Updated Post: Irish Halloween Blessing

Pumpkins at the Botanical Gardens in Dublin. A few weeks before Halloween
William Murphy, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We know and love Halloween as a fun loving time of year. In my neighborhood, here in Florida, the adults play a game called “I’ve been boo’ed”. You create a bag of Halloween treats and then secretly place it a neighbor’s door. Then the neighbor creates a treat bag and passes it along. And so the game goes until the entire neighborhood has been boo’ed.

But do you know that Halloween traditions originated in Ireland? And most of them were created as an answer to preparing for the harsh winter season the unexplainable. In the blessing below, goblins, spirits, and overall scary characters are named.– but you wouldn’t want to encounter any of them. For example, the Will o’ The Wisp was believed to be a eerie, ghostly light covering the marshes at night, all meant to mislead you in your travels.

The Jack O’ Lantern that we know as a cheerful, smiling pumpkin is derived from a story about a trickster named Jack who couldn’t die. Even the devil wouldn’t take him. So, Jack roamed Ireland playing tricks and being overall disagreeable. People carved turnips and placed them in the window to ward off strangers or evil people like Jack.

Culture Vannin, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

And so, here’s the Halloween blessing again in 2022. And, if you do encounter the Puca, may it be good luck. Happy haunting, my friends.

At all Hallow's Tide,
May God keep you safe
From goblin and pooka and
Black-hearted stranger,
From harm of the water 
And Hurt of the fire,
From thorn of the Bramble,
From all other danger,
From Will O' The Wisp
Haunting the mire;
From stumbles and tumbles 
And tricksters to vex you ,
May God in His mercy
This week protect you.

Celtic Pooka

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The Month’s Mind

The “month’s mind” is a tradition still practiced in Ireland. Basically, when a loved one has passed, a requiem Mass is celebrated one month after the passing. And, the family usually gathers together after the Mass for tea and words of remembrance for the loved one.

I, for one, love this idea of family coming together to remember and celebrate the “one who is no longer with us”. And, I don’t believe we have to wait for someone to pass away to celebrate them when they are not with us. For example, in my Star O’Brien series, Maggie O’Malley always lights three candles whenever she is in a church. She tells Star that the third candle is for the “one who is not with us”.

My County Mayo born mother passed away in August at the age of 92. Although we live in the United States, I recall that my mom had a Mass said for my father thirty days after he passed away. The house was filled with family and friends of my parents, enjoying a meal and a drink in his memory. And, in August when my mother passed away, her nephews, nieces, and cousins in County Mayo had a Mass said in her memory. And, with today’s technology, my brothers and I, here in the US, were able to join in the celebration using Church TV. The Reverend Chas Guthrie celebrated the Mass in the parish where my mother attended church with her parents when she was a child. And, something that Father Chas said during his sermon has stayed with me, “…with memories we have roses in December”.

In our hectic world and life, it can be so easy to forget those who came before us. I guess that’s why I like this tradition of the month’s mind — to not forget, to hold their memory close to our hearts. And, to celebrate our loved one’s life. I know I am so proud of my parents and the life they created for me. And, if God allows, I will always have roses in December.

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Crow and the Origami Butterfly

When the universe sends you a barista named Crow and a yellow butterfly. This is the story behind the beautiful yellow Origami butterfly pictured below. Yesterday, I was tired, sad, and on my way to visit my mom (who is in rehab due to a broken hip). It’s been a tough time for her.

Just before I got into my car, a friend suggested I go get a coffee, a sweet, and take some time to center myself. So, I stopped at a Starbucks in Leesburg, Florida. And ordered a tall Pike. What happened next seemed to be just what I needed.

Picture taken inside Leesburg Starbucks. There is a yellow Origami owl sitting on my handbag.
Yellow Origami Owl

While I waited, at the counter, for my order, one of the baristas walked up to me with the yellow butterfly in her hand. “Here,” she said, “it’s an Origami butterfly. I make them all the time.”

“Thank you, I really needed this today,” I replied. Then, I took my coffee and my butterfly over to a table where I propped the yellow paper art on my bag and took the picture. But that wasn’t the only kindness to occur.

While I was contemplating the butterfly, drinking my coffee, and steeling myself to visit my mom. The barista walked over to my table and said, “I’m on my way home, but if you like, I can teach you how to make an Origami butterfly.”

