4 November 2011


Colm Keane. Forewarned: Extraordinary Irish Stories of Premonitions and Dreams. Capel Island, 2011

This is a collection of mainly first hand accounts of premonitions, dreams, omens and etc. Given than such stories are self reported and after the event they possess little evidential value for psychical researchers and unlikely to convince the sceptic, Rather, accounts like these are best seen as collections of folk narratives and it as such that there interest lies.
They show how human beings constantly tell stories of supernatural occurrences by which they help to make sense of their lives and reduce the terror of the randomness of life.

This collection includes stories dating from the 1960s up to the present and reading between the lines many of the social changes which have affected Ireland in recent years are hinted at. As benefits a society in transition they often contain both traditional motifs, there is material here which could easily have appeared in Lady Gregory's Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland yet set in the modern world of motor cars and television sets. Besides the general 'premonitions' and vague feelings which are remarkably similar to those in the collections of Louisa Rhine, there are more traditional motifs, the appearance of strange lights, the ominous significance of birds such as robins or blackbirds, or strange knockings. Rather prominent by its absence is the traditional banshee (is the banshee actual folklore or is it 19th/early 20th century fakelore?). Perhaps also of significance is that the majority of the narratives date from a time before the ubiquity of the mobile phone.

Through the stories there are a number of social historical motifs, most notably the role of emigration to the UK and North America, with the consequent family separation. However largely absent are the 'Troubles' in the North, perhaps some traumas are still too raw for folkloric narrative. - Peter Rogerson

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