Most people know St. Patrick’s Day as a reason to go drink, wear green to avoid getting pinched, and to love all things Ireland and Irish. But- did you know that Ireland also gave us some wonderful pieces of nerd culture? Here are five nerdy things more Irish than not that are present in pop culture today-
Monsters in ‘Supernatural’, as well as Eileen Leahy
The first real ‘Irish’ mythological being featured in Supernatural was Samhain (pronounced sow-in, the -ow sounding like ‘cow’). Rather than an actual monster, Samhain is actually an ancient Celtic celebration and festival at the end of the harvest season (Halloween). It is celebrated from October 31-November 1 and has roots dating back to over 2,000 years ago, with some suggestions that it could be more than 4,000!
The second, and probably more well known Supernatural monster with Irish roots is a banshee. In 1985, the monster left beloved character Eileen Leahy (Shoshannah Stern) deaf after killing her parents, sending her on a mission for revenge. In ancient Celtic mythology, a banshee is a female spirit who may wail, shriek or scream. A visit from a banshee usually heralds a family member’s demise. Oh, and did we mention Eileen herself is also Irish?
King, Legend, Leprechaun. ‘American Gods’’ Mad Sweeney
Mad Sweeney like so many other characters in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is a character surrounded by myth, and usually straight out of legend. This is definitely true for the rowdy, rambunctious leprechaun: Mad Sweeney. Originally the guardian of a sacred rock, he was brought to America by Essie MacGowan. The years have turned Sweeney into a much more jaded version of himself, but there is much of this character still rooted in folklore about leprechauns. Sweeney has the ability to pull gold coins out of thin air and has been known to cause more than his fair share of trouble. Leprechauns are well known for their mischievous ways. But the legend this character seems to be most closely associated to is the legend of Buile Suibhne. Once a king, Buile was cursed by St. Ronan. One version of the tale says the king forced Ronan from his lands. This angered Ronan and he cursed Buile to wander the world naked. Another version of the legend seems to mirror Sweeney’s tale more closely. Subhine was on the verge of battle, when he lost his nerve and fled and was cursed by Ronan for that. This version is truer to Mad Sweeney’s origin. Sweeney himself was once a king, who on the eve of war saw his own death and fled and because of this, he decided to go to war for Mr. Wednesday.
The Claddagh Ring that Angel Gave to Buffy
“The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty, and the heart, well, you know. Wear it with the heart pointing towards you. It means you belong to somebody. Like this.” — Angel
Angel isn’t wrong at all. The Claddagh is noted as originating about five centuries ago, in a fishing village in Ireland. Legend has it that a fisherman was sold into slavery and away from home for many years, but, when he returned, he found that his loved one had been true to him through his long absence. He presented her a Claddagh ring.
The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty, and the heart represents love. There are several different ways to wear a Claddagh as well. The most common expressions today are that if a Claddagh is on the right hand with the heart facing out that you are single, and your heart is open. Placing the heart toward you on the same hand might indicate a relationship or in the very least that your heart is taken. On the left hand and out is a symbol of engagement, and facing towards you could mean marriage.
Claddagh rings are traditionally passed from mothers to daughters in Irish culture, although there are plenty of places to buy your own- such as renaissance faires, some local jewelers, and, of course, the internet.
A Handful of the ‘Harry Potter’ Cast
It may not come as all too much of a surprise to learn that a handful of the cast of Harry Potter hails from the rolling greens of Ireland, since, it was filmed in the United Kingdom, a hop, skip and jump away. In fact, we have Ireland to thank for Richard Harris and Michael Gambon, who both portrayed Dumbledore, as well as for Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody), Domhnall Gleeson (Bill Weasley), Geraldine Somerville (Lily Evans), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart) and Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan).
The World and Legends in the ‘Fever’ Series by Karen Moning
Not as well known as everything else on this list, but my favorite book series is the ‘Fever’ series, starting with ‘Darkfever’ by Karen Moning. Exploring deep into the myths and legends of both Irish and Scottish culture, and set in Dublin- this one makes it to the list in hopes that others will pick this series up and read it. It definitely got me thinking even more about Ireland, reviewing the maps in the books, and comparing legends to actual Irish legends. Karen Moning did a lot of research on Ireland and the book’s settings before writing.
Its synopsis as told on the back cover?
My philosophy is pretty simple-any day nobody’s
trying to kill me is a good day in my book.
I haven’t had many good days lately.
MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman.
Or so she thinks… until something extraordinary happens.
When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae…
As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless V’lane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands…