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As the dawn kisses the Irish landscape out my window here in County Waterford – re-awakening the ancient spirits that dwell in the lakes, stones, trees and mountains – I always feel enveloped by the rich tapestry of Irish folklore that permeates the very land we walk on each day. 

It’s a living, breathing entity, this folklore; it ebbs and flows with the rivers, it dances with the wind through the leaves, resonating with tales and whispers that have shaped our ancestral lineage for generations.

Here, in the mystical land where the boundary between the worlds is tantalisingly and often frighteningly thin… our folklore is not confined to the pages of old, dusty books. 

No, it lives in the wit of our children and grandchildren, in the sparkle of community conversations, and even in the murmurs of the forests where the spirits may still roam. This richness, dear reader, isn’t just a collection of tales; it’s a vibrant, undying connection to a heritage that pulses in our veins, a legacy that imbues our very existence with depth and meaning.

Old though folklore be in its origins, it is nevertheless a living thing. It is continually changing and developing at a slow rate by incorporating new ideas – sometimes several centuries after they have been generally accepted by others. Such innovations are welcomed by the folk mind only if they are in a kind of harmony with what is already there.

– Seán Ó Súilleabháin, Nósanna agus Piseoga na nGael (Irish Folk Custom and Belief), 1967.

As we begin this journey together, let’s tread softly, for we walk on the grounds where heroes once roamed, where Seanchaí spun tales by open fires until the break of dawn, where the Old Gods themselves graced us with their presence. 

Each tale, each tradition, holds a world of its own, filled with wisdom, magic, and a profound understanding of the intricate dance between the human and the divine, between our world and the Other.

And so, with hearts open to the mysteries that await, let’s delve together into the boundless richness of Irish folklore. Through this guide, we aspire to reconnect our students – our Tuath (community) – with the ancient threads that weave through our history, our culture, and our very souls. 

Together, we get to explore the timeless narratives, the legendary tales, and the vibrant folk traditions that make the Irish spirit a beacon of depth, authenticity, and enchanting complexity in a modern world.

So, I invite you to settle in, maybe with a warmed cup of something pleasant close by, as we journey through time and space, rediscovering the roots that ground us and the wings that let our spirits soar in the embracing land of our sovereign mother, Ireland.

Irish Folklore Resources

Introduction and Overview

These two are not Irish, specifically, but provide an absolutely invaluable introduction to the study and practice of Folklore and Fairytales or Fairy Lore.

Folklore 101: An Accessible Introduction to Folklore Studies, by Jeana Jorgensen 

Back Cover: “When’s the last time you got to pick a folklorist’s brain? Did you know memes count as folklore? Or that folklorists assign numbers to fairy tales to keep track of them all? The field of folklore studies is over two centuries old, and it’s full of amazing insights about human behavior, creativity, and community. Folklore studies is as interdisciplinary as it gets, squished somewhere between anthropology and linguistics and religious studies and comparative literature and more. It’s all about the informal human interactions, the million tiny acts and stories and beliefs and arts that function as social glue even if they seem beneath notice. Do traditional holiday foods have a deeper meaning? Yep. Same with folk music, ballads, proverbs, jokes, urban legends, body art, and a ton more genres covered in this book. Is the whole book as easy to read and irreverent as this description? Yep. This fun, accessible guide to the academic study of folklore packs in a college class’s worth of material, from basic concepts and major folklore genres to special topics based on identity, fancy theories, and more.”

Buy Folklore 101 Here

Fairy Tales 101: An Accessible Introduction to Fairy Tales, by Jeana Jorgensen

Back Cover: “What exactly are fairy tales and how did they get their name? Have you ever wondered what fairy tales were like before Walt Disney got his hands on them? And who the heck are these Grimm brothers? Fairy Tales 101 is your one-stop shop for these answers and more, giving you all the dirt on the people who have shaped fairy-tale history and exploring the many ways fairy tales have shape-shifted their way into literature and pop culture. This book also prepares you to think like a fairy-tale scholar by examining how tales are transmitted, by whom, and why. Whether you’re a scholar aspiring to join the fairy-tale conversation, a writer or an artist who uses fairy tales in their work, or simply a general fan of fairy tales, this is the book for you. In addition to the twenty-two essays explaining basic fairy-tale concepts, methods, and theories, there are also valuable guides and resources on both classic and adapted fairy-tale works to further your studies. Looking beyond how fairy tales are utterly wrapped in magic and fantasy, we can see that fairy tales have always and ever been about us: our views about gender, our fantasies about being happy, and our deeply held notions about who deservers power. Far from being just for kids, fairy tales offer clues into the deepest underpinnings of society, and this book gives you the tools to explore fairy tales to the fullest so you, too, can live happily ever after.”

Buy Fairy Tales 101 Here

Irish Folklore Stories (& Irish Mythology)

Tales of Old Ireland Retold: Ancient Irish Stories Retold for Today (Irish Folklore Series), by Lora O’Brien

Back Cover: “In Ireland, we have a wealth of old myths, legends, fairy tales and folk stories, which are presented here in an easy to read, authentic Irish storyteller’s voice – retold for modern times. Our Tales of Old Ireland reach from the heroic warriors Fionn and the Fianna, to the curse of a Goddess, to an on-going battle of wits between the Connacht Queen Medb (Maeve) and her rival the King of Ulster. You’ll see shape shifting sisters, fairy folk you’ll want to watch out for, fights with monsters, and wise old women helping young maids.”

