The Fairy Folklore of the Wicklow Mountains

Here is a fascinating post by David Halpin of Circle Stories. Note the mention of Keadeen, Kilranelagh graveyard, and Krishuna (Crossoona Rath) – these places all feature on the Kilranelagh tour.

Keadeen Mountain has some of the most interesting fairy encounters of all the Wicklow mountains.
There are stories and local accounts of the good people, strange lights and processions of The Wild Hunt, and other ghostly apparitions.
One testimony in particular mentions a string of lights emerging from the cairn and travelling to another nearby monument.
There have been accounts of fairy abductions, cases of missing time, people being pixie-led and often associated with fairies wearing red.
Incidentally, the road at the foot of Keadeen is known locally as ‘the far road’ perhaps the roots of this odd name relate to these processions?
“One time there was a little girl and she lived somewhere up about Rustyduff. It was in the harvest time and she was out in the fields. She saw something like an angel and she was turned into a fairy. Her father missed her and she was found on the hill of Sliseagh.”
This may be the same incident documented by another person in this next account except for the mention that the girl was actually turned into a fairy.
This can often be an indication that the person has been chosen to be a healer or mystic.
We have also seen how refusing such a fairy gift can be a very bad idea in previous posts.
Note how in the next version the girl is deemed to have been “foolish ever after”.
“Lambs of Rustyduff were putting in hay. Lar Doyle’s sister, Mary, then seven or eight years old was left behind in the haggard while the men went to their dinner. It was about mid-day. When they came back to the haggard, they missed the child.
During that night the stack of hay was turned over two or three times.
The child was gone for two or three days and was found on Sleesha (Mugduff).
She was asleep on the side of the hill. The wonder was how she lived without food so long.
She was foolish ever after, but was able to relate how little men in red, took her off. She lived to be 40 or 50 years old.”
In this next account we see the documenting of certain nights being when fairies appeared, as well as the movement from one rath to another. Really, this is such an important detail which appears in fairy-lore worldwide.
“At this Rath in Krishuna it is said the fairies gather on certain nights. They ride on the wings of the wind and retreat at cockcrow to the rath of Mullaghmast in Kildare. The people of this neighbourhood are said to keep a black cock in order to defeat the more evil minded of the fairies and to preserve them from harm.”
This next account details the misfortune which befalls a house which has been built upon a fairy path. In a previous post I have written about how a structure might have to be altered or even destroyed in order to accommodate the parade of fairies.
“A man named Cremin – a herd – lived in a house in Colbinstown near Kilranelagh graveyard. The house was built on a fairy path. Every night between the hours of eleven and twelve o’clock the door would open and footsteps would pass through the house, but the man never could see anyone.
One night, a crowd of men were in the house, playing cards. All of a sudden they heard stones falling. They got very much alarmed and asked the man of the house what it was, because they thought that the end had fallen out of the house. He only laughed at them and said, “that happens every night and when we go out in the morning there is not a stone more of less there”.
This eye-witness account of fairies moving from site to site documents the troop moving from one ancient site to another once again.
In this case, it’s interesting to note how the fairies are seen both in their physical form as well as being perceived as shining lights in this account.
“Mrs Cullen’s grandmother lived in Bernamuck or Dernamuck.
She used call out the children – big grown-up boys and girls – to look at the stream of horsemen and women riding from Willie’s Rock, through Hawkins’ yard, and on to Valentines’ field in Rustyduff. The children could not see them, but she often saw them on a summer’s evening.
Mrs Murphy and Mrs White often saw lights in the Rath in Rustyduff – Valentines’ Rath. Even about thirty years ago they saw lights going up to it.”
In the photos I’ve used for this post you can hopefully get a good visual indication of how these sites relate to each other.
I’ve chosen photos of Boleycarrigeen and Castleruddery stone circles with Keadeen Mountain in the background.
Then, to mirror that, I’ve posted a shot from Keadeen’s summit looking down towards Boleycarrigeen stone circle.
How important was Keadeen in ancient times?
Well, what we can say for sure is that there is no higher mountain or landmark between Kaedeen and Newgrange. In fact, this is also the case with Uisneach.
Here’s a tantalising piece of information for those who are interested in the work of Alexander Thom: Keadeen to Newgrange works out at almost exactly 100’000 megalthic yards!
Of course, Castleruddery stone circle also has plenty of local lore of its own.
The white quartz entrance stones themselves are said to possess a healing, feminine energy as well as being the reason why the circle is so strongly associated with ancestor spirits.
Throughout Ireland the prominence of white quartz is telling.
The reflective properties would have lent a shining aspect to sites such as Seefin and Newgrange but what is less well known is the amount of white quartz inside the sites themselves.
Quartz is well known for its spiritual an animistic properties.
Dr. Ffion Reynolds suggests that we should not so much associate white quartz as a stone of the dead, rather we should remember that ancient people saw it having a ‘life force’ of its own.…/Regenerating_Substances…
Considering white quartz as a receiver of information then makes the alignment links all the more interesting.
Was white quartz meant to assist the spirits appearance and communication at ancient sites, and is this why we find it inside so many places considered to be entrances to the Otherworld?
One thing is certain, whether entrances or not, the associated beliefs and folklore tell of a long tradition of fairy movement from one ancient Wicklow site to another.
(C.) David Halpin.

