The Luck Penny




A.C. Hadden, 1893;

‘If an animal is sold on a Sunday the Wicklow people will not take a luck-penny*.’

*As part of a transaction, particularly when buying livestock, a “luck penny” was often returned to the purchaser as a sign of good will.




Saint Catherine’s Day

Ireland, 25 November – 


John Canon O’Hanlon (Lageniensis), 1870;

‘Married women and girls kept a fast  on St Catherine’s Day, November 25th, in order that they might get better husbands, after the death of their present ones; or at least, that they might procure an alternative in their living husband’s manners.’

Irish Folk Lore: Traditions and Customs from the Country 



Hair cuts on A Monday

Kerry –

Jan Lievens, 1607-74. Bust of an Old Man, Full Face (Chiaroscuro Woodcut, 1630-40)
Jan Levins 1607-74 ‘Bust of an Old Man (Full Face) 1630-40


D. Lynch, formerly National teacher at Philipstown in Louth, a native of Caherciveen,  1908;

‘A man whose hair is cut on a Monday will go bald. Hence a kind of comic imprecation used in Kerry: “Lomradh an tuain ort,” “the shearing of Monday on you.”’


Marriage on a Monday

Kerry –


 Mrs John Borland, Derrynane, 1920;

‘You must not be married on a Monday, because when St Patrick banished the reptiles from Ireland he said that they would return on a Monday, and what would be the use being married the day the snakes returned?’


Fridays – Irish Beliefs and Customs about the Sick & the Dead

Ireland –

Illustration – Harry Clarke, from Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe, 1916

Lady Wilde, 1888;

‘A sick person must not be visited on a Friday, not by any person who has just quitted a wake and looked upon the dead.The hair and nails of a sick person must not be cut till after recovery.’

Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland

Blessing & Blood for Saint Martin


Saint Martin’s Eve – 10 November.


DH Moutray Read;

‘In certain districts, especially in Connacht, north Munster and south Leinster, strange customs have been associated with the Feast of St. Martin on 11th November. On St. Martin’s Eve the blood of a farm animal or fowl was spilled and sprinkled in the corners of the house, on the door-posts and windows, and in the byre and stable. In some areas the blood was also used to make the mark of a cross on the forehead of each member of the household.’

Folklore, 1916.

The War of the Cats

Galway – On a night in November


Stephen O’Donnell, Connemara;

‘The village of Lisssavohalane* has a great name for such things (unnatural). And it’s certain that once, one night every year, in the month of November, all the cats of the whole country gather round together there and fight. My own two cats were nearly dead for days after it last year, and the neighbours told me the same of theirs.’

Lady Gregory Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland 1920

* I have been unable to discover a village of this name, perhaps it is an imaginative spelling.

All Souls’ Day & the Dead

Kildare, 2 November

William Gerald Barry (1864-1941), ‘An Old Woman and Children in a Cottage Interior’, circa 1910. (Crawford Art Gallery, Cork)

‘It is said that on this one day of the year the souls of the dead are allowed to re-visit their native districts; and if only the human eye had the power to see them, they would be observed about one on every side “as plenty as thranteens in an uncut meadow.”

At night time it is customary in every house to light a candle in memory of each member of a family who has died. They are placed in an unused room and allowed to burn till midnight, when, after praying for the souls of the dead, they are extinguished, as by that time the souls themselves have returned to rest.

At the last thing at night the hearth is swept clean, and on it are placed three cups of spring water.’

* That the souls of the dead can visit the living is often said of Hallowe’en, and  sometimes extends for a two day period from Hallowe’en to All Souls’ Day.

Journal of the Kildare Historical and Archaeological Society, 1906-8.