Monday, 21 June 2010

Irish Superstitions by Dáithí Ó hÓgáin

Just a quick one, before I get stuck into the meatier books in the pile...

Irish Superstitions
Dáithí Ó hÓgáin

This is a nice wee introduction to some of the superstitions and customs of Ireland. It's short enough that I managed to get through it in one sitting, in not much more than an hour, so it's a quick and easy read that doesn't tax the brain too much.

There's maybe nothing completely earthshattering or dazzling to be found here, but there were some bits that piqued my interest, mainly Ó hÓgáin's reference to the sacred trees of Ireland (bile) and how there was the belief that the sky was a 'roof' supported by four columns in various parts of the uncharted world. He suggests a connection between these posts, which stood in uncharted territory and the bile, which gives some food for thought. The slight problem is that he never gives any references, so it's going to be hard for me to follow up. Hmph.

In spite of the lack of references, most of the ground that's covered is easily recognisable from other places, so over all I would say it's fairly reliable, with the usual amount of caution applied. It was nice to see references to many of the superstitions my nan (whose parents were Irish) and my dad observe - many of which I picked up, too, being raised in an extremely superstitious family. But I digress...

Ó hÓgáin covers superstitions of various times, places, and stages of life, so there's a bit of everything here. That means there isn't much detail, but it could be a good place for a beginner to start getting a very basic idea of things, and seeing as I picked up a copy for a penny, it's probably easier and cheaper to get hold of than Séan Ó Súillebháin's Irish Folk Custom and Belief (which I still think is one of the best books for beginners out there).

For me, there wasn't much new in it, but the writing is engaging and the layout makes it a good book for flicking through for a quick reference or two, and I think it will come in handy in future. Definitely one for the bookshelf.