Bidding Farewell – A Not-So-Simple Irish Ritual

Saying goodbye and departing a friend’s home may be a simple act in America, but in Ireland there is an unwritten code of honor that guides farewell rituals.

There are superstitions that must be adhered to, or God forbid you may draw some form of ill fate upon your unsuspecting self.

I always remember my mother’s superstitions about a first visit to a new friend’s home.

She advised me to always leave by the door through which I first entered.

I have arrived at parties in the U.S. where all the guests are streaming through an open garage door. Try as I might to forget obsolete traditions of my youth, my unwilling feet always lead me to the front door of each and every home I visit.

I find it very difficult to arrive non-chalantly through a back door with an enthusiastic announcement of my arrival.  For me, the ding dong of a door bell wards off those bad luck spirits ruling over ancient Irish greeting rituals.

And then of course there is the issue of which door I may leave through without bringing ill luck my way.

Red Gate - Cottage Rear Door

My mother’s words return and you know you should never ignore your mother.


Leave by the door through which you entered on your first visit to a home.


If I go in through an open garage when I arrive in daylight, it can be a little awkward to ask to exit through the garage, if it’s all closed up at the end of a night’s festivities.

Oh the dilemmas of carrying old cultural ways all the way to a new land.


Image courtesy of www.vintagerio.comImage Credit

And then there is the whole drama of bidding farewell to guests in my own home.

Unsuspecting American guests might announce they are about to leave, and try to slip out the back door or through the yard unnoticed.


Not in my Irish American home!


Guests must be escorted to the front door for a proper goodbye and thank you. Even my kids know they should join the farewell party as we move out to the porch.

Into the bargain we stand there and wave goodbye as your car departs down the street. Our front door does not close until you have officially departed.  I know my neighbors think I’m crazy, but what can I say. I’m Irish.

In Ireland farewells can go on and on. Deep conversations are launched at the door. A quick exit is very difficult, so plan your departure with plenty of time to spare.

Now recently I learned of an American term called ‘an Irish goodbye’.  This phenomenon is also called ghosting, and refers to leaving a social gathering without saying your farewells.

I never heard of this expression in Ireland. Perhaps it evolved in the U.S., as those in the know slipped out the back door, to avoid the infamously prolonged real Irish goodbye.

Shakespeare may have summed it all up when he said “parting is such sweet sorrow,” but in Ireland parting is full of superstition, and endless chat.

If you know of any other Irish superstitions regarding the rituals of coming and going, please feel free to tell us in the comment section below.

And so, without any more fuss, I bid you all farewell this cold and wintery January evening.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

Irish Wisdom And Sayings About Horses

Horses were highly prized in ancient Irish culture. Deference for our equine companions continues to this very day.

Both Ireland and Kentucky, my two homes on either side of the Atlantic, are renowned for breeding magnificent racehorses.  So I thought it was high time I explored the connection between the Irish and horses.

Brown Irish Horse

This collection of old Irish words of wisdom, in praise of our equine friends, underlines the importance of these magnificent animals to the Irish throughout the centuries.


“A tattered foal can grow into a splendid horse.”


In passages of the Brehon Laws it is revealed that during the first milennium the Irish often imported horses from Wales and France. No saddle was used when riding.

Brown horse grazing in autumn

Horses made an enormous contribution to the Irish economy in the 19th century.

“It is a good horse that draws its own cart.”


They plowed fields, thereby helping feed the population. They pulled carts, transporting people from place to place.

An Irish Donkey

“Ní dhéanfach an saol capall rás d’asal.”


Pronunciation in English phonetics

= Nee yay-nock on sale cop-ull raw-se dah-sal.

“All the world would not make a racehorse from a donkey.”


Black Irish Pony

“A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.”


Churchill Downs

Ancient Irish horsemen rode without stirrups. A horse was mounted by springing from the ground on to the back of the horse. This mounting method was used up until the seventeenth century in Ireland.


“Put a beggar on horseback, and he’ll go at a gallop.”


Horse Statue at Churchill Downs

Every young man of the upper classes in olden days was required to learn horse-riding.


“The raggy colt often made a powerful horse.”


Today we require our children to learn how to read, but in the days of Brehon Law the skill of horse-riding was legally  required.

