|Former home of Michael Cooke and family, Clooningan, Sligo, Ireland|
The photos that intrigued me were labeled as a "high circle" or "fairy fort" which still exists on the property. What is a fairy fort? Well, I had to find out. A ráth or fairy fort is the remains of a stone age or early Christian period ring fort which was built as a defensive enclosure. A high clay bank was built up in a large ring, surrounded by a ditch and topped with a wooden stockade enclosing wood-framed dwellings. In western Ireland, where stone was more plentiful, the surround would be of stone as you see here.
|Ringfort in Donegal|
And here's the view at the fairy fort itself.
You can see that a line of trees has been deliberately planted, but it's hard to tell much. I went to Google Earth to get a better look.
You can see the fairy fort at the tip of the red arrow and the Michael Cooke home just below it along the road to the right.
The next part is where a strong dose of Irish imagination figures in. The Irish folklore holds that fairy forts were imbued with Druid magic and with the Tuatha Dé Danann and were entry points into the fairy world. (The Tuatha Dé Danann were the ancient pre-Celtic inhabitants of Ireland) Altering a ringfort in any way would bring terrible fortune on that person. (Even cutting the whitethorn brush around them) There are also numerous tales of supernatural experiences happening at these ringforts. Another story associated with a ringfort is that this is the place where a leprechaun hides his gold. Clearly my relatives never benefited from the help of a leprechaun!
I'm not a big fan of the American celebration of St. Patrick's Day, but this tidbit seemed too good to pass up. Many American-born Irish know so little about true Irish culture or language or folklore. I also realized just this morning that today would be my grandmother's birthday. She was born on March 4, 1878. So Happy Birthday Katie. I'm thinking of you.