Everyone has heard of fairies, of creatures with supernatural powers to curse, to bless, to find gold, or to cause mischief. Literature and art is full of them from Shakespeare to contemporary artists Amy Brown or Jasmine Beckett-Griffith. Western culture, especially in the US, is bred on Disney’s Tinker Bell, children’s books of flower fairies from Victorian artists, and grim tales of the darker side of these Fae folk.
A more Christianized origin of these creatures claim they are angels which fell to Earth before humans resided there. They live beneath the waves or gardens, and while some are evil, others can be helpful as long as they are treated with respect.
While many modern legends show the fairies to be sweet, kind, magical creatures, this is really a Victorian creation. The traditional views in Ireland and Scotland show the Sídhe to be mischievous to the point of cruelty a force to be reckoned with. They are not sought out by the wise. In fact, most of the herb and spell lore of an almost forgotten era is meant to instruct how to keep you from coming to the Folks’ attention.
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My husband and I found the Irish people to be friendly and welcoming. Ms Nicholas had the same experience. Warning: beware when they tell you someplace is just "a wee stretch of the legs" down the road.
But the author shared wonderful stories of her various trips and the delightful people she encountered. This section alone is worth the price of the book!
One can't discuss Ireland without mentioning music. Ah, the Irish must each be a gifted musician. And she isn't talking "River Dance." No, she means the genuine folk music and dance found throughout the country. Just reading this section brought back happy memories for me.
Photo Opportunities: I'll let you read this section yourself. All I can say is you'll be taking hundreds of photos. This is the greenest, loveliest place on earth.
The author covers foods very well. Traditionally, Irish fare was plain. After all, this country suffered many famines and the population learned to get by on little. An influx of tourists coupled with culinary schools has produced diversity in foods. My husband and I were well fed there. We found it interesting that more than one type potato dish is served at dinner and also that carrots combined with parsnips is ever present. We happen to like them, so that's fine with us. One thing I had to avoid is the black and white "pudding" sausages. I tried them. Blech!
Ms Nicholas offers practical suggestions for traveling without struggling. She also gives insight into the "hidden" or less traveled sites. These are the places that you won't see on a standard tour--the very places my husband and I long to see.
I loved this gem of a travel guide. I highly recommend it to anyone planning a trip to Ireland. In fact, if like most Americans, you are of Irish ancestry, you'll enjoy reading IRELAND: MYTHICAL, MAGICAL, MYSTICAL.
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