Buy Tales of Old Ireland Retold Here

Seasons and Cycles

Irish Customs and Rituals: How Our Ancestors Celebrated Life and the Seasons, by Marion McGarry 

Back Cover: “Do you know what a Brideóg is? Why are lone hawthorns unlucky? What does it mean to ‘drown the shamrock’? From the author of The Irish Cottage comes a new book, exploring old Irish customs and beliefs. Chapters focus on the quarter-day festivities that marked the commencement of each season: ‘Spring: Imbolc’; ‘Summer: Bealtaine’; ‘Autumn: Lughnasa’ and ‘Winter: Samhain’, and also major life events — ‘Births, Marriages and Death Customs’ — and general beliefs in ‘Spirituality and Well-Being’ and ‘The Supernatural’. Focusing on the period from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, Irish Customs and Rituals discusses a time during which many of the practices and beliefs in question went into decline. Many of these customs were rooted in residual pre-Christian beliefs that ran parallel to, and in spite of, conventional religion practised in the country. Some customs were so deep-rooted that despite continued disapproval from the Roman Catholic Church they remain with us today. It is wonderful to see so many traditions still with us, as many are worthwhile remembering, commemorating, or even reviving today. Irish Customs and Rituals will appeal to all those with an interest in Irish history, folklore, culture and social history.”

Buy Irish Customs and Rituals Here

Best of the Rest in Irish Folklore

A Handbook of Irish Folklore (Scríbhinní Béaloidis/ Folklore Studies 22), by Seán Ó Súilleabháín 

NOTE – This one is details how folklore is collected, the type of topics being studied, etc. rather than being a collection of stories itself.

Back Cover: “The National Folklore Collection University College Dublin owes its structure and organisation to A Handbook of Irish Folklore. This was first published in 1942 and is regarded as the essential vade mecum for field collectors in Irish Folklore. Its compiler, Seán Ó Súilleabháin, was archivist with the former Irish Folklore Commission from 1935. Seán Ó Súilleabháin undertook his archival training in Sweden and he based his Handbook on the Swedish system. The breadth of material covers all aspects of life from material culture to custom and belief and oral narrative. This is the first e-publication of Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éireann: The Folklore of Ireland Council and it is proud to offer this book, which has long been out of print. Explore the richness of Ireland from a traditional aspect and experience the variety that contributes to the world of folklore.”

Buy A Handbook of Irish Folklore Here

Irish Customs And Beliefs: Gentle places, simple things, by Kevin Danaher

Back Cover: “This is a book of stories and beliefs of all kinds of things to do with old Ireland: highwaymen and travelling people, the Irish whiteboys, lost and hidden treasures. Beliefs associated with birds, insects, animals, plants, bushes, trees and stones, dwarfs and fabulous water monsters, ghosts, witches, castles and drowned cities.”

Buy Irish Customs And Beliefs Here

The Lore of Ireland: An Encyclopaedia of Myth, Legend and Romance, by Dáithí Ó hÓgáin

Back Cover: “The definitive reference book on Ireland’s cultural and religious heritage. Ireland has one of the finest cultural heritages and a standard reference book combining the related subjects of folklore, myth, legend and romance is long overdue. There are 350 substantial entries, in alphabetical order from Abán, a 6th-century saint, to Weather, all with full references to sources, a synopsis of relevant stories, and discussion of their origin, nature and development. These are complimented by a genre-list of material under various headings, such as Mythical Lore, Fianna Cycle, Ulster Cycle, King Cycles, Peoples and Traditions, Religious Lore, and Folk Custom and Belief. There is also a wealth of genealogical detail, indicating how historical and social circumstances have influenced the growth and spread of Irish lore. DAITHI O HOGAIN, Associate Professor of Irish Folklore at University College Dublin, was an international authority on folklore and traditional literature.”

Buy The Lore of Ireland Here

Beside the Fire: A Collection of Irish Gaelic Folk Stories, by Douglas Hyde 

Back Cover: “one of the most important collections of Irish Gaelic Folk Stories and was presented by Douglas Hyde in 1910. The 15 tales reflect the roots and beliefs that originated Irish culture.”

Buy Beside the Fire Here

A New Dictionary of Fairies: A 21st Century Exploration of Celtic and Related Western European Fairies, by Morgan Daimler

Not Irish specific, but includes a lot of Irish material in an up-to-date compendium.

Back Cover: “Fairies are a challenging subject, intertwining culture, folklore, and anecdotal accounts across centuries and millennia. Focusing primarily on the Celtic speaking cultures, with some material from adjacent cultures including Anglo-Saxon and Norse, A New Dictionary of Fairies has in-depth entries on a variety of fairies as well as subjects related to them, such as why we picture elves with pointed ears or where the idea of fairies being invisible comes from. It also tackles more complicated topics like the nature and physicality of the fairy people. Anyone with an interest in the Good Neighbours will find this book a solid resource to draw from.”

Buy A New Dictionary of Fairies Here

Folklore is a link with the past in a deeper sense than are old records or archaeological remains. It leads us… not to the bare skeleton of what was once alive but to the innermost mind of mankind. It has preserved many elements whose origins must be sought in remote antiquity.

– Seán Ó Súilleabháin, Nósanna agus Piseoga na nGael (Irish Folk Custom and Belief), 1967.

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