Connemara pony in church yard at Bunratty Folk Park

“Mair a chapaill agus gheobhaidh tú féar.”

Pronunciation using English phonetics:

Mar, a cop-ull ah-gus gheow-hig thoo fay-ur

“Live, horse, and you will get grass.”


The meaning of this saying may not be immediately apparent to many readers.  Believe it or not, these words are meant to be encouraging.

It tells us that we must first survive and live, and then we will receive our reward.

Irish Connemara Pony

After 1695 the Penal Laws were enforced against Catholics. The Penal Laws were gradually repealed over the course of the 18th century.  Of note is the law regarding horse ownership.

No Catholic was allowed to keep a horse with a value worth more than 5 Pounds. If a Protestant saw a Catholic with a horse of greater value, then he could purchase the horse for 5 Pounds.

This horrendous discrimination resulted in Irish people placing great value upon horse ownership, as is clearly evident in the next old saying.


“Sell the cow, buy the sheep, but never be without the horse.”


Irish Horse

“Youth sheds many a skin.

The steed does not retain its speed forever.”


Painting of punters in the stands

“The best jockeys are in the stands.”


Pony Riding at Kentucky Horse Farm

“Everyone lays a burden on the willing horse.”


Race horses training at Churchill Downs

“Bíonn grásta Dé idir an dialait agus an talamh.”

Pronunciation using English phonetics:

Been graw-sta Day id-ur on Dee-a-lit ah-gus on thal-uv

“The grace of God is found between the saddle and the ground.”


Over the course of my first twenty-two years of life, I heard many of these sayings uttered by my West Cork granny. They were part and parcel of her everyday speech. Whenever I read them now, I smile, remembering how these wonderful words of wisdom just tripped off the tip of her tongue.

I hope you enjoyed this little exploration of the Irish love of horses.

You might also enjoy my lessons in life from wise old Irish hens, and over the coming months I hope to explore more Irish sayings about animals big and small.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my ramblings.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

The Gift Of Peacefulness In Celtic Words Of Wisdom

As we prepare to say good-bye to 2014 and celebrate the start of 2015, I’m avoiding my annual pit-fall of writing a long list of resolutions. I’m only destined to break them long before the end of January. 

As 2014 draws to a close, I’m simply taking time for reflection.

You have traveled too fast over false ground

Instead of sharing ill-fated resolutions with you this year, I created a photo collection highlighting my favorite Celtic quotations and blessings, focusing upon the gifts of peacefulness, calm and reflection. 


When I read these words uttered by Michael Collins, I feel a deep sense of sadness.

He lost his life for Ireland’s freedom, never finding the peace he so longed for.

May he rest in peace, knowing his sacrifices are appreciated by generations.

And I shall have some peace there

William Butler Yeats coined the most famous of all Irish words about seeking peace.

In 1888 he wrote “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”. His poignant words echo with many of us, who long for a quiet place, close to nature, to be alone, and to find our own inner peace.

However, at the end of his beautiful poem, Yeats reveals he shall only go there in his heart.

May the blessings of light be upon you - Celtic Blessing

And so this New Year, I hope you too find peace in your heart.

Here are my New Year wishes for all those who read my ramblings ……


God bless the corners of this house

May the blessings of contentment be with you

and fill your home with happiness.


We do not need to go out and find love

May you find time to be alone,

and at peace with your thoughts.


May we live in peace without weeping

May you experience joy and fulfillment

in the present moment.


Draw alongside the silence of stone - John O'Donohue

May your soul find peace

And strength in silence.


When we walk on earth with reverence - John O'Donohue

 May the beauty of the world

draw you where you need to go.


Deep peace to you

 And as you continue on life’s journey,

May you remember it is not always your destination,

but your journey that truly matters.


Whether you are lucky enough to travel to a place of solitude to find calm, or if that is not possible, you choose to travel to your quiet place in your heart, I wish you a New Year filled with peace and joy.


Athbhlian Faoi Mhaise Daoibh!

(Happy New Year)


Irish American Mom

Irish Halloween Superstitions Foretelling Romance, Love And Marriage

Move over Valentine’s Day – Halloween is nearly here, and in olden days in Ireland, this was the time of year for predicting romances, just waiting to flourish.

