Wednesday 29 July 2015

Fraughan Sunday

The last Sunday of July, when you might expect the weather to be pretty good in Ireland, is known as Garland Sunday, Domhnach na bhFraocháin [Bilberry Sunday] or Domhnach Chrom Dubh [Black Cripple Sunday].  All these names and the associated customs have been hanging round the neck of 'Christian' Ireland since before St Patrick came and drove out the snakes and converted the people.  Literally in the case of the garlands which were made of ivy Hedera helix and apples Malus domestica and draped round the necks of  the unmarried adults as they processed to a local holy place.  The original pagan consequences of having young singles of both sexes gathered in one place as darkness fell on a warm Summer night have been sublimated into more seemly rituals. Where we live on the side of a 'mountain' in the Sunny South-East many people of middle age and older can remember having picnics up in the hills to gather fraughans [R] aka bilberries or whinberries or Vaccinium myrtillus on Fraughan Sunday. A few years ago local author and researcher Micheal Conry published a book Picking bilberries, fraughans and Whorts in Ireland: the human story [£50 on Amazon] about the impact this humble species had on the community. There were times, particularly during the wars, when fraughans could be sold for good money to dealers who came from London: the usual supply from the Baltic states being interrupted. Garland Sunday is naturally associated with Lughnasadh 1st August which marks the beginning of the harvest season. Lugh is the god of light and he has been in everlasting conflict with Crom Dubh, the dark crooked one.  This may remind you of another great dualistic religion Manichaeism which burst out of Persia in the C3rd CE and spread through the known world.

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