(C.) David Halpin.

The Well in Kilranelagh Graveyard. Remembering our Traditions.

An interesting article about the well in Kilranelagh graveyard by Hilary Healy. Thanks Hilary for the fascinating read!

The Well in Kilranelagh Graveyard. Remembering our Traditions.

We have such a rich heritage here in Ireland. Our landscape holds reminders of our history and our ancestral ways. One of the first turnings to celebrate is Spring and here we mark it with St Brigid’s Day. Imbolg is the ancient name for this turning of the year. Imbolg, often written as Imbolc, signifies “in the belly”. New Life beginning. New Blessings. Imbolg and St. Brigid’s day are inextricably linked on this land, and so, our ancestors turned to the Holy Wells to bring the blessings of the waters home in Springtime. The Holy waters were used to cleanse and to bless the hearth, home and animals.

This St. Brigid’s Well is located on Kilranelagh Hill, in the very ancient graveyard which is reputed to be the oldest still functioning burial site in Ireland. Wells in high places had a particular veneration. It seemed nothing short of miraculous that a strong spring could burst forth high in the hills. This is part of the reason why this well has such great significance. In Irish tradition, the eve of a holy day was the most important. It’s why Hallowe’en is celebrated on the 31st of October, the eve of Samhain. In the same way, the “Brát Brid” would be set out the night before St. Brigid’s Day. The Brát Bríd is a cloth left out for St. Brigid to bless with healing qualities and it was used for ailments throughout the year. These ailments might be as diverse as toothache, or cuts, to a cow with milking problems. St. Brigid would pass throughout Ireland on that night and bless every cloth that was left out.

The fires in each home would be raked and cleared on the eve of St. Brigid, to set it anew for the turning of the year. St. Brigid was the keeper of the flame and her 19 handmaidens kept the flame alive in her monastery in Cill Dara (Kildare Town) after her death. Traditionally 19 women would keep that flame going. The moon calendar is linked to that number, as the moon arrives in the same place over the same constellations every 19 years. Many of us think that these older traditions have been brought forward into Christianity. Because, of course, in the background is her connection to the older Brigid. She who is the Goddess, worshipped in ancient times and linked to the European worship of Brigantia. So many of these miracles that have been passed down in the Christian tradition are also attributes of Brigantia.
St. Brigid is connected with fire and water. St. Brigid’s crosses are made and hung in the home to protect the dwelling from fire and flood.

I have included here the copy from Dú, an entry made in 1938. Every school in the country was asked to collect knowledge of the folklore from the old people of the district. This piece is from Talbotstown, the most local school to Kilranelagh. The informant is Mr. Humphries, of Kilranelagh.