The Irish were, and still are, a very superstitious race. Since we will be celebrating Halloween at the end of this month (or all through this month, if you live in America), I thought why not explore some old Irish superstitions associated with this holiday, especially those centering around romance, love and marriage.

Vintage_Halloween_Cards_(102)Image Credit

Halloween is a great time for fortune telling and divination according to Irish tradition.  In days gone by Halloween night was a time when the Irish believed the future and past coincided, and for one night only every year, all time frames existed in the present. If the future collides with the present at Halloween, what better time could there be for looking into what the future may hold.

For all those in search of someone special to share their future, Halloween is the best night of the year to try to figure out who might be waiting just for you. Well that’s what the Irish believed anyway.

Here are some simple, romantic, prophetic tests from Ireland’s Celtic past and from around the British Isles…..

 www.vintagerio.comImage Credit

The Cabbage Test:


For those interested in finding out their future partner’s wealth then all you need is a good old cabbage patch on this magical night.

Just follow these steps to find out what the future holds …..

  • Don a blindfold.
  • Run into a field of growing cabbages.
  • Search around the ground for a nice big head of cabbage, and yank it out of the ground, roots and all.
  • Now, uncover your eyes, and check out those cabbage roots.
  • If you extricate the vegetable with roots intact and a good amount of earth still attached, then your beloved will have oodles of money.

But don’t get too excited. You still don’t know if he’ll be cranky or kind.

Head on home with your newly harvested cabbage and cook it up Irish style.

If your cabbage is bitter, then I’m afraid a sour, old, so-and-so may be in your future. But if your cabbage is sweet, then your fate holds a kindhearted, loving mate.

The cabbage test was easy to complete if you lived in rural Ireland many years ago, but I’m afraid we urban dwellers today have little access to cabbage patches. So then, your best bet for predicting love is to move on to the bonfire test. Credit

The Bonfire Test:


A Halloween bonfire is touted as a way to help envision a future partner. Bonfires featured significantly in ancient, Celtic celebrations of Halloween or Samhain. Here’s what must be done to encourage dreams of your future love.

Simply snip a few strands of your hair, and drop them into the burning embers of a Halloween fire.

The magical flames of your burning hair will encourage vivid dreams of your future spouse. I hope he or she will fulfill all your dreams. Credit

The Apple Peel Test:


Apples were also used for telling the future on Halloween night. When I was a little girl in Dublin, most home owners shared apples and nuts with trick or treaters, rather than candy or sweets. In recent years I have come to appreciate how this custom was rooted in age old traditions.

The apple peel love test may have originated in Scotland rather than Ireland, but this trick was practiced throughout the British Isles. A little apple peeling skill is required for this one.

First you must peel an apple all in one go, creating a long strip of peel. Love awaits only for those who can remove the peel with no breakages.

The peel must then be thrown over the shoulder. As it falls the peel may land to reveal the initial of a would-be suitor.

Love is an apple peel – it sounds like the name of a song.

 HazelnutsImage Credit

Hazlenut Trials:


If you’re still interested in finding out if your spouse will be bitter or sweet, and don’t have time to go pulling cabbages to cook, then never fear. A hazelnut will reveal your future love’s temperament, just as accurately as a trusted cabbage.

Simply pick out the hazelnut you believe represents your future love. Crack the shell and taste. You’ll quickly learn if a sweet or bitter nut awaits in your future.

And there’s even more romantic news to be uncovered through these powerful nuts.

If you want to know if your future marriage will be full of happiness, then you and your partner must each choose a hazelnut.

Light a match between the two nuts (only do this on a flameproof surface), and watch how your two nuts react, not only to each other, but to the flame of love burning between them.

Remember our forebears had stone hearths for these fiery tricks, so don’t do anything dangerous.

If the nuts burn quickly, then alack and alas, the future marriage may not be strong, and may be at great risk of crumbling when life gets tough.

Now if your two nuts do a little dance and move away from each other, then proceed to marriage with caution.

If your hazelnuts hop closer together, moving towards the flame of love, then future happiness is yours.

Believe it or not, these trusted nuts hold even more secrets of the future. Hazelnuts can be used to choose between potential beaus.

In the past, inquisitive young women determined which admirer might be faithful, by choosing three nuts, and naming them after the young men she wished to test. The three nuts were placed upon the bars of the fire grate.

