Irish beekeeper's Covid Lego Beehive is fully functional, and houses 30,000 bees

Ruairi O Leocháin of Athlone Wildlife Apiaries decided to make a lego beehive "just for a bit of craic"

A beekeeper in Ireland put their coronavirus quarantine time to good use by crafting an elaborate, fully functioning beehive out of LEGOs. Read the rest

Irish repay a 170-year-old favor to Native Americans affected by COVID-19

My Irish ancestors all came to America between 1847 and 1849 — during the time of An Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger, when the British Empire hoarded all the food they were producing on colonized Irish land and left the native people with nothing but diseased potatoes to survive. This plight resonated with the Choctaw Nation, who lived in and around modern-day Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and of course had had their own experiences with a systematic genocide at the hands of a land-greedy colonizing force just a decade earlier. So the Choctaw rallied their resources, and sent $170 over the Atlantic to the starving people in Ireland — the equivalent of either $5,000 or $20,000 dollars today, depending on your calculations.

To commemorate this generous act, a statue was erected in Midleton, County Cork in 2017.

But solidarity is even better than a statue. Which is why, as Native Americans have disproportionately suffered from the impacts of COVID-19, Irish people rallied to the cause, raising more than a million dollars for the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund on GoFundMe in just a few days. The effort was largely spearheaded — or at least publicized — by Irish journalist Naomi O'Leary, who also spoke about the historical relationship and the legacy of colonialism on the Irish Passport podcast:

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Sheep farmer in Dublin gives himself haircut in COVID-19 lockdown the Irish way

“Lighten the load.” Read the rest

Elf-shooting is a disease from which cows suffer.

From a 1938 school book transcribed by the Dúchas Project, the digital archives of the National Folklore Project at UC Dublin:

Elf-shooting is a disease from which cows suffer. They are supposed to have been hit by a piece of flint thrown by a fairy.

The cow lies down moaning. Her eyes get swollen and water runs from her mouth.

A person who has the cure for "Elf shooting" is sent for. He proceeds to make the cure. He first measure her from the tail to between the horns using his arm from the elbow to tips of his fingers as a measure. He then cuts the tops of her horns and pieces from her cleats. He takes a sod from the roof of the byre, he lights it and when burning well it is passed three times round the cow's body. Then the pieces of horns and cleats with some hair from the cow are burned under her head the smoke going round her head. Soon she begins to get lively and in a short time is able to take a drink. Then she is all-right.

Seems legitimate. Gotta watch out for those flying faery flints.

Elf-Shooting [Urbal Scoil / Dúchas Project]

Image: Public Domain via Pexels Read the rest

A free short story about Irish history to read while you're quarantined over St. Patrick's Day

I wrote An Baile na mBan: a story of mothers, monsters, and war a few years ago for an anthology called Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. Originally published by Crossed Genres Publishing, the anthology focused on sci-fi/fantasy stories of adolescent protagonists from historically marginalized communities from before the 1920s. This story was loosely inspired by the tragic discovery of a mass grave at an Irish nunnery for single mothers, and thus involves pretty much all of the horrible things that might relate to that:

Set during the Irish War of Independence, An Baile na mBan tells the story of 16-year-old Caoimhe, a Traveller girl who has been paying off her debts to the Catholic Church by working at the nunnery that took her in while she was with child—and by stealing their supplies and selling them on streets. When one of her black market customers takes an interest in Aisling, the young Protestant girl who recently arrived at the home, he offers Caoimhe a chance to reunite with her daughter in exchange for a favor. But the club-footed man isn't all that he seems, and neither are his plans for Aisling's child. Or his stake in the war that rages through the land.

In case you aren't familiar with Travellers, they're a distinct ethnic group in Ireland, with their own language and culture that goes back hundreds of years. Unfortunately, they still deal with a lot of discrimination today, because the ladder of oppression is always ugly and complicated. Read the rest

The Irish language has the best weird translations of common animal names

There's a popular saying in the Gaeilgeoir, or Irish Speaker, community: "Is fearr linn Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla cliste," which basically means "Broken Irish is better than clever English."

I'm American, but I heard this refrain many times when I had the privilege of curating an Irish language Twitter account one week. I was nervous, as I've been learning the language as a casual hobby over the last few years. But the native speakers were remarkably encouraging—they were just happy to use the language at all, and to share its musicality with others. (I think the language is having a bit of a renaissance right now, as people in their 20s-40s feel a longing for a cultural connection that their Boomer parents neglected in their eagerness to assimilate).

This is all to say that: I can assure you that these Irish translations of common animal names are absolutely real. And while they're not broken Irish, they're still far more clever than anything our bastard mutt English tongue could ever come up with:

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This isn't like in English, where we giggle about "titmice" and "cocks" because of the unintended double entendre. "Cíoch" is actually breast. "Bod" is in fact a penis. These are pretty literal translations; no hidden suggestive meanings about it. Read the rest

Examining the generational loss of ancient Halloween traditions

Halloween, like many modern American holidays, is a kind of mashup of different cultural traditional traditions rooted in the autumnal harvest, and some kind of celebration or connection with the spirit world. You see it in Mexico with Dia de los Muertos; and in pre-Christian Ireland, it was Oíche Shamhna ("Shamna" being the genitive form of "Samhain," which is pronounced kind of like "SOW-un," and actually just means "November").

An episode of The Irish Passport podcast takes a close look at the roots of those Gaelic traditions, and the kind of generation loss that happened when it was exported to the United States, and then re-imported back to Ireland. The result is kind of fun-house-mirror reflection of itself—modern Irish imitating a mutated American imitation of older Irish traditions. You'll also get to learn a bit about how the faeryfolk in Ireland, the Aos Sídhe, still play an active role in modern real estate development in the Republic (yes really).

Just below the surface of modern Ireland, a parallel world exists with its roots in pre-Christian belief. Irish fairies aren’t like Tinkerbell—they’re more like a supernatural mafia. So be careful what you say, because as the story goes, they’re probably listening. Tim talks to one of Ireland’s last seanchaí or story-teller historians, who once managed to get a highway diverted to prevent the felling of a fairy bush. We also hear about modern traditions from the streets of Galway as the Celtic New Year Samhain festival is underway.

You can download the mp3, or find the episode on iTunes/Stitcher/Google Play/Spotify/etc. Read the rest

The colonialism behind fantasy's vaguely Irish Elves

Motherfoclóir is a delightful podcast about language and linguistics as they relate to Ireland ("foclóir" being the Irish word for "dictionary," and thus completely unrelated to that homophonic English-language word you're surely thinking of, c'mon). While that might seem like a niche topic outside of the Emerald Isle herself, a recent episode tackled something that's surely on everyone's mind: those fantastical pointy-eared aristocrats known only as elves.

Specifically, it's a conversation with Irish writer Orla Ní Dhúill, whose blog about elves, Irishness, and colonialism gained a lot of traction among fantasy fans across the globe.

Growing up as a nerdy Irish-American kid, I always understood there to be something vaguely Gael-ish about elves. Even though I didn't know why. Even though I knew it didn't make sense. Even though I knew that Tolkien himself was not particularly fond of the Irish (the language, at least, if not the people). Was it because they used an cló gaelach, the insular font so often associated with Irish Gaelic? Even in my later adolescence, as I wasted my measly weekend job wages on Warhammer 40K, I couldn't help but notice the inherent Irishness in the names and terms of the mystical Eldar alien race who are basically space elves anyway (spoiler: it turns out the Eldar language is, in fact, mostly just bastardized lines from Irish Gaelic proverbs).

The podcast episode is full of insightful exchanges on language and colonialism between Ní Dhúill and host Peader Kavanagh. You can listen below, or on your preferred podcasting platform. Read the rest

Irish slave myths debunked

White supremacists (and vaguely racist uncles on Facebook) occasionally pipe up with the idea that the Irish were, effectively, held as slaves in America. Though often subject to indenture and other forms of brutal labor conditions, the slavery claim is nonsense, writes Liam Hogan.

It's one of those things that half-innocently surfaces in the media over and over again, though, because it looks like a strange fact, invites "curiosity gap" propagation, and offers the bittersweet pleasure of adversity oneupmanship. Particularly interesting are the images used to provide an illusion of truth. Above, a photo of some Texan farm kids commonly described as depicting Irish slaves. Read the rest