Kildare, 2 November

Barry-interior
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.

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3 thoughts on “All Souls’ Day

  1. Can you explain the meaning of the three cups of spring water please? Its fascinating that the observance begins with sacred fire and ends with sacred water, the two building blocks of creation in Indo-European cosmology.

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    1. Hi Ellen, that’s is really interesting I hadn’d noticed the correlation. Off hand I’m guessing that it is symbolically connected with the Trinity, which is central to many religions and paganism – I’ll look into it and if I discover anything I’ll let you know. Nev

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