhe!

10. Questing Beast – the Celtic hybrid monster

Another snake-like evil Celtic creature is the Questing Beast, a monster with the head of a snake, the body of a leopard, the backside of a lion and the hooves of a deer.

The beast’s constant cry was said to sound like the bark of 30 dogs.

The Questing Beast, known to be quick, was hunted down by many a knight, and in Celtic myth was chased by King Pellinore, an Arthurian character.

This beast appears not only in the legends of King Arhtur, but also in Edmund Spenser’s epic tale “The Faerie Queene,” which in part, tackles the troubled relationship between England and Ireland in the 16th century.

This is one scary creature you don’t have to worry about this Halloween – unless you dress up as a knight.

PHOTOS – The scariest demons from Celtic myth slideshow

Highland Games

hot4scot:

The Grace of Backhold Wrestling on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
David Blair and Frazer Hirsch wrestle at Luss Higland Games 2013

I love a man in a kilt.