In the days before internet, it was the grandparents who held the memories for the families. In another piece in the collections, Thomas Lambert collected information that stated “There is a well in Kilranelagh and it is called Saint Brigid’s Well. People that have sores go to the well and bathe the sores in it and are cured.”

It was important in 1938 to collect the memories of a people, in case it might be forgotten. As we come to another Spring, another Brigid’s Day, it feels important to remember Kilranelagh Graveyard, and its well waters gushing down to bring clean fresh waters to the great rivers that pass through our villages, our towns and our cities.

The Ogham Stone

There is an Ogham stone on Kilranelagh hill that is really hard to find. I had been told it was in the Crossoona ringfort, and I had tried to find it a few times but never could. The fort is filled with ferns, so it makes finding elusive Ogham stones rather difficult – don’t even bother trying in the middle of summer – the ferns will be higher than your head! But of course, that is exactly when I did.
One of my favourite places to walk, Kilranelagh is a small unspoilt hill in the foothills of the Wicklow mountains. To me it is a magical place, and I often walk the forest paths to visit the ancient sites on the hill. But the one I could never find was the mysterious Ogham stone.
I had previously been told that the stone might have been removed as others had also tried to find it without success. So I had given up trying to find it, until I saw a post on Facebook. Someone was asking a neighbour who regularly walks Kilranelagh if he knew where the Ogham stone was. He replied with general directions and a pinpoint on google maps.
So it was still there! I was delighted. I studied the map, saved a picture of it on my phone and cycled up to the forest track. I was determined to find it this time.
As I chained my bike to the post and headed off down the lane on foot, I said a prayer and asked for help to find it.
I was full of optimism as I climbed the ring fort’s embankment, but as I stood looking down at the fern filled circle, my heart dropped. What was I thinking? This was a fool’s errand. The feathery fronds were taller than me. There was no way I would manage to get three feet in there, never mind all the way to the pinpoint!
I turned around to head back home, severely disappointed.
But – something stopped me. I had come all this way; I couldn’t leave without at least just trying. Just a little way in… I turned to face the ringfort again, studied the map and scrambled down into the ring of ferns. I started left to head in the direction that I thought the pinpoint was, but after fighting through the thick vegetation for a few minutes I stopped. Something didn’t feel right. No this wasn’t the way. I struggled back to my starting point and decided to try go right – just a few meters, I would see how far I could get through the tangle of ferns.
The going was slightly easier this way, but it was just starting to get impenetrable again, and I was considering giving up the search, when I happened to glance right. I saw what looked like the shape of a horse’s head in the moss-covered embankment. It’s two ears were pointing forward to the centre of the circle.
‘That’s the pointer’ something said inside of me, and I turned in that direction. I easily pushed past a few ferns and found myself in a delightful little clearing. Just lovely soft green grass – this would make a beautiful protected little picnic spot I thought. I followed the clearing around and saw the old overgrown wall where I had searched for the Ogham stone before. I recognized a distinctive stone jutting out from the wall that I had previously examined, and as my eyes followed the wall along, I stopped, stunned – there it was – magically right in front of me!
How had I never seen it before? I must have walked right past it on my previous searches! It was a beautiful sight, it almost looked like the sun was shining straight down on it, illuminating it just for me.
As I gazed at the moss-covered ancient stone, the distinctive Ogham lines carved into its edge clearly visible, my soul was filled with joy – I had finally found it!
I pondered the history – who had carved the script, and what does it mean? Who had lived in this enclosure, and what was it used for? So many questions that would probably never get a definitive answer. Although I had found the elusive Ogham stone, it was still as mysterious as ever.
I said a prayer of thanks, and gently touched the Ogham stone. I could feel the energy of the stone transferring to my fingers. I don’t know what its’ message was, but it felt like a gift for me on this day. I was meant to find it; I was directed to it. I don’t know why. Or why on that particular day, but I will take the gift. And pass it on.

Read more about the Ogham stone in the Crossoona Rath here: