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Irish Wildlife and Folklore

“We don’t own the planet Earth, we belong to it. And we must share it with our wildlife. The message is simple: love and conserve our wildlife.”

Steve Irwin

One of my favourite moments in Irish mythology is when Fionn is about to be attacked by a giant and he is rescued by a group of kangaroos. Or, what about when Setanta has lost his sliotar only for a wallaby to bound up next to him and produce another from its pouch!

Alright, those moments are actually made up but many people are surprised when they hear about a colony of wallabies living in Ireland. I’m serious. Lambay island is the largest Irish island and it is home to wallabies since the 1950’s. They were brought to Ireland by the Baring family, who own the island today. It may seem odd at first to think of wallabies in Ireland but they have thrived on the island and having been supplemented with an additional overflow from Dublin zoo in the 1980’s have now reached over 100 in number. https://www.thejournal.ie/wallabies-lambay-island-2…/

Photo by David Halpin

The ebb and flow of Irish wildlife is both poignant and delicate, of course. From the extinction of wolves and bears to the introduction of rabbits in the 11th century, it can be an education when trying to define what native species can mean sometimes. Depending on how far back in time we go we will witness various moments when a species arrives to make Ireland their home. Wild boar, once plentiful in Ireland before their extinction, have been illegally reintroduced, for example, and have had to be culled because of how successfully they adapted to the new Irish environment. The opposite to that is how other aspects of Irish nature are collapsing at an alarming rate.
https://www.irishtimes.com/…/the-six-steps-urgently…

Officially, we have 26 species of land mammal considered native to Ireland including the red fox, the otter and red deer. As mentioned, other species were introduced such as the brown rat and grey squirrel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fauna_of_Ireland

We are not short of mythical creatures either with a host of lake monsters and pookas cited in all regional folklore. It is also said that one of Ireland’s most controversial species of flora, the ragwort, transported fairies here from their Otherworld off the western coast.

When we look at Irish folklore and mythology it is obvious how our wildlife integrates into the traditions, characters and archetypes of these tales. Sometimes reality combines with imagination and interpretation to create a symbolic representation of the spirit of a place or creature. In this context, animism, our most ancient spiritual belief system, is impossible to separate from our environment. This might seem obvious but when you look at how we are destroying our wildlife, rivers and countryside it seems its not obvious enough. Hopefully, we will begin to see a new respect for the Irish environment before it is too late.

Photo by David Halpin

David Halpin is a writer from Tallaght, now living on the Carlow/ Wicklow border. He has been writing about Irish Forteana and spirituality for over thirty years and has had his articles published in magazines and books throughout the world. David’s photographs of Ireland’s sacred sites have been published in journals and articles worldwide and in 2020 were included in An Taisce’s annual report on the Irish landscape. David is also a reviewer of esoteric writing and as well as publishing for The Occult Book Review, he also contributes regularly to newspapers, magazines and online publications. His articles have appeared in The Wild Hunt, New Dawn Magazine, Coire Ansic, and he is a regular contributor to Ancient Origins. David also runs the blog, Circle Stories, where he focuses his writing upon the topics of consciousness and folklore.

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