Recently I’ve been asking kids what they know about piseogs (superstitions). I’ve been telling them the story of the day I ran into the house with a bunch of hawthorn flowers for my gran and my normally good-humoured gran roared at me to get out. I tell them how my mother explained the tradition that hawthorn was a faery tree, making it bad luck to bring the flowers inside.
A boy in Dubray Books, Bray, said he’d been told that birds flying into your house means a death, and a girl said the Spanish side of her family believes a black cat crossing your path is bad luck, while the Irish side believe it’s good.
In Newbridge a girl called Sharon said that her grandad told her about a neighbour who cut down a hawthorn tree and was dead within the week.
Joan, the librarian in a school I visited last week, said she remembers the protests in her home village in Clare when it was proposed to chop down a hawthorn to make way for a motorway. The locals won; the road went around the tree.
A nun at the same school said she knew that Michael McDowell (former Irish minister) would rue the day he announced that he was going to build a prison on a certain piece of land and insisted ‘there’ll be no guff about it being held up by fairy forts and such’.
‘I thought,’ said the good sister, ‘he’s mocking the fairies – he’ll regret that. And wasn’t he gone out of politics within the year?’