If a nut cracked or jumped, then that lover might be unfaithful. If the nut burned brightly then that beau held a flame for the girl performing the hazelnut trial.

This test could be taken a step further by adding a fourth nut, named after the girl. If her nut and one of the nuts named after a potential suitor blazed together, then love was assured and marriage inevitable.

Sliced Tea Brack

A Slice Of Brack To Tell Your Fortune:


Traditional Irish Halloween celebrations involve serving an Irish cake called brack.  This tradition continues to this day.

These raisin breads are baked with hidden treasures in the dough, usually a coin, a piece of cloth, a key, a ring, a thimble or a button.

  • Lucky Halloween revelers who discover the coin can look forward to a year of prosperity.
  • But I’m afraid your finances look bleak if you find the old piece of cloth.
  • Of course, the ring foretells an impending marriage, or a new romance.
  • But if you find the thimble you’ll be an old maid.
  • A button foretells a year of bachelorhood for a male barmbrack eater.
  • And a key tells the story of an imminent journey.


Bowl of porridgeImage Credit

A Bowl of Porridge:


Now if you don’t have time to be baking fancy barmbracks with rings and things inside, do not fear. A simple bowl of porridge will do the trick.

Fuarag (pronounced foo-ur-ag) is a traditional dish of oatmeal mixed with cream. If you’re eager to learn if new love is just around the corner for you or one of your friends, just make a big pot of porridge.

Add some cream, a ring and a coin. Dish out the porridge to all those seeking to know if their future holds marriage or wealth. The lucky finder of the ring will be married within the year, while wealth awaits whoever recovers the coin.

And hold your breath if your bowl of creamy gruel reveals both the ring and the coin – a wealthy spouse may soon cross your path.

Remember to eat with caution on Halloween night – all these bits and pieces in traditional foods are a major choking hazard.

Colcannon with melting butter.



Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish served at Halloween. It’s a mix of kale and mashed potatoes, served with melted butter, and once again this simple dish holds the powers of divination.

In the past, unmarried women would take their first and last spoonful of colcannon and put it inside a stocking. These colcannon stockings were hung from the frame of the front door. The first man to enter the house and pass beneath the fortune telling stocking would become their husband.


Halloween – A Time For Romance:


And there you have it – my romantic guide to Halloween festivities. If you know of any more prophetic Halloween traditions concerning love and marriage, please feel free to add your two cents worth in the comment section below.  I look forward to hearing new superstitions from all over the world.

Wishing you all happy love matches this Halloween.


Samhain Shona Daoibh

Happy Halloween


Irish American Mom

Between The Jigs And The Reels

My West Cork granny frequently referred to jigs and reels in her daily speech. Whenever she was a little flustered, in a hurry, or feeling chaotic, she would make an exclamation about Irish dancing, no less.

“Between the jigs and the reels, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.”


Any stranger would believe she was an Irish step dancing champion with her constant referral to the two most popular of all Irish dances.

“Between the jigs and the reels, what are we up to now?”


But as far as I know, she was no River Dancer, although I suppose in her youth she rattled a few dance boards at the crossroads.

Irish Dance - Between the Jigs and the Reels

Her referral to jigs and reels was typically Irish – an idiom used to express perceived stress and difficulties. Perhaps this statement evolved as a reflection of the chaotic foot movement of Irish dancing.


“Between the jigs and the reels, I finally got it done.”


In this instance the saying reflects success was achieved, despite all the confusion.


“I don’t know how we did it, but between the jigs and the reels,

we’re finally ready to go.”


The primary way my granny used this expression was to say “what with one thing and another”.


“So, between the jigs and the reels, poor Mikey lost the cow.”


The jigs and the reels often expressed the trials and tribulations of farming life.

Irish Harp - Between the jigs and the reels.

At other times she used the phrase to express her determination, the words taking on a hopeful meaning of “somehow or another.”


“I’ll get that money together, between the jigs and the reels.”


As you can see, the jigs and the reels were frequently invoked during my childhood.

I was wondering if any of you remember your Irish relatives using this expression. Perhaps they paired it with another typically Irish exclamation. Please feel free to join in this little Irish dancing discussion, in the comments section below.

And so, between the jigs and the reels of life as mom, it’s time for me to sign off for today.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom