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Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday freebie of The Irish Way

So much for good intentions! I'd said I had planned to give you two zips on St. Paddy's Day but only had the one finished and got that out late and into 3/18. I'd also said I'd have the second one to you Sunday but as you know, I didn't make it in time. Running behind. The zip I had mentioned about Ireland's religious traditions has become your Monday freebie. I've tried to give a nod to the major spiritual/religious items in Ireland's history (sorry, poorly written) and here's what is shown in zip. First, there are some standing stones, also known as Menhirs. These vertical stones were placed by Neolithic people and it is believed there was a spiritual intent. The Druids, a high ranking order of mystical priests is often connected with the standing stones so I have used them here to represent early pagan forms of spirituality. Next we have two of Ireland's patron saints: Patrick and Brigid. We've talked about Patrick before and most know for what he is revered. St. Brigid/Brigit/Brighid is less known except, perhaps, to Catholics. Her feast day is February 1st and her story is more complex than Patrick's. No writings exist from her time to serve as proof of her existence and background. She is thought to have been a former slave who found her vocation in caring for the poor. As such she is credited for having made crosses of reeds to give to the poor as she explained Christianity to them. Such crosses are made every year on her feast day and are still hung over the doorways of many Irish homes today and used to bless a household and its family and keep them safe from harm. Additionally she is said to have founded the first female religious order in Ireland and, as Abbess, started an art school famous for its illustrated manuscripts. However, there is ample evidence that Brigid is most likely a continuation of the earlier goddess Brigid/ Brigantia who was worshiped around the country and beyond. It was fairly common when converting pagans to Christianity to adapt some of their customs and beliefs to ease conversion. As such it is scarcely surprising to find that St. Brigid's feast day coincides with the pagan festival of Imbolc which was the start of Spring in the ancient Irish calendar. I've included a Celtic cross (the one with the circle) and a regular cross as well, a goblet, and finally, an angel meant to represent the famous Book of Kells, an incredible illustrated book of the Gospels. If you aren't familiar with the Book of Kells, you might want to try this link:
That's the Google result for Book of Kells images which will give you an idea of its splender.

Many thanks for all the lovely comments on this series.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Happy (belated) St. Patrick's Day & freebies

Good intentions sure can go astray as mine did with a bad sinus headache and severe fatigue. I'm embarrassed to say I'd already completed one of the zips for 3/17 but hadn't packed it up. That was the sort of traditional Irish American take on the day. I'd meant to also have ready a zip related to the real purpose of St. Patrick's Day but I'm still at it. March 17th is meant to be the feast day of St. Patrick, one of Ireland's patron saints and the celebration there differs from that of Irish-Americans. Here we pretty much use the date to celebrate anything Irish and it's primarily an excuse to party. We dye fountains, even rivers green. We wear green but often it's tee shirts and hats with comical, satirical, even nasty captions. And there is a lot of celebrating with green beer. Now you won't be finding any green beer here today because I'll not contribute to the image of Irish as drunks. Sure, many enjoy a pint now and then, perhaps an Irish coffee, or a nip of Irish whiskey. Truly, Guinness and Jamisons are major exports. But on St. Patrick's or St. Paddy's (never Patty's) day in Ireland, churches are celebrating the feast of the saint who brought Christianity to Ireland and bars tend to be closed. No green beer around. A little extra Guinness might be consumed but there isn't wild bar hopping. Nor are families likely to be eating a dinner of corned beef and cabbage; that is an Irish-American tradition. More likely families are sitting down to a Shepard's Pie (most often made with lamb),or perhaps a nice roast.

I myself had planned to make something authentically Irish on 3/17 but not dinner. No, I'd thought I'd make some scones from Bannock loaves to have with my tea in the morning. (If anyone is interested, I've an easy recipe that makes wonderful crumbly Bannock.) But that didn't come about. We had a dinner of spaghetti with mild Italian sausage and that wasn't totally out of line as St. Patrick was not Irish atallatall. Nope, his father was Roman and Patrick came to the British Isles as a slave. My intentions for that second zip, (which is going to have to be completed later on Sunday) were to touch on St. Patrick & St. Brigid, two of Ireland's three patron saints. The third is St. Columba and I confess I know little about him. Yes, I know discussion of religion in a public forum is frowned upon but can you really discuss Ireland without doing so? Trust me, I'll keep it simple.

