Emerald Isle

The Parshell

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales tales of Ireland

A cross for Samhain

There is a kind of cross, not unlike the much more famous St Brigid's cross, which can only be made on Hallowe'en or Samhain as it used to be known. It could be hung inside the front door, in the thatch or elsewhere within the house, and it was reputed to offer protection from bad luck, sickness, curses and the fairy folk who might be up to no good for the full year to come!

Each year a new one had to be made, and the old one was moved to another part of the house, or sometimes to the barn to help protect the farm animals. When taking down the old cross you had to say “Fan istigh ar an Sídhe” in order for it to retain some of its potency. This meant “Stay inside on account of the fairies”.

When hanging the new cross, you would recite the following:

An donas amach,
Is an sonas isteach,
Ó anocht go dtí bliain ó anocht

Misfortune/ill-luck out,
Happiness/good-luck in,
From this night until a year from tonight

To make your own Parshell cross, take two lengths of rowan wood, no more than 2cm wide and 20cm long. Tie them together into a cross shape with red thread.

Then use wheaten straw to start weaving in the centre and out in a clockwise direction. Weave the straw over one stick and under the next, tying pieces together if need be, going around the cross until there is about 3cm of Rowan twig sticking out at the ends.

And you're all set to hang your Parshell cross! They were particularly fond of these crosses in Cavan, marked on the map below.

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Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland

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