Union of Kilrush, Killard, Kilfierard, Moyferta & Kilbarrryhone:
‘Shrove Tuesday is the greatest day in the year for weddings; and Roman Catholic priests are generally occupied in celebration of matrimony from sunrise to midnight. The general fee on this occasion is two guineas and a half, and many thoughtless couples, under the age of sixteen, pay it with cheerfulness, when they have not another penny in their possession. They who do not marry on this day must wait until Easter Monday, on account of the intervening Lent.
The usual desert and supper on Shrove Tuesday is the pancake, small pieces of them rolled up in a stocking, and placed under a lover’s pillow, are found to be very efficacious in producing prophetic dreams to console those who are compelled to defer their matrimonial engagements from Ash Wednesday to Easter-Monday.’
William Shaw Mason, A Statistical Account or Parochial Survey of Ireland ii
As the first day of the week Mondays were traditionally believed to hold an ominous influence over the days that followed, with the old phrase ‘good Monday, good week, and bad Monday, bad week’ being universally popular throughout Ireland a century ago. In consequence of this belief it was deemed to be unlucky to perform particular tasks or activities on that day, for example, people objected to going into new situations or allowing anything to be borrowed on a Monday, from fear that in doing so they’d be giving away the week’s luck. The opening of graves on a Monday was avoided, whenever possible, as attending to a burial on a Monday was believed to encourage death during the remainder of the week. In County Leitrim, at least, it was considered unlucky to mention the Fairies on Mondays, if someone did mistakenly make reference to the fairies they should immediately say “My back to them and my face from them.” Many barbers still close their shops on a Monday and maybe it’s just as well as an old Irish belief claims that by getting your hair cut on a Monday you’re encouraging baldness, with the curse Lomradh an Luain ort, “the shearing of Monday on you” being well known throughout Kerry a couple of generations ago.
Monday’s sinister reputation is heightened by the similarities between the Irish words for Monday ‘Dia Luain’ and Doomsday ‘Lá an Luain,’ and many believed Monday was an ill-favoured day for contracting a marriage. Legend has it that when Saint Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland he barred their return until the Day of Judgement, but the confusion between Lá an Luain and Dia Luain resulted in a reluctance to get married on a Monday, as a Mrs Borland from Derrynane in County Kerry remarked just under a century ago, ‘what would be the use being married the day the snakes returned?’
A legend, with a similar theme, maintains that Lough Foyle means the borrowed lake, in this legend a witch from Ulster asked her younger sister from Connaught into allowing her borrow the lough until the following Monday. The younger sister agrees to this request, and rolls up the lake and carries it across mountains and valleys to her older sister in Ulster, but when Monday arrives the older sister refuses to return the lake insisting that she was promised the lake not just till Monday but until the day of judgement.
Well there’s always some good with the bad, and Monday was believed to be a favoured day for undertaking certain tasks and activities, for example, Lady Augusta Gregory noted that Monday was considered to be a favourable day for picking herbs. While Lady Jane Wilde found that Monday was a favoured day for faith healers to apply cures for many illnesses including depression and liver complaints, and even witchcraft.
Gregory, Lady Augusta. Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland. London, 1920.
Mac Lir, Mananaan. ‘The Folklore of Months’. Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, (1895)
Wilde, Lady Jane, Ancient Cures, Charms and Usages in Ireland, London, 1890.
‘The 11th of February is the Feast of St Gobinet. At this date a large cattle fair – “the fair of St Gobinet’s Well” – was, up till recent times, held in the townland of Kilgobinet (“Gobinet’s church”), near Ballyagran (Baile Atha Grean “the ford mouth of gravel”) village, about four miles west of Bunree, county Limerick. “Rounds” were also paid to St. Gobinet’s Holy Well there, and all the marriageable young men took care to stand on the hillock in the fair green, locally known as Cnocán a bouchailli ie. “the boy’s hillock,” or, literally, “the hillock of the cowherd.” For it is a well-known fact that the young man who stood on Cnocán a bouchailli on St Gobinet’s Day and invoked her intercession was certain (unless his own fault) to be “well married” – that is, a prosperous or wealthy match – against that day twelve months. The fair, notwithstanding this paramount attraction, is extinct for the past dozen years, and with the fair is also gone the custom of standing on the “cowboy’s hillock.”
In this (the county Limerick) district, Gobinet is translated into Deborah, while in the county Cork it is rendered Abina or Judith.’
Journal of the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society, 1895
‘Candlemas Day, the 2nd of February, used to be held in old pagan times as a kind of saturnalia, with dances and torches and many unholy rites. But these gave occasion to so much ill conduct that in the ninth century the Pope abolished the festival, and substituted for it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, when candles are lit in her honour. Hence the name of Candlemas.
The people make a cake of yellow clay taken from a churchyard, then stick twelve bits of candle in it, and recite their prayers, kneeling round, until all the lights have burned down. A name is given to each light, and the first that goes out betokens death to the person whose name it bears, before the year is out.’
Wilde, Lady Jane. Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland. London, 1888.