Welcome to the Halloween Archive
Samhain folklore and ghost stories
Key to our Celtic Calendar project saluting the seasons is Samhain when once again, the veil to the Otherworld is lifted. The end result is our Samhain Folklore playlist, which is a different structure to the earlier one. Here we’ve collated a series of pre-recorded pieces rather than edit them from a Facebook Live performance. We also went beyond Samhain to include general Irish death lore from the banshee to funeral customs.
We’ve audio clips from Dessie McCallion and some vintage audio set piece clips from the legendary combo of Mary Murphy and Séan McMahon. Added to that we’ve some new pieces from yours truly on Oweynagat and the Irish and death. It’s a playlist designed to cover the main aspects of this most sacred of cross-quarter days. Don’t forget, try the Spotify playlist complete with atmospheric music!
In Halloween 2008, master storyteller Bertie Bryce sat in his kitchen and did what he had done for decades before: telling stories that resonate. Though I’d just met Bertie, he was soon in full flow and not perturbed by the microphone recording him.
Bertie told a wide range of scary stories that night; from poltergeists to witches, fairies to some strange hauntings. The last story is 30 minutes long, but being told by the bard of Inch island, the time just flies by. Anyone who ever doubted the existence of ghosts should listen to Bertie tell his stories. Even when he is telling a story second hand, he makes it sound like every word spoken is the truth. The listener becomes fully absorbed with the often gory details. Yes, a true seanchaí we’re honoured to have recorded.
Myths, legends and superstitions
Ireland is awash with myths and legends. We’ve added in some weird and wonderful stories from Antrim, courtesy of the great Bob Curran, right down to Wexford. We recently recorded someone telling us about the Dobhar-chú and knew the story rang a bell. Lo and behold we had recorded another person telling a similarly scary story about the same creature. The difference was with a completely different pronunciation on the creature’s name!
Everywhere from the Otherworld to Roscommon’s Queen Meabh and her bull are included. We do have a lot more material we have to add here so bookmark this page and ensure you come back to it. Depending on your podcast platform, you can get alerts to tell you when we add new stories. Or if there are any myths or legends you wish to hear more about on the Halloween Archive, please let us know.
Ireland is awash with customs and superstitions – below are just a few of them. Everything from marriage customs to funeral customs are included here. Creepy bridges in Inishowen, the poet’s curse and customs from certain feast days are mentioned. It’s incredible to think that no matter how sophisticated we may think we are, we still salute the magpie or avoid walking under ladders. And we would never think of ever cutting down a fairy tree. The Chair of Leisure story illustrates the point nicely as you will hear.
There must be some grain of truth to these stories in the back of our minds. Who doesn’t love hearing them and getting that frisson of fear? Looking for some more colourful examples of customs and superstitions? Be sure to listen to our bawdy musical comedy The Twilight Court below.
Fairy lore and more
Next up in the Halloween Archive are creatures who go under many names. Known variously as the Sidhe, The Good Folk, The Wee Folk, The Fey, The Gentle People, and even The Other Crowd. Over the years, we have managed to collection our fair share of stories on fairies. The collection here is a patchwork quilt of tales. It comes from the likes of the great Eddie Lenihan to Bertie Bryce, Merrily Harper and Dessie McCallion. Séan and Mary also have some interesting set pieces on the fairies around Yeats Country in Sligo.
The fairies left an indelible mark on the landscape of Ireland. A collection of stories without them would be very remiss. Some of the Links from our sister page, Rambling House will get you more on them, especially The Fading Year. Another good source is David Halpin’s Circle Stories on Facebook who really does go the extra mile.
Roscommon does not have too many mountains. The one it has is hardly the most impressive – more of a hill really. However Sliabh Bán (pronounced “bawn’) is a place one should not underestimate. For what it lacks in topographical might, it more than makes up for in terms of its lore and mystique. On a rainy day in Luke Gibbon’s pub back in 2012, a storytellers gathered together. Mike de Jong, Henry Owens and poet Merrily Harpur told us a bit more about the locality. We heard about mysterious sightings of black cats, fairies and their spells, of missing gold and of ancient games and warriors.
A special word of thanks to this trio for such riveting storytelling. This is a trail aimed at the walkers and cyclists amongst you. We should say it is also aimed at those who are not of a nervous disposition!
Finally in the Halloween Archive, we have some real drama for you. There really is an awful lot of material regarding superstitions and customs in the folklore of Ireland. Like a good pint of stout, layers have been added over time to produce a rich national treasure trove. A while back, we devised a method to present as much information as possible that would be both fun and memorable.
The result was ‘The Twilight Court’. It’s a mock court trial under which superstition itself is on trial to be decided by the audience at the ‘court’. The question being asked is “is there any room in a modern age for superstitions?” It’s an evening of divilment where the weird and wonderful customs of Ireland are both saluted and derided. Listen here to the hour-long show, conveniently broken down by the five themes.
Top post artwork from ‘Ghosts I have been’ by Richard Peck.