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St. Brendan's Adventures
St. Brendan lived from the year 489 to about 580. One day, a friend told him about the Promised Land of the Saints. On this island day never ends. The rocks are jewels.
It had a wooden frame covered with cowhides. The outside was smeared with grease to make it waterproof. It had one sail. St. Brendan blessed the boat and had it filled with supplies. Then he set off to the West with a few monks.
After many days the men spotted an island. A dog led the monks to a large house, filled with marvelous furnishings. There was bread, fish, and water for each of the visitors. Then they slept in comfortable beds. For three days, the sailors ate and rested. Except for the dog, no other living creature was seen on the entire island. Then they set sail again.
On another island, the monks met a man who gave them many supplies. He also told them that they would sail for seven years before returning to Ireland.
Not long after leaving that island, St. Brendan and his monks stepped onto a stony beach. They collected a small pile of driftwood and began to cook lunch. But as the fire burned hotter, the earth began to move. What could be happening? The monks shook in fear. The land began to shake and sink into the water. Racing for the boat, the monks paddled away as fast as they could. When they looked back, they saw the "island" was really a giant fish.
Many months later, St. Brendan told the monks that Easter was near. They searched for land so that they could celebrate the Easter holy day. At last, they reached an island. It was full of trees, grass, ans flowers. The trees were so covered with snow-white birds that the leaves could not be seen. The birds sang so sweetly that St. Brendan called them his Easter choir! Easter was a cheerful day as the monks and birds sang together.
Far away from land, the monks saw a huge beast swimming towards them.The beast's mouth was wide open, as if it would eat the monks and the boat. It swam so fast that it made waves as high as a wall. The huge waves almost swamped the boat. The beast came nearer! The monks held onto the sides of the boat. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, another monster attacked the beast. The beast was killed and the monks were safe.
Sailing on, St. Brendan and his friends saw many strange sights. They found a land with many erupting volcanoes.
The monks saw places where sheep were as big as cows. Another place had grapes as big as apples.
St. Brendan and his crew visited many places before they found the Promised Land of the Saints. The land was so big that they could not explore all of it. They found fruit and jewels, some of which they took back to Ireland.
Some of St. Brendan's adventures sound like make-believe. But scientists have found some very, very old Irish items in different parts of North America. Do you think St. Brendan and his monks might have left surprises for us to find many, many years later? Do you think that just maybe St. Brendan DID find America first?
In the teaching profession for over 21 years, Grainne has taught on two Indian reservations and is nearly as intrigued with the Navajo and Pueblo cultures as she is with the Irish. A few years ago, she also learned that she is part Cherokee Indian. As she puts it, "There are many similarities between the Indian cultures and the Irish, such as the oral storytelling tradition and the emphasis on family."
Since 1994, Grainne has written Irish folktales for children and adults, as well as stories of famous Irish people. Her favorite Irish person is Grace O'Malley, or Grainnauile, for whom she has re-named herself.
Irish Seals and Selkie Tales
Two types of seals live in Ireland - the grey seal, which has a long snout like a dog's, and the common seal which has a round head. Grey seals live along the west coast; the common seal lives in inlets and on sandbanks. In medieval times, seal-hunting was common. But, most Irish people refuse to kill seals. One tradition says that after they die, fishermen turn into seals. Another legend says that seals shed their skins at night and become human. These are the Selkies; they have webs between their fingers and toes and must obey anyone who takes their oily skins; however, if they ever find their seal skins again, they will return to the sea. But, so the story goes, a Selkie wife will not forget her husband and children and can be seen swimming close to the shore watching over them.
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March 4, 2011