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.
Various Issues of the Folklore Journal 1893-1920
Photograph is of Fairhead Village, County Galway, 1902