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Irish X-Files

Ireland's Supernatural Attractions

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Irish X-files are a non-starter if you trust TV shows - neither Mulder nor Scully ever hopped over the ocean into the "old country", to confront banshees, ghosts and aliens. But maybe they should have? There is more to Ireland than meets the eye of the sceptic beholder. And if you do not fancy the idea of spending a night in a haunted room, maybe you'll relish cruising in pursuit of lake monsters? The truth is out there, in supernatural Ireland.

Ghosts and Hauntings

Charles Fort near Kinsale - haunted by a ghostly bride?
© 2003 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

If they burned you at the stake as a scapegoat, wouldn't you wish to return and haunt them? Apparently this is what happens in Kilkenny, where the ghost of poor Petronella still lingers on in a popular pub. Just one of the many haunted hostelries of Ireland.

And if you pass a rather fetching young bride in Charles Fort you might not be witnessing a photoshoot. She actually killed herself some time ago, you know - another of the popular haunted spots of Ireland.

Holy Wells and Sacred Springs

Fore Abbey in County West Meath - A Holy Well running dry.
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Water is life - and in many cultures wells and springs were treated with more than practical sense. They were seen as holy, sacred places. In many areas of Ireland this veneration continues. Wells are dressed up on saints' feast days. Offerings are left to hasten the fulfilment of wishes. And a sange atmosphere surrounds them.

Visit St. Brigid's Well near Kildare Town to see a modernized specimen. Or travel to Fore Abbey to glimpse faded offerings adorning a long-dry well.

Astronomical Alignments

Newgrange Passage Tomb
© 2004 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Here is a non-brainer - everyone knows about the midwinter morning sun illuminating the central chamber of the Newgrange tumulus. But this impressive alignment with the celestial bodies is just one of the many found in Ireland's prehistoric monuments.

Just a few miles away you'll be able to climb onto (literally!) the Loughcrew megalithic cemetery - to another of the better known passage tombs sporting a correspondence with astronomical events.

A Heathen Goddess Converted

Saint Brigid at her weel - keeping the flame.
© 2007 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

We all know the story of Saint Patrick - came to Ireland, kicked the snakes out, baptized everyone in sight. When around 432 ex-slave Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, he converted common folk as well as celebrities. And a goddess - henceforth known as Saint Brigid.

Our historical knowledge about Brigid is, well, very sketchy. But by a strange coincidence she appeared in an area where a pagan goddess of the same name, with basically the same attributes and connected stories surrounding her, thrived. Put two and two together and you come up with a converted (or, more likely, recycled) goddess. Visit Brigid in Kildare and make up your own mind.

Lake Monsters

A tranquil lake .. but what lies beneath?
© 2005 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

While Loch Ness and Lake Champlain may be more widely known, Lough Ree may still hold some surprises for monster hunters and cryptozoologists. There have been sightings of (and more rumours about) a subaquatic mystery animal for a long time. And even though a scientific expedition failed to find definite traces, the legend certainly lives.

If you want to go hunting for the Lough Ree monster yourself, there might be no better way than to hire a cruiser and navigate the length and breadth of the Shnnon ...

Leylines and Geomancy

Alignment of Carrowmore tomb and Ben Bulben.
© 2006 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Are there any alignments in the landscape of Ireland? Well, it all depends how you approach this question. Any large-scale map will show you literally hundreds of old monuments, holy wells, ancient crossroads and pathways. Now its all a question of joining up the dots.

Maybe one of the best places to start your search is the Carrowmore megalithic cemetery. You can certainly sense some alignments here, with natural and man-made features in the surrounding landscape.

Unidentified Flying Objects

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it the result of the seventh Guinness? Irish night skies are a natural wonder in their own right. But occasionally there are strange goings-on to be witnessed. Which have found their way into UFO-lore in several cases.

This is an ancient tradition - even the old chronicles desribed "flying round towers", ships in the sky and maybe a Tunguska-style event killing thousands.

Small wonder that Irish UFOlogy has its own bible, "Conspiracy of Silence" by Dermot Butler and Carl Nally (compare prices). Though a flawed work on so many counts, it might guide you to the UFO hotspots on the Emerald Isle.

Alien Big Cats

Come, pussy, come ... aaargh! Its a black panther! Run!

They are by now part of Irish folklore: big cats that do not belng on the island. Panthers, pumas and other predators are said to roam the countryside, especially in the border regions. Sceptics talk of feral felines of impressive size, overgrown cats gone wild. Believers talk of exotic beasts that escaped captivity or were released into the wild by owners past caring. The most recent sightings habe been in Tyrone and Tipperary - along with some dead sheep that might have been prey.

Sheela-na-Gigs

There you are - entering a church with nothing but pious thoughts on your mind, and what do you see? A naked female, luridly leering and pulling her labia apart. Do you a. see this as a warning against lust, b. recognize it as a pagan fertility symbol or c. take a chisel and hammer to it?

We do not know a lot about the so-called Sheela-na-Gigs, quite obscene female sculptures that go against the grain. They have even been hailed as signs of a mother goddess cult that somehow survived in Ireland. Which may or may not be possible. The easiest way to find them are to step into the National Museum in Kildare Street. Somewhat hidden away they are on display without major explanation.

Secret Societies

Ireland's "secret societies" often have a tendency to march around in public wearing uniforms ... somehow defeating the purpose of being secret. Throughout history they have meddled in Irish politics, taken up arms, trying to force (or prevent) changes in slightly less than subtle ways.

But for the conspiracy theorist there is a rich field to plow - from the Orange Order and its ongoing involvement in Northern Irish politics to the things the Irish Knights Templar might have stashed away somewhere.

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