Hello, Lovelies! This week we get another festival Tiffany is WAY too excited about and Ashley is absolutely not thrilled about. (Yay!) Below you’ll find images and Tiffany’s show notes!

National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Puck Fair, Killorglin, Co. Kerry

St. Patrick’s Day was Tuesday.  In the US, you wear green, pinch people who aren’t wearing green, drink beer (either Guinness or a green beer) and, claim to be Irish even if you aren’t.  (Insert someone at the table saying, “I’m Irish”.) In honor of this wonderful holiday that is most definitely not about a man driving snakes out of Ireland…. (there were never snakes in Ireland… see below for Encyclopedia Britannica entry on St. Patrick’s Day and an article I didn’t check sources on for the snakes) I’m going to put on my festival hat and tell you about something that is going to make Ashley hella uncomfortable!

Puck Fair is one of the longest running festivals in Ireland.  It takes place Aug. 10-12 in Killorglin, County Kerry (population of just over 2,000).  What do you think it is?  

(Irish Aonach an Phoic, meaning “Fair of the He-Goat”) 

Basically, it’s three days to celebrate Ashley’s least favorite animal: a goat.

The first day of Puck is known as “the gathering”. On this day, our lovely “King Puck” (yes, he is the King) is enthroned on a stand in the town square by the Queen of Puck and a giant horse fair is held. 

Let’s unpack… 3-5 weeks before the Fair, a group goes out and catches a wild puck in the mountains.  They spend time acclimating him to humans (with vets around) and preparing him for his shinning moment.  He is then hoisted to the top of a giant stand to rule over his subjects for three days before being returned to his home.

The Queen of Puck… each year, a contest is held where ladies in the last year of primary school (6th grade) write in to explain why they deserve to be the Queen of Puck.  They are then interviewed and asked to read the famous Puck Fair welcome speech aloud before a decision is made.  That speech is then recited during the Coronation Ceremony on opening day. As queen, she has an official Lady in Waiting and up to ten assistant girls, similarly chosen. The coronation of Queen Puck is celebrated during a ceremony evening of entertainment about a month before the festival itself.   Her ceremonial duties as queen (besides addressing her subjects during the coronation ceremony and meeting & greeting visitors to Puck Fair throughout the festival) will be to crown the goat during the crowning ceremony on the opening day of Puck Fair (also known as “Gathering Day“) and making his coronation as King Puck official.   During the final day of the fair, or Scattering Day, our Queen will also remove his crown, signifying the end of his reign.

Horse fair… Okay this is going to take us into the history of this “Fair” festival.  There are a couple of theories on the origin of Puck Fair. Unfortunately, no one knows the truth.  Here are the theories:

In the time of Daniel O’Connell (the liberator), (early 1800’s) O’ Connell established his reputation as a layer by taking on a case for the local landlord Mr. Harman Blennerhassett. The landlord had fallen out of favor with the authorities in Dublin castle and as a result he was not allowed to place a toll on cattle, sheep and horse fairs. This resulted in a huge financial disadvantage to Blennerhassett who hired O’ Connell to take a case on his behalf. O’ Connell decided that goats were not covered by the decree from Dublin castle and that the landlord would be legally entitled to hold a goat fair and levy his tolls as usual. Thus, the fair began, and a puck goat was hoisted on a stage to show to all attending that the fair was indeed a goat fair.  Now remember, this was early 1800’s.

The next theory (and one of the more popular ones):

During the time of the Cromwellian forces (1600’s) when Cromwell and his cronies were pillaging the countryside at the foot of the Macgillycuddy Reeks, they routed a herd of goats grazing on the uplands. The animals took flight before the raiders, and the he-goat or “Puck” broke away on his own and lost contact with the herd. The goat eventually arrived in Cill Orglain (Killorglin) on the banks of the Laune. His arrival there in a state of semi exhaustion alerted the inhabitants of the approaching danger and they immediately set about protecting themselves and their stock. It is said that in recognition of the service rendered by the goat, the people decided to institute a special festival in his honor and this festival has been held ever since.

We don’t know how long this has been going on but it can be officially be traced back as far as 1613 when King James I issued a charter granting legal status to the existing fair in Killorglin. 

The more plausible origin stems back to the Celtic festival of Lughnasa. The pagan festival pre-dates Christianity in Ireland, and traditionally takes place about halfway between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, in early August. In this retelling of events, the goat is linked with the festival as a symbol of pagan fertility. (A few sources said the goats were sacrificed but that’s sad so let’s not think about it.)

