Folklore is an essential component of a nation’s cultural climate. In Ireland, we have a vast wealth of stories, customs, and beliefs, corresponding to every location of the island of Ireland. The most well-known stories of Irish folklore, Fionn Mac Cumail and Cu Chulainn, only scratch the surface of the sheer volume of tales and practices. 

Folklore emerges from the shared experiences and beliefs of a people, becoming a repository of cultural memory from which moral lessons can be communicated, and the unique character of a nation, refined. Folklore can be constructed around every facet of human living, whether it be the precious virtue of hospitality or the challenges which human societies face in their daily life. 

Thematically, there are thousands of topics on which entire books could be written, but for the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the interactions between the Irish people and the sea. 

The sea, a vast body of water that can prove perilous or proffer man with the essential needs of his survival, occupies a significant place in the cultures of sea-faring peoples, and Ireland is no exception to such a trend. 

The Irish experience with the sea, which informs the stories and beliefs of our ancestors, comes largely from its use as a source of living, for coastal settlements, sailors, fishermen, and isolated island communities. 

Sailing is perhaps one of the most prominent sources of Irish customs surrounding the sea, as sailors regularly encountered the perils of rough Irish waters. Wooden rowing boats known as Naomhóg were used prominently along the west coast of Ireland, and remained in use among the inhabitants of the Blasket Islands well into the twentieth century. 

Sea songs were a prominent part of Irish sailing culture, as sailors brought the lyrical poetic traditions of the mainland onto the seas. One report found in the Bealoideas folklore journal gives the account of a young boy, who visiting the beach of his local village, comes to hear from his fathers Naomhóg a heartfelt Fenian lay from the men aboard, which could be heard from the harbour and even as far as the village. 

Of all Irish sailors, Saint Brendan the Navigator’s voyage is the most famous, discovering the Americas in the early sixth century and surviving the storm of the Atlantic once, on his journey there, and most impressively, his long journey home to Ireland, which he begun from an unknown continent, with no previous explorer’s experience to guide him. 

On difficult journeys such as those of Saint Brendan, a traditional wind charm would be kept to save sailors in case of emergency. A small bag, tied with three knots, was believed to carry the air needed for the sailors to return home to shore, and was usually purchased from a witch or local woman. The first knot released a small burst of air into the sails of the boat, while the second knot let out a much larger gust of wind to help the sailors should they be stuck without wind, far from shore, or carried by the ocean current. It was taboo to open the third wind-knot, as a whirlwind unleashed by the final string would move the ship to a random shore far away, on which the boat would be destroyed and from which the sailors would never return home again. 

Far from just an Irish tradition, this custom is evident in classical Greece and was practised throughout Scotland and Scandinavia. 

A belief in the supernatural also informed the beliefs of ordinary Irish people throughout their daily lives. Peig Sayers recounts a story about a villager of the Blasket Islands, who tricked a mermaid into marrying him by stealing her cloak, which one day after an argument between the two, he accidentally dropped from the attic, allowing her to flee and never return. 

One may scoff at the absurdist nature of these stories, but the truth is that irrespective of their basis in reality, they are an expression of the cultural customs and superstitions of a people. Superstitions such as the aforementioned cases are the constructs of centuries of communal beliefs passed down between generations, and are not something to be viewed with distaste or as lacking maturity. 

Folklore and customs are central to human societies, whose capacity for oral history and communal knowledge is vastly understated in the modern world. We have lost these customs and beliefs, leaving them solely the subject of academic inquiry and fanciful exotic sources of entertainment in the same way one reads Greek mythology. 

It is an understatement to say that we have lost something important about ourselves as such beliefs have passed us by, weakening our tradition, and detaching the world and life from humanity’s favourite concepts of fate, magic, and mystique. 

As with the popularity of extravagant film, TV, fantasy, and science fiction mediums, we can see plainly that the world is unsatisfying to all parties present in it – searching for escapism and another reality which is more receptive to their fancy. While people experience the negative consequences of delving further into a pit of media circle-jerks and the detachment from reality they induce, they become further lost to the vibrant, rich and humorous traditions of their ancestors. 

Realism is too real for it to sustain a society’s culture long-term, and escapism neglects entirely the real world, seeing it only as a necessary evil to deal with for the sake of consuming media. Folklore, as a balance between the realities of human experience, and the human desire for artistic or supernatural stories, is a medium of significant value towards a cultural awareness resurgence which would do the public much good. 

Offering people the opportunity to explore their heritage in a personalised manner and open their eyes to the broader traditions of our country is just one of the many goals held by Irish nationalists. 

Political beliefs are informed by a nation’s history and heritage, and in the current climate, the Irish people seem asleep at the wheel as of the depth to both we have in Ireland, hence why folklore ought to be considered a prime cultural avenue for reconnecting Irish people with their roots.

Posted by James Fitzgerald


  1. Triggernometry 06/08/2023 at 8:51 pm

    The powers that be, politicians who don’t have any real power, and media mouthpieces have seen to it, to cut us from our rich cultural historical roots of our ancestors, now it is love island, and bullshit. Fuck life.

    They did this, most public conversations revolve around facebook, what they saw on tiktok or twitter, how vacuous and sad. We no longer know ourselves, all the while our culutre and people are being diluted against our will. Young people with a career future, being ripped from our country and headhunted by places like Dubai, and I do not blame them by the way, it is what any SANE country would do.

    There is no greater sadness than being disinherited from our country. We are still the custodians of this, and we should act like it.


  2. Ivaus@thetricolour 07/08/2023 at 4:23 pm

    A beautiful lost Culture,just like Our beautiful lost fishing grounds. Six times
    the land mass of Ireland and the largest fishing grounds in all of Europe.
    No thanks to the Green Gombeen Noddy Ryan who destroyed what remaining
    fishing ground quotas and livelihoods at the behest of Foreign Commercial
    Europeanised Scavenging attracting as far away as Chinese opportunism.
    The Final Appreciation to Irish Fishing Folklore and Culture is compliments
    of the Dail Delinquency who are enthusiastically handing it over to it’s EU
    Master of Masters NATO…and its UN smiles on. A sorry bunch of wankers.


  3. Triggernometry 07/08/2023 at 4:40 pm

    Anglo originated globalism truly is a curse on our land, we need to realise the roots of all this and how far it has come with the takeover of zionist bankers, house of saud, the chinese, EU, NATO, WHO ,WEF and so on, davos meetings?

    What’s more there is no opposing group of rich billionaires to take on these trillionaries, they are heavily indebeted to them , borrowing off them. If you are not tied up with them, they will bring you to a meeting and hook you in. You cannot be a threat to their comfy system of eating up and destroying the planet.

    In famine times, the fish was our saving grace, now we don’t even have that – or food security, concrete over everything for newcomers from far flung off places and you will have no farmland left to grow viable amounts of food for a growing, bursting at the seams population.

    While the English jealously shipped our grains, fruits and other foods out of the country – we were left with a rotten potatoe, lots of horrific things happened they even tried to stop us fishing for food to sustain ourselves, it was all we had left, the fish saved us, and look at what we are letting these globalist barons do to us??


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