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Pishogues; CROSS DRESSING + A WILD HARE

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Original article; http://farmette.ie/tag/pishogue/

Yes, you read that correctly. That is indeed the correct title of this blog post. Now, imagine my surprise to learn that our little parish has been historically known to have women morphing into hares by night and kids dressing up as their opposite sex counterparts on occasion.  Strange, but I must admit it made me feel a little more “at home”…I mean what’s more American than Playboy bunnies and cross dressing…very urban…very cosmopolitan, no?

On a closer examination, I learned that this countryside cross dressing/hare morphing was of a different ilk, which was initially disappointing, but became far more interesting as I listened to the cacophony of stories about “May Eve” and all of the beliefs attached to it. Pishoguery, coaxioriums, changelings, faeries and perhaps the most fabulous and sensational: real women who transform into hares and run around wildly about the land. {without a doubt, a talent I would most certainly love to have}

Now, we all know that Ireland has it’s fair share of lore and such, but I had no idea that many of these teachings still have a valid place in modern countryside society and that furthermore many traditions around those beliefs are still practiced in our tiny village. In fact, I was only just informed yesterday that our entire farm is sprinkled with holy water each year on “May Eve” to ward off Pishoguery and other spirits.

Allow me to explain. May Eve is the evening before May Day (April 30th) and on this evening it is said that a certain type of sorcery transpires in which female evil-doers called “pishogues” come round and do their best to make people’s lives miserable in one way or another.  The pishogues would do things such as lay eggs, bread, meats and other consumable items on another’s land and it is believed that by doing so it would somehow rob the riches from that farm and be transferred onto the pishogue’s estate. Now, let me be clear-these pishogues were real people; neighbours, churchgoers and everyone knew who they were. Real people who were known to be sort of possessed by the devil and forced into doing these dreadful acts.  This pishoguery basically put the fear of God in people and villagers began sprinkling holy water on their homes, livestock, farmyards, machinery….everything and anything to ward off this evil on May Eve. (I hate to say it, but it kinda sorta reminds me of what seemed to happen whenever the Avon lady would come calling in the neighborhood where I lived as a child.)

It doesn’t end with the Pishogues, May Eve offers still more unusual events and characters. There would be faeries flitting about who were known to capture the little boys from farms and change them into their own offspring, i.e. “changelings”. In order to prevent their children from being taken, families dressed up their boys as girls to fool the faeries. Apparently, girls were no good to them.  This meant that it wouldn’t be uncommon to see little boys dressed as girls walking about the village or going to church on the first of May; and nobody would give them a second look. Oh, how times have changed.…

Of course, no May Eve would be complete without a story involving the ubiquitous “love potion”.  Yes, coaxioriums were popular on this evening as well {LOVE the word coaxiorium-despite the fact that I can’t say it out loud}. Allegedly, if a woman made an advance on a man and was rejected she would slip him a potion and he’d come around. After this act, the people in the community would comment that she must have gave him the coaxiorium. Nowadays, it seems it’s the men who need their own secret little potion of one type or another…..

My absolute favourite is the whole business of women who had the power to turn into hares. They would morph into wild rabbit hares and go out during that day or evening and get into all kinds of mischief and then return home and have a cup of tea as if nothing had happened. Often times, a person would come across a lady’s dress and shoes lying near a hedge and they would take no notice, assuming that she had likely changed into a hare and was just out galavanting in the field.  Forgive me, but I would take great pleasure in that type of behaviour…imagine, if you will, gathering all of your best girlfriends, changing yourselves into hares and having a mad little tea party in the Irish countryside with all of the hedgehogs and red foxes.

So there you have it, May Eve, cross dressing and wild women hares in the country. While this all seems a bit Twilight Zone-y to me, many of these accounts have credible witnesses and are steeped in traditions that have stood the test of time. So now I know that in Kilcolman, we sprinkle our holy water to be safe and all I can say is:what’s good for the gander…

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

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About pfiddle

Fiddle teacher - mostly Irish trad. Fiddle, mandolin and concertina. Eco-warrior, won E.U. Green Flower Award for Eco Accommodation. Also Irish (Gold) GHA. Green Hospitality Award. Mad keen on self-build - especially straw-bale and cob. 55 with a full head of (slightly) graying hair. No tattoos or piercings. Fond of animals - but legally so. Fond of food - I eat nothing else. Vegetarian by choice, Irish by the grace of birth, Munster by force of (rugby) arms.

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