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The Source:

Deborah R. Davis:
"Famine Ghosts and the Fiar Gortach: A Strand of Irish Belief"
in: Folklore Forum 27:2 (1996)

Anne O'Connor:
"The Blessed and the Damned - Sinful Women and Unbaptised Children in Irish Folklore"
Peter Lang AG, Bern, 2005

The Case:

Before we get to the case, and for those wo do not know about this, there is an Irish superstition about the "Féar Gortach" or "Hungry Grass". These are spots out in the field. If you tread on them you feel like you are starving and it is said that if you don't immediately eat a small piece of food you are going to die of starvation or will be hungry for the rest of your life.

Most authors connect this with the Great Irish Famine. Most say these are spots where someone has died of starvation. Others say they are places where the coffin of one of the victims has been put down on the way to the cemetery. There are those who say there is a body burried down there. And in other places these hunger spots are associated with the grave of an unbaptised child.

These tales and spots are spread all over Ireland, so I have chosen a concrete case as an example. It has a date and a specific location. I found it in Deborah R. Davis excellent article, which is relatively recent and thus copyrighted. So I will limit myself to picking out some facts and advice you to dig out a copy for yourself.

On to the case then:

In 1991, a woman, who was visiting Curraun with her husband. They were walking around the countryside. She must have stepped on the "Hungry Grass". For this is how she describes her experience:
"I began to feel very weak, and I felt my legs very heavy. And I couldn't go on any longer and I had to sit down. I felt very bad and I felt very, very hungry. I was starving with the hunger."

When she told about it in the local Pub, the owner told her:
"You know what happened to you? I bet you it was the féar gortach. I've heard of the odd person getting that up there."

The Date:

We are told that the event happened in 1991.

The Place:

Curraun Peninsula can be found in County Mayo, somewhere in the middle of Ireland's Westcoast.

Possible Follow-Up:

If you want to learn everything there is to know about the "Féar Gortach", you should definitely read "Famine Ghosts and the Fiar Gortach: A Strand of Irish Belief" by Deborah R. Davis. It is the best article I have ever seen on the subject.

© 2015 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed February 2015

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