Leave a Drop for the Wee Folk, Part 1

Reflecting on our Irish Holiday, the First Part

Are there still fairies in Ireland? Consider:

Waves crashing over the cliffs of Valentia Island.
After night fall, old timers don’t set foot on the wild corners of Valentia Island.
In county Clare, authorities rerouted an expressway for the sake of a whitethorn bush. 

A “fairy fort” on the Dingle Peninsula

All over Ireland, ancient forts remained untouched for generations due to the belief that the fairies would bring to a terrible end anyone who so much as cleared the bracken around a fort.

Finally, I offer my own encounter with the wee folk, which took place while biking Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula.


On the surface, it’s a simple story: The road sloped downward and I expected my bike to coast, but instead I found myself pedalling harder and harder to keep going. At the base of the hill, a small stream crossed over the road, which then sloped up again. I crossed the stream and all of the sudden I could pedal easily–up hill (and no, there was no gear shifting involved). At the time I remember thinking that I had experienced an optical allusion or anti-gravity event.

 Slea Head Drive
That night, I read from Meeting the Other Crowd–The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland, a collection of simple, surprisingly modern fairy encounters gathered from the around Ireland. I learned that the wee folk prefer not to cross running water. Then, I read a story about a man who had to push his bicycle down hill because a band of fairies had convened nearby and they didn’t want to be discovered. Wouldn’t you know it, once the man crossed a stream, he could pedal again.

Terrified, I climbed down from my twin sized hostel bunk bed and demanded that Steve let me share his. The other crowd is not to be trifled with. Later that night, I awoke to the music of an Irish flute drifting up from the street below.
As far as I know, the wee folk won’t bother me in America, but just to be on the safe side, I now follow a tradition which our Irish wwoofing hosts informed us of: never take that last swig of Guinness (or cider). Leave a drop for the wee folk.

This tradition could, I suppose, also have something to do with backwash.

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