Tash, Thevshi, or more commonly know as ghosts, live in a transitional state between this life and their next. They are held to this life by emotions, loving, longing, and revenge. They can hold themselves to this existence or might be held by the sorrow of another. Irish Folklore is ripe with sightings of ghosts and stories shared about their journeys and the truth behind their unrest.
I used to collect folktales as I was interested in the lore of a culture. It provides deep insight into the thoughts and fears of a culture. The reasonings and understandings of why the world is the way it is in song, lore and legend. My first realization of this was during my childhood.
My childhood was spent in North America, I am Canadian but my father’s work moved us around, I grew up with all the standard schoolyard songs, such as “Ring Around the Rosie.” Now as a kid, all it meant to me was we would hold hands, singing and pulling ourselves along, faster and faster, until my friends across the circle were blurs to my eyes, we all yelled out, “WE ALL FALL DOWN,” then we would release each others hands and fall out away from each other. Laying on the group, laughing, and our thoughts spun while were were light headed. It wasn’t until middle school I found out it was about the Great Plague in the 1700s.
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.Londonist
For morbid nursery rhymes to last that many centuries intact, with the original message in the lyrics, is fascinating and horrifying. The history we are taught at school changes based on what is considered most relevant, important in the current times, but the nursery rhymes still hold the warning of death.
And what will come after death? That was not a part of the song but there were plenty of ghost stories told at this time of year to provide me with some ideas. A soul could cause many a problem. wrong some rights, or punish those it felt responsible for its ending.
As an adult I enjoy ghost stories with less gore and more magic. A Treasuring of Irish Fairy and FolkTales includes a whole section dedicated to ghosts. My favourite, so far, is the poem “a dream” by William Allingham, an Irish writer and poet in the 1800s. It is written with the idea that when a soul leaves its body, it can be drawn away by the Fairies.
I only included the final verse here as I wrote out the full poem in the picture gallery at the top of the blog. It is a soft, clear, lovely poem of loss. The gentleness in which he writes of loss and the hope to see loved ones again remains true. Many religions believe their members will see their families in the afterlife so it is just one step further to be able to see them here once again. With the change of seasons and the end of harvest in the northern hemisphere, the veil weakening and allowing for the movement of ghosts or spirits makes sense.
With Halloween fast approaching, I look at the Celtic historical celebration of Samhain, transitioned into Hallowed Eve, and the modern Halloween, and appreciate how some traditions and songs stay the same, while others are altered to fit currently cultural expectations.
In our family we read ghost stories, watch movies, and eat Mexican food. It is not traditional Canadian Halloween, but we have lived in many places and have created our own tradition.
If you want to explore more stories from Ireland, check out A Treasury of Irish Fairy and Folktales.
So Happy Halloween and Samhain this weekend! May the veil thin and you see your loved ones.
If you would like more information on some of the cultural expectations of October 31st, I suggest you check out the History Channel or the Day of the Dead website.
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