“The most important venue for traditional storytelling in Ireland was the ‘ceilidh’: nightly visiting among neighbors which was common until relatively recently during the winter months when nights were long and cold, and the demands of the agricultural cycle were fewer. Storytelling was a key component of a ceilidh, along with music, dancing, and singing, and it was sometimes the case that men and women would each hold their own gatherings. At women’s ceilidhs, fairy tale — rather than sagas and hero tales — would be the usual fare, and during the summer months when they would take their cattle to summer pastures and stay there for a while, women would share these stories together then too.

“In this age in which computers, TV screens, and so many other gadgets have taken the place not just of storytelling but often of conversation, we run the risk of losing that hard-won old wisdom for good. We run the risk of losing the stories — and that matters. In 1962, in his book Symbols of Sacred Science, the French philosopher and esotericist Rene Guenon argued that we now live in 'degenerate times,' at the end of a long era during which important spiritual truths have been forgotten, the ancient centers of wisdom have been destroyed, and the guardians of that wisdom are long gone. However, he suggested, the safest repository for such old truths has always been folklore. He believed that knowledge which is in danger of being lost can be translated into the symbolic code of a folktale and then passed on through the storytelling tradition. For a while, 'people who hear them will perhaps only be concerned with the stories,' surface meanings — but they will at least preserve them and pass them down to their children. Then, in better times, people might once again appear who understand the code, and who will penetrate the symbolic disguise and uncover the wider meaning behind. I believe that elder women today can fulfill that role. We are tradition-bearers, wisdom-keepers, tellers of tales. It’s incumbent on us to tell the old stories — and to use those stories, when necessary, to hold the culture to account.”