The second day of Puck is known as the “Fair day”. On this day a general cattle fair is held. Vendor line the streets. Musicians perform all day.  There are stilt walkers. (see list on Puck Fair website) The third and last day of Puck is known as the “scattering” day and on this day the goat is removed from his stand and his reign as king Puck ends and he is returned to the wild Kerry mountains. The festival concludes with fireworks.

Imbolc celebrates the beginning of spring, one of four Celtic festivals of the seasons. Here you can take part in Celtic traditions, watch goats of all shapes and sizes being milked and look on as the Imbolc Festival Goat is crowned. Children will love the goats and it is a lovely way to celebrate Celtic history.

The annual Milking of the Goat Festival organised by the Slieve Bloom Association marks Imbolc or Imbolg, which in the old Celtic year fell on February 1-2, midway between a solstice and an equinox. It marked the beginning of the return of Spring. The Slieve Bloom tradition to mark Imbolc was to milk a goat and big crowds came together at a designated spot in years gone by to do just that, share news, and even start courtships.

Afterwards, everyone convened in Dempsey’s Cadamstown for some hearty, warming soup and refreshments, and plenty of friendly chat and stories prompted by our historic renactment of an old Offaly tradition which this local group deserve great praise for keeping some of the old ways alive in face of all-encompassing modernity. “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” Gustav Mahler

Saint Patrick’s Dayfeast day (March 17) of St. Patrickpatron saint of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century, he was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped but returned about 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. By the time of his death on March 17, 461, he had established monasteries, churches, and schools. Many legends grew up around him—for example, that he drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. Ireland came to celebrate his day with religious services and feasts. It was emigrants, particularly to the United States, who transformed St. Patrick’s Day into a largely secular holiday of revelry and celebration of things Irish. Cities with large numbers of Irish immigrants, who often wielded political power, staged the most extensive celebrations, which included elaborate parades. Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, followed by New York City in 1762. Since 1962 Chicago has coloured its river green to mark the holiday. (Although blue was the colour traditionally associated with St. Patrick, green is now commonly connected with the day.) Irish and non-Irish alike commonly participate in the “wearing of the green”—sporting an item of green clothing or a shamrock, the Irish national plant, in the lapel. Corned beef and cabbage are associated with the holiday, and even beer is sometimes dyed green to celebrate the day. Although some of these practices eventually were adopted by the Irish themselves, they did so largely for the benefit of tourists.

Why no snakes?

For one, it’s an island. The Irish Sea is 50-plus miles wide. That would be a long swim for a land animal. A sea snake might have an easier time of it, but sea snakes live in warm tropical waters, not the frigid Atlantic. But, you may be thinking, the U.K. has snakes, and it’s an island. That’s true. But for a long time, neither Britain nor Ireland was home to snakes. The Ice Age made the islands inhospitable to reptiles, whose cold-blooded bodies need heat from the surroundings to function. The glaciers retreated around 10,000 years ago, exposing a land bridge between Europe and Britain, and another between Britain and Ireland, allowing easy passage to the islands. Melting glaciers drowned Ireland’s land bridge 8,500 years ago, whereas Britain’s persisted for another 2,000 years. So, animals from Europe simply had more time to colonize the U.K., and even then only three snake species managed to establish themselves in Britain. None of the three appears to have felt compelled to keep moving west toward Ireland; there’s no evidence for the slithering reptiles in Ireland’s fossil record. Other islands that don’t have snakes include New Zealand, Hawaii, Greenland, Iceland, and Antarctica. 

Pictures: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fcommons.wikimedia.org%2Fwiki%2FFile%3AKing_puck.jpg&psig=AOvVaw0CVFwUc1D3EmS_sZ_ob6kf&ust=1583412447574000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCIjMvfvtgOgCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD (King Puck Statue)

https://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/02/83/97/2839796_6c6ddf13.jpg (Puck Fair Sign)

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/_OkX3UIJlexQqbJLWM-1_gRqiKdgZImGGkBGglQkbNM1viK-_y1SsdvBRUcc_jlbcOm0QfSdXdHsR9ge2XSg_D2jSax_moypPpS-_MRfRbFLaienLPcRwfAgCv6UXdvIeIj6aYVPywAlbwb92-SRUaTeURVtTA (Puck Fair Past)