Being the start of Imbolc, the second season of the Irish calendar, and one of the greatest festivals of the year, I would have thought to find signs by every house and on every street. Yet the way I got to know of it was through a University module in Irish Folklore. Isn’t this fascinating? I came to Ireland as a non-tourist, hoping I could dive straight into the ocean of the authentic Irish spirit. To take part in the festivities, pray to St Brigid – the Goddess of light – and forge Celtic crosses. But things aren’t as easy as that, are they? One cannot simply merge with traditions that are hundreds or thousands of years old, nor get invited to Irish homes where families have had their traditions for many generations.
So learning something the academic way is what I have to settle with. My module allows me to stand on the side, to look at collected objects and to read stories that somebody was nice enough to turn into records. To analyse them from psychological and sociological, historical and ethnological, demographical and geographical angles and every other angle that has valid references. To hope that ‘Traditional Irish Breakfast’ doesn’t really mean ‘Traditional Irish Breakfast Tourist Edition’, and that I can sneak off-track during our arranged bus tours around the country.
‘Irish folklore’ is something to hold onto, my one portal into this lovely country. Though it is my belief that something pure and authentic goes missing when information is received this way. Intellectually, without sensations and feeling. Then, I wonder – how many families actually still honour St Brigid, also the Goddess of Fertility, on this beginning of spring feast: leaving objects out for her to bless, turning crosses into rushes, trying to have babies more than any other time in the calendar?