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SC2021 Myth and Magic: An Introduction to the Study of Irish Folklore and Mythology (Wednesdays)

Ended 7 Apr 2021

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Full course description

Course Overview

This course provides an introduction to the subject of Irish mythology and folklore, ranging from ancient stories of heroes, gods and sacred sites, to contemporary beliefs in the supernatural (particularly fairies, the banshee and ghosts). Legends, customs, festival celebrations and storytelling traditions are explored, as well as the history of the compilation of mythology as well as folklore collection in Ireland and how the mindset and agendas of different collectors influenced different views and understandings of the collected material. Traditional Irish stories and customs are explored in order to gain insights into cultural meanings and how people make sense of the world around them. Classes cover mythological sources as well as traditional beliefs, customs and narrative traditions in the Irish context.


This is a great course for anyone interested in the beliefs, stories and customs of ordinary people. It is especially suited to anyone interested in the supernatural, mythology, customs, popular religious ritual or storytelling.  The course is unique in that it provides in-depth discussion of a variety of aspects of Irish folklore, mythology, religiosity and the cultural history of Ireland. It is the only ACE course that examines topics such as fairies, ghosts and other beliefs from an academic perspective; serious attention is not often paid to these aspects of culture.


Course Schedule 


Classes will be delivered online on Wednesdays 7-9pm for ten weeks from 27 January to 7 April.


1. Approaches to the study of mythology and folklore
2. The Otherworld (Spiritual Realm) of Irish tradition
3. Daoine Sidhe (‘People of the Mounds’): Fairy legends and landscape
4. Festivals: Samhain and Bealtaine
5. Festivals: Imbolc and Lughnasadh
6. "St Patrick and the Serpent as Symbols in Myth and Folklore"
7. Selkies and Water Monsters: legends about Irish waterways
8. Witchcraft and magic in Irish Tradition
9. Pattern days and rag trees
10. Death omens and the wake (funeral): Beliefs about death and dying

Course Lecturer

Dr. Jenny Butler holds a PhD from the Department of Folklore and Ethnology, UCC and currently works in the Department of Study of Religions, UCC, where she teaches on New Religious Movements and Western Esotericism. She is a specialist on Irish folk religion and is currently conducting a comparative ethnographic research project on beliefs and legends about fairies as part of the intangible cultural heritage of Ireland and Newfoundland, Canada.  Research Profile:

Entry Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement. No prior knowledge of Irish culture, folklore, mythology or the Irish language is necessary.


Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.

Closing Date for Application

Monday 18 January

Contact Details for Further Information

Regina Sexton, Phone: 021-4904700, Email: