I have called the present volume Legends of Saints and Sinners, which to a certain extent it is- but I mean it for a book of Irish Christian folk-lore. My idea in compiling it has been to give for the first time a collection of genuine IrishMoreI have called the present volume Legends of Saints and Sinners, which to a certain extent it is- but I mean it for a book of Irish Christian folk-lore. My idea in compiling it has been to give for the first time a collection of genuine Irish folk-lore which might be called Christian.
By this I mean folk-stories and folk-poems which are either entirely founded upon Christian conceptions, or else are so far coloured by them, that they could never have been told—at least in their present shape—had not Christianity established itself in Ireland.
Every one of these stories conforms fairly to this standard, except one or two, which I give as necessary corollaries. They are all translations from the Irish. I have found hardly any such stories in English. They were mostly collected by myself from the mouths of native speakers, but three or four of them I have taken from Irish MSS.
in my own possession, and a few more were given me by my friends. Not one of these stories was ever translated into English before, with the exception of those which I have taken from my own Religious Songs of Connacht. Many of these I decided to republish here, as they were practically lost amongst the heterogeneous mass of poems, prayers, charms, etc., in which they were embedded- and, as the Religious Songs are little known, these stories which I have excerpted from them will be new to nineteen-twentieths of my readers.
Several of these pieces have never been printed even in Irish, but I hope to shortly publish the original text of these, especially the Adventures of Léithin, which seems to belong to a strange and weird cycle of beast and bird-lore, now lost or almost lost, but of which we find hints here and there though we know nothing certain.Most of these pieces may be said to be in a true sense folk-lore, seeing that they have almost all lingered more or less vividly in the memory of people who for the most part could neither read nor write. Some of them obviously come from Continental sources, though how they first found their way into Ireland is obscure, and the derivation of some of them cannot now be traced- others, however, are of a purely native invention- while a third class engrafts native traits and ideas upon foreign subject matter.The stories in this collection cover a good deal of ground and present many various aspects of folk tradition and folk belief.
Of native Saints we find legends concerning Patrick, Columcille, Deglan, Moling and Ciaran- of foreign Saints we find legends of St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Martin- of unknown or mythical characters we find tales of Grainne Oïgh, Friar Brian, The Old Woman of Beare, and Mulruana.
Of other well-known names, Oisín and Oscar and Solomon appear. Curiously enough I have not chanced upon any folk-tale told about Saint Brigit, the Mary of the Gael. There is, for some reason or other, a distinct predominance of Petrine stories among these legends.