Anyway, my more Irish-American take on St. Patrick's Day (minus green beer) is a nod to a favorite Irish legend most everyone knows - the leprechaun. I learned about leprechauns at an early age from my maternal grandfather who was a great story teller. As Pappy described the leprechauns, they were nothing like the malevolent beings Hollywood has recently portrayed. Oh, they are mischievous to be sure and greedy for gold but not ugly or violent (except perhaps when threatened?). We were told they were child size - about three feet tall. Only males and no one seemed to know how they had come about. Some said they were defective children of the fairies. I can't remember precisely how Pappy described them other than that but I always had the impression that they looked rather like small, wizened old men. In this zip you will find lots of leprechauns, 3 papers, a hat and a shillelagh (walking stick & also cudgel), a word art about that (not shown) and an Irish toast which basically wishes health (and is pronounced like slawn-cha) and another word art about the end of the rainbow. Oops - forgot a rainbow!


Friday, March 16, 2018

Freebie - We must talk about the sea

You can hardly talk about Ireland without discussing the importance of the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea, and all the other waters that flow around and through the Emerald Isle. Putting aside the importance of these waters on the nourishment and financial benefits, today let's look at water creatures and their place in Irish myth and legends and how they are used as symbols. Of course, I've only created a few elements of these: the kelpie, seahorse, dolphin, salmon, and sea lion. The kelpie figures strongly in Scottish as well as Irish myth. A creature that lives in the rivers and lakes, it is generally considered malevolent. In some myths it can transform into a human (usually a beautiful woman) and lure people to their deaths. In others, it tempts humans, especially children, to ride on its back and drowns them. The seahorse is considered to have all the properties of water and is connected to the sea gods. Therefore it is connected to imagination, creativity, and luck. Also, because it has a strong tail which allows it to cling to seaweed and remain in place despite tides, it is a symbol of strength. The dolphin too has positive connotations. Since it is most commonly sighted when the weather is fine and seas are fair, sailors considered it lucky. Additionally, it is a symbol of friendship and intelligence. Many are the stories of dolphins acting in a protective manner towards humans. The salmon, besides being an excellent food source, figures in a myth called "The Salmon of Wisdom." You can read about it here: And then there is the myth of the selkie which I tried to represent by placing a human outline in the seal. Here is my explanation of the tale as told to me: The selkie is a creature native to the coasts of the British Isles who spends most of his or her life as a seal or sea lion. However, the selkie can choose to shed it's skin and take human form. It must hide its skin carefully for whoever finds it has power over the selkie and can keep it from returning to the sea. If a man finds the skin of a female selkie she must become his faithful but lonely wife. If she finds her skin, she will flee to the sea, even leaving her children behind. Male selkies cause storms and shipwrecks when seals are hunted.
My dear maternal grandfather used to tell Irish myths and fairytales to me and my cousins: I've forgotten more than I remember.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Another Irish thing I love & freebie

I love Irish crochet! Intricate motifs are made up individually (usually flowers and leaves), crocheted with cotton thread that may be as fine as that we put through the eye of a needle. The motifs are then joined together to create strips of lace trim or lace fabric. I've made a few pieces myself including a drawstring bag with roses for a wedding but have only used a reasonable size of thread. I have a vintage piece of lace, not quite a yard long and less than an inch in width that features roses. It was hand crocheted with the finest of threads and it boggles my mind imagining how anyone could see properly to make it. Here are some lovely examples of Irish crochet.
Are you drooling yet? I tried to extract a few motifs for today's zip but it's difficult. Included today you will find a lace frame and lace background. Last week when I gave you the step dance costumes, I really wanted to include a doll. I wanted to do it myself - stubborn me - so played around with bits and pieces of art doll parts and scans and what not and finally created the little lady you see here. She could better but is the best I can currently manage. Hope you like her.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Connemara marble freebie

Found only in Ireland, Connemara marble owes its unique green colors to the combination of minerals found there. Used in buildings (see the pics of Galway's cathedral floor as example), home decor (fireplace mantels for instance) and jewelry, this green marble is much sought after. Tourists love to take home souvenirs made of Connemara marble - everything from "worry stones," to coasters to jewelry - especially jewelry. Today's zip is all about this Irish product.

Running late with Tuesday freebie

Today some basics: 2 papers, a frame, a corner bow cluster, and some of Ireland's wildflowers. The yellow iris is called Yellow Flag.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dreary day with freebie

We've got a wintery mix today with gusty winds. Might turn to snow later. Went out first thing this morning to get taxes done. Now all I need to do for tax season is gather all of Dad's stuff and take to attorney.

Last week we ended The Irish Way with a zip on Irish step dancing. Can't have that unless you've got some Irish music so we are looking at that today. For Irish music you need a bodhran (drum), tinwhistle (flute), fiddle (violin) and sometimes a harp (which also happens to be a national symbol). And beautiful voices like those of Celtic Woman who sound like angels.
Especially love these: