Thursday, October 29, 2015

Samhain Blessings - Happy Halloween!

When I came to the United States first I was surprised, and delighted, to discover that Halloween was such a popular holiday.  You see Halloween is originally an Irish pagan feast.  It travelled to the United States with our emigrants, in the 19th century, and has been adopted into American culture.
The original Irish Celtic festival was called “Samhain.”  It occurred at the end of autumn when crops had been harvested and animals were slaughtered to provide food for the winter.   It was, essentially, the end of the farming year.   In Celtic culture the 1st November was considered “New Year’s Day”.    So Halloween was their “New Year’s Eve”.
To celebrate “Samhain” the ancient Celts would light bonfires.  These were originally called “bone fires” and were used to incinerate the bones of the recently slaughtered farm animals.   They would also play games such as bobbing for apples, which is still very popular.  In addition they liked to carve vegetables.  The same tradition is still alive today with the carved pumpkin.  As there were no pumpkins in Ireland they used to carve turnips.    

The ancient Celts believed that, at the end of the year, the souls of people who had died that year would leave the earth and go to heaven.    It was part of their belief that these ghosts roamed freely that night before leaving.   In order to ward off any hauntings and provide sustenance for their journey, people would leave food and drink at their door for the departed spirits.   You will notice the origins of “trick-or-treat”.   
We Irish also bake a special cake which is only eaten at Halloween.  It’s called “Barmbrack” and it is used for fortune telling!   Certain small items are concealed in the cake, such as a ring, a rag, a coin or a small stick.   Google “barmbrack” and find out what these signify!

In 601 AD Pope Gregory The First, issued his famous edict.  He told his missionaries that, rather than try to obliterate native customs and beliefs, they should convert them into Christian feast days.   So, the 1st of November then became the Feast of All Saints.  It became a sacred or “hallowed” day.   But the Celts still gave significance to the day before, which was “the eve of All Hallows” and became known as Hallows E’en and then Halloween.    
So now you have the story of Halloween.  And, as the actor Michael Cain would say, “Not many people know that!”

Written by John Schűtte for Siggy Buckley, the honorary “Paddy".

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ghost Stories & a Bit of Irish History


"Our new home, the pink farmhouse in Co. Tipperary, didn’t have a resident ghost, but it was in a scary neighborhood. A little cottage, abandoned for donkey's years but not in disrepair, sat looming on a curve in the road that led up to our new farm. Sheila, who lived in the same townland, told me later that she saw Little People there sometimes when she came home late around midnight.
Maybe a case of too much of the brown stuff?
I had a sneaking suspicion that the Irish perpetuated this myth partly for the sake of tourists, to tell them what they like to hear. It’s a cliché that the Irish all have the gift of the gab anyway.
Ghost stories stand and fall with the trustworthiness of the person who vouches she knows it on good authority. And that, in Ireland, is usually the friend of a cousin once removed.
If you dig a bit deeper, research on haunted houses shows that they have something in common. Usually, a tragic death befell somebody in or around the house. And Ireland, with its almost 800-year long history of occupation and subjugation, is full of tragic stories. I came across a travelling psychic later whose mission it was to set the ghosts at ease, to send them home or lay them to rest. Marvelous. The interest in ghost lore, like in UFOs, never ceases.
Being skeptics, we just laughed Sheila off, until we heard about a real ghost story in our new home town.  
Leaving Killaloe, where we purchased our abode, on the road to Scarriff, there was a two-story stone house on the left hand side. In spite of the faded lace curtains, its dark windows gave the property an abandoned, foreboding look, while the huge front lawn was always meticulously mown and the landscaping simple but well kept. In front of the downstairs windows, several beautiful, truly blue hydrangeas had caught my eye while we were still hunting for a farm. I wondered whether the farm was for sale, because it was obviously empty. There was no estate agent’s sign, and I didn’t dare to walk up to the gloomy door and find out as it looked so uninviting, almost scary.
The farm buildings belonging to this house were across the road. A huge sycamore tree towered over everything at the roadside gate, and the tree trunk was protected by heavy steel bars. I wondered what the obviously expensive enclosure was about.
Pauline, my one-time housekeeper and later friend, who likes a good yarn but is generally reliable, told me about the drama behind this house. She is the grand-niece of the Irish freedom fighter and hero, Michael Collins, who was tragically shot and killed in 1922 in the Civil War following the War of Independence from Britain, just months before the creation of the Irish Free State. Pauline referred to him proudly by his nickname: The Big Fellow. A photo of him in his military fineries still hangs over her fireplace in the parlor ─ something she would never part with, neither for fear of death nor money!
In 1923, when Ireland was torn by a civil war, a family of five IRA supporters lived in this large farmhouse on the road to Scarriff. One dark night when all were in bed, there was terrible knocking of rifles on the door. It was the Black and Tans, the most feared and vicious British brigade, that all but terrorized local communities. Their primary task was to make Ireland hell for the rebels to live in. They meant business. Suspecting traitors in this house, they broke down the door and killed the whole family except for a nine-year-old boy who managed to scramble out during the bedlam. He stole away and hid across the road in a tall tree, which saved his life. As the only survivor, to this day, he takes care of house and lawn and protects the tree in memory of the tragedy that befell his family.

Is the house haunted? Yes, everybody knows that and well, what do you expect after so many killings? Could I talk to the owner? No, he is a bit funny in the head and has never been the same since. I drove by it regularly, and each time couldn’t help but remember the horror that raged in such a peaceful rural area."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Real Advice For The Newlywed to donate 10% of Royalties to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

AS MANY Of YOU KNOW, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). As our part in advancing the cause of DVAM, we would like to announce that for the remainder of the month of October, 10% of all my royalties from the sale of my book, Real Advice For The Newlywed currently on sale at will be donated to’s campaign to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

Some alarming facts:

·       Nearly one in four women in the U.S. reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.
·       On average, three women are killed every day as a result of domestic violence. More than 40 percent of female murder victims are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.
·       Data found that women experience over two million injuries from partner violence each year.
·       Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.

From first page to last, Real Advice For The Newlywed was written as a guide to help married couples navigate their way through the sometimes tempestuous strife and turmoil many couples encounter - including the threat of physical and emotional violence. There is one entire chapter devoted specifically on how to handle the threat of physical and mental cruelty.

If you haven’t yet purchased your copy of Real Advice For The Newlywed, for yourself or as a wedding gift to a couple you know, now is the time to do so before October ends. This is an important and vital effort to ensure the continuation of’s efforts to educate and eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault. Make it yours.

I invite you to share this with as many of your contacts as possible.

Watch’s recent video on YouTube:       

Samuel Murphy
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