'Neither make nor break a custom'
‘Neither make nor break a custom,’ as the saying goes, and I’m sticking to that advice this new year as I sit here now preparing a course (as I did this time last year, I suppose). This is no ordinary course, however, but a new course with Gaelchultúr. It is targeted at people who are fluent in Irish and who would like to learn more about the culture of this country. To be precise, this is a course which will explore customs relating to the calendar and the way in which the Gaels marked particular times and occasions throughout the year.
It’s the beginning of January and I’ve bid farewell to the customs associated with the new year and with New Year’s Day (customs with which you can acquaint yourself by signing up here Folklore: Festivals, Traditions and Superstitions). I’m thinking ahead now as I contemplate Saint Swithin’s Day. What day of the year is this? It falls on 15 July and it has been said that there will be forty days of torrential rain if a single drop falls on this day. Of course, even in Ireland forty days of rain without respite would be more than we’d wish for! And so, is it any wonder that there was a charm, or piece of magic, called an ortha to stave off the rain on this day? It’s no wonder at all! And if you too would like to repel the rain from now on, you can learn this charm by doing the course.
As we know, the Gaelic calendar comprises numerous events and associated customs and beliefs. The next one that lies before us is St Brigid's Day and it’s quite likely that all of us sat down at some time to make a cross. But do you know the refrains that used to be recited? Are you familiar with the prophecies of Colm Cille or the stories about the fight between Saint Patrick and the Devil? What do you know about Oíche Fhéile Eoin (St John’s Eve), Lúnasa or Samhain?
In this course, you can learn about these festivals and improve your Irish by reading and listening to texts and recordings from the finest raconteurs of old. You will have the opportunity to converse with others in the class and enhance your vocabulary and grammar skills.
‘Neither make nor break a custom,’ as the saying goes, but it’s January and we are advised to make a resolution at this time of year. My own resolution is to design an interesting and engaging course about the folklore of this country. May your own resolution be to join me on this brand-new course!
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