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Posts tagged 'Ireland'

Star Wars & the Power of the Force at Ireland's Skellig Michael

By Erik Munnrson October 10, 2017


 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'  -- on location in Ireland!


The final scene of The Force Awakens as well as the new trailer for The Last Jedi both make one thing clear. Luke Skywalker has, presumably, spent years on his isolated planet of self exile. Here, we are led to believe (so far!) he has been leading a monastic life. The landscape of the rocky island on his watery hermit world certainly oozes with loneliness and quietude -- a place for deep contemplation of the Force.





Well, the film’s producers certainly nailed the location, but they weren't the first to consider this particular landscape inspiring in a spiritual way. The location for the epic meeting between Luke and Rey is Skellig Michael (Irish: Sceilig Mhichíl) and was home to a Gaelic Christian monastery for at least three hundred years.





Skellig Michael, also known as Sceilig Mhór (irish for “Great Skellig”), is the larger of two rocky outcroppings in the wind-whipped ocean off the coast of Ireland’s Iveragh Peninsula, part of County Kerry. It has always been a home to seabirds, but also monks from sometime between the 6th and 8th century until the late 12th century.


That is, unless you agree with the Irish legend. It is said that Ir, son of Míl Espáine, is buried on the island. A medieval manuscript also claims that Duagh, King of West Munster, fled to Sceilig Mhór after feuding with the Kings of Cashel. Neither of these historical tales can be verified, but it clearly shows how powerful a place this island is for inspiring people, including Jedi.






The site was dedicated to Saint Michael some time prior to 1044. It was eventually abandoned due to worsening weather and suppression by the Catholic Church of native Gaelic Christian practices. The first clue to monastic activity on the island is a death record for one "Suibhini of Skelig" in the 8th century. Legend claims the monastery was founded by Saint Fionán in the 6th century.





There were probably no more than a dozen monks in residence at any one time. They were attacked by Vikings at least once in 823. The ruins of their little monastery, like the rest of the island, can be visited. The humble buildings stand on a terraced shelf 600 feet above sea level. The six dry-built structures are of the clochán “beehive” dome design. A number of stone crosses, slabs and water cisterns remain, as well as a later medieval church. 19th-century lighthouses stand on the Atlantic side.





Skellig Michael was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Today there are regular boat tours to the island which include tours of the ruins as well as information on the unique environment. Bird watchers love the huge populations of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills and more. Bottlenose dolphins and Grey seals may also be seen. If you don’t have access to an X-wing, simply drive to the state-of-the-art visitor center located on the mainland. 





So what do you think?
Did Star Wars successfully create an alien world from Ireland's rugged beauty?
Check out the Star Wars Trailer right here and judge for yourself!



Do Irish Wear Kilts?

By Erik Munnrson February 23, 2017

It’s a perennial question with a lot of confusion. Did Irish people wear kilts? The short answer is yes, but not for as long as the Scots. While kilts in Scotland can be dated back some 300 years or more, Irishmen have only kilted up for the past 100 years or so. Still, there’s no tradition like a new tradition! How did it come about? It’s all about nationalism and Gaelic pride.



Throughout the Middle Ages, Irish men wore a long linen tunic called the Lein-croich. There are many depictions of it in stone carvings and other art like the 16th-century painting of Irish warriors below. In these images, the saffron-dyed Lein-croich is often bunched up around the body and the men are bare legged. This led some later observers to mistake it for a Great Kilt such as the Scots wore.



The first documented use of a true kilt in Ireland was by students and faculty of the Saint Enda’s School around 1910. The school was founded by Irish nationalist Patrick Pierce and his peers to boost Irish pride and a reconnection to Gaelic culture and language (the "Gaelic Revival"). The school fostered the idea of the kilt as a pan-celtic garment and supplied kilts to dance students.



You might expect the first Irish kilts to be Kelly green, but not so. In fact, the very first ones worn by the nationalists were blue; the canonical color of Saint Patrick. Around the time of World War One, Irish units serving in the British military adopted Saffron for parade and pipe band uniforms -- a tradition which continues to this day.




Modernly, there are many beautiful Irish tartans for proud Irishmen to choose from. Since the 1990's, each county has had its own (unofficial) distinct tartan. While a few Irish families do have tartans associated with them, most people trace their ancestry back to a county of origin and wear that tartan. This is especially popular in the USA. In fact, more Irish Americans kilt up than Irish natives, including many pipe bands across the country. Military branch tartans are also very popular with Irish American service people.



There are also several universal tartans for people of Irish descent. And while county tartans are usually only available in wool, these universals are available in PV (polyviscose), so you can enjoy a cool, machine-washable kilt for Saint Patrick’s Day festivities as well as casual wear at festivals or the pub. Here are the top universal Irish kilt favorites available from USA Kilts:


Kelly Green
- as universally Irish as the Shamrock and very popular with those who want a simple look. Or if you want to show off a really gorgeous sporran  a green kilt is a great option.


- the oldest recorded Irish tartan. Originally known as “Murphy” in Victorian times, it is named for the Mound of Tara where the ancient irish kings were crowned.


Ireland’s National
- The colors of the flag of Ireland set against rich black. if someone refers to an all Ireland tartan, this may be the one they are thiking of. 


Irish American
- Designed especially for the sons and daughters of proud Irish immigrants.


Irish Heritage
- Classic kelly green and silver on black. Fans of a certain Boston punk band may find it familiar! Also an elegant tartan for dressing up.


- The “color of the kings” hearkening back to medieval Ireland and also honoring Irish military men.


Scruffy Wallace
- A USA Kilts original designed especially for the famous Boston rock bagpiper himself. (Limited Edition while supplies last!)


So are kilts irish? Yes. Kilting may not be an old Irish custom, but it is a grand one.  Gaelic men live life to the fullest and that's what kilts are all about, lads!  
Naturally we hope you will choose to kilt up to celebrate your Irish heritage. And when you do, please remember we also proudly carrythe widest selection of Irish kilt accessories around -- many custom-designed USA Kilts Exclusives!


Happy St. Patrick's Day!