Irish legends, including the Black Nun

LEGENDS

Ireland is a country that resonates with legends. Leprechauns, little green men who will give you gold at the end of their rainbow, or even as the keeper of Lucky Charms, immediately come to mind. Leprechauns are thought to be fairies who take on the form of old men, stand at about three feet high, wearing green or red suits, and notoriously have a substantial beard. They are typically mischievous creatures, preying on the unsuspecting. If you feel that you have had a string of bad luck, you may have a leprechaun to blame. Where might you come across such a creature? You need to make your way to Carlingford, in County Down, a place regularly cited as a spot where these little troublesome little men frequent.

Have you ever heard of a “changling” This is quite an obscure idea. If you believe the legend surrounding these creatures, they are the children of fairies who have been deformed. Given fairies seem to be shallow and won’t love these children no matter what, they would often sneak into town and swap out their changelings for human babies, who were more aesthetically pleasing. Changelings are generally miserable creatures who only experience joy when there is grief, pain, or destruction occurring.

If you fear you might in the company of a changling, what about the legend of the banshee? The banshee is basically a fairy messenger of death and of the underworld. When someone is at the point of death, she lets out a piercing wail rattling the souls of anyone hearing it. The banshee can take the form of an old haggard woman or by contrast a beautiful young woman. Regardless of her form if you see and hear her screams, you or someone in your family will die soon.

Anyone familiar with the town of Ballycastle will relate the legend of Julia McQuillan, also known as “The Black Nun”, who lived in the Bonamargy Friary in the 1600’s. The Friary still stands today in ruins. MacQuillen wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered. Legend has it if you walk around the black nun’s grave 7 times clockwise and 7 times counterclockwise and then place a hand through the hole you can summon the ghost of the black nun. A worn Celtic cross (rounded with a hole in the centre) marks her grave at the west end of the main church. This woman was a gifted prophet who predicted that a red haired priest would come from far away to say mass in the church at Murlock and would drown the following day at a place called the Devils churn (Pan’s rock) near Ballycastle. The prediction came to pass, as red haired Father James McCann, drowned whilst swimming off Pan’s rock after saying mass at Murlock. Other revelations about the future included “The time would come when we wouldn’t know the difference between winter and summer except for the leaves on the trees. The infamous Black Nun also made similar prophesies to the Nostradamus ‘Yellow race” prophesies.

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