I met a friend from Canada last week who wanted a little history lesson on Ireland.
Do you want to know what I told her? Nothing!
I told her nothing because it wasn’t until that very moment that I realised I know very little about the country in which I’ve spent the entirety of my life.
It seems a little embarrassing, actually.
My realisation onset a lengthy process of ‘having a good look at myself’ as I questioned just how worthy I am of being called Irish – because I do adore being Irish.
So, I did just that. I had a good hard look at myself and I discovered very quickly that it’s not my lack of loyalty to my culture, but instead a habit of comparison that took the blame.
We as humans compulsively compare ourselves to absolutely everything around us – sometimes I think we do it unconsciously. I look at Swiss culture and grade it against my own. I compare my job to others, viewing their career path as better than my own. I think of the weather in Spain as so much better than Ireland.
I fear that being compulsively in awe of others stands in the way of seeing the best in what we already have. The grass isn’t always greener, as they say.
Anyway, after my light bulb moment, I forced myself to research a little into Irish history just in case I was once again faced with the awkward question, ‘can you teach me something about Ireland’.
Google and some Irish folklore books led me down a rabbit hole of Irish Mythology and iconic creatures. My study session taught me about the iconic mythological creatures and stories of Ireland, leprechauns, the banshee, fairies and elves. Some fascinating stuff. One story, however, stood out to me enough to share.
The story of how The Mish Mountains in County Kerry got their name.
So here it is: enjoy.
Mish, the daughter of Daire Donn, king of Rome, watched as her father was decapitated by the opposing army during a vicious battle. Mish, deeply traumatised and unknowing how to grieve the loss of her father after watching him brutally murdered approached his decapitated body and drank the blood from it. This action caused her to lose her mind and turn utterly mad from the trauma she had experienced. She ran deep into the mountains in Tralee to deal with the grief of losing her father. Mish was so incredibly tormented with grief that she began to transform into a clawed, feathered creature that would live in the mountains and would viciously attack and kill anyone who ventured into the mountainous area. She had become something known in Ireland as a gelt – an old Irish word for lunatic.
The local people in the area began to call the mountains the mountains of Mish or Slieve Mish because Mish, this completely crazed animalistic creature ruled the mountains so nobody could enter them.
The surrounding kings started to get pretty fed up, so they made many attempts to capture Mish but failed each and every time, losing many great soldiers in the process.
So, the King of Munster decided to take another approach. Rather than sending in men of violence, he ordered his harp player, Dove to go into the valley of the mountains try and capture the beast of Mish.
Against his will, Dove walked deep into the mountains and stopped at a spot in a valley between the mountains. This valley is known as Gleann-na-nGealt, meaning The Valley of Madness in Irish, and is covered in fresh watercress which grows from the springs that flow down the sides of the mountains.
Dove was pretty terrified being in The Valley of Madness, awaiting the company of Mish, but he set up camp anyway and sat down to play his harp. After a while, Dove notices that Mish, feathered and clawed was coming closer out of the darkness towards his camp site; she sat down to listen to the music.
As Mish listens to the music, she begian to lose her nGealt like appearance. Her claws retracted, her feathers began to fall from her body and Dove started to see her transform back into the princess she once was.
Dove and Mish remained in the mountains together eating the water crest and bathing in the springs. Their time together cured Mish from her madness, and they returned to the King of Muster married.
The best part though, is yet to come.
Since the story of Mish and the Valley of the Mad was known, right up until today, people who have suffered from mental illness in Ireland would take themselves off to live in the Mish mountains in the hope of curing their illness as Mish did.
Irish people who wander off into the hills, eat the fresh water crest and bath in the springs in Gleann-na-nGealt claim they found comfort and solace in the hills.
It’s been recorded those individuals who wandered into the hills had in fact returned with no trace of any mental illness and had cured themselves after spending time in The Mountains of Mish.
Repetitive claims of cured illness forced a group of scientists into Gleann-na-nGealt so they could test the water crest and spring water for anything that make contribute to the claims being true. Their results found high levels of lithium in the spring water and water crest, a psychedelic drug which would have, in fact, helped cure the mental illnesses of those who ventured into the hills.
That’s just crazy to me!