Frédéric Armao: The Folklore of Spring in Ireland: A Dichotomy of Traditions
← 140 | 141 → FRÉDÉRIC ARMAO
The Irish traditional year was divided into four quarters, each one beginning with a specific festival, i.e. Samain at the beginning of November, Imbolc at the beginning of February, Bealtaine in the first days of May and Lughnasa, three months later, at the beginning of August. These four popular festivals punctuate – or rather, up to the first half of the twentieth century, punctuated – the Irish year, especially in the most rural parts of the island. It has been shown that these four celebrations are, at least partially, the modern folkloric version of ancient festivals which were most likely Celtic by nature.1 To that extent the case of the festival of Bealtaine seems particularly interesting: the celebration of Bealtaine was associated with countless superstitions, beliefs, traditions and pilgrimages. However, a true dichotomy, a clear difference, can be found between the traditions held in rural Ireland on the one hand and larger towns or cities on the other. Does this dichotomy mirror an original and fundamental difference between the rural version of Bealtaine and its urban counterpart? Are the rural and urban versions of the festival two sides of a single coin or, on the contrary, is the problem substantially more complex regarding the symbolism and origins of those traditions?
As Máire MacNeill noted in her seminal work The Festival of Lughnasa, the Irish year used to be – and to a certain extent remains – divided into four quarters arguably corresponding to...
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