Title: Cork Folk Tales
Writer: Kate Corkery
Publishing House: The History Press
Date of Publication: April 6th 2017
Rating: 5 stars
“At festivals such as Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain, people gathered at hilltop assemblies, lit fires and offered gifts to Donn, the Lord of the Dead, in the hope that, by observing these rituals, a welcome would await when their time came.”
Cork is one of the most famous counties of the Emerald Island and one of the most beautiful. Beauty is synonymous to Ireland but Cork provides breathtaking landscapes, full of variety and character. Said to have been founded by St Finbarr, Cork acquired a strategic role as a commercial and cultural centre when the Vikings expanded the territory after their invasions during the 10th century. It’s only natural that such a land will be “crowded” with myths and legends,stories of the Old Gods, stories of the coming of Christianity, fables of kings, princesses, wise women, brave people, fairies and banshees.
A man is punished because he has no stories to tell. A magic wave has trapped a royal family that continues the feast night after night, through the aeons to come. A mermaid curses a family.A bean feasa, Máire Ni Mhurchú, echoes Hannah Kent’s masterpiece “The Good People”. The horror of being buried alive during the Great Famine due to temporary asphyxia caused by starvation. Clever women defy the ones who try to bend them to their will, even the Devil himself.
Tales of Tuatha Dé Danann and the demonic Fomorian come alive.Manannán Mac Lir, the god of the sea, Balor the Evil one, Lugh, the sun god, Clíona, the goddess of Love and Beauty who wronged her sister Aoibheall because of a man, the legendary warriors of the Fianna, The Cailleach Bhéarra who symbolizes all aspects of the female soul. The saints of our religion, St Patrick, St Ciaran and St Finbarr, the patron saint of Cork.
This volume contains one of the most beautiful interactions of the series. Corkery has divided the stories in such a way so as to resemble a journey in the haunting nature of the county. My favourite part was the traditions and tales of Eibhlís De Barra and I was impressed by the fact that Corkery inserts information about the natural history and the locals within the stories. It was refreshing and I felt I was reading an excellent combination of Fiction and Non-Fiction, a travel account combined with a Folklore guide. Her voice is kind, clever, vivid and respectful. She allows the stories to shine and doesn’t force herself into the main role, which is more than can be said for other authors of the series. This is definitely a highlight. And now on to a new destination….
“Maybe we can’t outwit the hour of our death, but we can ensure that our stories live on after us.”