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Whether or not there’s an element of truth to this story, it’s a good example of Ireland’s passed-down oral history and a reminder of its pagan past.
Like in Ireland, my home island of Cape Breton has a rich storytelling culture.
In the meantime, I’m going to have a slice of this barmbrack with a hot cup of tea to celebrate Samhain — and yes, the girls and I will be leaving a pan of milk outside tonight for our “little friends” in the Ring Fort.
Like many people, I learned a lot about cooking form my mum and have then expanded that myself as an adult to a broader range of cuisines and experimenting to suit my tastes and lifestyle.
You can still find people who leave pans of milk out for the faeries at night, and places like the Ring Fort on our farm are never, ever disturbed.
Another tradition the Irish hold dear is the eating of barmbrack (or bairín breac, in Irish) at Halloween.
Samhain is one of four seasonal holidays in the ancient Celtic religion.
Whoever picks the pea won’t marry within the year, the cloth means whoever picks it will live in poverty, and the stick symbolizes an unhappy marriage.Some, like my father-in-law, leave them alone because of their historical significance.Others are superstitious and believe bad luck will follow them and their farm if they disturb the space.The forts were also believed to be magical places, inhabited by the “little people” — or faeries — and were never touched or explored, which is why the fields were partitioned around them.Today, not many farmers believe that Ring Forts are inhabited by faeries, but they still don’t touch them.
The yearly loaf of barmbrack is part of a fortune telling game and another nod to Ireland’s pagan roots.