I explained that I had an appointment to keep and thanked her. That’s when I asked her name. “Crow,” she replied. And, with that she left.

Crow and the Origami butterfly provided a brief moment of wonder and joy. I finished my coffee, gently carried the butterfly to my car, and went to bring some joy to my mom.

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The Lock Nut Key

I’d never heard of a lock nut key until a few weeks ago when I was in County Mayo, Ireland. I inadvertently drove my rental car over a large tuft of grass, which sat in the middle of a country lane. Unbeknownst to me there was a large stone, most probably knocked from a stone wall by a farmer’s tractor, lurking under the seemingly innocent ball of grass. Bam! Shredded front tire.

I immediately rolled the car to the side of the road and wondered what I’d do next. I didn’t think my Florida American Automobile Association card would work here. Luckily, a farmer came along who gave me a lift home. Long story short, a tow truck came the next morning and took the car to a local garage for the tire repair. But, like all good mystery stories the saga didn’t end there.

No! The rental car did not have a lock nut key so the garage wasn’t immediately able to repair the tire until they contacted another garage that had a master set of lock nut keys. It pays to have friends in rival businesses.

Finally, a happy ending. I had my car back in time to go for a coffee with my kind cousin who picked me up and took me to the garage when the car was mended. But all of this excitement came at a time during my trip when I’d just learned of issues at home. My mom fell and broke her hip; my partner came down with covid and suffered a fall which ended in a trip to the emergency room. And, here was I thinking I needed to abandon my trip and return home wehn the lock nut key incident occurred.

When you are a mystery author, everything means something. Take the lock nut key, for instance. Without it and the quick thinking of the garage crew, I might have been stuck for days without a rental car to get around. By the way, every lock nut key has a unique pattern which is meant to provide security to the vehicle owner. So, what did this incident mean to me? I had to take a deep breath. I had to stay in place. I couldn’t just respond to the emergencies at home. I had to trust that family members and friends on this side of the Atlantic would handle the situations. I had to let go. I had to practice some discernment and know that I cannot do it all.

So, in the end, a grass covered stone and the lock nut key might just have taught me to live in the moment. And, oh, one other lesson: always check your rental car for the lock nut key.

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County Mayo – The Heather County

Another Name for County Mayo

County Mayo is often called the Heather County. Ling heather can be found in abundance throughout Mayo’s bogs especially in the bog of Céide Fields and in the Ballycroy National Park at the foot of the Nephin Mountain.

Pamela Norrington / Summit of Nephin https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Did you know that heather comes in colors other than purple?

In addition to purple, heather may be found in white and pink. My favorite is the purple heather that I see whenever I ride along the narrow, regional road 310 from Castlebar towards Pontoon Bridge. As you draw near to Pontoon, there is a turnoff to the right which will take you through Parke and then to Turlough. My maternal grandmother, Maria Nolan Hughes, was born in Turlough. And, according my mom, Maria loved the heather which grows wild across the stone and rocky, boggy ground in that area.

Courage, strength, and heather

The purple ling heather is thought to represent beauty and strength. Strength means so much to me in the last few years. Not physical strength but the spiritual and moral strength to care for those in my family who needs caring.

Two years ago, my mother took the Claddagh ring from her finger that her mother had given to her when my mom left County Mayo at the age of 17 and presented the ring to me. My mom said “when I left Ireland my mother told me to have courage and strength. And now I am giving this to you and always remember courage and strength.” That ring had been my grandmother’s wedding ring (made one of her brothers).

I have always loved heather and purple. Funny, I loved that color and plant long before I knew it was a favorite of my grandmother’s (whom I never met). I love the color but I also love heather’s strength: its ability to survive in the wild surrounded by craggy rocks and boggy desolation. So, I take my grandmother’s and mother’s words to heart and try to remember each day, during the caring, that courage and strength is my legacy.

Photo by Martha Geaney – Bit of heather on the road between Parke and Turlough, County Mayo

Thank you so much for reading my blog post today. Please use the buttons below to share with your friends. If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter with stories and updates about the Star O’Brien County Mayo mysteries. Here’s the link: https://www.subscribepage.com/marthageaney

Thank you so much for reading my blog post today. Please use the buttons below to share with your friends. If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter with stories and updates about the Star O’Brien County Mayo mysteries. Here’s the link: https://www.subscribepage.com/marthageaney